One of my current clients has a two-pronged plan for improving a process that is absorbing a lot of resources (people, time, risk, money).
The first prong is to optimize the employee application/initiation/orientation/check-in/duty delegation process. These positions are for general labor with repeatable activities, and turnover is pretty frequent (as expected and designed). The defined problems include absorption of director and manager time through undefined duty distribution, non-transparent application and check-in processes, and allowing operators to work prior to full application approval. As a result, managers and directors are kept from working on bigger projects and issues because their input is requested for smaller and simpler tasks.
We’re attacking this prong in a few manners. First, we’re measuring how much time is absorbed by certain repeated tasks (applicants filling out applications by hand before a company associate enters application data into database, for example). Next, we’ve used process mapping (with Post-It Notes!) to identify problems and activities that absorb the most time of managers and directors. We then created a future state process map (more Post-It Notes!) that would eliminate or reduce those problems.
The second prong is to identify a computer-based solution that would absorb a lot of the waste activities completed manually in these processes. This is why the future state map is so critical – while we’ve been creating the map based on using the current system in place (a system whose limited functionality is a serious problem), we have also been flagging process steps that could potentially be aided/reduced/eliminated through the ideal computer system.
Armed with a list of expectations and requirements for a new system that would truly serve the people and the process we can now approach providers with this list of “must haves.” My client can weigh potential solutions and providers by what expectations they can and cannot meet (as well as system costs, of course).
Following Toyota Way Principle #8, we are well on our way to optimizing a process further through identifying a computer solution that will make a big difference.