Lean HE case study from Des Moines Area Community College

Post date: Nov 1, 2017 6:05:59 PM

Established in 1966 Des Moines Area Community College is Iowa’s largest Community College with 2,274 faculty & staff, 252 career, certificate and technical programs and serves 36,938 credit and 22,556 non-credit students across 6 campuses and 5 centers. DMACC has provided Lean training for business and industry for over 25 years. In 2006, a new position was added to coordinate and conduct lean activities within the college. At the same time, a new Office Lean program was developed in cooperation with other Iowa Community Colleges. DMACC now owns the curriculum known as workplacelean which provides Lean training both internally and externally to government, education, service, medical, non-profit, and manufacturing. workplacelean has assisted several higher education institutions in Lean implementation, including Ivy Tech Community College, featured in the following case study.

Case study: Ivy Tech Community College – Creating a Culture of Process Improvement


Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public post-secondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually. Ivy Tech has 15 regions with 23 campuses throughout Indiana. Over 8,600 employees work for the college system.


In 2011, Ivy Tech embarked upon a strategic initiative to focus more on student success and to ensure institutional sustainability. Process improvement staff began seeking out programs applicable to higher education. In addition to having difficulty identifying an appropriate program, Ivy Tech recognized that it had no system to share lean project information across regions.


Ivy Tech visited DMACC where a workplacelean consultant shared how DMACC was using lean to review and improve administrative processes, such as payroll and admissions. Soon thereafter, DBR’s workplacelean consultants were asked to conduct an introductory lean (Pillars) training followed by a process evaluation (Launch) training for Ivy Tech to improve their payroll process. Based on the workplacelean model, Ivy Tech was able to develop an internal methodology to fit their culture and meet their specific needs. As a result, senior leaders established “Continuous Process Improvement” as one Ivy Tech’s four core strategies for success and assigned strategy champions with the task of institutional adoption of the program. The implementation of a consistent methodology and support structure enables regional leadership to manage their needs and enables organic growth in the formation of new and more project teams. DBR consultants also facilitated a session with Ivy Tech senior leaders to prepare for rollout of their lean initiatives statewide.


Ivy Tech has created a structure to successfully identify, monitor and communicate process improvement activities both within regions and college-wide. As a part of their strategic plan, each region contains a lean team and point person to champion process improvement activities. A centralized office provides additional resources, guidance and direction to the teams to ensure alignment with the strategic plan; communicates best practices; and determines if projects should be expanded to all regions. As more and more staff are trained and begin to see the impact of lean on their own work, Ivy Tech anticipates an increase in employee morale and substantial time and money savings.

Processes improved to date include:

  • Degree Certification/Graduation process

  • Grade Processing

  • Student Enrollment/Intake

  • Help Desk Ticketing Contract Processing

  • Procurement

  • Business Analysis

  • Dual Credit

  • Reverse Transfers

  • Payroll


“DBR’s workplacelean has created a program that is appropriate, effective and palatable for the higher education world. DBR helped us design the best methodology for our culture and process improvement is much more engrained in our school. We are working on a number of process improvement projects thanks to workplacelean.” – Kristen Schunk Moreland, Ivy Tech Community College Director of Process Improvement

For more information about the workplacelean program, take a look at the DMACC Lean program video or the DMACC employee testimonial video. If you have any questions about DMACC Lean initiatives or workplacelean, please contact Bonnie Slykhuis.