Sometimes the best kaizen can be just stopping what you are doing.
This is an excerpt of a recent email that made a lot of employees happy in the Department of Community & Human Services:
“DCHS is simplifying its Telecommuting agreement process. To make the process easier and reduce the amount of tracking needed to maintain Telecommuting agreements, the agreements will no longer be renewed annually.”
Re-completing this form, as well as an Alternative Work Schedule form that accompanied it—just because the Earth took a lap around the sun—was a small annual pain for every employee.
It was also an annual pain for leaders and managers. Each form required four approval signatures, which is a lot of signing and paper shuffling when nothing substantive is being changed!
But it was the biggest pain of all for Erica Gaur, the DCHS Human Resource Analyst charged with tracking the forms and their renewal schedule. There are about as many DCHS employees as there are days in the year, and everyone’s start date was different, so department-wide, forms needed to be renewed pretty much all the time. It was taking Gaur two and one-half hours per week to track all those swirling renewals and check that everyone was current.
“It was one of the things I looked at on my desk,” she says, “that I asked, ‘How can I make this better?'”
She saw that it didn’t make much sense to require renewals if nothing was being changed. So she started digging into the root cause: why were employees required to update this form every year?
She checked with human resources staff and found out that…there really wasn’t a reason at all. Employees need current and accurate telecommuting and alternative work schedule agreements, so if those agreements didn’t need to be changed, there was no need for an annual renewal.
Learning that, Erica and others at DCHS worked quickly to implement a change. Now DCHS only updates on an as-needed basis, which supervisors and employees can of course identify as work needs and circumstances change.
There is one cloudy postscript to this silver-lined story: Erica Gaur has left King County and is now a Division Administrator with the City of Seattle. Her spirit of kaizen will be missed in DCHS.