Posted by: knightbird | August 6, 2010

Great Document Management Takes Work

I believe in going to the Gemba. As I do, I talk to employees. I want to know how they are doing, any exciting events going on in their lives, and any problems they are encountering in the work place. During many of these visits, they share with me (proudly I might add) their achievements. I would like to share a couple of these achievements with you.

As a grantee for a U.S. Head Start Program, we are subject to an incredible array of bureaucratic requirements. A number of those requirements apply to the employees we hire. They have to have a background check, their licensures need to be confirmed, and training requirements have to be documented. Every few years, Head Start sends a team of auditors for about one solid week to review compliance. Five or six auditors sit around our board table and travel to our communities to review documents, financial records, employee records and talk to community leadership. Everyone is then drained until the report shows up (that is, if it ever does show up. We waited in vain for the results of one such review a few years ago.).

During one review, Our HR Department spent about 30 hours responding to the auditor information requests about employees. While we did have the records available, the disjointed (non-lean) audit created excess work for our staff. While this review was going on, our HR Manager paid attention, and afterwards reorganized our filing pattern for Head Start employees, and changed our standard work to organize each employee’s file according to a checklist of requirements. Believe it or not, but the requirement for review of employee records is reduced to about 30 minutes (a huge reduction in time). This reorganization of the file pattern also facilitates compliance through a checklist that also serves as the file pattern. This review and improvement was entirely employee initiated.

I just stopped by another employee’s office and got a similar story, only this time related to bank reconciliation. Certain documents are needed every month for bank reconciliation, and are being reorganized to put all of the necessary documents in one file, and in useable order for facilitating ease of reconciliation. Again, this improvement is employee initiated.

Poor document management is costly, but in a cost conscious company, document management employees are typically the first laid off. Then you have higher paid staff who have to figure out how to file documents, retrieve them and guess what—it doesn’t get done.

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