Peak Performance

How Denver’s Peak Academy is Saving Money, Boosting Morale and Just Maybe Changing the World. (And How You Can, Too!)

When Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took office in 2011, he inherited an $80 million budget shortfall and a government workforce that had been through multiple rounds of cuts and furloughs. Morale was low. He needed a way to drive greater efficiencies, cost savings and improved performance—and he had to do it in-house, on a shoe-string budget.

Enter Peak Academy, the coaching and innovation program Mayor Hancock created to teach frontline city employees how to tackle small problems and deliver big results. In four years, Peak Academy trained 5,000 government staff in the fundamentals of lean manufacturing and other process management techniques. More than 2,000 employee-driven innovations later, the program had saved Denver an estimated $15 million. Word got out and dozens of other governments sent their staffs to Denver or hired Peak Academy to bring the training to them.

In this fun, easy-to-read guide, Peak Academy director Brian Elms and Governing staff writer J.B. Wogan deliver the basics for the rest of us, with:

  • a surprisingly frank discussion about how hard it was to get the program off the ground
  • a thoughtful exploration of both the challenges faced and the reasons why Peak ultimately succeeded
  • a clear overview of Peak Academy training methods and tools (including yes, all those yellow stickies)
  • concrete examples of employee-driven innovations—many of which sound, in hind-sight, like $40,000 no-brainers, until you realize there are hundreds of similar and much-needed fixes in every workplace

Peak Performance is a book that will help public sector leaders replicate the Peak model. It’s a book for government managers to read and talk about with their teams. But most importantly, it’s a book for anyone working in government at any level—about the power of good ideas to improve the way government works.