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Pursuing A Vision: Nebraska's Center of Operational Excellence

Pursuing A Vision: Nebraska's Center of Operational Excellence

Early in his tenure, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts established process improvement as a key strategy to, “create a more effective, more efficient, and more customer-focused state government.” To achieve this, state leaders first evaluated state models from around the country to help introduce more sustainable change that would help grow Nebraska. This led to the launch of a Center of Operational Excellence within the Department of Administrative Services. COE established a new operating model, which included the creation of 30 process improvement coordinators embedded in agencies, with dual-reporting structures to the cabinet secretaries and the Director of the Center.  As part of their implementation, the Center has developed and executed a rigorous training and certification program and integrated process improvement into the state’s onboarding process.  

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Key Learning Objectives:

While Ricketts’ passion for process improvement was a valuable catalyst for the initiative, it did not guarantee the program’s success. Rather, he and his team had to grapple with—and continue to confront—difficult questions.

  •  How should they staff the effort? Where should it be positioned in the enterprise?
  • How should they build cross-agency support?
  • What did they need to do to mitigate potential political challenges and mobilize stakeholders around a common vision?
  • How should they measure progress?
  • How should they keep a focus on process improvement as a long-term priority for the state in the midst of urgent demands, such as natural disasters?
  • What could they do to position the initiative for long-term success?

 Press Coverage: 

 Why A Case Study: 

The National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA), an association devoted to state chief administrators (CAOs) and their senior, released two new case studies in partnership with Leadership for a Networked World (LNW) at Harvard Kennedy School.

NASCA uses the Harvard case study method as an innovative educational tool during a two-day executive training for cabinet-level officials and private sector thought leaders responsible for the business functions of government. Participants shared best practices on Driving Good Government: leading sustainable innovation in government.