Business Center

An Opportunity of a Lifetime: My Internship at CDOT

By Michael J. Shull, Process Improvement Intern
Posted: June 1, 2017

michael shull

Michael Shull
Process Improvement Intern

As I look back on my short time here at CDOT, I am reminded of an opportunity of a lifetime. After spending over 10 years helping business professionals improve challenging processes, I came to CDOT to learn how Lean process improvement works in state government.

The Office of Process Improvement (OPI) internship at CDOT is structured into five functional areas: Democracy in Action; Lean Everyday Ideas (LEIs); the actual work; reading; and networking. How you fill those gaps depends on your personal and professional career goals, and I was able to fill them with vast opportunities to network and learn about Lean in state government.

Democracy in Action

One of the key takeaways that OPI Director Gary Vansuch wants each intern to experience is "Democracy in Action." I am talking about events such as the Transportation Commission Meetings, where challenging transportation infrastructure issues are discussed, proposed and realigned. One of my favorite Democracy in Action events was the monthly Bhatt Chat. CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt holds monthly discussions with CDOT employees to talk about real-life issues affecting employees on the front line.

Lean Everyday Ideas

OPI office interns have a duty to come up with at least one LEI before the end of our terms. LEI Statewide Program Manager Cheryl Wright explains that LEIs are ideas and solutions to problems that you, the innovator, can implement to make government more efficient, effective and elegant. Two of the more notable ideas that I implemented are:

  1. Kanban Workflow Visualization Project
    • In efforts to streamline OPI's project management system, I worked with the team to devise a simple workflow system.
    • This system reduced non-value-add weekly meeting by nearly 66 percent while enhancing project delivery.
    • The Kanban Workflow Visualization system has been recognized as a statewide featured tool, and I have been awarded for my efforts.
  2. I built metrics into the Lean Everyday Ideas program.
    • I helped the LEI program visualize its efforts by building and publicizing dynamic Lean dashboards.
    • These dashboards help Lean professionals visualize progress, such as implemented versus not-implemented ratios, idea generation and functional area of impact, to name a few.
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The Work

I had the opportunity to work with many CDOT employees on a variety of projects, including capturing the internship story of Chief Engineer Josh Laipply. Additionally, I enjoyed traveling to Greeley with Statewide Change Management Lead Michelle Malloy to learn about the change management needs of CDOT's northern-most region.

Here are a few more examples of my work at CDOT:  

  • Devised and co-facilitated a presentation that highlighted various CDOT Lean success stories for the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Boulder, Colorado chapter
  • Facilitated a Lean coffee demonstration, which is a way to have a focused meeting without a formal agenda, at the LEI statewide bi-annual meeting
  • Co-developed the PB&J process-mapping and waste-identification exercise modeled after Tom Wujec's exercise for drawing the process for making toast
  • Co-developed a CDOT statewide Lean training class that aims to help front-line employees connect with the value for innovation and waste reduction

Reading and Learning

Brian Elms

Brian Elms

Gary is not bashful about handing out books, and I actually like to read, so this was a pleasant surprise. I have filled my personal library with titles, such as "We Don't Make Widgets," "Ideas Are Free" and "Extreme Government Makeover." One of the more impactful books I read was "Peak Performance," co-authored by Denver Peak Academy Director Brian Elms. I wrote a book report about Peak Performance, gaining an immediate phone call from Brian Elms himself, who called to request a coffee meet. Brian blazed up to the coffee house on his bicycle with a burst of energy about improving government. What an amazing connection.

Networking and Sit Withs

Gary's professional network spans the globe, and he is eager to connect every one of his interns with professionals that will help grow each intern's career. Gary has introduced me to more than two dozen inspirational Lean leaders, such as Senior Continuous Improvement Leader Tom Lisi at the Denver International Airport and Deputy Director Lauren Larson at the Colorado Lt. Governor's Office.

We are also encouraged to find and attend professional networking events. In my journey through the Colorado Lean community, and through a connection at the City of Denver, I discovered and joined the Colorado Lean Network (CLN) as a managing member. CLN holds quarterly events and annual workshops focused on sharing various business process improvement methodologies, and I am looking forward to working with this group in the future.

Final Finale

As I prepare for my departure, I am beginning to realize how great this opportunity has been. In my CDOT journey, I have met dozens of Lean professionals who I am proud to include as part of my network. Moreover, I have had the opportunity to work with an outstanding group of high-performing individuals who are changing the way government operates—not just in Colorado. I knew that this term would eventually come to an end. Nonetheless, my connections here at CDOT will last a lifetime. Thank you, CDOT.