“You Can Sit Here in the Waiting Room; or You Can Wait in the Sitting Room.”

From Nick Danger, Third Eye, by Firesign Theater

Note:  This blog – the fifth installment in a series on the “Seven Wastes of Muda” as they relate to court document management – deals with the “W” in Tim Wood: Waiting.

Calling out the Waste of Waiting in courts seems like shooting fish in a barrel: Where is the challenge? We know we make people wait; indeed, courts often make people wait to wait.  We’ve got waiting rooms, sitting rooms, court rooms, hallways, jury assembly rooms, ad infinitum.  True, Disneyland does the same thing; but it all seems so much more fun there. 

That Waiting is a Waste for those who are doing the waiting is pretty obvious.  But that’s not why Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System classify Waiting as one of the Seven Wastes.  Not to be callous about it, but if an organization can get away with making other people wait AT NO COST TO THE ORGANIZATION, well, what’s the harm?

Of course, from a customer service point of view, the answer is “Plenty”.  Courts have surpassed Motor Vehicle Departments as most notorious for waiting.  Still, that is not the primary reason why Waiting is one of the Seven.

Quite apart from people (the frittering of whose time waiting is indeed an enormous Waste), whenever things that should be processed are not being processed, Waste occurs.  In the manufacturing world, Waste occurs whenever parts or raw materials to be assembled/processed/used, etc.  are not being processed.  In the court document management world, any document, file or matter that is Waiting for action generates Waste.  Court examples include documents awaiting signature; filings that trigger the need to schedule a matter; matters requiring review and/or approval, matters requiring multi-step preparation, and so on. 

One big Waste is Time –which really IS Money – which is why the most carefully watched court performance metrics are the case aging statistics.  Other significant, if less obvious, wastes include storage space for piles of documents and files, and unavailability of the documents and files for other processes (causing MORE waiting), to name just two.  Both of these, as it happens, can be greatly ameliorated through use of Electronic Content Management (ECM). 

The largest cause of this type of Waiting generally results from some form of process discontinuity: Either the needed document or file is not available to a process in a timely manner; or the document or file, even though ready for processing, is not forwarded to the next action point in a timely manner.  An associated source of Waiting Waste occurs when the document or file falls through the cracks and is either misrouted or lost at the bottom of someone’s out box.

While not as obvious as many other cost drivers, the amount of time things spend waiting for the next activity or action is extremely significant.  It’s why courts that implement ECM with workflow often find that process improvement is the largest driver of savings and efficiency in operations.  The reason, of course, is that the main purpose of  configurable workflow is to seamlessly and instantly route things that are ready for processing to exactly who and where they need to be, at exactly the right time.  As a bonus, the system will keep track of any subsequent “Waiting” and will give timely feedback to the person responsible for the activity and/or process.

In short, configurable workflow is specifically targeted at the Waste of Waiting in court document management.  When utilized with ECM and electronic signature, it squeezes out Waiting, and thus Waste.  As a result, courts that have implemented ECM with configurable workflow typically find that the improvements and cost savings from process efficiencies alone exceed whatever they had expected.

A major reason is the attendant elimination of lots and lots of Waiting Waste.

 

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