San Fran Full Team

Written by Inger Brinck, City Performance, Office of the Controller, City and County of San Francisco


When I joined the City and County of San Francisco in 2013, I had just been trained in Business Process Management. I loved it. I felt like I finally had some practical tools to solve sticky problems at the nexus of people, processes, and systems. Perhaps what I loved most was the concept of shifting blame from people to processes. I often struggled with blaming myself for every problem, and I saw others struggle needlessly with that as well.

The team I joined in San Francisco is called City Performance. As the name suggests, our goal is to improve the City’s performance. IMHO, we’re a dream team: we are learners, teachers, and change agents. Every day we strive to create the best possible city for our residents, businesses, and visitors.

Soon before I arrived, City Performance launched a Data Academy to train analysts across the City in making good use of data. The Academy’s manager, Sherman Luk, asked me to develop an intro course on process mapping and analysis. Though I was myself a beginner, I knew that one of the best ways to learn is to teach. Over the course of a year, I, along with my colleagues Ryan Hunter and Catherine Omalev, taught seven sold-out classes to nearly 150 staff across many City departments. While the course received good reviews, there was something missing.

One of our course participants, Marc Hébert, runs the Innovation Office at the City’s Human Services Agency. And, he is a Denver Peak Academy Black Belt! Marc is how I learned about Denver’s Peak Academy and thus became a process improvement convert.

I attended Black Belt in September 2015 (Go Mt. Bross!). Black Belt helped me understand what was missing from our intro course: getting out of the conference room, or training room or the office to see what is actually going on. I was taught to process map in a conference room. Yes, we used butcher paper and sticky notes, but we quickly moved from that to creating swimlane maps in Visio. Black Belt taught me that the most important product out of process mapping was not a Visio swimlane map, but the identification of pain points – the identification of opportunities for improvement.

I was so excited about Black Belt, I convinced my colleague, Rachel Cukierman, to spend a whole week away from her family to attend. We were so impressed that we begged Brian Elms and Melissa Field to come to San Francisco and train our whole team of 30. Despite their incredibly busy schedules, they agreed to condense their week-long training to 2.5 days and train our team. Many of my colleagues reflected that Melissa is one of the best trainers they’ve ever had. I couldn’t agree more.

Now, thanks to our fearless leader, Peg Stevenson, we are developing our own version of Denver’s Peak Academy. We delivered our first DPA-inspired day-long Lean training on June 24 to the Controller’s Office Administrative group. Taking advantage of Denver’s lessons learned, we aren’t just training the Admin group – we’ll partner with them to facilitate three process improvement projects on new hire on-boarding, contracting, and conference room scheduling. And then we’ll roll out our program across the City.

We’re grateful and inspired by Denver’s incredible work. I can already hear the collective sigh of relief as more and more people realize their process problems are not their fault, and they’re solvable!

Thank you, DPA.

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