19. May 2010 07:21
Type: Workflow Waste
In the last episode, our heroes were struggling with the office waste of handoffs – the relinquishment of responsibility over tasks, information, data, documents, forms, material goods, etc. from one party and the delegation of that responsibility to another party.
Once we recognize that handoffs are ultimately waste, it’s time to start doing something about it. The first thing to do is to find where it is occurring. Fortunately, this is pretty easy to do using a swimlane diagram. Even a rough flow of your process organized by departments (swimlanes) would highlight this waste wherever the process flow crosses the swimlanes.
Simply look for any place where the responsibility of the process and documents, data and other information within it change hands between individuals, teams, departments and even companies
Once you have this, some simple metrics will show you which handoffs are the most important targets. These could include:
- How long each item takes to be handed off
- The queue size when handed off
- How much rework takes place and
- How much time it takes between completion of work on the document from Alice’s side and resumption of work on Bob’s side.
Once identified, use the following tactics to combat this waste:
- Get rid of the handoff: Get Rid of the handoff: It sounds so oversimplified but more often than not, we find that the handoff may be a result of “the way we’ve always done it” and not a necessity. Other times we can look at a group of back-and-fort handoffs and rearrange the process to optimize these. Whatever the reason, make sure the handoff is even necessary in the first place at that time in that process
- Optimize your batch size: This doesn’t necessarily mean handing off each item as it comes along but perhaps handing off once a week or waiting until there are a certain count is too little. Find the best fit, which usually means some discussion and experimentation.
- Build integrity in: Find a way to “trust” what comes without auditing the contents for quality. This may mean continuing the audit for a short while and keeping track of how many are defective and which pieces cause the most angst. The majority of defects will usually be due to a handful of causes. Fix each one in-turn and fade out the audits after a while
- Push authority down to the lowest RESPONSIBLE level: Instead of 5 levels of approvals, trusting the line manager to do his/her job and execute the approval would lead to immense efficiencies
- Form cellular groups: Ok, this is a bit advanced and I don’t expect you all to jump on this, but it is one of the most powerful things you can ever do within the office. Cellular groups are comprised of all the individuals who are needed to send an item through a process sitting together as a team in the same room. Handoffs and discussions occur between people sitting next to each-other instead of in the next building. The best part is that you don’t need to reorganize or change your reporting structure to execute this tactic.
Out of the 30+ different kinds of wastes we have identified, this one is one of the worst offenders. It is a breeding ground for other wastes, causing inefficiencies, loss of productivity and worst of all, wasted time for your customers – internal and external. Find it and snuff it out.