As governor of Nebraska, my administration’s goal is to grow our great state. Our team at the state of Nebraska is working every day to support private sector growth by delivering better customer service and getting government out of the way of job creators. Creating a government that supports private sector growth and better serves you, the taxpayer, doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a relentless commitment to improving the operations of state government and focus from the state’s workforce on making state government more effective and more efficient.

One of the key tools we are using to instill this culture in the operations of government and in our workforce is the Center for Operational Excellence (COE). The COE serves as the hub that is working with state agencies to train our workforce on how to improve the operations of government, identify waste and deliver better customer service.

Lean Six Sigma, a private sector process improvement philosophy, serves as the basis for the trainings led by the COE. In these trainings, state teammates are learning how to map the number of steps it takes to complete a process, how to reduce the amount of time it takes to deliver a service, and how to communicate about changes to service delivery with other members of their team. Many businesses use this exact same training to identify waste in their operations and improve customer service. Today, all state teammates are receiving basic process improvement training. Additionally, each of my agencies has designated process improvement coordinators who regularly lead exercises to identify new opportunities to improve agency operations and services. By providing this training to all state teammates, we are creating a culture in state government that puts the focus on delivering better service to Nebraskans.

Previously, I have shared some of the more significant examples of how we have improved the operations of state government, such as reforming ACCESSNebraska or finding significant savings in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. In this column, I will share a couple of the more ordinary successes agencies are achieving in their day-to-day operations.

The Department of Labor has significantly altered how they process the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. This tax credit is available to employers for hiring individuals who traditionally face significant barriers to employment. The COE helped the Department of Labor go from processing 1,000 applications a month to 2,500, resulting in an 87 percent reduction in their backlog. They were able to clear these applications three months earlier than expected. This change is creating more opportunities for hardworking Nebraskans who want to contribute to their communities.

In our Department of Health and Human Services, the COE ran a process improvement project which reduced the time it takes to license registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. DHHS discontinued their practice of sending wallet-size license cards through the mail, instead allowing licensees to print them off themselves. This not only modernized license delivery, but also eliminated any wait time to receive a license. Previously, these medical professionals had been waiting 33 days for a license. Not only does this improvement remove an inconvenience for our nurses, it also supports access to qualified medical personnel who are now able to do their jobs sooner.

These examples are just a small part of how the COE is working on a daily basis to improve how we are delivering services, and to ensure that government is respecting the investment taxpayers have made in the state. Historically speaking, large organizations, and oftentimes government agencies, have resisted change. I’m happy to report that our state of Nebraska teammates are embracing this change, and are working every day to lead change in their agencies. All these improvements, big or small, allow us to spend less time worrying about paperwork and outdated processes, and spend more time making state government work for you.

As a businessman, I understand the impact that government can have on the job creators who are creating opportunity in our state. When our state agencies are operating efficiently and effectively, it supports the private sector as it grows. Whether you’re trying to get back to work or obtain an important professional license, we will continue to look for new ways to better serve you.

Gov. Pete Ricketts can be contacted at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.

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