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Over the last few years, our team at the State of Nebraska has invested a great deal of time and effort in helping state government operate at the speed of business. What does that mean? We set goals to deliver better results for our customers. We measure improvement and progress. And we hold our team accountable for those results.

To help us achieve results, we have trained almost 13,000 members of our team in process improvement skills. In our work, we have borrowed the Lean Six Sigma methodology used by many private sector businesses for this purpose. This methodology teaches 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. With Lean Six Sigma, we are identifying waste and eliminating it on a routine basis.

Over the years, I have written about some of our process improvement achievements such as reducing call wait times at state call centers, putting environmental permits online, and delivering nurse licenses more quickly. This week, we are celebrating Operational Excellence Week by highlighting examples of how state agencies are delivering better service. I will spotlight a few examples for you here.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) has been improving public and staff safety by reducing travel for out-of-facility medical appointments. By law, the State of Nebraska is required to provide a certain level of medical care for inmates in our prisons. To reduce travel out of prison for medical care, the NCDS medical director created a review team for medical travel requests. By vetting these requests, the agency has lowered the number of trips for medical care by almost 50 percent and reduced staff overtime used to fulfill those requests by an estimated 42,000 hours a year. This keeps inmates in our facilities while also reducing the burden on agency staff who work overtime to staff our prisons.

Our Division of Developmental Disabilities has been providing better customer service for some of our most vulnerable Nebraskans by cutting red tape. Each year, the agency’s 215 service coordinators hold individual meetings with over 4,500 individuals and families receiving services. Each meeting has taken about 65 hours of preparation. Thanks to the work of our process improvement team they have cut the amount of preparation needed for each meeting from 83 steps down to 13 steps reducing preparation time from 65 hours per meeting down to 10 hours. Steps that were eliminated included duplicative questions, travel time, and redundant work among other things. This will allow our service coordinators to focus more of their time on the needs of the Nebraskans they serve instead of bureaucratic processes.

The Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) has made it easier for Nebraskans to renew their conceal carry permits by launching an online system. By putting the permitting process online, the agency is saving their team and their customers time. On the agency side, they are saving approximately 35 minutes of staff time per application, or an estimated 4,700 hours a year. For permit holders, it also saves time because Nebraskans are no longer required to travel to one of the six NSP offices required to renew their license. Recently, the agency won a national award for their work. As a state that supports the Second Amendment, we hope that this platform can be a model for other states with conceal carry permit laws.

These are just a few examples of how process improvement activities are helping drive operational excellence throughout state government and improving customer service. The last few years have been a culture shift. We have successfully worked to change the mindset of state government from doing things the way they have been done for years to making government work for the people of Nebraska. If you want to share your experience with the state or any thoughts on how to make our work more customer-friendly, I hope you will reach out to me by emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or calling 402-471-2244. We look forward to hearing from you!

Pete Ricketts is governor of the State of Nebraska.

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