Posted by: Knightbird | January 24, 2011

An Amazing Improvement Event

I was reminded today of an amazing improvement event by my Human Resources Manager. Chugachmiut operates a Head Start Program, probably one of the most micromanaged programs ever operated by the U.S Government. The regulation book is extremely thick and our employee’s have numerous requirements imposed on them, from criminal back ground checks to education requirements to specific trainings such as CPR and the impact of blood borne pathogens on their program. Every 3 years, Head Start sends out a large team of evaluators who visit the home office and service sites. They are nit pickers extraordinare. The first time I went through their audit was mind boggling. Interesting enough, despite their insistence on our compliance, we never did receive their report. It fell through their own cracks.

Anyway, my HR Manager was asked to document compliance with the numerous requirements. Because we had no systems thinking in place at the time, we didn’t have a single compliance folder for each employee. Consequently, every compliance document had to be tracked down individually, or recreated. This whole review took 30 hours for less than 10 employees.

As she went through the compliance process, our HR Manager prepared a compliance checklist. When she completed the review, she put together a file pattern that documented the Head Start employee’s compliance with requirements from the date of hire. As the file is built, all of the compliance documentation is entered in the file according to the checklist. A review that once took 30 hours can now be accomplished in about 30 minutes per employee. This initiative was deemed so good that one of the reviewers asked if she could have a copy of it to share with other programs.


  1. This is a great example of making lemonade when you are handed lemons. In many organnizations the people involved would have complained (with good cause, of course) about the waste of all of the requirements embodied in the regulation book, and left it at that.

    Your HR Manager demonstrated the old serenity prayer in action: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

    The regulations and forms may well be non-value adding waste … but there is nothing she could have done to change the rules mandating them. She had the wisdom to know the difference between that which she could change and that which she couldn’t, and she went after the waste she could eliminate and did a masterful job.

    This is a great lean story! We usually can’t control and fix everything, but that should not stop of from improving the things we do control.

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