The Leanest Little State: Rhode Island's Lean Leadership Conference Convenes

by [user not found] | Oct 27, 2015

Late last week was a big moment for the Lean in Rhode Island government initiative.

On Friday, October 23rd Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and her cabinet along with VIBCO's own President Karl Wadensten, Gilbane Construction's Vice President and Rhode Island District Operations Manager Steve Duvel, Leadership RI's Executive Director Mike Ritz, and the Center for Lean Business Management's Bob Emiliani convened at Taco Comfort Solutions headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island for the first Rhode Island Lean Leadership Conference. 

A first for the state, the gathering was an opportunity for state agency leaders to provide a status update on their current and future projects since the Lean in Rhode Island government initiative was signed and codified by Governor Raimondo this past April at VIBCO's headquarters in Wyoming, RI. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

The day began with each agency sharing their improvements they've made since beginning with Lean and each agency had a massive success to share and road map for forth coming projects. The Department of Environmental Management's senior sanitary engineer Louis Maccarone shared that by changing the way the agency processed applications for licenses, the agency was able to process 460 applications in just 24 hours. Donna Costantino, the chief of health professions regulation at the state Department of Health, shared that the Department of Health, an agency tasked with handling and processing thousands of nursing licenses for the state of Rhode Island, has also made magnificent strides towards improving the processing time application to application and streamlining the flow of paperwork throughout the agency. As more and more agency heads took to the podium to share their accomplishments, 

In tandem with the state's efforts to improve processes and reduce waste using Lean concepts and ideas was the the Gallup Strengths Finder and how identifying a person's strengths can build a stronger workplace. Each person attending the conference wore a lanyard with a laminated card listing five strengths output from completing the Gallup test. These results were to serve as a guideline as what your individual strengths are and how they might combine and mix with colleagues with similar or complementary strengths. During Mr. Ritz's presentation, he shared how useful strengths have been to the board of Leadership RI as well as to those participating in the organization. Gilbane's Steve Duvel agreed, citing a noticeable shift in collaborative efforts and enthusiasm at work since implementing strengths.

The intersection of Gallup Strengths and their effect on group dynamics came out during an impromptu group activity orchestrated by Mr. Duvel. Mr. Duvel challenged groups of four-to-six people to build a bridge out of paper and tape in 10 minutes. The bridge had to hold up the weight of Mr. Duvel's hardhat and high enough off the ground that the hardhat could slide underneath it. All the groups succeeded. 

When the challenge was over, the room was polled to see if leadership took charge in the pinch and if so what kinds of qualities those people had and what didn't they have. Moreover, what roles did you observe the other people in the group take and how did those relate to their strengths.

The day concluded with a short tour of Taco's shop floor, another facility that has implemented Lean to improve it's manufacturing processes. Discussions of additional Lean summits and making Rhode Island a model for Lean government and elevating this conference to a national level were among the ideas floated around the room.

At this early stage, the elements of Lean seem to be bearing fruit in the Rhode Island government. Although it's still a young project, the conference instilled a strong feeling of promise for Lean in Rhode Island and reason to be optimistic and eagerness to see what else can be achieved in the months and years to come.

Here are some photos from the day's event:











Read More About the Weekend's Events in the Press:

Advice to R.I.: Focus on strengths, not weaknesses via Providence Journal

State leaders review their efforts to convert departments to Lean business strategy via Providence Journal