Cascading Enterprise Alignment: Taking Lean Six Sigma to the Next Level

King County’s Finance and Business Operations Division was hitting major milestones on its Lean journey by mid-2016. In the three years, the division had:

  1. Created a division clarity map to define “True North” with vision, mission and values.
  2. Created a division dashboard to track progress on major goals and initiatives with targeted performance metrics.
  3. Started using the five exemplary practices of leadership from The Leadership Challenge to encourage leaders to more frequently model the way, inspire a shared vision, encourage the heart, and enable others to act.
  4. Developed and implemented an 18-month roadmap based on the four pillars of operational excellence to keep advancing the journey toward becoming a healthier organization.
  5. Developed value stream maps for major processes that illustrated the value of each process to the customer.
  6. Trained all of their employees on basic Lean concepts using the Lean Simulation for government and Crucial Conversations.
  7. Started employing Lean Leader Standard Work to grow the leader as coach and reinforce the use of visual management, huddle meetings, A3s and process walks.

What was next for this high-performing team? After revisiting and revising the division’s strategic management system core guiding documents – the clarity map and the dashboard – the division turned its attention to cascading alignment deeper into the organization.

Cascading Alignment

Nesting the section vision and mission

FBOD Director Ken Guy called together all managers, supervisors, and lead workers for a one-day workshop to build section strategic management systems. He focused their efforts on building more value for customers over the next five years by implementing strategic changes, not just relying on “business as usual.”

Each section worked as a team to build better enterprise alignment. Rank had no privilege in the room as the section managers, supervisors and lead workers brainstormed, prioritized and revised side by side.

“I felt the energy around having people—including our new people—there sharing their ideas,” said Lynn McKiernan Ngari, Grants Financial Officer. “It was a challenge to think about our vision, mission, values, and goals but people were very positive about the work.”

The section teams focused their discussions and the day’s deliverables on answering the six critical question of an effective strategic performance management systems:

  1. Who are we and where are we going as an organization?
  2. How do we measure performance against what is important?
  3. How are we doing?
  4. How do we decide where to focus our efforts and allocate resources?
  5. What actions do we take to improve our ability to achieve our desired outcomes?
  6. How do we sustain improvements and ensure our efforts are making an impact?

By lunch time, each section team had draft vision and mission statements. The teams were asked at to check for alignment with the division clarity map. Did the section visions and missions support the overall vision and mission of FBOD? Passing that all-important test was key before moving on to creating more detailed action plans for the sections.

Making the Vision Actionable

With a refined focus for each section, the teams set to work developing top level goals, initiatives (major work plan items) to start moving toward those goals and measures so progress could be tracked. Each team was asked to try to stay at six goals or less to ensure they retained focus and to winnow down initiatives and measures to only the essentials.

The goal? Don’t make a section’s dashboard so large and complicated that maintaining it is a project in itself.

Following Up: Vetting with Staff

At the end of the day the section teams were given a final assignment before finalizing the clarity maps and dashboards: Get input from all section staff, revise and finalize the section strategic management systems.

Besides gathering what people liked about each element and would like to see changed (the pluses and deltas), they were given one key question for each of the strategic performance management system elements:

Vision: Does the vision inspire you to stretch?
Mission: Do you feel included in the mission?
Values: Do the values resonate with you as the most important ones?
Goals: Are these goals big enough and broad enough for the next 3-5 years?
Initiatives: Do we have other ongoing major work items we are missing in our initiatives?
Measures: Do these measures truly measure progress in achieving initiatives?

Although the section strategic management sessions were hard work, feedback from staff was very positive. “It was a great opportunity for the FMS manager, supervisors, and leads to have input into one shared, common vision,” said Jean Prepotente, Lead Functional Analyst. “We got to talk about what we want to improve for our customers and how to move towards that.”

Vision and mission Draft vision and mission for Procurement & Payables Section of the Finance and Business Operations Division.

About The Client

King CountyKing County in Washington is the 13th most populous county in the United States. King County as an organization has 13,000+ employees and an $10 billion biennial budget. Among other major priorities, King County Executive Dow Constantine has set a policy goal of being the best-run government in the United States by employing business practices like Lean management to deliver government services more efficiently. King County’s Finance and Business Operations Division has 180+ employees and a $56+ million biennial budget. The division provides accounting, procurement, treasury, payroll, benefits and small business services.


Gwen Voelpel

Gwen Voelpel has 20 years of experience in coaching and mentoring leaders at all levels of organizations. She has an undergraduate degree in communications, a graduate degree in public administration, and has served as an executive leader in several organizations. Gwen is an accredited Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC Workplace Facilitator and a Certified Master in Training for The Leadership Challenge.