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Environmental Team Reduces Processing Time from Months to Two Weeks

#reducewaste #processimprovements #SimpleSOLVE#efficient #processmapping

By: Kailyn Haskovec, , Process Improvement and Change Management Intern

March 17, 2020

Process mapping was used to identify waste and inefficiencies in the contractor hiring processProcess mapping was used to identify waste and inefficiencies in the contractor hiring process

The Colorado Department of Transportation strives for constant improvement. Through the Simple SOLVE training, the environmental team reduced the time between the decision to hire consultants and their hiring date from anywhere from 3-6 months to just two weeks.

In 2017, Jessica Myklebust, regional environmental manager for Region 1, participated in the Simple SOLVE training Sponsored by the Office of the Lt. Governor of Colorado, Dr. Donna Lynne. This three-day long training provides opportunities to learn and practice process improvement techniques and tools. During the training, state employees had the opportunity to focus on a particular problem they were facing in the workplace.

Jessica used this time to address improving the time frame between determining a need for a consultant to Notice to Proceed. The process was unclear both internally and externally in several areas: what forms were required with each contract, who to contact with questions, contract’s status in the queue, and constant request for more information during the process. As a result, processing a Task Order from initiation to Notice to Proceed could take anywhere from three to six months. The ability to procure services was inefficient and needed clarity.

Inspired by the Simple SOLVE training, Jessica and her team Janet Gerak, Debra States, and JoAnn Mattson, worked with a Lean facilitator to map out the process from identifying the need for a consultant to the Notice to Proceed. By laying out each step on sticky notes using “swimlanes” to indicate different individuals involved in the process, they were able to identify areas of waste. For example, the team noticed that there was redundancy in steps and that the process would 'hot potato' or change hands more than necessary. During the workshop they, “had a lot of sticky notes with people identifying the risk areas. Once we got the swimlanes up, we went through and put red circles on spots that seemed like they were wasteful. We assigned timeframes, and then we mapped out kind of our new process”. This new process helped reduce the unnecessary steps and create a more efficient system.

When the team left the session, they designated a single point of contact to manage the contracting process, and a clear checklist with links to documents that both the consultant and CDOT use to track the process. The checklist helps because, “it's predictable for the consultant. So they have a checklist of exactly what they need to submit. And they generally know how long it's going to take to get through the process. Instead of documents changing hands, they could be submitted in a bundle all at once instead of individually.” This tool has helped CDOT live it’s values of Customer Service and Respect. Jessica explains, “We are so thankful for our improvement. Both our internal customers and external customers are thrilled that we can process a Task Order in a timely manner.”

An example document of the process that Jessica and her team createdAn example document of the process that Jessica and her team created

She stresses for others trying to improve a larger process, the importance of creating a baseline of the starting point before working towards any improvements. Starting with an analysis of a “current state” will also contribute to buy-in of the improvement, because the problems will become obvious and employees will feel involved. Jessica explains, “before we did the process mapping, we spent a month or two just kind of going back through some of our data and collecting how long it took us from the initiation of the procurement package to Notice to Proceed. So that at least we knew, okay, our existing timeframe is three to six months. So when we reduced it to two weeks, we knew that was a huge improvement. If you don't have that baseline data, you don't know what your improvement is, and I think it helps everyone buy into the goal of the session. So it's not about the person, it's about the process.”

Jessica and her team continue to use the skills and tools they learned through the workshop and training. “I think I weave it into everything we do,” she says. Jessica also has some personal practices of her own that help keep work running smoothly. For example, “I have individual Google Keeps with each of my managers that report to me so we have a dialogue between us. When we meet, we kind of have a pre-populated agenda. I print my calendars weekly and use Google Keep for managing my personal tasks as well.” The Simple SOLVE workshop has equipped Jessica and others with the tools they need to save time, improve customer service and make work easier.

Curious about how you can improve your process as well? The SOLVE guide includes tools for your team to use. Want to borrow the checklist listed above? The Office of Process Improvement has over 300 great ideas for you to borrow in our online database. Questions? Reach out to our team!