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Culture: What happens at your organization when nobody's watching

By Rich Tomsinski
Lean fellow, Results Washington

We at Results Washington often get asked what we mean when we talk about building a Lean culture throughout state government.

Lean management strives for a culture of continual improvement at all levels, from those closest to the work – front-line staff – to supervisors, managers and top leaders.

What is culture?  Think of culture as the personality and character of the agency as shown every day through people’s behavior. Many workplaces take a top-down, directed approach that can limit innovation in favor of a “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. A Lean workplace encourages everyone to continually try to improve processes and quality.

An evolving Lean culture also means evolving roles. Leaders set the vision and coach staff as they work on strategic improvement opportunities. Staff relentlessly examines work processes for improvement. And everyone – line staff, supervisors, managers and executives – listens to the voice of the customer.

How can you help? Look to your agency’s Lean advisor or Results Washington to find out more about Lean and improvement opportunities. Learn more in our Lean webinars. Join our monthly community of practice meetings, which are open to anyone with an interest in Lean. Many agencies also offer excellent Lean courses.

As a speaker at one of Results Washington’s Lean conferences once said, Lean efforts can be as simple as “fixing what bugs you.” Those changes can mean faster services, higher quality, less waste, fewer errors and other benefits to our co-workers and customers.

Ultimately, we’re working to build a culture in which Lean isn’t just about projects or classes, but instead is simply the way things are done in Washington state government. A culture of continual improvement and customer focus – even when nobody’s looking.

Rich Tomsinski is a member of Results Washington’s Lean fellowship program.