Drinking Up SUCCESS
By applying the fundamentals of the SUCCESS Framework, the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Drinking Water engineering program has experienced a 20% improvement in the work and services it performs to ensure that clean drinking water is supplied to the citizens of Utah as quickly and safely as possible.
Ensuring a Safe Supply of Drinking Water
The Division of Drinking Water’s mission is to work cooperatively with drinking water professionals and the public to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. The division regulates over 1,000 public water systems in Utah. The engineering review program reviews and approves drinking water-related projects received from public water systems or their consultants. Such reviews verify conformance with existing state rules and common engineering practices, with the goal of ensuring a safe and reliable supply of drinking water.
Overcoming Obstacles with SUCCESS
The engineering review program has faced several challenges including the loss of engineering staff, an inability to fill vacant positions, increased workload, and inconsistent quality in reviews. While the division has a history of doing more with less, the SUCCESS fundamentals have further improved the work and services of the engineering review program.
Methods for Improving Performance
- To deal with the difficulty in filling engineering vacancies, a careful evaluation was conducted to identify the engineers’ and managers’ tasks and time spent performing each task. As a result, an engineering position was converted to a scientist position and selected tasks were transferred. The engineers and managers now focus on those tasks directly related to engineering review.
- The identification of valid measures for tracking program efficiency. The measures are a result of capturing data from existing databases, standardizing data entry ﬁelds, and educating staﬀ regarding data entry. The measures track program efficiency and are now part of staff performance plans.
- The development of various tools to improve efficiency including:
- Checklists to improve the quality of incoming submittals; thus reducing approval time. The tool has also standardized the quality of the internal review process regardless of which staff engineer reviews a project.
- Rule revisions to streamline the submission process and improve efficiency without compromising quality. For example, a public water system can now pre-qualify for a plan submittal waiver, which allows water systems to bypass the typical approval process, saving time and reducing costs.
- Templates to improve the quality of the review process and responses, reducing the time needed to coach new staff and draft documents from scratch. The templates include an internal sign-oﬀ within the document management process to ensure consistency with written procedures and protocols.
Formulated a Simplified Performance Metric
Due to the large number of tasks performed under the program, division staff initially had a difficult time determining how to measure improvement. Draft metrics included many variables and would have created a burdensome reporting requirement. Through consultation with GOMB, a simplified performance metric was formulated which provides a solid and useful representation of division performance while avoiding the creation of labor-intensive reporting requirements.
Leveraged Existing Resources to Increase Efficiency
Using the fundamentals of the SUCCESS Framework, the Division of Drinking Water not only found a way for management to track and manage performance on both a programmatic and individual basis, it also leveraged existing resources in order to provide increased beneﬁt to the public at a lower cost. Thanks to Ken Bousﬁeld, Ying-Ying Macauley, Michael Grange, Nathan Lunstad, and the other members of the engineering review team for their on-going efforts to improve operations and safeguard Utah’s drinking water.