Parks crew’s Lean pilot drives tangible results

In Lean thinking, “Going to Gemba” refers to the process of going where the actual work happens to observe and learn from those doing the work, and that’s exactly what three members of Executive Constantine’s Senior Leadership Team recently did at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

Chief Performance Officer Gary Kurihara, Chief People Officer Whitney Abrams and Chief Operating Officer Casey Sixkiller met with employees from King County Parks’ North Utility Trail Crew in their maintenance shop to learn more about their pilot of a Lean Daily Management System.

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Members of Executive Constantine’s Senior Leadership Team meet with employees from King County Parks’ North Utility Trail Crew.

“We went with the purpose to learn about how their Daily Management pilot was working and how they have applied Lean in making improvements,” Kurihara said. “Within their Daily Management pilot they share how they have applied process and improvement measure in a visual management system to engage the team in daily huddles to review performance, communicate issues, share feedback and plan for the day.”

The North Utility Trail Crew maintains regional trails north of Interstate 90, also working on projects like fencing, playground installations, fabrication work and small equipment repair. They began piloting a Daily Management System in April to plan and manage their workdays, communicate to address problems and track their progress.

The North Utility Trail Crew has been an early adopter of Lean at Parks and has helped used it to not only identify process efficiencies but to build a better workplace.

“It’s been a process of learning and trying, learning something about Lean, sharing it with my crew, and trying it out,” Mabry said. “We have found some efficiencies and saved some money, just by trying it out.”

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Chief Performance Officer Gary Kurihara with employees from King County Parks’ North Utility Trail Crew discussing their pilot of a Lean Daily Management System.

Mabry also said that they had been able to establish a healthier work culture by “getting together, communicating what our standards will be, all of us agreeing on it, and moving ahead.”

The North Utility Trail Crew is a prime example of how Lean can drive tangible performance results by creating powerful employee engagement through the application of lean principles and tools within a system of work.

“It was inspiring to see the excitement and ownership of the individual team members,” Kurihara said. “It didn’t matter whether it was their most tenured team member or a summer temp. Their humility, team orientation, and community focus show me they were learning and applying ‘real’ Lean to their work.”

It’s also a model for how Lean can be effectively leveraged at Parks.

“They’re a model district for us, implementing Lean tools, communicating regularly and addressing problems in a collaborative effort, and they all participate in the improvements around their shop and on their trails,” Andy Boland, Continuous Improvement Supervisor with Parks, said. “I really wish you could bottle that culture up and pass it around because everyone acknowledges one another, supports one another, and they take learning and growth really seriously there.”