Public Works: Transportation & Mobility (PWT&M) and the Peak Academy Experience
By Liz Lorang
The inquisitive looks must happen quite a bit when a Denver Peak Academy Process Improvement Analyst introduces themselves to a department in the City & County of Denver. At least, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was wondering what all this was even about, because when Transportation & Mobility (Traffic Engineering Services, back then) was selected to have a Process Improvement Analyst embedded within the department back in 2014, there were only a handful of staff in the department who had completed the sometimes daunting task of the week-long Black Belt training, (or even the much shorter Green Belt training) or who were even that familiar with this Peak Academy “thing”.
Now, of course, almost two years later, many of us are old pros at Process Improvement, identifying waste and innovating to the tune of 40 events (Just Do Its, Workshops and the like) to date! With that, of course, comes the savings: with over $600K Identified Savings and over $361K actualized savings, the department is on its way to reaching the current goal of $1M in Identified Savings. All these savings have come out of hours of time and effort by the dedicated staff of Transportation & Mobility, who now count 35 employees trained in Black Belt and 93 trained in Green Belt among their ranks (out of a department of 130 staff members and growing).
Having a member of Peak Academy embedded in the department has naturally helped in identifying and actualizing all these savings, as well as encouraging (shall we say nudging?) staff to become certified Black Belts and Green Belts. It’s been an interesting journey, and the department has learned quite a few things along the way in all these Process Improvement events. These events often blend both the Engineering and Planning side of the department along with Operations. In bringing in different staff in varying roles and perspectives, the process and roadblocks become clearer. As Senior Engineer Michael Koslow put it, “I had a difficult time understanding why some people always appear to be behind and others appear to be working with no end goals; Peak Academy opened my eyes to the concept of “overproduction” and why it’s important for everyone making a widget to understand more than just his or her own role on the assembly line.”
Along with these types of revelations that ultimately help innovations come to fruition, Denver Peak Academy emphasizes that sometimes the things we do all the time are innovations, something Urban Mobility Manager Emily Snyder appreciates. “Having Peak embedded in Transportation & Mobility helped us be intentional about innovation. We are constantly working to improve our organization, but needed Peak to remind us to document that good work,” she said.
Director Crissy Fanganello, a Black Belt herself, agrees that it has been a positive experience to have Peak embedded in the department and making the observation that, “…the more people who go through Black Belt and Green Belt, they then have the opportunity to make changes and improvements without waiting for permission-they just DO.” Perhaps Operations Coordinator Deann Romero sums it up the best though, after seeing improved procedures at Operations for Signal Technicians with savings in both time and effort (not to mention fuel savings!) when she says, “It’s getting better by the minute”!
So thank you, Denver Peak Academy, for nudging us along, keeping us on track, and empowering us to continue to innovate.
(With Special Thanks to: Faustino Payan and Jerraud Coleman, Transportation & Mobility’s ever persistent Peak Academy Process Improvement Analysts)