Slowing Down to Speed Up: Improving Planning Processes with Lean

PAS Memo — July-August 2020

By Christopher Baker, AICP, Katie Wilken, AICP, Alissa Magley

Publication

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Planners often face a variety of difficulties while managing community planning and development. Aside from dealing with a multitude of developers, resident input, and a myriad of project types, both private and public agencies must contend with budgetary restrictions. Planners have all had to learn to do more with less.

In 2015, the fast pace of growth of the City of Goodyear, Arizona, meant an ever-increasing workload, but the Planning and Zoning Division had lost half of its staff to layoffs during the Great Recession. In an effort to do more — and better — with less, the Development Services, Economic Development, and Engineering Departments launched a “Lean” process improvement initiative. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of applications to the Planning and Zoning Division more than doubled, but staff were able to cut review times in half — all without adding new employees and while improving employee satisfaction.

This PAS Memo explores a number of processes and tools that planning departments can implement to help increase productivity and manage change within a growth environment. It looks at how the City of Goodyear’s Planning and Zoning Division handled the spike in development in conjunction with the rise in population and the decline in staff to show how planners can indeed do more with less.


Details

Page Count
9
Date Published
July 1, 2020
Format
Adobe PDF
Publisher
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Christopher Baker, AICP
Mr. Chistropher Baker, AICP is the Director of Development Services at the City of Goodyear, Arizona. Prior to serving Goodyear Mr. Baker worked for nearly 10 years in the private sector delivering planning services to cities throughout the Southeast. Mr. Baker also served as the Director of Planning and Building for the City of Fairhope for nearly 7 years and helped to lead the development of award winning Comprehensive Plans, Zoning Ordinances, and Subdivision Regulations. As Director of Development Services as Goodyear Mr. Baker works in a collaborative fashion with City Management, Engineering, and Economic Development to facilitate growth in the city. He works daily with the Planning Manager, Ms. Katie Wilken and a management team in the Development Continuum to create a culture of continuous improvement, empower employees, drive process improvement, and find solutions. The team has mananged to cut review times in half while case load has doubled by implementing lean management systems, tools, and techniques.

Katie Wilken, AICP
Katie Wilken has been working as a city planner for 15 years. She is the Planning Manager at the City of Goodyear, Arizona, where she leads the Planning and Zoning Division. As a planner with Goodyear, Katie led the 2025 General Plan update which was presented at the Transforming Local Government national conference. She was a member of the inter-departmental Innovation Academy where her interest in Lean Six Sigma was sparked. After completing the Denver Black Belt Academy, she helped introduce Lean to the City of Goodyear and has since continued her education and interest in continuous improvement and innovating government. Katie holds a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Ball State University and completed the Certified Public Manager program at Arizona State University.

Alissa Magley