For the past few years, Des Moines Public Schools has been undergoing a continuous improvement effort to both improve performance and increase efficiency. Part of that effort has been implementing a Lean culture where an organization’s leadership supports and promotes the empowerment of employees to build their problem-solving ability.

The process is returning dividends in many different ways, and it’s time to recognize some of the people behind the effort. Judi Martens is the business and finance manager for DMPS, whose efforts have streamlined the district’s disbursement process while saving tens of thousands of dollars. She was presented with the inaugural Distinguished  Lean Practitioner Award for her good work.

What is the award? The Distinguished Lean Practitioner award recognizes an employee for their significant contributions in supporting continuous improvement efforts in Des Moines Public Schools. The employee is putting their creativity to work by making DMPS Leaner. Their efforts have successfully improved efficiencies (i.e. reduced handoffs, removed rework), streamlined processes, reduced costs and/or increased customer satisfaction. This will be a yearly award given out in the Spring.

How was a winner selected? Nominations for the award were made by members of the DMPS Cabinet. The Lean Steering Committee then assigned a value of 1-4 in four areas: measurable outcomes, increased efficiencies, increased customer service, and engagement level in improvement efforts. The highest scored nomination earns the award.

Why Judi Martens? Judi was an early adaptor of Lean as the Team Lead of our third Kaizen, the Accounts Payable Disbursement Kaizen, that took place in September 2015. Her dedication to leading that team and improving the disbursement process has resulted in the successful implementation and sustainment of the project. A few improvements that resulted in FY17 from her and the team’s work included reducing by 5.7% the use of paper checks, saving $9,000 in check stock paper, printer and postage costs; increasing by 7.5% the use of pCards to pay invoices, generating $107,000 in rebate revenue; implementing virtual card payments (an electronic payment method) to vendors, generating another $32,000 in rebate revenue; and centralizing electronic invoice and pCard receipt collection and distribution. 

What is the Disbursement Kaizen? A five day improvement project held in September 2015 with a cross-department team to improve how DMPS pays vendors. The project goal was to develop a 21st century disbursement process that utilizes electronic payments in order to pay invoices in a timely manner, eliminate duplicate payments and reduce the schools responsibility of handling invoices. The team came up with 23 recommendations to change the process and implemented 20 of them over the 15-16 and 16-17 school years. The changes mentioned above are from comparing FY16 to FY17. FY18 should bring additional savings as electronic payments continue to increase.

Learn more about Lean and the continuous improvement work underway at DMPS.

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