Continuous Improvement

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To protect and restore an ecosystem we must use the resources we have as creatively, effectively, and efficiently as possible. Continuous improvement is a cross-agency and staff-led effort to improve natural resource management by increasing dialog and collaboration between local teams and state/federal programs.

This page is an archive of a discontinued effort led by NOAA Restoration Center that began in 2014 with the Coordinated Investment initiative, which led to identification of inter-agency system improvement as an area of weakness and opportunity for improvement in natural resource management. A number of activities led to much learning, many relationships, and a few partial-successes at which point, concepts developed by this effort were left in the hands of the Align Grant Coordination Workgroup process (developed in parallel and also emerging out of coordinated investment), and in the ongoing coordination efforts of the Puget Sound Partnership. These efforts have informed a variety of successive interagency efforts, such as Science Sprints to Support Regulation.

What Is an Interagency Natural Resource Management System

We have identified three collaborative systems that shape our ecosystem. The Planning and Funding System distribute state and federal resources among local teams to do work on the ground. The Regulation and Mitigation System restrains private behaviors to prevent damage to common resources. The Monitoring and Learning System makes observations to track the condition of shared resources and predict the effects of our actions. If you are standing in a watershed, these systems work in combination to deliver public value. If they are coherent and well organized they provide this service well. To an outsiders, the diversity of agencies, programs, processes and staffing is stunningly complicated, and sometimes incoherent. Continuous Improvement is a vision for how we can accelerate the evolution of these systems so they provide more benefits, more quickly, so we can protect and restore our ecosystems.

A draft diagram of the current planning and funding system.

The Planning and Funding System - Our initial effort is focused on the planning an funding system, where state and federal resources are allocated to local teams to do the on-the-ground work of ecosystem recovery. We believe that this system can guide evolution, because on-the-ground is where ecosystem recovery actually happens. Our systems must perform on the ground. The planning and funding system has the flexibility to lead improvement innovation in all other systems.

Project Initiation

Our effort is being developed in close coordination with the Align - Washington Ecosystem Grant Coordination Workgroup and Floodplains by Design program. It continues with sanction from the Puget Sound Partnership's Ecosystem Coordination Board.

  • Our Prototype Improvement System - We are refining our prototype of how Continuous Improvement works.
  • Our List of Claims - We are building a catalog of improvement opportunities by reviewing 10 years of documents that point to weakness in our ecosystem management, and ongoing interviews.

Improvement Network

To enable continuous improvement, we suspect there are five different elements that we need so we can listen and collaborate and evolve:

  1. The Coordination Community of Salmon Recovery Lead Entities, Local Integrating Organizations and Ecosystem Recovery Coordinators work with local practitioners and agency programs to identify improvement opportunities. These are the networks of local practitioners who know how our system is working or failing on a daily basis.
  2. Agency Programs can collaborate with local practitioners to evaluate and facilitate improvement strategies. Agency programs provides services that may or may not effectively support local teams and control most of the annual cash flow with supports state and federal employees.
  3. Agency Leadership acknowledges that we have shared systems, and that improvement in those systems has value. If agencies are not committed to collaboration, their staff have no incentive to do this work.
  4. Funders cooperatively create the capacity for improvement. A flexible portion of our annual resource base for ecosystem work is distributed through grants and awards.
  5. A Community Forum such as the Ecosystem Coordination Board (ECB) or Salmon Recovery Council sustains the attention and accountability for improvement. The ECB is specifically charged with improvement of Puget Sound recovery systems and advising the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council.

Ongoing Improvement Projects

Catalog of Supporting Materials

The following materials summarize the resources and ideas used to develop the project to date: