Business Center

An Empowered Internship: Karl Onsager

Karl Onsager, Process Improvement Intern
Posted: Feb. 23, 2018

Karl Onsager

Karl Onsager
Process Improvement Intern

I have been an empowered employee during my 11-month internship within CDOT's Office of Process Improvement (OPI). I have experienced firsthand those building on a culture of continuous improvement, founded on respect and openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Empowerment through Lean Everyday Ideas (LEI)

I was familiar with the improvement of both process and culture through my experience and education in public administration. My internship with CDOT, however, was my first exposure to Lean as a formal method for continuous improvement. Lean has an assortment of powerful tools that I have incorporated into my own work. From process thinking to process mapping, visual management, and workflow tools, I feel like a more capable and competent worker (the state of my desk indicates I have yet to master the 5S System: Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardize, Sustain).

Amid the increased demand for savings, efficiency, and accountability, we cannot lose sight of respect for people. I have learned to foster the inclusive and trusting working environment that is essential for improvement. The respect for people in continuous improvement is the most valuable lesson and most important tool for continuous improvement. The respect and responsibility afforded me has spurred several of the initiatives I undertook during my time.

Early on, I recognized the opportunity for visual management by adding a reusable inventory list to our office called "battle boxes," pre-packed kits with standard presentation materials. Later, I worked on a Lean everyday ideas business card to distribute at employee orientations to encourage idea submissions. I have been honored to present to new employees and the CDOT's executive team.

Finally, I strived to improve communications to more effectively encourage, incubate and spread improvements at CDOT. I am inspired by the progress and dedication employees bring to their jobs at CDOT.

Empowerment through Exploration and Growth

Empowerment is also evident in the breadth and depth of my experiences during my internship. I am extremely proud of the presentation I produced for now-Executive Director Mike Lewis about integrating and planning an emergency response for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). I appreciated the opportunity to explore feasibility for electric vehicle charging stations at CDOT rest areas using mapping and transportation data for RoadX and the Department of Transportation Development.

I have enjoyed the chances to attend Transportation Commission sessions on transit and housing affordability efforts underway. And I have learned much from sitting with people around CDOT. It is motivating to see the commitment to CDOT values and vision in action.

Empowerment through Change

Finally, I've been empowered through my experience with change management. Attending the three-day Prosci Change Management course has been rewarding and valuable. As every improvement is itself a change, incorporating change management techniques increases success. I look forward to the continued application of awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement (ADKAR) model to internal process improvement. But I am more excited to apply formal change management to the public improvements our transportation and cities continue to make.