Seattle and King County Housing Present on Lean Process Improvement at NAHRO Conference

I had the pleasure of presenting with my two colleagues Dan Rivera from King County Housing Authority and Job Pangilinan from Seattle Housing Authority regarding lean process improvement in public housing.  Our goals were to help conference attendees understand the history of lean, what lean actually is,  the experiences of the King County Housing Authority and the Seattle Housing Authority with lean, and to give some examples of how some lean tools are being used in public housing.

lean 2

Public Housing Lean Journey:

Job and Dan were able to tell the attendees how KCHA started their lean journey.  KCHA hired a lean process improvement employee to get their movement started.  They also engaged with the State of Washington’s Department of Enterprise Services to help with training. Over 150 staff at KCHA were trained in lean.  You can find resources by looking up the Department of Enterprise Services Washington State Lean.  The training included the following:

  • Intro to lean
  • Daily Lean Practices
  • Lean Problem Solving

After receiving training, staff worked on 14 different process improvement events.  This resulted in a 350 hour a month reduction in wasteful work that was reallocated to value added work.  Job did leave KCHA to come to SHA and Dan Rivera from the Boeing Company took over the role of the lean transformation manager.  He is currently working with leadership in the agency to build up lean management systems.

At the Seattle Housing Authority, our path has been similar to KCHAs.  SHA’s HCV department took the agency lead with lean.  The Department Director Cynthia pushed lean in the department and joined her staff in all the trainings.  Everyone in the department received training including supervisors and line staff.  The staff also started using visual management boards and actively problem solving issues within their departments.


5 Whys:

Job from SHA presented the (5 Whys Tool)-  The basic idea is when you have an issue and you are trying to figure out the root cause, you can use the 5 whys.  What is it?  Exactly what it sounds like.  Keep asking why five times and you will usually get to the root cause of the problem.  From there you can start discussing potential counter measures for fixing the problem.


Spaghetti Diagram-

I took the lead on this tool.  It is called a spaghetti diagram because you are looking at waste in movement.  Most of the times you track how people, paper, materials or machines move in a space.  This makes a diagram of a room or space look like spaghetti noodles are running across the diagram.  This allows you to identify excess movement which equals waste.  I also shared how we used this in our public housing maintenance operations.

spagheeti diagram

Value Stream Map

Dan from KCHA presented the value stream map tool.  This allows everyone at a housing authority to see the process from a customer’s viewpoint.  You also identify multiple customers and walk the process and identify waste/defects that make the process bad for the customer.   Dan explained some of the work his agency is doing including the value stream mapping for the HCV program.


Open Discussion and Resources:

At the end of the session, the group discussed challenges to process improvement in public housing and possible obstacles.  At the end, a resources list was handed out to everyone.

Lean Process Improvement - PNRC NAHRO

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