An open door meeting in King County

Posted on June 13, 2011 by

Some of you may have heard that Records and Licensing Services (RALS) has started a Lean Journey.  If this sounds a little woo woo, well, it did to me, too. But that didn’t keep me from volunteering the second time the e-mail went out to my office asking who wanted to be on the LEAN team – apparently not enough people volunteered the first time.

I didn’t really know what to expect. Since I started in 1998 it seems like we have had fewer people working in our office, but people are getting more cars – sometimes even 5 or 6. As we struggled to do more work with less people, I couldn’t help wondering what people were doing with all of these cars. We had tried different things over the years to become more “efficient,” or “speed the process,” but they hadn’t worked. Mainly what that meant was some managers huddling in a room behind a closed door and presenting us with a plan for doing things differently.

The Boeing Company provided us a Lean expert, a Sensei to work with us and to lead us through the Lean process.  His role was to guide us not tell us what to do.  We spent 40 hours, 5 days all day mapping our current process for opening and sorting license renewals. The first thing I noticed that was different this time was that this was the first time managers asked us how we did things. The best part about this was that they began to understand what we do. Working together to map our process also changed the way we communicate with each other. People like being heard and being involved.

At one point I took a break and went into the lunchroom. A colleague approached me to ask me what we were doing in the conference room. I told her to come on in and see. At first she hesitated saying she wasn’t on the invite list. I told her to just come in – that’s why the door was open. So, she came in, and then more people started dropping by.  We mapped our current processes using big pieces of butcher paper and multi-colored sticky notes.  The map wasn’t pretty but it was interesting, and we did see that there were opportunities for improvement.  Occasionally we added an “outburst” (photo of an outburst) which is really an idea of how to change the process to make it speedier.

Right now, we’re starting to implement some of the outbursts we had. One of the first is seeing if sorting things into fewer piles will cut the processing time at all. It’s hard to get out from under the piles already there. Maybe people will stop buying so many cars…

Nataly Miller is a customer service specialist with Records and Licensing Service since 1998. This is the first in a multi-part series following the LEAN pilot in RaLS.

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