Applying the Principles of Lean and Public Value to Reshape a Government Agency

In the fall of 2003, the Maine Department of Labor began a tailored change initiative to fundamentally alter the culture and work of the agency. Combining time-tested “lean” principles from the manufacturing sector with the emerging public sector strategy of “public value,”* the Department of Labor is improving the quality and efficiency of the services we provide, and doing so with less money.

Like many state agencies, the Maine Department of Labor faces flat or reduced funding streams at a time of steady increases in operations costs. The term “Bend the Curve” relates to the effort to alter the direction of charted projections, to eliminate a looming $9 million shortfall.

The term “public value”* refers to an emerging public sector strategy to assess the value of government services, products, and regulations to the constituency served by each. Value can be determined only when a constituency “is willing to give up something in return for it.”

* Kelly, Mulgan and Muers, Creating Public Value: an analytical framework for public service reform, see

MDOL – Bend the Curve Goals

  • Provide the same or better customer service;
  • Shift the work of the department to match customer expectations and needs;
  • Achieve efficiencies by fundamentally changing how work gets done;
  • Improve intradepartmental collaboration and service integration; and
  • Decrease expenditures by at least $9M and significantly reduce staffing levels over three years while minimizing layoffs.

Better Customer Service
Bend the Curve also addresses the need to continue to provide public value in the services delivered by the department. With a focus on improved processes, measured outcomes, and service delivery from the perspective of the customer, BTC is changing the way we think about our work.

An Investment in Leadership
Recognizing the importance of empowering staff at all levels of the organization to work collaboratively in the change process, the department is investing in the leadership skills of both management and front-line staff.

Continuous Improvement
Using formal continuous improvement tools, BTC teams address efficiency in service delivery by measuring the current state and planning and implementing a future state that eliminates waste and enhances services to the customer.

For more information about the Maine Department of Labor’s Lean Initiative see their website:

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