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Lean Government


Since 2003 public environmental agencies have dramatically improved agency permitting and administrative processes using Lean and Six Sigma process improvement methods. Lean techniques identify and eliminate unnecessary and non-valued added process steps and activities that have built up over time. Lean efforts are not just about fixing broken processes. State agencies have found that these methods enable them to understand how their processes are working on the ground and to make adjustments that optimize desired outcomes. ECOS has collaborated with EPA to support States in their efforts to streamline programs while enhancing environmental and public health protections.

For more information about Lean government and to share information about your state's lean efforts, please contact Beth Graves at 202-266-4923 or bgraves at

U.S. EPA Lean Memo (September 2014)

EPA - ECOS Memorandum of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. EPA and ECOS was signed in March 2010 to affirm the use of administrative business process improvement techiniques (Kaizen, Six Sigma, Value Stream Mapping and other methods) to enhance the achievement of environmental goals. EPA-ECOS MOU (March 2010)

State Lean Initiatives

The ECOS "Inventory of State Lean Activities" is a state-by-state listing of Lean events and projects as well as State contact information for nearly every state. If your state is working on or has completed Lean Events or projects that are not listed here, or if you have new information to add to Inventory, please contact Beth Graves at

See what the States are doing: Inventory of State Lean Events and State Contact Information (published August 2010, limited updates made May 2015)

April 2009 ECOS Green Report: Lean Case Studies: Continuous Improvement in State Agencies

2015 Publications

The Lean and Information Technology Toolkit was developed by a joint ECOS-U.S. EPA E-Enterprise workgroup in December 2015. New IT approaches can help agencies to streamline, modernize, and expand the services they provide to customers. This Lean and IT Toolkit explores how Lean and IT can be used to accomplish the following:

- Efficiently design new products and services to better meet customer needs (Lean Startup)

- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing processes (Lean process improvement)

- Reduce the costs and risks of developing new IT products (Agile development)

This Toolkit provides how-to guidance, resources, and tips for making improvements in each of these applications of Lean and IT (product conceptualization, process improvement, and IT product development), as well as describes how agencies can collaborate effectively on improvement projects.
View or download a copy: Lean and Information Technology Toolkit

2009 Publications

U.S. EPA and ECOS have released Lean in Government Starter Kit - Version 2.0. The updated Kit is designed to assist interested governmental agencies in planning and implementing successful lean improvement events. Version 2.0 builds on ideas presented in Volume 1and was reviewed and edited by a group of ECOS member states and staff.
View or download a copy: Lean in Government Starter Kit - Version 2.0

2008 Publications

ECOS and EPA announce the availability of the Lean in Air Permitting Guide - an important resource for any environmental agency interested in improving their air permitting processes. The guide provides numerous specific examples of the types of changes that several State environmental agencies have made as part of their efforts to streamline and improve air permitting using Lean. This Lean in Air Permitting Guide will help you better understand the potential value and results that can be achieved by applying Lean improvement methods to air permitting processes.

Lean in Air Permitting Guide (September 25, 2008)
One-page Overview of Lean in Air Permitting Guide (hand-out from ECOS 2008 Annual Meeting 9-21-08)

More Publications

Working Smart for Environmental Protection: Improving State Agency Processes with Lean and Six Sigma was developed jointly by ECOS and US EPA in collaboration with Delaware, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska, states that were able to drastically reduce the backlog of permit applications while cutting permit review times by more than 50 percent utilizing administrative Lean and Six Sigma. These states also decreased the complexity of permit application forms, improved the consistency of permit reviews, and freed up staff to work on other environmental priorities. States have found that staff morale has improved with the use of these methods, and that transparency to stakeholders has increased. All of these benefits were realized while environmental protection was maintained and the value added to permit review increased.
Improving State Processes Primer (September 2006)

The Lean in Government Starter Kit: A Practical Guide to Implementing Successful Lean Initiatives at Environmental Agencies was developed jointly by ECOS and US EPA in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Iowa Department of Management, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The Starter Kit builds on information presented in the Lean in Government primer, Working Smart for Environmental Protection, which was developed by ECOS and US EPA and presented at the September 2006 ECOS meeting.

The Starter Kit is intended for use by government environmental agencies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of agency administrative processes and is meant to be a "one-stop" resource for environmental agencies about Lean process improvement methods. It contains tips and recommendations for how to get started with Lean, implementing a Lean event from initial planning to event follow-up, and how to sustain and expand Lean activity in your organization. Each section includes a diverse array of checklists, templates, tools, and resources that can be tailored and used by your agency.
2007 Lean in Government Starter Kit

Improving State Processes

Lean Events

2nd Lean Government Exchange
June 9 - 11, 2009; Des Moines, Iowa

Nearly 30 people from 14 ECOS-member states participated in the 2009 Lean Government Exchange along with approximately 130 other federal, state, municipal, and county government administrators representing environment, health care, utilities, human services, law enforcement, and others. This year's best practice process improvement conference focused on implementing Lean in government and was attended by representatives from Canada and Mexico. ECOS members gathered for a members-only breakfast to network and to discuss how ECOS can further assist states with their Lean initiatives. More information on the conference can be found on the website of the host of the conference - the Iowa Department of Management Office of Lean Enterprise:

Administrative Lean Training hosted by US EPA Region 3
April 29, 2008
Powerpoint presentations from the meeting.

2008 Symposium on Innovating for Sustainable Results Workshop:
Lean 101: Interested in Streamlining Process and Improving Results?

Monday, January 8, 2008, Chapel Hill, NC
Presentation: "Transforming Government: The Challenge and Opportunity of the 21st Century"

2007 Lean Government Exchange, Des Moines, IA, October 2-4, 2007
Twelve state environmental agencies participated in the 2007 Lean Government Exchange in Des Moines, Iowa, this week along with other federal, state, municipal, and county government administrators representing environment, health care, and human services agencies, among others. The conference focused on the Kaizen methodology, the belief that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over time result in significant performance improvements, and how the Kaizen process can produce impressive results for government agencies in short periods of time. Conference Description & Agenda

Summer 2007: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and US EPA Region 7 receive ECOS Innovations Award for their work on improving the review process for water quality standards in their region.

USEPA & Lean
Visit US EPA's Lean Government website for more information about Lean tools and techniques.