Lessons From The Canadian Lean Summit

Canadian Public Sector Lean Summit – April 24 – 27, 2017

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Learn. Share. Transform.  That was the theme for the recent Lean Summit held in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  The purpose of the summit was to share leading practices around lean methodology and application to improve service to private sector customers and to the benefit of public sector’s citizens.

The Canadian Public Sector Lean Summit brought 330 registrants from the public (70%) and private sector (30%) together to collaborate and problem solve using lean techniques.  The workshop streams were tailored for novice and advanced lean practitioners.

Another 2017 program addition was an Improvement Stories innovative where public sector organizations shared their project stories and outcomes.  Here is a link to those stories: http://www.cdnleansummit.ca/2017-improvement-stories/

Our CEO, Lori Schmidt also spoke on “investing in our people for productivity and innovation”.

This looked at GO’s recent work around the whole topic of high priority productivity drivers, associated metrics, and a method to track investment in people to “multiply human capital.”

The Summit sessions had great stories, especially where public sector organizations shared how they began their lean journey.  Many starting with training throughout the organization and then building up staff capacity with green and black belt qualifications to deliver projects and set future goals. Special kudos to Fredericton and Mississauga as leading examples.

The City of Fredericton. Population 58,000, has already trained 20 black belts and 30 green belts.  Using those skills, they have realized a cumulative savings to citizens of $7.8 million from 2012-2017.

Similar success was reported from others:

City of Saint John

  • 7 black belts
  • 8 green belts
  • $700,000 saved with $2 million projected by 2018


  • 25 green belts
  • 1,800 white belts
  • $2 million in cost savings
  • $2.2 million in cost avoidance and re-directed capacity
  • Plans to train all city staff at white belt level

Government of New Brunswick

  • Cumulative hard savings of $69 million from 2012-2016

There are others worth exploring by clicking on this link: http://www.cdnleansummit.ca/2017-improvement-stories/

The big takeaway was while lean/six sigma approaches were developed and refined in large manufacturing settings, that can be very useful when applied to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).  Even more interesting was the great results achieved when these techniques were brought into local, regional and provincial government operations.

Productivity in Canadian business is embarrassingly low compared to others.  Our business competitiveness and our economy is hurting as a result.  Since the vast majority of Canada’s businesses are SME’s the best results in productivity improvement will come from changing the mindset of those kinds of enterprise in a wide array of commercial sectors.

The great new insight was that government can also improve results as it provides public services using taxpayer money.  Applying lean/six sigma techniques in a wide array of public sector operations, in local, regional and provincial services created impressive improvements in performance, lowered costs and reduced waste.

Governments are not businesses and should not be seen to be. However, the use of business-based lean/six sigma techniques are proving to be great tools for improved performance in forward thinking public sector service providers.

The examples of the practical application of Lean/Six Sigma techniques by SMEs and governments really brought home the Summit’s theme of Learn.  Share. Transform.

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