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Sustainability: Moving from Common Sense to Common Practice
2016 International Conference
Leesburg, VA - National Conference Center

September 18th - 21st

Eight Fundamentals for Scaling and Sustaining a TOC Effort Across State Government

Kristen Cox - Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB)

With precious and scarce resources, government entities simply cannot afford to continue pursuing every interesting idea or launching every new initiative without the knowhow to turn the vision into a reality or to address root causes rather than symptoms.

Recognizing these challenges, Utah state government has embarked on a bold initiative to integrate the key principles and tools of TOC across every cabinet agency. This effort requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses areas such as leadership, culture, measures, policies, innovation, budgeting, infrastructure, and operations. This presentation will focus on the eight fundamentals needed to scale an initiative like this across 24 cabinet agencies and over 20,000 employees as well as lessons learned from the effort. Using actual case studies and projects, this presentation will establish Utah’s framework for scaling TOC across state government. This effort has significant and measurable results and is well on its way to achieving at least a 25 percent improvement across state government.

Through our experience and planning, we believe there are eight fundamentals that span three phases for implementing an enterprise effort across the state. The three phases include leveraging and solidifying existing resources, innovation, and sustaining the work. The eight fundamentals include 1) infrastructure, 2) goals, 3) measures, 4) accelerating learning through generic solutions; 5) innovative policies and programs, 6) celebration of early, big, and sustainable successes; 7) knowledge transfer and capacity building; and 8) budgeting.


Fundamental 1: Infrastructure

Launching and sustaining an enterprise initiative like this requires that people are in place within government to support the effort—people who can bridge the day-to-day reality of government with the principles and tools of TOC. Learning how to redesign a governor’s office to support this effort was step one. The Utah team accomplished this by walking its talk—finding hidden capacity within its existing government functions that were redirected to continuous process improvement.

Fundamental 2: Goals

Unlike the private sector, the goal within a specific program isn’t always clear. Creating clarity around this singular issue is the most powerful building block for all future improvement work. Without it, government agencies waste scarce resources and are often busy but not effective. After working in nearly 130 major government systems, Utah has developed experience, intuition, and a process to help agencies establish a clear, measurable, and powerful goal in any type of work environment from child welfare to business permitting and from invasive species management to application development.

Fundamental 3: Measures

Government usually tracks seemingly endless measures—some are required by the federal government, some by the state, some by stakeholders, and still others that are internally imposed. The misalignment of these conflicting measures against the goal creates chaos. Aligning measures with the key goal—both on a strategic and operational level—is the third building block. Utah has developed a process to address this important process.

Fundamental 4: Accelerating Learning through Generic Solutions

Utah has classified all of the programs and services government offers into eight work environments. This helps identify the few leverage points for each type of system that will achieve the biggest results and accelerate learning.


Fundamental 5: Innovative Policies and Programs

As Utah solidifies its approach to operations, it is now embarking on a new effort to bring innovative policy solutions to some of our most entrenched challenges. Working with expert TOC consultants, Utah is currently focused on addressing intergenerational poverty, recidivism within adult probation and parole, and finding a viable way to once and for all tackle the ubiquitous challenge of coordinating services for families who are served across multiple agencies. Other areas will include areas like tax policy and an overall wealth creation framework for the state. Our ultimate objective is to create a system and framework that allows innovation to become possible for everyone in government.


Fundamental 6: Celebration of Early, Big, and Sustainable Successes

Too many government initiatives fail because they don’t deliver results. Utah went after early wins out of the gate in order to demonstrate that the TOC tools worked. Successes were, and are, regularly celebrated. Examples of big successes will be shared during the presentation. Quarterly reports, monthly success stories, and annual conferences all combine to continually demonstrate to all employees that big improvements are possible in any type of work environment.

Fundamental 7: Knowledge Transfer and Capacity Building

An effort of this size cannot sustain itself if it is dependent on long-term external consultants. How to transfer the principle and tools of TOC to state employees is probably the most critical and yet most difficult requirement of sustainability. Our experience is that different levels of the organization need a different exposure to TOC thinking. Front line workers, for example, need a higher-level base than do the few that will actually manage projects. Likewise, cabinet members need yet a different level of exposure so that they can reinforce the approach, thinking, and tools without necessarily having to facilitate the work.

Utah has built out and continues to refine its roll out across the different groups—launching a web-based platform to help systematize how the concepts are communicated. The key to all of this is simplifying much of the jargon within the TOC world by making the terminology and tools more consumable.

Fundamental 8: Budgeting

Connecting operations with the budget process is critical in terms of reinforcing the expectations for achieving significant improvements. To date, Utah’s team has integrated basic measures of TOC into the budget review process. This allows better insights into "base” budgets and the types of strategies implemented to improve outcomes and find hidden capacity. Next steps will include testing out principles around aggregation and throughput accounting.

Combined, these fundamentals will help sustain the TOC enterprise initiative while bringing more and more value to the taxpayer and users of government services in Utah. Utah has learned and continues to learn critical lessons how scaling TOC across an entire state and hopes to bring these insights to conference participants.

Kristen Cox, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert appointed Kristen Cox as the Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) on August 21, 2012. In making the announcement, Governor Herbert praised her accomplishments: "Kristen’s paradigm of constant improvement stands out. She has demonstrated impressive leadership and vision at the helm of one of Utah’s largest agencies…That is exactly the approach I want as we work with agency heads to streamline operations and ramp up performance management.” A champion of continuous process improvement, Kristen has designated Theory of Constraints (TOC) and her SUCCESS Framework as the guiding process improvement tool for Utah state government. By integrating operational excellence with the state’s management and budgeting practices, Kris and the GOMB team are working closely with all cabinet-level agencies to achieve at least a 25% improvement to state government operations by January 2017 by focusing on quality, capacity, and cost. A cornerstone of this initiative is a focus on evidence-based practices and data-driven decision making.

In 2007, Kristen was appointed as the Executive Director of the Department of Workforce Services where she served for five years. While serving at DWS, she established a division to ensure that the organization used proven tools and methodologies to support the best possible outcome for customers. Before returning to Utah, Kristen held the position of Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, was appointed to a position with the Department of Education by President George W. Bush, and has held a number of positions with the National Federation of the Blind. She also ran as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor during Maryland’s 2006 general election. In 2012, Kristen’s photo graced the cover of Utah Business Magazine where she was named as one of Utah’s "30 Women to Watch.” She was also honored as the 2012 Days of 47 "Pioneers of Progress Award for Business and Enterprise.”

Kristen was born and raised in Utah and credits her mom for her work ethic and determination. Kristen says her mom worked tirelessly to support and nurture Kristen and her sister—especially during the years she was a working, single mom. Kristen received her Bachelor of Science in Educational Psychology from Brigham Young University. She served an LDS mission to Brazil and treasures any opportunity to speak Portuguese. Kristen and her husband, Randy, have two sons. They love the outdoors—especially hiking Utah’s mountains and trails. Kris is an avid reader and loves being active. Despite her loss of sight, some of Kris’ favorite activities include yoga, spin, and boot camp classes, skiing, and she thoroughly enjoyed the chance she had to go paragliding at Utah’s Point of the Mountain.

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