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In 2015, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) engaged NCSU Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) to transform the way it provides support and consultation to counties and in partnering to deliver social services to individuals and families across the state.

The goal set forth by DHHS’ leadership was to develop the organization’s internal capability to improve services; the team aimed to achieve this by training a cadre of IES-certified Lean Facilitators who could work with counties and DHHS divisions to improve service delivery and reduce costs through elimination of waste using Lean tools. DHHS used grant funding to provide this training.

IES worked with DHHS to deliver training and certification for the Lean Facilitators through a process where each facilitator-in-training observed a Kaizen event, co-facilitated an event with an IES Improvement Specialist and then completed a Kaizen event independently.

DHHS identified improvement priorities at the state level, and also established a process by which county Department of Social Services Offices could submit requests for DHHS Lean Facilitators to coordinate Kaizen events locally. As a result of the engagement with DHHS, a total of 15 Kaizen events have been completed, eight are in progress and two more are scheduled to begin in 2017.

Examples of DHHS projects at the state level include:

  • Travel Authorization and Reimbursement process time reduction
  • NC Families Accessing Services Through Technology (NC FAST) Help Desk ticket resolution process
    • Help Desk ticket volume was reduced
    • Timeliness of resolution was improved
  • Operational Support Team response time to policy questions was improved
  • Office of Economic Opportunity contract approval process time reduction
    • Reduction in amount of time for data entry in DHHS Contracting System (Open Windows}
    • Elimination of data entry errors
  • NC FAST Production Defects Process
    • In progress–Streamline the production defect process
  • NC Division of Social Services Foster Care Licensing Process
    • In progress–Foster Care Licensing processing time reduction


Examples of County Department of Social Services Kaizen Teams

  • Orange County
    • Increased timeliness of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) application process
    • Increased timeliness and accuracy of FNS change process
  • Wake County
    • Increased the number of FNS applications processed the same day by 15 percent between December 2015 and March 2016
    • Eliminated 2.5 hours daily from the work assignment process
    • Eliminated compensatory overtime associated with the work assignment process
  • Madison County
    • Reduced time to process and deliver mail from 189 minutes to 90 minutes per day
    • Eliminated untimely FNS recertifications
    • Eliminated the need to hire additional staff
  • Harnett County
    • In progress–FNS work assignment process timeliness and accuracy
  • Hyde County
    • In progress–FNS work assignment process timeliness and accuracy
  • Moore County
    • Reduce the time to submit a complete and accurate foster home licensing application for approval
  • Chatham County
    • Eliminated non-value added steps in the intake process, reducing the time it takes to process new FNS applications by an average of 22 minutes per application
  • Yancey County
    • Reduced lead time from intake (at reception) to eligibility processing from 10 days to same day processing of applications
  • Union County
    • Reduced FNS application processing time
  • Richmond County
    • Reduced repeat customer contacts for the same issue from 3 percent to 1.9 percent of customer contacts per month
    • Reduced customer wait time for a resolution of a concern from an average of 5.39 days to an average of 1 day
  • Davidson County
    • Reception Configuration Process
  • Pender County
    • In progress–FNS Application Process Time Reduction
  • McDowell County
    • DSS Customer Intake Process Time Reduction
  • Cleveland County
    • Scheduled for 2017–Reception Area Reconfiguration
  • Wayne County
    • Scheduled for 2017–FNS-MA Recertification Triage Unit Streamlining
  • Scotland County
    • In progress–Develop New Hire Training Model

The counties involved in the Kaizen rapid improvement events have expressed appreciation for being selected to participate, and have agreed to be part of system-wide calls and Director’s meetings to share their success stories with other counties and recommend their participation.

The DHHS staff who have been trained as Lean Facilitators have found the role has changed the way they interact with counties, moving toward a more collaborative partnership in improvement.


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