Recap of PIEworks: How to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Brandon Brown from the City of Dublin, OH shares about his amazing PIEworks team.
Recap of PIEworks: How to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Improvement
Brandon Brown from the City of Dublin, OH shares about his amazing PIEworks team.

Innovation is vital for organizations to improve their processes and successfully meet their goals. Yet, many organizations still struggle to create a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Lucky for us, the City of Dublin, OH has found the “secret sauce” to success and are willing to share their amazing work with the ClearPoint Community. You can find a copy of this presentation at the end of this recap!

Continuous improvement is a hot topic for the ClearPoint Community, as discovered through various surveys and feedback from our ClearPoint Community Advisory Board. To facilitate connections and share best practices around this topic, ClearPoint hosted an interactive, virtual session last week with special guest, Brandon Brown, Director of Performance Analytics at the City of Dublin, OH and his amazing innovation team, PIEworks. Brandon and his team are creating an environment for futuristic governmental service delivery by focusing on continuous improvement and citizen-centered design enhanced by data analysis and storytelling. He is building and directing the future of Dublin's Data Analytics and GIS teams to support operational functions and new programs focusing on continuous improvement and innovation.

During this event, we took a deep dive into the inner workings of Dublin's internal innovation team, PIEworks - a cross-functional team serving as the City’s resource for three areas of focus: Process Improvement, Innovation, and Engagement.

During our hour together, we both listened to Brandon’s lessons from Dublin’s journey of innovation and discussed our own challenges and tools in breakout rooms. Brandon gave an engaging presentation involving the tools the PIEworks team uses in their innovation processes and gave everyone a chance to see the magic happen live. Participants were fired up and excited, with cameras on and rich conversations flowing in each breakout room. By the end of it, we all walked away with new ideas for best practices, tools, and creating/sustaining cultures of growth and innovation. This was such a riveting virtual event – by the end of it, more than 97% of our participants shared that they were so happy to have joined the event.

With that, let’s dive into the great information Brandon shared!

Ice Breakers

Brandon “broke the ice” by asking everybody to share their favorite food. From burgers to rutabaga, everyone in the meeting turned on their camera, unmuted their microphones, and shouted their favorite food. An AI bot took note of all these choices and sorted them based on categories like breakfast, lunch, and…bread. This was only one of the tools Brandon showed off to expose how your team can leverage technology to improve innovation.

What is Innovation?

After that amazing magic trick that got everyone energized, Brandon talked about how there are many different definitions out there of "innovation" and "improvement". To sort through the noise, Dublin ties the meaning of these words to the idea of building a culture that values learning. Continuous improvement means continual learning. Your staff needs plenty of resources to do this, as there are many different ways of learning.

The groundwork for building a culture of continuous improvement and learning includes developing a growth mindset. This means understanding that things will not always go the way we expect, that we need to accept feedback graciously, and that you always need to keep trying even when you fail. Innovation is about setting up an ecosystem where people can take risks, look outside of their industry to use a different technology, and move beyond just talking about ideas.

Breakout Session #1

After this discussion from Brandon, the group split up into breakout rooms to share their challenges to creating a culture of innovation in their organization. In the breakout sessions, participants connected with peers in the strategic reporting space, shared challenges, and were offered solutions and ideas by their peers. When we came back together to discuss as a group, people shared some common challenges they discussed:

  • Fatigue from a never-ending emergency (such as COVID-19)
  • Not enough time
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mindset
  • Underestimating our own capabilities to learn
  • Need for leadership to embrace change (top-down approach)
  • Fear of failure
  • No clear ownership of initiatives/projects
  • Prioritization difficulties

Address Your Challenges with the Right Tools

After the group shared these challenges, Brandon shared some of the tools that his group uses to help them with continuous improvement and innovation. Before he jumped into these tools, he shared the history of innovation at the City of Dublin, OH.

Brandon and his team understand that starting something new is hard. Before they were innovation experts, their City’s continuous improvement efforts were very loose and scattered.

There was no clear ownership of initiatives until the PIEworks group was formed. The original group consisted of people who became trained in Lean Six Sigma. Instead of hiring a singular person to oversee innovation, they decided to build an internal team and invest in their existing employees’ skills. These trained employees can now work in different departments and sustain a culture of innovation across the organization.

The group is now very interdisciplinary and has people from across the City's functions. In addition, they utilize many different tools to assist them. Brandon discussed how the City developed the idea of the 'problem statement'. So often, when trying to innovate, people would rush past the stage of truly and fully understanding the problem at hand. They needed to spend more time defining the problem. They now spend 3-4 meetings at the beginning of any project coming up with the problem statement and the scope of the proposed solution. This also helps all experiments in innovation have a defined beginning and end.

In terms of methodology, Brandon explained when they use Lean vs. Six Sigma. Lean is getting the customer to value as quickly as you can by removing barriers to their achieved desire. Six Sigma is different in that you're trying to improve a process to make it more efficient, repeatable, and teachable.

Brandon emphasized how there is no one-size-fits-all answer or approach to innovation. Sometimes a heavy data analysis is necessary for a project, but other times a deep conversation with stakeholders is more valuable in understanding a problem. Process mapping can be extremely valuable both in understanding how a process is currently executed, and in designing a new or improved process.

The RACI framework is another tool Dublin uses often.

RACI forces you as an organization to decide who is:

  • Responsible (who's doing the work),
  • Accountable (who's in charge),
  • Consulting (person who might be asked if we are allowed to do the work), and
  • Informed (person who might be told that the work is going on).

You want to make sure each role is clearly defined to avoid frustration or confusion.

Breakout Session #2

After Brandon shared these tools and tips, the group split up into breakout rooms to discuss what tools they use or want to use in their organization. Some shared items included:

  • Project charters
  • Process mapping
  • Brainstorming
  • Sticky notes
  • Jam Board
  • Six Sigma approach with different colored belts
  • Policy analysis

Sustaining Your Culture of Innovation

Regardless of the size of your organization, a culture of continuous improvement and innovation is really all about having a learning mindset. There are a lot of ways to pick up these skills outside of formal trainings. He also emphasized the value of relying on a network of like-minded peers throughout this journey, like the ClearPoint Community.

The ClearPoint customers we’ve met and worked with in the ELGL cohort have been invaluable as we’ve started this journey in performance management and adding ClearPoint to our toolbelt. - Brandon Brown

Brandon also shared a quick sneak peak of how they measure their projects in ClearPoint. Brandon explained that ClearPoint helps the City make the “invisible, visible” and gives them insight to see what needs to be improved. Using ClearPoint, they can spot projects and processes that need changes or innovation more quickly than they previously could, since the data is so easily accessible. If a specific project is going well, they can also spot that with ClearPoint and apply those learnings to different efforts across the City. ClearPoint is the PIEworks team’s “canary in the coal mine” that indicates to them where and when to take action.

Thank you to Brandon and his amazing PIEworks team for providing the ClearPoint Community with an amazing, educational, and fun virtual session! Find a copy of Brandon’s presentation here.

Recap of PIEworks: How to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Joseph Lucco

Vice President of Customer Success & Rochesterian

Joseph is the Vice President of Customer Success at ClearPoint

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