By Renette Anderson and Scott Baird
The scientists and engineers at DEQ are data-driven and naturally curious. They measure air, surface and ground waters, and land impact from pollutants. Ask any one of them about his or her work, and each can quote statistics in orders of magnitude or parts per billion, whichever applies.
It’s a perfect environment for continuous improvement.
DEQ has been involved in performance system improvements since the early 1990s when the organization embraced Total Quality Management. Improvements happen here in various ways, from an easily implemented idea at the staff level to more formal improvements generated by stakeholder groups, mini-Kaizens, and the Success Framework model.
Currently, our staff is engaged in the following continuous improvement projects:
- Examining permitting and plan approval practices in multiple divisions to help applicants submit complete information at the beginning of the permitting process and reduce unnecessary bottlenecks during plan and permit review.
- Finding ways to better coordinate compliance inspections through the use of mapping tools.
- Watching trends and looking for opportunities to improve compliance rates with regulatory requirements through education and outreach.
These efforts are paying off:
- The tank program is spending less money per compliant facility – from $312.69 per facility in March 2012, to $277.00 per facility in September 2014. That’s a cost savings of almost $36.00 per facility.
- By replacing a paper permit application system with an online process, staff hours spent issuing storm water permits dropped from 3,160 hours in FY2011 to 292 hours in FY14. During the same time frame, the number of permits issued increased from 1,580 to 2,426.
- By working with stakeholders, we’re learning to communicate expectations more clearly so that plans or permits submitted to DEQ are more complete and require less back-and-forth communication between the applicant and project manager.
Because DEQ has been committed to continuous improvement for some time, we generally see incremental changes rather than dramatic results. These changes add up over time, however, and help us meet our responsibility to the environment and Utah taxpayers.
At DEQ, we give both our best.
Want to learn more about continuous improvement at DEQ? Check out our series of 2014 blogs that highlight our SUCCESS Framework projects. Read about the tracking used by the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) to increase the number of owners meeting tank requirements, learn how new technology helps the Division of Radiation Control speed up X-Ray inspections, see how the Division of Drinking Water utilizes electronic data entry to streamline the sanitary survey process, learn how air quality inspectors collaborate with the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) to locate oil and gas sites, and discover the ways DERR’s Interactive Map facilitates public access to environmental documents.
Renette: I chair the continuous improvement team at DEQ, serve as the local-health liaison, and teach and arrange for leadership development workshops. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Brigham Young University. In my spare time, I do volunteer work with children and take every opportunity to enjoy a good meal and spirited conversations with friends.
Scott: As the Director of Legislative and Government affairs, I work with legislators and stakeholders on pending legislation as well as promoting the great work that our Department does. Prior to joining DEQ, I worked in the Governor’s Office in Utah and Washington and with Deloitte Consulting in D.C., where I helped state and federal agencies identify and implement opportunities to improve. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree at Brigham Young University and my Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and JD degrees from Syracuse University. I LOVE to get outdoors and enjoy SKIING, running, hiking, camping, working in the yard, fixing up our broken-down house, and anything else I can convince my wife and four daughters to do with me.