The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recently announced the organizations chosen for its 2015 Bright Ideas program. This year’s cohort of 124 innovative programs includes programs from all levels of government – school districts; county, city, state, and federal agencies; as well as public-private partnerships – that are at the forefront in creative response to issues familiar to many parts of the country, including revitalizing local economies, disaster response and preparedness, community policing, and outdated infrastructure.
One of the innovations recognized is the City of Roanoke's Lean Management Program. Through a partnership approach with Virginia Tech, the City of Roanoke implemented a Lean management program to find efficiencies for local government operations, integrating performance improvement as part of the government culture and allowing staff to deliver value-added services to citizens at lower costs. With Virginia Tech, the city created a training program to teach groups of city employees Lean and Lean Six Sigma principles. Virginia Tech students in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department also conduct Lean projects with city departments as part of their curriculum.
The Bright Ideas program demonstrates that often seemingly intractable problems can be creatively and capably tackled by small groups of dedicated, civic-minded individuals. This year's Bright Ideas show that making government work better doesn't always require massive reforms and huge budgets, and in fact, an emphasis on efficiency and adaptability can have further-reaching effects than large-scale reforms.