"We bring a mindset of action and results"

A LeanOhio interview with Joe Rust
Deputy Director, Ohio Performance Team • Ohio Auditor of State

Joe has been with the Auditor of State’s Ohio Performance Team for 10 years, working in state and local government to identify opportunities for more economical, efficient, and effective service delivery. As Deputy Director, he provides leadership and support for a team for performance improvement experts, many of whom are trained Black and Green Belts. Joe completed his Black Belt training in 2012.

Lean Six Sigma seems to fit well in your organization. Why is that?
The Ohio Performance Team works with clients to identify opportunities for economy, efficiency, and effectiveness -- and Lean Six Sigma aligns well with this focus. We incorporate Lean Six Sigma into our performance audit process by sharing best practices and proven results with our clients. We also incorporate Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques into our daily processes, and they’re visible in our work product. Everything we do is data-driven, and when we work with client leadership, we provide an independent perspective of what the data is saying about their operations.

What has helped the agency sustain and even increase its use of Lean?
The Auditor of State’s Office has always been focused on data and managing by the numbers. But when AOS leadership introduced Lean Six Sigma, we were able to unlock even more potential and improve our work processes and product -- which created more value for our customers, clients, and taxpayers. So a major factor in sustaining the Lean Six Sigma movement has been the positive reaction that our clients have had. We’ve been able to build credibility through initial wins as well as long-terms delivery of results. We’ve been successful in turning clients -- some of whom were initially skeptical -- into repeat customers because we were able to provide practical value and return on investment.

Tell me more about building credibility.
We have a track record of success that we share and market to our clients and customers. We have the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to help our clients and customers accomplish their goals. More importantly, we bring a mindset of action and results, and this really resonates with leadership.

The Auditor’s Office has always been very involved with the LeanOhio Network.
We see the value of sharing resources and experiences, and the LeanOhio Network is a great way to do that. Network members are focused on getting results and providing solutions. Often, the opportunities for improvement are common across multiple agencies, offices, and programs. It just makes sense to leverage the knowledge, experience, and problem-solving abilities of the Network to help solve the common problems. There are some amazing people in the Network, and when you reach out to them, they’re really willing to help.

What is one of the challenges you've encountered during your Lean journey, and how did you address it?
Early on, we heard from pockets of our staff and from some of our clients that Lean Six Sigma was just for manufacturing -- or that this was just another version of something tried 20 years ago that never quite worked. Fundamentally, this came down to change management. We had to show results while at the same time empowering those individuals to take ownership over helping to make the change successful.

What are some tips you can share with others who are putting Lean to work?
Four things come to mind, and all of them are extremely important: What gets measured gets done. Quick wins build credibility and momentum. Get fundamentally sound before you exhaust your efforts in trying to cover new topics. Lean up the process before you look for a technological solution.

Interviewed by Brandi Crowley • October 2015

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