In November 2018 the Ecosystem Coordination Board (ECB) agreed that developing "kaizen" mechanisms in Puget Sound recovery could be useful for improving how we do ecosystem management. We agreed that the "coordination community" would be the right group for designing this kind of effort, and understanding whether new capacity is required.
We have formed a temporary volunteer workgroup from within the "coordination community", staffed by NOAA Restoration Center. This workgroup has a plan to rapidly stand up a rudimentary but functioning continuous improvement process. We envision a four step approach:
- Local Teams, working in "gemba" make "complaints" about "waste" in the "ecosystem recovery system", through a google form, which is organized into a "backlog" of "claims" by our coordinator community representatives,
- From this backlog, a facilitator agrees to support development of a claim into an "improvement effort" using an "A3 process" with opportunities for peer support.
- An A3 may be then be endorsed by "affected institutions" and the ECB. By shared advocacy among funders, a facilitator is supported to implement the improvement project.
- The coordinator community and its facilitators, under the auspices of the ECB and its Leadership Council, track and evaluate complaints, our backlog of claims, and the efficacy of improvement efforts.
Our assumption is that continuous improvement of the Ecosystem Recovery System is not really optional--all business models are likely to benefit from some kind of kaizen--our systems are particularly cumbersome. We will test Steps 1 and 2 of the above proposed system in the Summer and Fall of 2019. We will bring our improvement proposals and system designs back to the ECB and affected institutions in winter, and aim to work on steps 3 and 4 through the 2020 project development season.
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 behavior to realize the proposed improvement.
- Backlog - a list of realized 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 barriers resulting from 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. We are initially focused on Lead Entity Coordinators, Local Integrating Organization Coordinators, Ecosystem Recovery Coordinators, and 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.
- 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 information can be gathered. In the Ecosystem Recovery System, gemba are the actual places, in the watershed, where ecosystem services are either protected or restored.
- 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.
- Kaizen, or Gemba Kaizen - Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates roughly to "continuous improvement", and represents a practical approach to improving business operations developed in 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 legislatures.
- Waste - waste is any resource expended without directly generating value. Some waste is necessary. The goal of a production system is to create value with the least waste possible--perfect production.
- Paul Cereghino (NOAA Restoration Center; staff)
- Kit Crump (Stillaguamish Lead Entity Coordinator)
- Laura Ferguson (PSP Ecosystem Recovery Coordinator)
- Marta Green (San Juan Local Integrating Organization Coordinator)