US EPA announces new focus and structure for Lean Practices

On June 21, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a policy statement and memorandum on applying Lean practices within the department.

Lean Practices Policy and Memo (6/21/2016)

In the memo, the Acting Deputy Administrator A. Stanley Meiburg provides a quick summary of the policy statement, and gives support for the Lean efforts to date.

I look forward to your future efforts to continuously improve the EPA’s programs and to work collaboratively with our state partners.

In the policy titled “Applying Lean Practices to Modernize the Business of Environmental Protection at the EPA,” it goes into more details about how they will be making adjustments to their program to increase the application of Lean.

Today the EPA establishes an agency-wide policy to maximize the application of Lean practices such as Lean startup, Lean process improvement, and Agile development in the agency’s processes and projects to provide greater value to our customers.

In my opinion, the key message is the establishment of a Lean Action Board (LAB), which is “composed of senior federal and state executives with significant Lean expertise, to support the use of Lean practices.”

On the LAB website, the members “will evaluate and select a limited number of Lean projects whose results can be transferred or scaled up to better accomplish our mission of protecting human health and the environment.”

Here is a high level process for selecting these projects

Project Selection Process Flow

You can read about the LAB charter, and see the list of LAB members.

The document also mentions some history of lean activity at the EPA and at the state and local level.

In the mid-2000’s, the EPA published numerous toolkits and booklets, showing how Lean and Six Sigma principles could be applied within the EPA, and the broader US government.

That effort seemed to slow down after a few years, and there has been very little communication from the EPA about Lean and Six Sigma in the past few years. This is great news! Perhaps there will be a new wave of excitement over this topic.

Finally, the document mentions a new toolkit (Dec 2015), called “Lean and Information Technology Toolkit“, which sets clear expectations in streamlining and reforming programs, such as the use of Lean Startup, traditional Lean process improvement, and Agile development.

It looks like most of the new effort will be focused on E-business, software and innovation applications, instead of traditional Lean applications within healthcare and manufacturing.

What part of the policy do you like? Dislike?