Process Improvement Team Helps Employees Define the Work They Do

Process Improvement Team Helps Employees Define the Work They Do


CONTACT Cara Wilwerding, Communications Manager

OFFICE 402-479-5712 |

June 30, 2017 (Lincoln, Neb). – The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services’ (NDCS) process improvement team is creating a cultural change department-wide by getting frontline staff involved in problem solving.

Process improvement coordinators Heather Behl and Chris Gadeken said the work they do is really about giving NDCS employees ownership and value.

“They’re the ones doing the frontline work, so they know where the pitfalls and compromises are,” Behl said. “But 99 percent of the time they also know where the solutions are.”

Every NDCS employee has completed a one-hour online class and earned a white belt in Lean Six Sigma – a practice used to improve performance by removing waste, reducing variation and working as a team. After completing their white belt training, employees can also take a three-hour course to earn a yellow belt.

“We have a lot of projects just waiting for us to get to,” she said. “Some people want to be a part of it and actively promote change.”

Among Lean Six Sigma teachings is the DMAIC methodology, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. The DMAIC methodology has been used to complete a number of process improvement projects like eliminating unnecessary travel orders, tracking savings within the leadership academy and expediting the uniform issue process for new employees.

The process improvement program officially started in October of 2016. Since January, it has produced $1.5 million in soft savings – mainly related to cost avoidance and the reallocation of time and resources.

“We facilitate the change by leading the team through a process to come up with the solution and then leading them through implementation and control,” Gadeken said. “All of it ties to the governor’s mission statement – to create opportunity through more effective, more efficient and customer focused state government.”

Behl said the biggest challenge lies in creating complete collaboration and communication between divisions within NDCS. Everyone sees things from their point of view, Behl explained, which can be both a progression and a pitfall. Regardless, she looks forward to the future of process improvement – as they’ve only just begun.

“Realistically, the end goal for NDCS is really to create a culture where the employees define the work that they do,” Behl said.