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City gets tips on doing more with less Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Dec 04 2010 12:00 PM

In light of the city's severe budget crisis, the city of Chula Vista is working to streamline staff departments by implementing a concept used by Goodrich Inc. called kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and focuses on eliminating waste, improving productivity and increasing efficiency in the workplace.

"This tasks us with becoming a more efficient and effective organization, so we reached out to our good friends at Goodrich who have helped trained a large number of our managers," City Manager Jim Sandoval said.

At the November meeting, the assistant director for the city's department of engineering, Iracsema Quilantan, gave a presentation to staff on the city's first kaizen event in October. The three-day event helped foster a culture of empowered employees to identify problems and make improvements in the workplace.

"...The natural inclination is to cut services but we have an obligation to try and be more efficient with the workforce we have," said Rick Hopkins, assistant director of public works operations. "It's important now to maximize it and do more with less."

During this event, sponsors identified the scope of the project that needed improvements, while facilitators trained and led the event. Different teams have different roles, such as scoping, sponsorship, etc. "The sponsors provide the resources and authorize the expenditure," Hopkins said. "This is one element of a comprehensive program."

Objectives included the delivery of projects from the planning stage to design and survey, support, fiscal and maintenance to the street department, which maintains the capital improvement projects.

The idea was brought to the former city manager, David Garcia, by the past CEO at Goodrich, according to Hopkins. Hopkins said staff is looking at applying kaizen citywide.

Hopkins said groups had brainstorming sessions, which they call "sharpening the saw."

Hopkins said the engineering department uses a strategy called a "just do it list" where staff puts ideas on a chart and makes a commitment to implement them.

"Everybody is thinking more about trying to create a more efficient workplace and empowering employees so they can make the difference and instill a certain mindset," Hopkins said. "It will take some time but were starting to see signs of that already."

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