Julie Lehman has a great job. Instead of going to an office every day, she goes to a greenhouse. Julie and her staff work to order, grow, and distribute all of the plants that fill Denver’s parks. The greenhouse team also orders and distributes the plants seen at the Denver Zoo and Denver Botanic Gardens. Julie is a horticulturalist with a passion for all things green. After completing the Denver Peak Academy Black Belt program, she implemented a series of innovations aimed at improving the processes for tracking plant orders, spring plant distribution, and yearly design reviews for the plant beds.
Julie first looked at the yearly design reviews. Each year, 28 horticulturalists coordinate with the greenhouse to order the flowers for every park in Denver. The entire process took over two months with over 100 hours spent in meetings and prep time for those meetings. Other work would often suffer while the staff struggled to meet ordering deadlines. Staff morale fell and Julie also realized that ordering seed and plugs earlier would result in a discount, which meant savings on ordering, something the greenhouse team was not in a position to take advantage of previously. In 2015, through a series of innovations, the staff brought the meeting and prep time down to less than 25 hours and came in 2 weeks ahead of schedule for ordering deadlines. This saved the greenhouse over $2,000 and improved staff morale in addition to strengthening the relationship between the greenhouse staff and the horticulturalists.
Once the orders are in, Julie and her team must track where the orders are in the process. The order tracking used to happen on multiple spreadsheets but Julie moved that tracking to a production board. The production board was drawn on a large dry erase board visible to all staff and the horticulturalists interested in seeing the status of their orders. Lastly, Julie looked at the distribution process for when the plants arrive. In the past, it was taking too long to get plants out the door, which resulted in animosity and a deteriorating relationship between horticulturalists and greenhouse staff. The process wasn’t defined, which lead to each group blaming the other for mistakes and delays. Now the greenhouse staff have a defined standard of 24 hours to pull orders before a horticulturalist arrives. The plants are pulled by the greenhouse staff, which allows for greenhouse staff to track the orders when they go out. The wait time for the horticulturalists was cut by 20 hours each for a total of 560 hours (for all the 28 horticulturalists) and a savings of $9,682.
The horticulturalists and greenhouse staff now have stronger relationships and more efficient processes. The result: parks that grow more beautiful each year. Denver Peak Academy was so inspired by Julie’s work that we created a new training game for the Black Belt class featuring the greenhouse as an example. Julie’s examples of excellence in process improvement now serve as an inspiration to employees citywide.