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The dean of lean

Province appoints Standard Aero boss to head efficiency push

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Rob Despins, a manager at Standard Aero, will chair the province's 'lean council'.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Rob Despins, a manager at Standard Aero, will chair the province's 'lean council'.

A manager at aircraft maintenance firm Standard Aero Ltd. has been recruited by the NDP to show them how to become more productive.

Rob Despins will chair the province's new 'lean council,' which will advise government on ways to offer better services more efficiently across all government departments. He was enlisted by Finance Minister Jennifer Howard for the volunteer position.

"That isn't about providing people with less services," Howard said. "We aren't asking Manitobans to do with less. We want them to have excellent services, but we need to get more efficient at providing those services."

Despins, also a member of the Premier's Economic Advisory Council, said he believes the NDP is earnest in its desire to run more pared-down operations.

"The amount of attention that they're putting on this and the number of discussions they had about it tells me they're serious," Despins said. "I think what's really important to them is to do it properly, because you could easily have a failed launch on something like this.

"You're working with your workforce and so you have to build that trust relationship with them and make sure that they're going to benefit from it along with everyone else. In most cases, if it's administered properly, you get a big boost in team morale because the approach is more team-focused."

The core idea of the lean management system is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Lean techniques have already been used in some areas of the province's health-care system, which over the past couple of years has seen the rate of spending slow without cutting services.

Driving the need for the NDP to become more efficient are less-than-anticipated federal transfer payments, due to a decision by Statistics Canada to reduce the province's population estimate by 18,000 people, taking $500 million out of the budget over the next five years.

Despins said he volunteered for the position with the goal of saving the province money.

"We're all taxpayers," he said. "If we can add efficiencies to the way government delivers their services, then it's a big win for everybody."

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said he was skeptical of the NDP's lean-management promise because it comes so late in their mandate.

"Lean management practices and that school-of-management theory has been around for decades and decades," Pallister said. "This government's been in place for 15 years and they're just discovering lean management? And they don't decide to act on it. They decide to do what? Set up a committee. That's what you do when you don't plan on doing anything."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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