PART I: Introduction


Everyone working for the State of Colorado has a job to do. What you do is a vital part of making state government work for the citizens of Colorado. Process improvement is all about how you do the job you do. SOLVE is Colorado’s method of Lean problem solving that helps you streamline work processes that have become inefficient so that you have more time and resources to perform the tasks that really matter to our customers.

This SOLVE Guide is designed to help you properly diagnose process problems and discover the best tools to implement impactful solutions. No matter how big or small your Lean project may be, this step-by-step guide will walk you through each phase of problem solving. The guide will steer you to the right tools and offer tips on best practices for Lean process improvements.

SOLVE is for Everyone

If you are...
..then SOLVE will help:
A Lean Champion
  • Build the problem solving skills of your agency’s staff
  • Engage more people in process improvement
Trained in Lean
  • Ensure your problem solving balances rigor with
  • Guide your teams step-by-step through problem solving
A Manager or practicality Project Leader
  • Identify problem opportunities in your workplace
New to Process Improvement
  • Learn tools that help you address these issues

Regardless of your role and experience with Lean, or the size of the problem you are tackling, SOLVE will be a useful framework to follow.

This guide also offers links to additional resources and common pitfalls for Lean projects in state government, making the SOLVE Guide useful no matter where you are on your Lean journey.

What is Lean?

Lean is a powerful process improvement tool that was originally developed in the private sector by the Toyota Production System to eliminate waste in manufacturing.

Colorado formally began utilizing Lean in 2011. In the first 5 years, employee teams executed hundreds of projects, streamlining processes and saving immeasurable time and resources for our employees and our customers.

Colorado’s SOLVE Guide builds upon these lessons learned with refined techniques to help state government workers identify and eliminate process inefficiencies. Lean tools help us simplify our processes so that we spend more time on the things that make a difference to our customers—and less time on the frustrating tasks that consume our time but yield few results.

Lean Delivers Speed and Quality by Eliminating Waste

We have defined 8 wastes that are commonly found in state governments. They consume our time and resources, but don’t improve our product or service for our customers.

They can be remembered by the memory aid WASTEFUL:

W aiting
When the process stops
A pprovals
Signatures or approvals that don’t improve the product or service
S ilos
Handoffs between people and organizations
T ransportation
Any movement of paper or people (motion)
E rrors
Things not done right the first time; requires rework
F ailure to Prioritize
Working in crisis mode because “everything is important”
U nderutilized Talents
Not using all of an employee’s skills
L ack of Standards
The absence of standard methods and targets

What wastes do you recognize in your workplace?

How does Lean work?

The Lean process works best when teams of employees engage on issues that are meaningful to our customers and to us.

Below is an example of what the process looks like in action:

lean in action.JPG

The 5-Step SOLVE Model

Our State of Colorado employees are professionals who care deeply about the people they serve. They want to address the issues that get in the way of great service—they want to SOLVE problems.

SOLVE is Colorado’s 5-step common-sense approach to understanding problems and doing something about them. SOLVE doesn’t replace what you already know about process improvement, but rather offers us a consistent method, a common language, and a flexible toolkit so that we can work together to make things better. Here are the steps, along with some common sense advice:

Scope the Opportunity

Objective: Define the problem to be solved

“Before we fix anything, we better have a clear understanding of the problem(s).”

Organize the Resources

Objective: Make a plan and engage the right people

“We will get a better solution if we work together and follow a rapid but disciplined process.”

Lean it!

Objective: Apply Lean tools to define potential solutions

“Figure out which of the issues are the important ones (the root cause, not the symptoms) and how we can address them.”

Verify the Impact

Objective: Test to make sure our fixes work

“Conduct a test to confirm that our planned changes work as desired and to gather feedback from others.”

Ensure Sustainment

Objective: Make it stick

“Follow through to make sure the improvements last so we don’t have to fix the same problem twice.”

The Process Improvement Imperative

The SOLVE framework can be applied to any type of process improvement project, no matter how big or small. SOLVE can be applied two ways: top-down and bottom-up. Pick the right approach to ensure that your Lean efforts deliver lasting benefits with the least effort possible.

A top-down “Structured SOLVE” approach is used for process improvement projects that touch on major strategic priorities for the state or the department and require senior leadership, including: Cross-division or cross-agency efforts that require engaging multiple stakeholders Projects relating to a department’s Strategic Policy Initiative (SPI), major goals, or performance plan outcomes

2 approaches.JPG

A bottom-up “Simple SOLVE” approach can be applied to process improvement efforts that engage front-line employees or state workers at any level who have identified an improvement to be made; these projects can include:

  • “Quick win” projects that relieve front-line pain points and don’t cross boundaries
  • Small-scale projects that require a small team of a few people to work out process improvement solutions and implementation of those ideas