Case Study: Performance Management and Lean Process Improvement - Results Washington, An Operational Excellence in Government Success Story

  • May 31, 2017
  • Operational Excellence in Government

This resource is part of the Ash Center's Operational Excellence in Government Project.

Executive Summary

This case study is one of three highlighting successes identified as part of the Operational Excellence in Government Project. The purpose of the case studies is to elevate and document the successes, and in doing so to provide a greater amount of detail than is typically available about such efforts. The case studies explain the implementation steps, the key challenges, and the driving factors for success. With this work, we hope to reduce the cost of identifying opportunities for efficiency and cost savings across all layers of government, and to accelerate the transfer and deployment of successful cases.

This case study describes how the state of Washington implemented two key operational efficiency strategies for government — performance management and employee-driven process improvement. The effort, called Results Washington, sets priorities and then focuses on delivery to achieve results that make a difference in the lives of Washingtonians. Results Washington was launched in 2013 by Governor Jay Inslee. He established five top-priority statewide goals and challenged state government leaders to track their progress against these goals and to apply Lean thinking and tools to improve their processes. Highlights of the success of the initiative include:

Performance management. Every activity of state government aligns with one of five priority goals: World-Class Education; Prosperous Economy; Sustainable Energy and a Clean Environment; Healthy and Safe Communities; and Effective, Efficient, and Accountable Government. Indicators of progress toward these goals are tracked on a public dashboard (, and the underlying data is publicly available too. Success to date includes:

  • 50 percent of the nearly 200 Results Washington goals are on track to meet or beat targets
  • Many of the indicators tracked are complex challenges that require collaboration across departmental lines, such as homelessness, pollution, offender recidivism, and teen pregnancy. State employees work with private and nonprofit partners as well as customers to devise strategies to deliver results.  
  • Monthly progress meetings are public and are also live-streamed. All data, agendas, and meeting results are published to the Results Washington website.

Process improvement. Lean process improvement empowers employees to remove bottlenecks and unneeded processing steps. This puts problem solving where it is most powerful, in the hands of those who best understand processes- from the frontlines of service delivery to backend administration. This approach has proven successful- a study showed that $4.5 in value to taxpayers is returned for every $1 invested in the Lean process improvement program. A total of $33 million in savings and avoided costs have been achieved, as well as countless hours saved via streamlined processes, resulting in improved customer satisfaction.

Selected individual project results include:

  • One million hours[1] of time saved waiting in Department of Licensing lobbies using process improvements and partnering with private driver-training schools
  • 15-percent[2] decrease in speed-related deaths
  • 20-percent[3] faster processing of DNA tests at the Crime Lab, reducing the backlog by 10 percent and cutting staff overtime 56 percent 
  • $6.2 million in recovered overpayments from Department of Labor and Industries, a 28-percent increase in one year
  • $2.3 million in savings a year on long-distance phone calls

One key to the success of Results Washington is that it is both top-down and bottom-up. Top-level executive sponsorship has been consistent and high profile — the governor not only presides over monthly meetings, he walks around in state agencies asking employees for input and holds department heads accountable for delivering results that span the silos of government. Employees are empowered — a third of the workforce has been trained in how to improve processes, and 11 percent of all state employees have participated in a Lean process improvement project — it is becoming part of the organizational culture.

The state employees who have accomplished this did not do it alone — the public and the private sectors both contributed. The public contributes ideas via an interactive survey on the state website and through public results meetings. Private-sector Lean process improvement experts from 130 companies have contributed thousands of hours of expertise teaching, coaching, and mentoring state staff working on process improvement projects. 

Other state and local governments do not need to reinvent the wheel but can instead borrow from what Washington has done on both performance measurement and process improvement. As Rich Roesler, former acting director of Results Washington says, “We steal ideas from other states and welcome people to steal our ideas.”

The pages that follow describe how Results Washington was implemented and how it operates, and provide resources to help other jurisdictions achieve more efficient operations.

Download Full Case Study (PDF)

Learn more about Performance and Accountability