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News Releases from Region 07

EPA Region 7 Delivers Results in the Heartland

The Region has reduced bureaucratic processes and improved on-time delivery

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Emily Albano (

Environmental News


EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., Nov. 12, 2020) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has implemented the EPA Lean Management System (ELMS) to 83% of the Agency across the U.S.

Implementation of this system has allowed EPA Region 7 to make significant improvements to the speed and quality at which it delivers its services to people in the Heartland.

“We strive every day to fulfill the mission of the Agency to the highest possible standard,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “We are using new practices developed under EPA’s Lean Management System that have allowed us to make these improvements. We’ve implemented nearly 20 process improvements so far and are seeing positive returns. This system allows us to review all of our processes from grants administration to emergency response and find where we can make gains in efficiency and effectiveness. This empowers our employees to reduce bureaucracy and redundancy, which improves morale and allows the team to focus on getting results for the American people.”

ELMS is an Agency-wide systematic approach to continuous process improvement. It is based on lean principles used for years by the private sector and is comprised of six components: visual management, standard process, cascading performance measures, problem-solving, business reviews and huddles, and leader behaviors. EPA implementation of each of these elements has allowed the Agency to make significant improvements to the speed and quality at which it delivers its services to the American people.

EPA's Office of Continuous Improvement, the team responsible for implementing ELMS, set a goal to deploy this system to 80% of Agency personnel and use it to improve 250 processes by fiscal year 2020. Both goals were successfully met with the Agency reporting over 500 processes improved and 83% of personnel using ELMS.

EPA Region 7 used ELMS to increase on-time completion and delivery of inspection reports to regulated entities from 38% to over 90% by empowering employees to improve processes. This improvement is just one of 17 gained through implementing lean management principles. Each improvement positively impacts people, businesses and communities.

ELMS has allowed the Regional Office to better measure its effectiveness in delivering the most crucial services. One of EPA’s top priorities is to ensure waters are clean through improved water infrastructure and, in partnership with states and tribes, sustainably manage programs to support drinking water, aquatic ecosystems, and recreational, economic and subsistence activities.

Region 7’s Water Division (WD) used ELMS practices to significantly improve the number of state-submitted Total Maximum Daily Load calculations (TMDLs) approved by the region from 42 in fiscal year 2018 to 202 in fiscal year 2020. A TMDL is the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the water body will meet and continue to meet water quality standards for that particular pollutant. This team also used ELMS to build regional capacity to reduce the TMDL backlog, increasing the number of staff trained to assist with reviewing TMDLs by 77%.

“ELMS was a fantastic tool to rally our newer staff around a portion of our work that appeared daunting from a sheer numbers perspective,” said Jeff Robichaud, EPA Region 7 WD director. “Visual management allowed the team to track progress and celebrate in real time as the backlog decreased. This tool also allowed a more complete picture for our state partners and allowed us to work together to anticipate and accommodate new TMDL work, without jeopardizing progress on the backlog. I’m proud of the team and the work they accomplished through ELMS.”

Other notable improvements made in Region 7 include cutting a backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests to zero and exceeding the target number of Brownfield sites made ready for anticipated use by 54%.

“Implementing ELMS allows staff across regional programs to actively engage in improving the way we fulfill our mission as an Agency. Those closest to the work know which processes or steps add value and which do not. By tapping work units at every level who have embraced what ELMS can help us achieve and who are thinking outside the box, we have been able to better measure, track, and optimize our processes and services,” said Mike Brincks, Region 7 Mission Support director.

As part of the new system, the executives in EPA’s 23 national programs and regional offices monitor over 800 measures each month. If a measure’s target is not met, problem-solving is performed and a plan is created for getting back on track. In addition, over 10,000 of EPA’s staff on the front line now huddle in small groups for 15 minutes each week to review electronic boards used to track the flow of their team’s work and the metrics used to measure process performance.

“I’m extremely proud of this Agency’s embrace of lean principles and commitment to continuous improvement,” said Henry Darwin, EPA’s chief operating officer and visionary behind ELMS. “Setting numeric goals, tracking workflow and performance, and solving problems using data and evidence is how I believe this Agency can better protect human health and the environment. ELMS has given EPA employees a new way to accomplish our mission and the results speak for themselves.”

Some of the other most notable process improvements that have been made across EPA since the system was implemented included reducing the Agency’s backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests by almost 45%; increasing the number of inspections reports that are completed on-time and communicated to the regulated entity from around 49% to 82%; and a reduction in the number of backlogged new permit applications by almost 150.

Learn more about EPA’s continuous improvement efforts.

To learn more about EPA’s 50th anniversary and how the Agency is protecting America’s waters, land and air, visit:, or follow EPA on social media using #EPAat50.

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