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Iowa Department of Management

Lean Enterprise

The State of Iowa has been utilizing Lean methodology since 2003, resulting in increased efficiencies, improved communication and a culture change to one of continuous improvement. The department is responsible for leading the expansion of Lean efforts in Iowa state government. The Office of Lean Enterprise was created within the department to promote and facilitate continuous improvement through the use of a specific set of proven tools and methodologies collectively known as Lean.

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Lean Network Directory

Lean Network Directory

The Lean Network is a group of state employees who are working to make government simpler, faster, better. They promote Lean, improve processes and partner with the state to teach Lean tools and strategies. Lean Liaisons have been selected by an agency as a contact person for Lean efforts and is responsible for growing and sustaining continuous improvement processes within their agency.

If you are looking for specific assistance from an agency, it is recommended you contact the agency's Lean Liaison so they can connect you with the correct person.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is lean?

Lean is a collection of principles, methods and tools that improve the speed and efficiency of any process by eliminating waste. Although Lean originated in Toyota’s manufacturing operations - known as the Toyota Production System – the tools have been successfully applied in organizations across all sectors.  The principles of lean include the following:

  • Define value from the customer's perspective.
  • Identify the value stream from each product/service family.
  • Make the product/service flow.
  • Deliver when the customer pulls from your operations.
  • Manage towards perfection.
What are lean's common methodologies?

The common methodologies of lean include: Kaizen, Design for Lean Sigma, Value Stream Mapping and 5s.


  • A highly focused, action oriented event
    • Clear objectives,
    • Measurement focused,
    • Data driven and fact based,
    • Uses creativity before capital
  • Empowered team takes action to improve a specific process
  • The new process is designed immediately

Kaizen events do not last more than 4 ½ days (Monday morning through Friday morning). There is a half-day pre-event meeting held two to six weeks prior to the event and 30, 60 and 90-day, 6 month and 1 year follow-up meetings.

Design for Lean Sigma

  • Methodology to crew service, product or process
  • Applicable to any high-value project that needs a significant amount of new design
  • Strong emphasis on capturing and understanding the customer and organization needs

Value Stream Mapping

Mapping of many processes that are part of an overall theme or value stream (e.g. DNR-Groundwater and all the programs that work with groundwater) from a 30,000 foot level to show where gaps or overlaps are in programs and services.  Each individual value stream map will entail at most 15 steps.  Value Stream mapping will be used as a strategic planning tool and will give agencies a plan to work off of for typically 3-5 years, but can be used for shorter time frames such as 1-3 years.


A process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, high-performance workplace, which:

  • Enables Waste Identification
  • Promotes Employee Satisfaction
  • Enables Standard Operations
  • Enables Visual Control
When is lean used?

Lean methods and tools apply to any process where an employee:

  • Chases information in order to complete a task
  • Must jump through multiple decision loops
  • Is constantly interrupted when trying to complete a task
  • Is engaged in expediting (of reports, purchases, materials, etc.)
  • Does work in batches
  • Finds work lost in the "white space" between organizational silos
  • Doesn't know what they don't know"

From Lean Six Sigma for Service by Michael L. George

Lean recognizes that for most processes only 5% of activities add value for the customer, which means that 95% are either necessary non-value adding activities or waste. By clearly defining value for a specific service or product from the customer’s perspective, non value activities and waste can be targeted for removal. Eliminating waste is the greatest potential source of improvement in process performance and customer service. Once waste has been identified, processes are redesigned to allow service, information or product to flow through the new process without interruption.

What are lean's benefits?

Lean helps organizations to streamline how work gets done and eliminate waste. Through the use of Lean tools your agency can:

  • Eliminate or dramatically reduce backlogs.
  • Reduce lead times by more than 50%.
  • Decrease the complexity of processes.
  • Improve the quality of applications and consistency of reviews or inspections.
  • Free up more staff time for "mission critical" work.
  • Improve staff morale and process transparency.
What are the common roles in lean?

Common roles in lean include: senior management, lean event sponsor, lean event team and process employees.

Senior Management

Senior management engagement and commitment is the most important factor in long-term success. Lean is a top-down drive to change the culture to one of continuous improvement.

Lean Event Sponsor

The critical role of a team sponsor is to support the team, both during and after the event. To ensure team success a sponsor must be:

  • Passionate - Enthusiastic support of the team
  • Strategic - Utilizing the event activity to advance a business objective by improving the performance of the targeted process while being aware of the impact to the total system
  • Committed - Engaged from pre-event planning through sustainment
  • Willing to Take Risks - Encourage creative thinking to drive paradigm breaking results
  • Open Minded - Influence the team to develop the best solution without introducing pre-conceived ideas

Lean Event Team

The team is expected to attend the entire event and fully participate by providing input and ideas. The team is also expected to complete assignments identified during the meeting or tasks that may be defined after the event.  The members should be cross-functional.  Remember the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Rule:

  • 1/3 who work directly on or are close to the process
  • 1/3 who are somewhat touched by the process
  • 1/3 who have no knowledge of the process, i.e., external stakeholders/customers

The ideal team has 12 members, although larger teams may be accommodated as necessary.

Process Employees

Employees not directly involved on the team may be asked questions by team members to clarify your part in the process. Team members may observe and time employees while they complete a step in the process, or discuss the time necessary to complete a step. Events are performed under the assumption that everyone involved is already doing their best – but with some assistance, efforts can be altered to reduce steps, delays, and time, with no loss of performance or quality.


How are lean projects selected?

The process should be large-volume, follow the same steps each time, and be a core business activity. Specific projects should be evaluated on their potential impact on customers and citizens, and on internal effectiveness or efficiency. Sample criteria include:

  • Funding concerns
  • Customer service complaints
  • Productivity problems
  • High volume and/or criticality

Staff Contact Info

Marcia Tope
Phone Number: 515-725-6153