Continuous Improvement/The Prototype

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We work as a volunteer team, combining staff from the "coordination community" and "agency programs", and staffed by NOAA Restoration Center. We operate a rudimentary continuous improvement effort with existing resources.

Our work involves four parts, that combine to enable the evolution of shared systems.

  1. Local Teams, working in "gemba" make "complaints" about "waste" in the "ecosystem recovery system". New complaints are integrated into a "backlog" of "claims" by our coordinator community representatives (see our prototype Complaints Backlog),
  2. From this backlog, teams made of agency staff and local advocates form to develop and pursue a claim into an "improvement effort" using an "A3 process" with opportunities for peer support.
  3. An A3 may be then be endorsed by "affected institutions" and the ECB. Through shared advocacy among "funders", a facilitator is supported to implement the improvement project, either operating funding or grants.
  4. The coordinator community and its facilitators, under the auspices of the ECB, in its support of the Leadership Council, track and evaluate complaints, our backlog of claims, and the efficacy of improvement projects.

Our focus in 2020 is on the Planning and Funding system. We are collaborating with the Align - Grant Coordination Workgroup which includes program managers that represent over $250 Million a year in state and federal grants and awards. We are working between Align and the Coordination Community to identify high value improvement targets from within our backlog--a strategic action plan. We are exploring the potential for streamlining the grant application process, building on the Conservation Project Budget Standards effort. We are examining the mechanisms that allow funding programs to easily aggregate funds to support improvements of shared interest.

The Vocabulary

There is lots of lingo above. It is useful to know how we are using words to represent specific concepts:.

  • A3 Process - A3 refers to a tabloid size sheet of paper, and the A3 process is where a facilitator works with the claimants and affected institutions, asking a series of questions, to define the whole problem and solution within a single tabloid sheet of paper, following a traditional format. Here is the A3 for "Continuous Improvement" (requires permissions)
  • Affected Institutions - Those institutions that would need to adjust processes or behaviors to realize the proposed improvement.
  • Backlog - a list of objectives, in this case, process improvements. Keeping our shared backlog lively and well organized makes us more nimble and efficient at coordination, achieving multiple benefits, and leveraging opportunities.
  • Barrier is a general term for anything that keeps us from doing ecosystem work, from unintended consequences to deeply-seated social conflicts. We avoid this generalization, and are focused on improving unintentional institutional processes that result in waste.
  • Claim - A logical and informed observation of waste.
  • Complaint - The early form of a claim, which may not consider all the factors affecting the claim.
  • Coordinator Community - staff members involved in one of many Coordination Bodies, such as Lead Entity Coordinators, Local Integrating Organization Coordinators, Ecosystem Recovery Coordinators, or Marine Resource Committee Coordinators.
  • Ecosystem Recovery System - the sprawling complex of authorities, workgroups, and social infrastructure involved in the management of ecosystem services. This system is the aggregate of the drivers that determine ecosystem state, and therefore the success of all our ventures. All drivers are integrated in gemba where real places are either restored or degraded. Therefore, the Ecosystem Recovery System, while somewhat haphazard and difficult to comprehend, is what actually determines whether we are successful in achieving a meaningful change to ecosystem state.
  • Funders - the assortment of state and federal programs that support project implementation through grants and technical assistance.
  • Facilitator - An individual, following standard methods, that supports development and implementation of an A3, to reduce waste. They could be operational staff, grant funded, or supported under capital program administration.
  • Gemba - A Japanese word for the factory floor, the scene of the crime, or wherever the action is, where useful facts can be gathered. In the Ecosystem Recovery System, gemba are the actual places, in the watershed, where local teams protect or restore ecosystems.
  • Improvement Effort - A change to our social systems, where an adjustment of behavior, cash flow, infrastructure, or communications results in a reduction of waste, so that we have more resources that can be used to generate value in Gemba.
  • Kaizen, or Gemba Kaizen - Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates roughly to "continuous improvement", and represents a practical approach to improving business processes developed as part of the Toyota Production System, and has since spread globally across manufacturing and many other sectors. It is the predecessor of Lean Management, which is a commercialized version common in the USA.
  • Value - the ecosystem services that we are charged to protect and restore for various publics, as represented by legislative bodies.
  • Waste - waste is any resource expended without directly generating value. Some waste is necessary, but likely less than we think. The goal of a production system is to create value with the least waste possible--perfect production.

The Workgroup

  • Paul Cereghino (NOAA Restoration Center; staff)
  • Laura Ferguson (PSP Ecosystem Recovery Coordinator)
  • Kathy Woodward (The Nature Conservancy)
  • Kit Crump (Stillaguamish Lead Entity Coordinator)
  • Marta Green (San Juan Local Integrating Organization Coordinator)