Member Snapshot: Des Moines Public Schools

We asked Des Moines Public Schools’ Emma Knapp, continuous improvement coordinator, what she finds most valuable about APQC membership.

About Des Moines Public Schools

For over 100 years, Des Moines Public Schools has been educating the students of Iowa’s capital city. Today, they are the largest provider of public education in Iowa, with more than 33,000 students and nearly 5,000 teachers and staff at work in more than 60 schools throughout the community.

What tools, expertise, services, or information do you use the most?

We started out mainly using the Process Classification Framework (PCF)®, then looked through all of the K-12 resources and started searching keywords related to process improvement in other industries, and that led us to webinars that were interesting, and it’s built from there. Now, when someone wants to know about something we haven’t done yet, we go to APQC and look in the Knowledge Base to see if anyone out there has already done the same type of work. There’s no need to recreate the wheel when we can pull from what others have already done successfully.

To help pinpoint areas to target for improvement, leaders within the district use APQC’s benchmarking resources to compare key performance indicators (KPIs) for specific functions against the same KPIs in other organizations with similar size and budget.

The district plans to ramp up its improvement efforts by working with APQC on a Master Planning for Innovation (MPI) initiative. Our goal is to complete a master plan for all of our district processes, using APQC’s PCF and MPI tools. This will enable us to see, across the whole district, what processes should be our priority, who owns those processes, and what we should improve that is not adding value.

How does APQC membership help you work smarter, faster, and with more confidence?

In March 2015, Des Moines Public Schools embarked on something new: implementing lean processes to create continuous improvement in productivity and efficiency. The idea was sparked by a leadership effort to create a balanced scorecard, which led to the discovery of lean principles and their effect on reducing waste in both money and time. 

APQC has been a really great resource and is the first go-to when we need a reference or starting point for our improvement projects. Through our APQC membership, the district has found countless tools and resources to amplify our lean improvement efforts.