Could You Use an Extra Week a Year?
Start With 12 Minutes
Over the last few decades, Lean principles that focus on eliminating waste have been widely adopted throughout the private sector. More recently, government agencies are getting on board. But you don’t have to be a Lean Six Sigma black belt or even a green belt to start eliminating inefficient processes. All you need is 12 minutes.
Break It Down
Whether it’s cleaning out the garage or overcoming an addiction, conventional wisdom tells us to break down overwhelming challenges into smaller segments. Years ago, I took this concept one step further and came up with what I call my 12-minute theory: If I can save 12 minutes in one day, in one business week I will have saved an hour (12 x 5 = 60 minutes). In one year I will have recouped more than a week. Not bad.
My 12-minute theory is foundational in my work helping government agencies reengineer their processes to be more efficient. Specifically, I work with licensing and enforcement agencies, which rely on dozens of highly repetitive processes to manage applications and renewals, continuing education requirements, inspections, investigations, and more. I would anticipate that your staff members each waste at least 12 minutes a day on unnecessary steps. So, where do I suggest looking for them?
Read Your Statute
Start at the beginning. Open your statute and administrative code. Read them very carefully. Next, re-evaluate your policies and procedures, both written and unwritten. Do they address the statute or administrative code as simply as possible? Over time, the tendency is to add processes and procedures — complexity — without validating the need for each one against the original intent. If a policy has introduced unnecessary waste, revise it or get rid of it.
Here are a few areas that can get you started:
- Ditch the paper. Do you really need an original? Requiring original documentation typically means someone must open it, sort it, distribute it, file it, and archive it. Consider changing the policy to specify electronic copies, with paper copies required only on request.
- Ask “Why?” Simply ask why something is needed. “Because we’ve always done it that way,” is not an acceptable answer. By conducting a little research, you might learn that an idea ballooned into a standard without any tie to your statute or administrative code.
- Be open to new ideas. See #2. New isn’t always better, but being open to other perspectives almost always is.
- Leverage your technology. As Bill Gates said, “Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” How can you avoid the latter? See #1 – 3. Then be sure to engage your vendor, participate in user forums, and (gasp) read your product documentation to ensure you are optimizing what your software can do for you.
What could you do with an extra 12 minutes a day? Maybe not much. Make that an extra hour a week for each staff member, and you have captured enough time to tackle that regulatory outreach campaign that just can’t seem to get off the ground. So crack those statutes — time’s a wastin’.
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