Taking the Toyota Production System to City Hall

There was an encouraging article about Lean government in the March 15, 2007 NB Online (Nikkei Business) titled City Hall in Aichi Studies at Toyota to “Enhance the Capabilities of the Staff” (愛知の市役所がトヨタで修行して「職員力」アップ). Takahama City in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, has been studying with Toyota since the end of 2005 in an effort to improve productivity and quality of service they provide to citizens.
There is a large Toyota Industries Corporation (formerly Toyoda Loom Works) factory in Takahama City, and the article reports that the city hall staff were instructed in Toyota Production System principles by Toyota staff. The article reports that 12 staffers from the city hall learned the TPS method at Toyota Loom Works using the same method described in How to Learn the Fundamentals of the Toyota Production System in 30 Days, and that a second wave of 12 staff have gone through this training in how to observe and time processes, map material and information flow, and redesign their work.
One of the objectives of the mayor of Takahama is to enhance capabilities of the staff. To this end, various Toyota Production System concepts such as 4S, Just in Time, multi-process handlers and standard work are used in various parts of the city hall. Material and information flow diagrams (value stream maps), yamazumi charts and skill matrices are used for problem solving at the Takahama City Hall.
One simple example of kaizen in public service from the article was to move the desks of the city hall staff to face the counters so that they could see their customers (citizens) approaching. That is a true example of a “customer facing” organization. One of the goals stated for doing this is to reduce the citizens’ waiting time to zero.
In addition, the article describes something like a “red tagging” of unwanted city services, so that the 200 city hall staff can better focus on providing services the citizens actually want. A customer-driven, rather than an ideologically-driven government – what a concept.