2018 State Standard of Excellence

13. Innovation

Did the state or any of its agencies have staff, policies, and processes in place that encouraged innovation to improve outcomes?

Why is this important?
Encouraging innovation allows state governments to implement new models that can improve programs while also building their evidence base.

Leading Example

California Outline


Multiple agencies

The California Health and Human Services Agency’s Let’s Get Healthy California Innovation Challenge 2.0 awarded grants to 12 community-based initiatives to advance California’s goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation by 2022. In the selection process, applications were scored based data use (“the extent to which data was effectively used to inform, target, and evaluate the innovation”) and effectiveness (“the extent to which the innovation’s results were achieved or show promise of being successful with the intended population”) among other criteria.

In 2011, the California Franchise Tax Board launched the Enterprise Data to Revenue project, a multiyear tax system modernization to increase efficiency and improve services for California taxpayers. The five-year project generated approximately $3.7 billion in additional revenue, with recurring additional revenue of $1 billion annually, through five components: an automatic tax return service, a new data warehouse and analytics tool that incorporated legacy tax data, a new customer service interface, an improved case management system, and enhanced tools for collections. Launched in 2016, the second phase of the project will build on these improvements.

California’s Eureka Institute “guides, supports, and integrates innovation and drives continuous improvement throughout state government” as a way to improve the impact of the state’s programs. The institute trains state employees on leadership, using open data, and Lean techniques, which are designed improve customer service.

Promising Examples


Multiple agencies

Colorado’s Performance Management Academy seeks to “promote a culture of customer-focused operational excellence” by providing employees with the tools they need to improve the efficiency of the state’s programs. In 2017, as part of the academy, the state released an innovative performance-based contract for employee training. Colorado has also pursued increased efficiency through an experimental field trial by the Colorado Department of Revenue to assess if nudges would increase taxpayer responses (and payment) of delinquent taxes. The randomized controlled trial found that by rewording delinquent tax notifications, the state could increase the payments it collected by up to 4.1% for no additional cost. Based on this experiment, Colorado is expanding these techniques to other departments and launched a pilot to use behavioral economics insights to improve programs in five areas in 2017.



A 2016 Michigan executive order established the Office of Performance Transformation “for continuous and systematic review and coordination of the state’s regulatory, business, and customer service environments and processes as well as coordination and implementation of performance management metrics, service process optimization efforts, employee engagement programs and protocols, and change management and leadership education and training.” According to office’s 2017 Annual Report, the office launched 52 Lean improvement initiatives, which led to accomplishments such as faster permits for construction licenses issued and improved elderly transportation services that helped customers arrive to their appointments on time (p. 9).



LeanOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, uses the Lean process improvement methodology to assist agencies in streamlining their service delivery through consultations and training for state agencies. Between 2011 and 2017, LeanOhio ran 247 projects at 42 agencies, which are publicly catalogued with detailed project summaries. Training has also been provided to hundreds of state employees.


Single agency

The Oregon Youth Authority has used predictive models to determine which interventions are most likely to succeed for at-risk and court-involved youth. These predictive models are based on data and outcomes captured in the state’s Juvenile Justice Information System, which uses a risk/needs profile to “assist in decision making for appropriate supervision levels, service type and dosage, readiness for transition, and support program evaluation.”



A 2015 Rhode Island executive order requires agencies to complete process improvements and to report lessons and improvements to the Office of Management and Budget on an annual basis. These efforts are led by the Office of Strategic Management, which provides technical assistance to agencies, including a 2015 Lean Leadership Summit to focus on process efficiency at state agencies. The state has also provided agencies with a guide and master price agreement for contracting Lean services.

The Rhode Island Governor’s Office has partnered with the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab (RIIPL) at Brown University to design and implement evidence-based policies. The lab has linked state administrative data sets to improve programs in four key areas (economic opportunity, human services, criminal justice, and regulation) and to create RI 360, a data visualization tool that “gives comprehensive view of social indicators in Rhode Island—economics, education, health, environment, and crime.” Using this data RIIPL was able to analyze anonymized state SNAP records to produce academic and programmatic research about the optimal distribution of funds to program recipients, as well as suggest innovative approaches to providing benefits to people exiting prison (pp. 8–9).



In 2017, as part of Washington’s Lean process improvement initiative to improve the quality of state government services, Results Washington hosted the sixth annual state government–wide Washington State Government Lean Transformation Conference which convened “more than 2,000 public sector and business leaders discuss lessons learned and share innovative ways of adapting Lean.” Other aspects of Results Washington’s Lean program include case studies, a list of improvements by state agencies, and a Lean Fellowship Program, housed within the governor’s office.