Whenever Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee is asked how he's going to fund education, he talks about shifting savings from government reforms over to the K-12 budget.

One of his main reform ideas, he says, would be to institute Lean management. (Lean managment, famously originated by Toyota, is a manufactring process that cuts out any part of the labor process that does not add value for the customer. Boeing has adopted it, as has King County Executive Dow Constantine, with much success.)

"These [Lean management principles] have not been used under any predecessor, Republican or Democrat."—Jay Inslee

At the gubernatorial debate in Vancouver in late August, Inslee's rival, Repbulican Rob McKenna, asked Inslee to name a few of Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire's policies that he would reverse to solve the budget shortfall problem.

Inslee, riffing off his earlier answer that night about saving money through Lean, said: “What I would reverse, starting with, is what I talked about tonight. There’s no reason on this green earth that we have not embraced the efficiency measures in state government that have been so successful in private enterprise... when we have the world’s most successful aerospace industry—and Boeing is using these—that we should not be using these. These have not been used under any predecessor, Republican or Democrat.”

Really? Gregoire issued a "Lean Transformation Executive Order" in 2011. And this morning, she hyped the results.

Gregoire released a 180-page study today detailing the success she's had instituting Lean principles. In the intro, the report states:

All Executive Cabinet agencies complied with the [LEAN] executive order and submitted results for 95 Lean projects ... These projects demonstrate that applying Lean principles empowers employees to make real and lasting change in their agencies... to: Eliminate or dramatically reduce backlogs; reduce lead times and decrease the complexity of processes; improve the quality of applications and the consistency of reviews or inspections; and allocate more staff time to ‘mission critical’ work to improve staff morale and process transparency.  Agencies report that more than 6,400 employees and more than 1,600 leaders have been trained on Lean thinking, tools and techniques.

And Gregoire herself said this morning: “Lean helps us do business more efficiently. And I couldn’t be happier to tell you today that we’re well on our way with impressive results. Given our continuing economic changes and the clear success of Lean in the business world, I can assure you Lean is definitely not the flavor of the month ... . It’s here and it works.”

So, today's Cola "One Question" goes to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire's office. Is  Inslee wrong when he says Lean hasn't been instituted at the state level?

Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren told us "she wasn't going to go there" and said simply:

"The governor has laid the groundwork for Lean. There's always more work to do. She has been working with state agencies to implement Lean. And they have certainly worked hard to get Lean going in this state. To improve efficiencies."

Directly addressing my question, she concluded: "This is an awkward position to be in."

We also asked Inslee's camp what they thought about the governor's success with implimening Lean.

Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said: "I think it actually reinforces what Jay says about why we need to implement this across all agencies. He’s pretty clear about acknowledging we’ve taken steps to start this process, but what he’s advocating for is engaging employees and agency directors in a complete culture change throughout state government. That hasn’t been done yet."

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