Continuous Improvement in Community Corrections

IMG_0151.jpgCommunity Center for Alternative Programs (CCAP) is an alternative to jail. Their goal is to help offenders change the behaviors that contributed to their criminal offense. When a new division director came on board, it created an opportunity for the CCAP team to look for their own internal opportunities to improve to better serve their customers.

An improvement team, consisting of CCAP team members and facilitated by Lean Specialist Angela Toussaint, met consistently for 8 weeks to hammer out a path for improvement. Here are some tips to get started on an improvement process, and a sneak peek on how CCAP plans to optimize their operations.

Show that things are not “fine” – use data: When looking to improve, the most important aspect is defining the problem that needs to be solved. Although this sounds easy, it can be a very difficult part of the improvement process – especially if there is no baseline for comparison. For example, CCAP staff knew their electronic case management system was slowing things down, but they didn’t have any error data to show where the system was causing problems.

Know what you are striving for: The improvement team focused on creating a True North. In the context of Lean, True North is a set of ideals which provides a compass, and can be viewed as a mission statement, a reflection of the purpose of the organization, and the foundation of a strategic plan. Alignment on overall direction is critical to sustaining a culture of continuous improvement.

Understand the business process and collect data: Next the team documented core business functions and routine work, then set up a system to track data to identify when the system wasn’t working. Problems, when made visible, begin to look like opportunities.

Provide information in near real time: The CCAP improvement team also developed visual management systems to track processes. A key part of Lean is to map out the steps of a particular process in a visual way for all to see. Visual controls can broadly include any intuitively-easy-to-understand visual system.

Connect the people to the work and respect the WIIFM: While doing this work the team had a chance to reflect on the core purpose of their work – and to challenge their assumptions. WIIFM – which stands for ‘What’s In It For Me’, is one way to remember that personal context is usually the first filter we use to evaluate our environment.

One team member commented, “I have been in the CCAP Program for 12 years, and felt I had a good knowledge base of what has proven to be productive and what has proven to cause struggles. Lean opened my mind to the idea of using specific concepts to enhance what we do, support and develop our strongest assets, and eliminate ineffective practices. I may not have been as open minded as some when the training began – but upon completing this Lean work, I now understand the theory of Lean and have already seen its value in my workplace. The most significant concept I took away from the Lean training was the realization that we continually gain understanding about our jobs and the work we do.”

Create stretch metrics: The CCAP team worked through their measures and set up a system so every measure has an owner, and the measures are tracked and reported. By doing this the team will come to know what good looks like. Don’t change your measures to meet your ability – move past the probable and reach for the possible.


-Terra Milles

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