CDOT Receives Top 25 Innovation Award from Harvard

Aug.14, 2018 -

DENVER—The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government has named the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Lean Everyday Ideas (LEI) Program as a Top 25 Innovation in American Government for 2018.

LEI empowers CDOT employees to "fix what bugs them" in their work environment, with the goal of encouraging everyday innovation, and then testing, sharing and replicating those ideas into solutions that can be implemented statewide. The program's concept is that small ideas are the key factor to a highly effective organization.

"We encourage everyone in the department, and especially frontline staff, to improve our day-to-day operations, which ultimately enhances safety and improves the lives of the users of our system," said CDOT Executive Director Michael Lewis. "To be recognized as one of the Top 25 Programs in American Government by Harvard is a high honor indeed."

For more than 30 years, the Innovations Award has recognized public-sector programs that make all levels of American government more efficient, creative, and effective at addressing social problems and providing services to the public. The program is a significant force in recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector. Through its awards competition, the program provides concrete evidence that government can work to improve the quality of life for citizens and that it deserves greater public trust.

The LEI program has captured 569 ideas since its inception in 2013. Of those, 340 are implemented solutions to common problems, and 277 have been fully vetted to become CDOT best practices that are shared through idea cards and articles. The other 229 ideas are suggestions for improvement. A sampling:

  • Roadkill Winch – Used to require several workers to move heavy roadkill
    Winch attached to back of truck pulls roadkill, reducing number of required personnel and exposure to traffic, improving worker and driver safety
  • Sign with Contact Information – The entrance gate at CDOT maintenance facilities lacked posted contact information for travelers. Updated signage posted key customer service contact information. Travelers now can count on CDOT in emergencies with the signs providing greater responsiveness in case of crashes, rock falls, or roadside emergencies.
  • Blade Guardrail Cleaner – The old process of cleaning under guardrails usually required closing two lanes of traffic for a significant period. Mounting a guardrail-cleaning device on the blade of a motor grader requires only one lane of traffic to be closed for a shorter period, improving traffic flow and reducing a worker's exposure to moving vehicles.

"By creating a more efficient way to do something, you actually increase safety by reducing the amount of time employees are on the highway and in danger from traffic," said CDOT Maintenance Foreman Norman Parra, who covers the Alamosa area. "The Lean Everyday Ideas program gives us the freedom to innovate, which helps improve safety, and it also boosts morale, efficiency and productivity."

The LEI program created a formalized and centralized system to gather and publicize innovative ideas. It originated after employees expressed a need to share their initiatives with all five of CDOT's regions. Find additional information about the LEI program:

"The Lean Everyday Ideas program provides a crucial platform for CDOT's more than 3,300 employees to engage in continuous improvement," said CDOT Innovation and Improvement Lead Geneva Hooten. "We focus on new innovations, but also on idea spread, which is idea replication from one place to another. Our goal is to prevent staff from recreating the wheel and instead focus on how to make someone else's idea work for them."

In addition to CDOT, citizens benefit from the LEI program. "The submitted innovations promote safety, customer service, and waste reduction," said Office of Process Improvement Director Gary Vansuch, "all which support the secondary effect of cutting costs. It also helps to improve and maintain our state transportation system which, in turn, can enhance safety for the traveling public."

Learn more about the award.

The Harvard Ash Center previously recognized the LEI program in 2015 as a ‘Bright Idea in Government'. CDOT's LEI was selected from among 500 applicants.