Innovation Stewards from ITD and UDOT
conduct groundbreaking peer exchange

In mid-February, with the rest of the world focused on Valentine's Day, ITD's innovation stewards met in Pocatello to show a little love to a group from Utah developing an innovation steward effort inspired by Innovate ITD.

"This groundbreaking collaboration event was extremely beneficial to both UDOT and ITD in many ways," said Laura Meyer, ITD Continuous Improvement Facilitator and an Innovation Specialist. UDOT took notice of the success and national recognition ITD was receiving for the employee-driven "Innovate ITD," and reached out to the department last summer to benchmark in hopes of replicating those successes. UDOT had launched an innovation department, but engaging employees was proving difficult, so in this benchmarking meeting one of the key gaps between ITD and UDOT was Innovation Stewards.

Pictured above:
Front Row, l to r:  Eileen Barron, Patrick Cowley, Kimbol Allen, Michael Butler.
2nd Row, l to r:  Jerry Wilson, Josh Sprague, Laura Meyer, Lori Fox, Codee Raymond, Tiffani Brown, Jet Johnstone, Janice Tremaine, Char McArthur.
Row 3, l to r: Ryan Bailey, David Coladner, Lorri Economy, Mat Alred, May Anderson, Becky Hjelm, Amber Mortensen, Michelle Doane, Jake Legler, Paul Wheeler, Tyler Laing, Jim Golden, DJ Price.
Back Row ,l to r: Rachel Morris, Roy Hill, Nathan Lee, Evan Snow.

UDOT's Innovation Manager, Patrick Crowley, attended the ITD Leadership Summit in October of 2017. He was so inspired by the ITD employees and the team's outcomes, especially the Design Thinking event by the Employee Safety Recognition team that he and McArthur discussed training the UDOT team in the methodology. The concept evolved into an Innovation Steward Peer Exchange in which the two groups would converge to receive training and conduct an event as well as complete a peer exchange.

Over the course of three days, Feb. 12-14, the Idaho and Utah teams shared best practices, trained in using the Design Thinking Methodology, and conducted a Design Thinking event to improve the onboarding experience for innovation stewards in order to achieve maximum impact as early as possible.

"Everyone involved gained a deeper understanding for what it is like to be a new Innovation Steward and contributed many ideas that both DOTs will use to alleviate the issue going forward," Meyer said.

"We built networks of subject matter experts, and solidified the fact that when we bring a diverse group of people together to solve organizational problems, everyone wins."

Jet Johnstone (pictured left) is the new District 6 Innovation Steward, taking the place of Josh Sprague. The D6 GIS Analyst said the meeting was not only beneficial to UDOT, but also to him as a new steward.

"I was helping solve my own problem, and creating a blueprint for the new stewards of the future," Johnstone explained. "During the three days, the group dynamic became very collaborative, and I felt more comfortable engaging in constructive conversation and asking questions when I needed more information. The design thinking process has the potential to produce creative solutions while strengthening our constructive culture."

ITD Highways chief Kimbol Allen said the collaboration with UDOT allowed each department to share highlights and challenges being faced and the importance of employee innovation in solving problems and becoming better agencies.

"The meeting was held in D5, so we were able to showcase the Blackfoot crews' innovations and efforts to maintain organization after undergoing a "shed 5S event" in the year prior. Innovations that are being applied by employees to make their jobs better and safer are what this effort is all about."

ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur said she has seen continuing benefits from the meeting.

"In the weeks following the event, I have seen continued collaboration among the stewards, a heightened execution of our own implemented innovations, and ongoing exchanges between the two state agencies," said McArthur. "We gain knowledge and improve through candid peer exchanges, widespread benchmarking and ongoing collaboration both inside our own agency and with other agencies. Every opportunity to learn and put into practice our new learning helps us advance our mission of Your Safety, Your Mobility and Your Economic Opportunity."

Patrick Cowley, Innovations and Implementation Manager for UDOT, explained that his agency "is in the beginning stages of formalizing innovation efforts with an eye toward accelerating innovation within the department. ITD has been a great partner in sharing what they've learned, both successes and failures, which has allowed us to reduce the learning curve as we move forward. The innovation training was an invaluable introduction to our employees of the human-centered design thinking process. We're grateful for this opportunity and hope to continue interacting, sharing, and collaborating in the future."

Published 03-30-18