Little Improvements Add Up to Big Impact for Judgments Team

by Kuno Hollriegel, Auditing Project Manager, Department of Judicial Administration

Lean thinking encourages us look at processes from the perspective of our customers. Any step in a process that does not transform our “product” in a way that the customer will value is considered waste (read more about the 7 wastes).

Eliminating small wastes can add up to big improvements, as the Judgments team in King County’s Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) recently showed.

At 28.5 seconds per J&S document that adds up to 42.8 hours per year, or 3.6 hours a month. This is good work.

Among their other duties, the Judgments team accurately processes criminal courtroom Judgement and Sentence orders as soon as they’re delivered so that the status of the defendants’ cases will be timely processed subsequent to their sentencing hearing. The Judgments team is responsible for making sure that the rest of the criminal justice system receives official notification of hearing outcomes and they can implement courtroom decisions. Any delays or problems in that process can impact defendants, the jail, and other law, safety and justice partners.

In 2015, a DJA team comprising Judgments staff, supervisors, and managers from both Seattle and Kent have been examining and improving their processing of criminal Judgment and Sentences from the time the order is delivered from the sentencing hearing courtroom to the time notice of the court’s decision is properly transmitted by the Judgments team to the necessary recipient(s).

What can we do to ensure the timely processing of Judgment & Sentencing documents?

The team observed Judgment’s staff performing this task, then visually mapped the existing process. We then reviewed the mapped process looking for “waste.” What did the team find?

We found overprocessing waste in the “rubber stamping” of the hard copy Judgment & Sentences documents. Rubber stamping is a hard copy accountability step that’d we’d used prior to the court moving to an Electronic Court Record (ECR). But now that ECR and electronic workflows have become our standard for internal processing, the rubber stamp no longer adds value for our customers.

We reimagined the process without the rubber stamps, created corresponding instructions using a job breakdown. Then we tested the new process by measuring the difference it made in the cycle time (the time required to complete a job or process, not including wait or queue time).

Location Original Cycle Time (seconds) Current Cycle Time (seconds)

Change (seconds)

Seattle 2:57 2:42 -15
Kent 2:48 2:06 -42
Average 2:52 2:24 -28.5

By eliminating stamping we’re saving approximately 28.5 seconds per judgment and sentencing document. How much difference does that make? To more easily see the improvement consider that last year we received 5408 Judgment & Sentences. At 28.5 seconds per J&S document that adds up to 42.8 hours per year, or 3.6 hours a month. This is good work.

Defects (mistakes that require correction and rework) have also frequently added significant delay to the timely delivery of our product. Rework stops the progressive flow of work. Because the different sections of Judicial Administration have different requirements for processing documents, on occasion the same Judgment & Sentence has had to be returned once by one section and then again by another, compounding delays.

Shared checklists of defect types are being created based on data the team collected with the goal of fixing all defects in Judgment & Sentence processing as soon after they enter our work stream as possible.

J & S defect reasons

We are using this data to illustrate this problem in conversation with our upstream partners with the goal of stopping defects at the source.

We are also looking for opportunities to replicate these improvements in other similar processes.

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