Bend the Curve

Harvard University Recognizes State of Maine Bend the Curve as a Bright Idea in Government

March 29, 2011: The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, has announced its Bright Idea award to the State of Maine’s innovative Bend the Curve program.

“Government is struggling to deliver quality services with strapped resources and diminishing budgets,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center. “These 36 government programs demonstrate that creative solutions to some of our nation’s most intractable problems can be generated and succeed in even in the most challenging of environments.”

Maine’s unique Bend the Curve program has shown that Lean concepts and methods work  in government.  Lean has been welcomed by employees and offers an exceptional opportunity to transform government.

About Bend the Curve: Facing increasing service demands and decreasing resources, two State of Maine departments, Labor and Health & Human Services, founded Maine’s Bend the Curve (BTC) program in 2004 in order to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in government.  Led by Arthur Davis and Dr. Walter Lowell, BTC is streamlining and transforming how work is done in government through --

  • Ongoing development of an inter-departmental continuous improvement capacity, building a team of “volunteer” State of Maine Continuous Improvement Practitioners (CI-Ps) who are trained in system/process improvement concepts and methods.
  • Understanding that the ability to improve work is based on cross-functionality and leadership commitment to learning and practicing these continuous improvement concepts.

Streamlining Government Demands Change

Bend the Curve strives to streamline government operations to meet the demand for quality and timely services without a corresponding increase in financial and other resources.  This Lean approach “bends the curve” of the rising cost of business by improving government processes and changing the fundamental nature of how it does its work.  It results in effective, efficient, and quality services based on accountability and valued by Maine citizens.

Results:  Bend the Curve CI-Ps have completed over70 Lean interventions involving over 700 employees.  These improved performance in diverse areas such as -

  • Day Care Program ($700,000 saved),
  • Vital Statistics (process time reduced from 90 to 5 days),
  • Job Order (5 FTEs saved),
  • Utilization Review (50% reduction in process time),
  • Governor’s Training Initiative (70% reduction in cost), and
  • Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) – trained  Senior Management team in Lean and applied VSMs & Kaizens in all HETL’s labs -- reducing waste, improving process time by 30%, and improving customer satisfaction.



Bend the Curve streamlines government by –

  • Providing continuous improvement consultation and mentoring to work teams and leadership.
  • Implementing Bend the Curve & Lean continuous improvement concepts, methods, and tools, including:
    • Meeting customer value expectations.
    • Respecting and involving the people who know the work in planning and decision-making.
    • Identifying and analyzing work systems, processes, and problems that need improvement.
    • Developing problem-solving skills in the workforce to enable them to continuously improve services.
    • Assisting teams in streamlining work flow.
  • Identifying opportunities to reduce service delivery time, improve quality, and lower costs.

Julita Klavins, M.S.W., 207-624-7933  or

BTC Website:


* Bright Ideas is an initiative that recognizes creative and promising government programs and partnerships. The initiative is offered through the Innovations in Government Program, a program of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit