On one level, review of the Seven Wastes[i] set forth by Taichii Ohno gives a vision of the Promised Land where all Waste has been eliminated and all activity is productive and generates value. Anyone currently living in such a place, please contact me and include directions. A not uncommon reaction (prevalent in, but certainly not limited to, courts) is “Well, that would be nice; but we’ll never get there.”
OK; let’s not argue that point for now (I reserve the right to dispute it later on). The real-world message, supported by careful analysis of Ohno’s writings, is that managers should strive to eliminate the wastes. And a huge, if not major, portion of the benefits result from the striving itself, irrespective of the waste-free purity of the final result.
The fact is that just getting started creates unexpectedly large opportunities for improvement. For one thing, simply mapping out the court’s processes and documenting the “As Is” state is always tremendously enlightening. It will uncover a lot of the “we’ve always done it that way” process steps that need to be rooted out and eliminated. Taking the results and comparing them to the symptoms of the Seven Wastes (see the previous postings) will provide immediate feedback on potential areas for savings and improvement.
Likewise, finding a court that has successfully implemented configurable workflow and taking a tour[ii] invariably results in immediate insights as to areas ripe for rapid improvement. One key, as successful courts will always acknowledge as a “lesson learned”, is not to let pursuit of the “perfect” become a barrier to the possible. It really IS the journey; not the destination.
It can be worthwhile, preliminary even to full-blown mapping analysis of the “As Is” state, to conduct an “Opportunities Analysis” based on the Seven Wastes. This involves searching for and documenting some of the occurrences of the known symptoms of the wastes (for example, movement of files or stacks of orders waiting to be signed). The cost of these wastes and the potential savings from their elimination can be easily quantified, giving a very preliminary, but believable and understandable picture of just what level of savings are potentially available.
This type of analysis can be done quickly at low cost[iii], and can be quite useful in helping to recruit and educate an executive “champion”, which all major change initiatives require. Potential champions – those responsible for the effective operation of the courts, such as Presiding Judges, Clerks of Court and Court Administrators – are painfully aware that the wolves are at the door in the form of shrinking budgets, increasing public demands, exploding complexity and increased accountability. As executives, it is their job to undertake proactive steps and make these big decisions. By highlighting how ECM and configurable workflow powerfully and directly empower courts to confront and reduce (if not eliminate) the Seven Wastes, potential “champions” can gain some confidence that the efforts are not only worthwhile, but are doable in a practical sense.
Striving to eliminate waste from court operations is an undertaking that should never end. The greatest problem is not reaching the conclusion (there never will be one as the orchard of waste in courts approaches infinite in size). It is in making a start and adopting the habit and mindset of waste elimination. ECM with configurable workflow offers, among many other things, the opportunity to harvest a lot of low hanging fruit.