Denver's Peak Performance Initiative and Peak Academy Highlighted at Congress of Cities

October 14, 2013

By Melissa Field and David Edinger

Melissa Field and David Edinger will serve as presenters for the interactive seminar, “Denver’s Peak Performance: Planning, Resources, and Continuous Improvement,” at the Congress of Cities conference on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

On his first day in office, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock launched the Peak Performance effort. His vision was to build a world-class city where everyone mattered. 

At the time, the City of Denver faced a $94 million budget gap. With limited resources and city employees suffering from years of cutbacks, the Mayor launched a program he hoped would breathe new life into the city while extracting the most value from every dollar spent.

The Peak Academy was built around the principles of Lean — a business improvement methodology generated from the Toyota Production System. At its core, Lean advocates for staff driven improvements. It asks that the people who do the work develop solutions aimed at improving their work. Ideas come from front line staff trained in tools centered on waste reduction and an improved customer experience.

In the summer of 2012, a team hired by Mayor Hancock developed a curriculum for the Peak Academy. They utilized Denver Health, a successful hospital system in Denver, as an example. At the time, Denver Health was seven years into their Lean journey and already reaping substantial cost savings. The City of Denver team opted to create several classes: a Green Belt, or four hour introduction to Lean, and a Black Belt, four and a half day intensive in Lean. For Black Belt graduates, developing innovative ways to improve systems and better save and allocate city resources became an employee performance requirement.

In addition to the classes, the Peak Performance initiative asked agencies to provide readouts of progress reports, offered executive level training on how to lead improvement and change efforts, and facilitated four-day events to streamline clearly defined and scoped processes.

In just over a year, ten percent of the city’s employees have been through the Peak Academy and their work alone has identified $6.8 million in savings. In a climate where morale is low and local government staff are asked to do more with less, this initiative brings people together—whatever their job or title. The overall aim is for staff to become innovators, changing the way the city operates to deliver better services.

The Peak Performance Initiative is central to Mayor Hancock’s vision to build a world-class city where everyone matters. City employees are now educated and empowered to follow through with his vision. The initiative brings employees from all agencies together and is driven by one overarching objective: to leave the city better than they found it.

Join preseenters David Edinger and Melissa Field at the Congress of Cities to learn more about how Denver's experience with Lean cna be replicated in other cities. 

David Edinger is the Chief Performance Officer for the City and County of Denver. David launched Mayor Michael Hancock’s Peak Performance initiative in July 2011.

Melissa Field is an Associate Process Improvement Analyst for the City and County of Denver. She has taught numerous courses in Lean as well as facilitated improvement events for the city’s public works and environmental health departments.