Innovate ITD selected as
international "Big Impact" finalist

ITD's innovation effort, which thus far has turned 1,600 employee ideas into $11 million in savings for Idaho taxpayers, has again grabbed attention beyond our state borders. Innovate ITD has been named an international finalist -- one of eight -- in the "Small Idea, Big Impact" category of the Gartner Awards. The committee received more than 200 entries from 30 different countries. The ultimate winner will be named in early August.

The competition focused on the communication in support of ITD's innovation effort, such as the outreach to employees for ideas, getting the word out to employees for the Best of the Best voting, notifying employees of Innovate ITD's successes, and celebrating the wins, like last fall's all-employee pizza party in recognition of another great year.

Innovate ITD has gained significant recognition since it was initiated in 2014.

"ITD’s recognition continues to grow across the country. It used to be someone would give us a call a couple times a year, but now it is like a couple times a month," McArthur explained. "Just this week, Colorado DOT called and wanted to know all about the new Equipment Operator Training and how we took it online. That's just one example of the program's impact, even outside the state.

"As ITD's Innovation Champion, I get the easy job – I just talk about what the amazing ITD employees are doing to make their jobs easier and how they exceed customer expectations." McArthur explained.

The entry had several main parts, detailed below:

Business-related outcomes
Spurred by the vision to operate more like a business, and motivated by an annual transportation funding shortfall in the hundreds of millions of dollars, in the spring of 2014 the department launched a strategy to engage employees to share solutions to everyday problems.

The initial concept was that the innovation program would stretch available financial resources in order to meet critical infrastructure needs – better roads and bridges.

Rapid growth in the state was accelerating the deterioration of transportation assets. Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation for the last several years, with a corresponding influx of vehicles and road users placing heavy demands of the transportation system. Innovate ITD has helped the department bridge that resource gap and increased credibility with stakeholders.

Innovation are categorized as saving time or money for the agency, or furthering customer service.

Genesis & Implementation – Innovate ITD came along in the spring of 2014 to help the Idaho Transportation Department cope with limited financial resources. It is an employee-driven effort to solicit improvements from all employees across the state.  Employees at every level are encouraged and empowered to implement ideas for time and money savings and making processes more efficient. This ultimately benefits all Idahoans and visitors.

In 2015, Innovation Stewards were added to each region of the state and tasked with helping facilitate the flow and submission of ideas from their sections. ITD Director Brian Ness visited maintenance sheds and divisions in 2016 to recognize innovations selected by employees as the Best of the Best.

We started looking at strategic venues and internal communication channels. One of ITD's key internal communication tools was the Direct from the Director, which goes to all employees across the state. Additionally, we’ve written 260 stories in our internal newsletter highlighting innovations and the employees who developed the ideas.

We continue today, breaking down silos and encouraging statewide sharing of the best ideas.

Roadblocks or obstacles overcome -  Innovate ITD focuses on creating a culture that fosters innovation. One of our early lessons was to stop filtering or judging ideas, which was actually hindering the free flow of idea generation.

With that behind us, employee involvement has grown strongly since inception, from just 5% of employees participating in that first year, to more than 30% today.

By focusing on the results and outcomes, we try to keep it simple. As is often the case, complexity is the enemy of engagement and execution. 

Stakeholder impact and organizational success: The innovative effort by ITD has helped ITD to earn the trust and respect of the state legislature, which is critical because lawmakers control the department’s funding. Largely because our stakeholders see ITD streamlining and trying to find savings/efficiencies, the Idaho Legislature entrusted ITD with two big transportation-funding increases in the last five years after getting none in the previous two decades.

All of these productivity measures connect to the department’s strategic goals of safety, mobility and economic opportunity.

Demonstrated Impact
We’ve achieved some impressive results, as you can see in the scorecard at left:

It is not effortless, but the success really is a result of encouraging employees and promoting the effort and results whenever possible.

There have been a number of accomplishments to celebrate along the way. One of the most gratifying was to find out that we could compete with the private sector.

When ITD was named one of three finalists in the state for Idaho Innovative Company of the Year in 2016, it was the first time in the history of the contest that a public-service, state agency was in the final group. There were 600 folks in the audience that night wondering why they weren’t up there at the podium. Last year, in 2019, we did it again.

"I love the fact that innovation is not what we do at ITD, but rather it is what we are," said IMcArthur. "Innovation defines our culture. We adapt to changing circumstance, we get better every day, we solve big and small problems, and we deliver on our promise to our customers. As we share and celebrate our success. We spread our culture of innovation, embedding it deeper into the fabric of ITD."

Published 07-01-20