OV Town Talk: The value of continuous improvement

Published on April 21, 2022


In July 2018, Town Manager Mary Jacobs introduced Town of Oro Valley employees to OV Peak Performance—an initiative that seeks to improve internal processes by eliminating waste, redundancy, and rework with the goal of improving organizational efficiency. If you haven’t heard about this program before, you’re not alone. As an internal initiative, it’s not something you’d read about in the paper or see on a Council agenda; however, we wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain. Our effort to create a culture of continuous improvement at the Town of Oro Valley means we are working hard to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while continuing to provide the high quality facilities, programs and services that residents have come to expect. It’s my pleasure to tell you a little more about that.

OV Peak Performance is a process improvement method based on Lean Six Sigma, a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement utilized worldwide by organizations big and small, from local governments like us, to companies like Honeywell, Amazon and 3M. The Town of Oro Valley has adapted this philosophy to fit our own goals and needs, utilizing a collaborative team effort to improve core processes.

OV Peak Performance also ties into the Town’s Strategic Leadership Plan, a Council-adopted, two-year guide that helps direct the Town’s decision-making and resource management, with a focus on seven strategic areas, such as Economic Vitality, Public Safety, and Effective and Efficient Government. OV Peak Performance doesn’t seek to change or replace anything; rather, it is designed to enhance and improve outcomes for the priorities established by Council.

As the Town continues to gain momentum applying Peak Performance tools to daily tasks and projects, all employees are challenged to look at existing processes within their own individual or team scope as well as the organization as a whole. Then, by utilizing process improvement tools, teams throughout the Town are able to set goals and daily targets for their work, track and measure successes and opportunities, and generate ideas for improvement. Town employees are learning to be aware of how current job processes affect the value that is delivered to both internal and external customers. Their focus is on how to improve the processes they work with every day and in turn, employees are encouraged to consistently try to improve value through innovative new ideas.

One such example of that innovation was the Town’s longstanding process of adopting a road or trail in Oro Valley. Representatives from the Public Works, Innovation and Technology, and Parks and Recreation departments came together to look at the required steps for an Oro Valley resident to adopt a road or trail in the community. By walking through the current process, the team was able to identify multiple steps that were overly complicated, unnecessary or redundant. By identifying these barriers, the team could then redesign the process with the intention of increasing the overall efficiency. Improvements were implemented that combined the previously separate road and trail adoption processes into one single cohesive process. The team also shifted from paper-heavy procedures to a fully paperless online process. These changes, and others, allowed the team to introduce a new streamlined adoption process that reduced overall staff time by a whopping 85 percent, which means staff can be allocated to other needs and services.

The OV Peak Performance initiative is special because it provides every employee at the Town with the ability to share their ideas, simple or complex, about how to better accomplish the important work the Town does every day and how to enhance the customer experience along the way. Members from the Community and Economic Development (CED) Department did just that when they overhauled their building permit application process. What once required those seeking building permits to make multiple trips to and from the CED office and submit dozens of expensive printouts and supporting documents, is now digitized and offers the option to submit documents via email or web portal. This change not only makes it easier for CED employees to organize and review submissions, but it also resulted in a collective average annual savings of $151,600 for all the customers who were no longer required to print out multiple copies of costly blueprints and building plans for each permit submission.        

The Town will continue regular outreach and engagement with employees regarding Peak Performance to help develop process improvement proficiencies and support, challenge and motivate employees at all levels. Peak Performance also helps empower individual employees and teams to become subject matter experts by encouraging them to take ownership of processes and responsibility for outcomes. This approach connects employees with the ability to develop their knowledge and skills while directly impacting the success of their department and the Town as a whole. What results is a group of motivated and engaged employees who are goal-oriented and accountable for not just their own success but also the organization’s.

As Oro Valley looks to the future, OV Peak Performance will continue to be a valuable tool that helps align staff and processes around achieving the Town’s vision of being a well-managed community that provides all residents with opportunities for quality living. By focusing on the customer experience, innovation, internal capacity, and financial stewardship, the teams working at the Town will utilize Peak Performance as a sustained organizing principle that helps them move towards higher standards of excellence. Thanks to innovations like OV Peak Performance and the people working to implement process improvements every day, the future of Oro Valley looks bright indeed.

Sara Newlin is the Continuous Improvement Analyst for the Town of Oro Valley

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