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Success Story: Reducing Lead Time for Completing Technical Service Requests at LA County With Abigail Calderon and Jennifer Storm - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Find out how Abigail Calderon and Jennifer Storm from LA County streamlined IT tickets by eliminating unnecessary signatures and process steps by checking out our latest success story. Government Agencies are using Lean Six Sigma to improve processes. The outcome? Better service to internal and external customers.

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Success Story Transcript

Tracy: Hello and welcome to another Project Presentation Webinar hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. These webinars are where we share stories about successful Lean Six Sigma projects because that’s where the rubber meets the road.

I’m Tracy O’Rourke, Managing Partner for GoLeanSixSigma.com. And today, we are highlighting Abigail Calderon and Jennifer Storm. Did I say your names right?

Abigail: Yes, close.

Tracy: Well, thank you for joining us today. And we are going to be covering your projects called LA County Reducing Lead Time for Completing Technical Service Request. We simplified it but I know that you’re going to go into the more detailed description of the project name in just a moment.

But before we get started, why don’t you guys tell us a little bit about yourselves?

About Our Presenter

Abigail: So, my name is Abigail like you said, Calderon.

Tracy: Calderon. Thank you.

Abigail: I’ve been working with Registrar Recorder/County Clerk for almost a year now. I work in the Finance and Management Division. I’m an Administrative Assistant 1 and I’m also the LSS Consultant for the Admin Bureau.

Tracy: OK. Thanks.

Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer Storm. I work for LA County for 10 years, 3 years with the Registrar Recorder and I’m in the Budget Section.

Tracy: Budget Section. So tell us about a little interesting personal fact about you guys. What will be interesting to know about you?

Jennifer: Well for me, let’s see. I have small two boys, 6 and 3. And sticking my hands full at home all the time, running the house.

Tracy: I bet. I have two boys myself. They’re a little older, 8 and 13. And I remember when they were 3 and 6, and it’s kind of like raising animals a little bit. They’re everywhere.

Jennifer: They’re all over the place.

Tracy: Yes. Thank you. How about you, Abigail?

Abigail: I also have two children at home and one on the way as they’ve been keeping me very busy. But I’ve played the piano since I was 7 years old.

Tracy: Really? Wow! What do you like to play?

Abigail: New Age. New Age music.

Tracy: New Age music. Wonderful. Very nice.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Dual-Bureau Presentation

So tell us a little bit about the project that you guys did at LA County Registrar Recorder Clerk for your Green Belt.

Jen: This particular project deals with a form that everyone in our department uses. It’s called the Technical Service Request or we abbreviate it to say the TSR. And about a year ago in the process of signing this form, I was looking at it going, “Well, this is something that I think we should look into because I’m signing this form but I’m also approving it later electronically.”

So it was like a duplication and it was something that I thought, “Oh hey, this isn’t right. It is exactly the epitome of what Lean Six Sigma is about. This is a duplication of efforts and a lot of time goes into this form that I’m not entirely sure it’s necessary.”

Tracy: Right. And it was probably one of those things you were like, “Why do I have to do this? I do this now and I do this later.” And we love people who ask why. That is Lean Six Sigma. Good. OK.

Jennifer: Abi kind of joined our project in the midstream so she got kind of thrown to the woods as it were for this project. But there are a lot of intricacies about this one. So I think that for now, we’ll go into a little bit more detail. But for now, this one is good.

Tracy: OK.

Team Work

Jennifer: And for teamwork, this particular item dealt with our bureau which is the Admin Bureau and the Information Technology Bureau because this form is their form.

Tracy: OK.

Jennifer: So when we start asking questions about why we need the form, we have to bring in the group that is submitting most of the forms to us.

Tracy: Good. That’s important. Getting buy-in would be really important and participating in the improvements.

Jennifer: Exactly. And that the interesting thing we found out is when we started to broach this topic with the Bureau, they also had questions as to why the form. So it kind of brought to light that, “Hey, if both of us are questioning what is – why are we doing this form, maybe it’s deeper than what we think.”

Tracy: Right. Yeah.

History

Jennifer: And although we give a little bit of history already, the form itself, I want to kind of put in that this is a longstanding form that has been in government or at least in our department for years. And it was put into place before a lot of the electronic programs we have. So when we were looking at the form and we started to do some charts that we’ll talk about a little bit later, it turns out that not just Budget was duplicating efforts but IT was duplicating efforts too.

So it was kind of like, “OK, we got this program that’s automatically doing this over here but we all are still stuck in the past on its hard copy form.”

Tracy: Yes.

Jennifer: So that’s kind of opened the door.

Tracy: Good. Good. OK.

Swimlane Map

Abigail: So as she was talking, we went ahead and mapped out this process as we can see here. So originally, before we had any kind of Lean Six Sigma improvement, the requester, we have the customer here, they would first create this TSR which is a Technical Service Request form. It would go then go through as you can see four different signatures. So it had their Section Head Manager, their Assistant Division Manager, their Division Manager, and their Assistant Registrar Recorder, so all those levels of signatures would be required before they even submitted the form to Information Technology or IT.

Tracy: Wow!

Abigail: It’s a lot.

Tracy: Oh my God! And I have two more forms over here too. We’re probably going to talk about that six signatures. Does this sound familiar? Lots of places in government. I’ve seen other people and other places in government where they have to do the TSR and it has got multiples signatures too. Very interesting.

Abigail: Yes. So from there, it would then move on to IT. IT would then give you a project ID, and then their Division Manager and their IT Assistant Registrar Recorder would then sign the form as well. So, more signatures but in another bureau. So then we move on and it goes to Admin. And Admin, they would then review the form. They would make sure if there’s any coding or any kind of errors like that.

If there were errors, it would go all the way back to the requester for the requester to correct and the resubmit.

Tracy: With the eight signatures or however many.

Abigail: Well, yes, with all those signatures. If there weren’t errors which is what we’re aiming for hopefully, it will go to the Budget Officer who is in the Admin section. They would also review it and then pass it on to our Assistant Registrar Recorder.

So, just to give you a little background, each bureau which we have four, has an Assistant Registrar Recorder and they are basically one of the top management for that bureau.

Tracy: Yes.

Abigail: So, as you can already see, we have three of them signing this form.

Tracy: Wow!

Abigail: So once it goes there, it would then go over to our Executive Office to have our Chief Deputy sign the form. And then from there, it would be sent back to Information Technology so the RQN or Requisition Request as we call it, is getting prepared.

Now mind you, this is all an approval process just so they can put it in the system to have it go through another approval process to order the item.

Tracy: Wow! So I don’t know if you guys can see a mirror in here. But my mouth is down to the floor already and their eyes are really wide open too like really? I know! Tell us about it. So, thank you. This is entertaining so far.

Jennifer: And this process happens regardless of cost. If it was zero dollars, we still do the same process as whether it was a $150,000. So this process was mandatory regardless as long as it was an IT purchase.

Tracy: Wow! OK.

Problem (Defect)

Abigail: So as you can see, just by looking at the swim lane, there were a lot of problems. So simply, there were ten signatures that were required. Like Jennifer said, it didn’t matter if you were ordering $5 thumb drive or if you’re ordering a hundred monitors. This was still the same procedure.

Now, it’s one piece of paper. But these ten signatures, it took 43 days to get all the through the process.

But these ten signatures, it took 43 days to get all the through the process.

Tracy: Wow!

Abigail: So you imagine if you needed something for a rush, you put in the TSR form and then you wait 43 days before it’s even put in the system to be ordered. So this really was no rush. If you put in the TSR, you’re going to see in about six months, the product.

Tracy: Interesting. OK. So that’s a problem

Abigail: It’s definitely a problem. So the impact of all this was like we said, it took 43 days to get all these signatures. But after we had more closely looked at exactly how much work time was involved, we realized it only took 3 hours and 45 minutes for every level to review the form in time. So that means 42 days and some odd hours were actually just waiting time. It was the time the form was just sitting in limbo and nothing was happening.

Like I was saying before, this is not even order to the actual item. This is just the approval to order the item. So it was definitely an issue.

Tracy: Yes.

Solution

Abigail: All right. So we came up with a 2-fold solution. The first solution was, OK, IT Bureau shouldn’t have to ask themselves permission to buy something they need especially since in the electronic process, their managers are approving it there too. So we decided no more for IT Bureau. They are free and clear of this form.

But to allow the non-IT bureaus management authority of knowing what purchase requests were still leaving their door, we put into place a cost threshold alignment. So that way, if you’re buying a $5 thumb drive that Abigail was mentioning, only the Section Head and ADM would have to sign. And that way, everyone else further down the line wouldn’t have to look at the form because we’ve minimized it based on our existing Fiscal Manual Controls. So we aligned it that way.

And that way, they can still prepare the form and then submit it to IT and IT is not duplicating that. So that was the goal. And we are implementing it on Monday so we’re all excited about it.

Tracy: Great. Wonderful. So is everybody …

Abigail: Yeah, everyone was very excited.

Jennifer: They received a round of applause when they announced the change.

Tracy: Wow! Is this yesterday that they announced it?

Abigail: Today.

Tracy: It was today? Oh my gosh! OK. Wonderful.

Benefit

Abigail: So the benefits like Jennifer was discussing, we had it broken down into two different areas because the benefits look a little different depending on the bureau but it’s still significant. So the IT Bureau, they had 10 paper signatures on the form. For the IT Bureau, we’ve now completely eliminated the form. So zero signatures. So it has now gone from 14 to 15 steps like we saw in the beginning to 2 steps.

So it has now gone from 14 to 15 steps like we saw in the beginning to 2 steps.

So basically, we’ll see the swim lane later on how that works. But basically, it’s determining if it’s for IT and if so, making the RQN. So it has really brought the steps down.

Now, the reason for that is IT is the one who puts it into the system, our requisition system, and they have that approval process I was talking about. So they were doing it on paper but then they were replicating it again within the system electronically.

Tracy: I see.

Abigail: So we figured out there was no need for the form whatsoever to them.

Tracy: That’s my favorite kind of improvement. We don’t need to do this anymore. Let’s stop doing that.

Abigail: So for non-IT, it did look a little different. For non-IT, we kept the form. And I’ll explain why after. It went from 10 paper signatures to 2 to 5 signatures. Now, those signatures now are based on thresholds. So if it’s a $2 item, a Section Head is the only person who needs to see that. We broke it down and you will see on the form, depending on the cost threshold, who needs to see it.

So basically, the Executive Office doesn’t need to see an item unless it’s over $25,000. So the top executive management no longer needs to see the paper unless it’s over a certain large threshold.

Tracy: $25,000. And they’re not going to get approved if it’s $25,000 anyway. I’m just kidding. Like a lot of money spend. But we are talking IT purchases.

Abigail: Yes.

Tracy: OK.

Abigail: So also, it went from the 14, 15 steps that we saw in the beginning to 5 to 8 steps which once again, that’s because of the thresholds.

Now for this one, we decided to keep the form because once again, it is IT who enters it in and then does their own approval system. But if we have them submit it directly to IT then their management would have no idea of the purchases that they were making. So it’s still kind of kept the checks and balances in place so that both bureaus were comfortable and aware but still reducing the steps for longer wait.

Tracy: That’s my second favorite type of improvement. It is, oh my gosh, it’s faster but we’re maintaining stakeholder requirements. That’s important in government.

Abigail: And the thresholds that we actually based the form on and which you see on the next page are based on our County Fiscal Manual. So we are most definitely in compliance with it.

Tracy: Great. Wonderful.

Jennifer: So just like I said before, I just want to highlight it, so in our measure phase, we found out that the IT Bureau was 70% of all the technical service requests that were submitted.

Tracy: Wow!

Abigail: It’s a lot.

Tracy: That’s a lot.

Abigail: Yes, it’s a lot. So we had eliminated 70% of the paper traffic that’s coming through eliminating that TSR form.

Tracy: Wow!

Abigail: Right? So from 43 days…

Tracy: So you’re like their new best friends.

Abigail: We are.

Jennifer: They are very happy.

Abigail: So we went from those 43 days to those zero days. For the non-IT Bureau, they were the remaining 30% of the submissions. So like I said, we do keep the form but instead of taking 43 days now, we had to take 8 days to have a complete form. And so, we reduced the time by 35 days. So for both bureaus, the process has been significantly reduced and streamlined.

Tracy: Wow! That’s wonderful.

Swimlane Map

Abigail: So this is the new swim lane map that I was talking about. So as you’ll see, the first question someone needs to ask, is it an IT request or not? If it is an IT request, they go down to issue a project ID and they prepare the RQN. They’re done.

If it’s not an IT Bureau request, they will then create that modified TSR form then they will have their Section Head sign it, their Assistant Division Manager. And then this is where the thresholds come in.

So we’ll decide, is it the request over $5,000? If it’s not over $5,000, it would go straight to IT and then the project ID is being issued and the form is being created. So if it’s more than that, then it will keep going through and asking, is it over $10,000, is it over $25,000? So even the most expensive item over $25,000 is only going to go through 8 different hands.

Tracy: Very nice.

Comparison

Abigail: OK. So in this slide, you’re going to see the old TSR form where there is no cost threshold mentioned and that you’ll see budget is at the bottom as well as the executive office. But on the new form, you are going to see that budget is not there because we are seeing all the requests through the automated e-procurement system. So we are approving it there now as opposed to the paper form.

And the Executive Office, while we remove that but you’ll still see the Chief Deputy signature is now underneath the rest of the signatures but with the cost threshold applied. So all were streamlined and in that way, all the signatures are in place before it gets to IT.

Future LSS Project

OK. This slide represents the future project that was basically created because of our project. As a result of this project, there is a new project coming out to look out the procurement process.

Abigail: So like we were saying, the e-procurement like she was talking about, it is the system in which we place the actual orders in. So even though there were 43 days on our side that we ended up able to reduce, there is still a significant time that was being taken to order items and get the approvals on that side. But for the purposes of our project, that was out of the scope.

So we almost kind of considered it like phase 2, something that we will come back to continue this improvement.

Tracy: Well, you know, because it is continuous improvement.

Abigail: Yes.

Tracy: It’s a journey.

Abigail: Yes, it’s a journey.

Tracy: It’s a journey.

Abigail: And who knows, we may identify in this case.

Q & A

Tracy: Good. OK. So, just a couple of questions for you guys. So, what was your most favorite thing about this project? Is there anything that you were like – you had something that happened or like a turning point for you that you thought, “Oh, this was an awesome part of this project,”?

Jennifer: Well, I thought it was really interesting in that we kind of started with a completely different road if we were going on. And it was like we were talking about in the beginning. I was looking at a budget like I was finding it here and then I’m approving it there.

But I also had – the reason it really came to light for me was that we have budget control numbers that tell them, “Hey, you have money.” So I’m approving it that, “Hey, we have funding for this.” But if they put the budget control number on the form, why am I signing that there’s funding when that budget control number in itself is telling me that there is money?”

So when we started down that road, we were like, “Well, if it has a budget control number, let’s just say the budget doesn’t exceed.” So that was where we kind of started down this road. But then when we got to a certain point where we brought IT in to kind of talk to them about it to find out that they also thought this form was really antiquated. And to kind of get on the same page with them, it was really enlightening and also kind of opened up a lot of contacts for me that, “OK, I knew this person in IT but I didn’t know who they were.”

So now I’m like, “Hey, I have a personal contact over there now that I work with and they are great.” And it’s somebody I wouldn’t have really ever worked if it wasn’t for this project. So that was kind of my takeaway from this.

Tracy: Yeah. So, getting to know people, working with people differently that you hadn’t worked with before.

Jennifer: Exactly.

Tracy: Yeah. I know. We do process walks all the time and we always get people go, “Well, why do you guys need this on this form?” And they’d go, “Well, we thought you needed it.” Right? I mean they were like, “No, I don’t need it. Do you need it? No.” And I was like, “Who needs it?” Nobody.

Jennifer: It’s crazy. And it’s a kind of interesting aspect because in government and I work with government for ten years, you kind of see these forms that are just – they had a place. They had a function when they were created and it was great before a particular purpose.

But the way technology is improving every day, it’s kind of hard to say now that paper is the only way to go. You have to kind of open yourself up to say, “Hey, look. We got a lot of electronic out there, a lot of automation that could happen for us. So instead of spending 43 days waiting on something that I need, could we make it better?” And I thought that was a rewarding experience in a way.

But the way technology is improving every day, it’s kind of hard to say now that paper is the only way to go.

Tracy: Wonderful. How about you, Abigail?

Abigail: I think for me it was as she said, I kind of came in mid-project. And it was at a difficult point when I came in. And it had been on a standstill for a while as we kind of tried to figure out the direction and just what this project was going to be trying to accomplish.

So when I came on, I kind of – I was like, this seems so hard. I hope this will work. I don’t know if this will work but I really hope it does. But just implementing those – the Lean methods that we have learned and just kind of pressing through it. And at the very end, it was just extremely gratifying really. Oh my goodness! We did it.

Tracy: Wow! Yeah, that is nice.

Abigail: That was great.

Tracy: That’s really awesome. Those are my favorite things. So do you guys have any advice for anyone in government trying to implement process improvement?

Jennifer: I think my only advice is when you have – if you are doing a project with a different bureau or a different section, to really listen in the first big meeting to any concerns that pop up. As Abigail was saying, we had some difficult moments. And that was basically a resurrection of some of these topics that we thought were solved.

So in retrospect, if I could go back to that first meeting, I think I would have been more focused on, “Hey, OK. I hear your concern. Is there anyone else have this concern or can we come to some agreement now as to what direction we want to go?” Because I think that had we gone so far in the project to kind of backtrack to that point to say, “Hey, look. OK. I didn’t realize that was that big of an issue. I thought it was just a side note of, “Hey, we wish you look at this.” It wasn’t – I didn’t think it was a roadblock at that moment.”

Tracy: Sure.

Jennifer: And it wasn’t necessarily a roadblock. It was just a different concept, a different like we’re saying outside the scope of what we were looking at. And if we had put our – if we had focused on it a little bit more in that first meeting, I think that this project would have quickly resolved. And not to say it took too, too long but it was just more of a – we had a hiccup on road. And that was because of that.

Tracy: Good. Thank you.

Abigail: I had to piggy that concept that Jennifer was saying, which can be applied here, it can be applied anywhere but the scope could be a very big problem. I find that revisiting that project charter and just refocusing and making sure everyone is aware and you keep reminding them too that this project is about this and this is what we’re going to work on, I think it helps everyone to stay on the track. And then it definitely – if the project does start to scope just make sure it’s something you deal with immediately because it really can derail the project.

Tracy: Wonderful. Well, I just want to say thank you very much Abigail and Jennifer for sharing your project success story with me, our audience, GoLeanSixSigma.com. We really appreciate it. I always love hearing about success stories and I’m sure that our listeners do too.

And again these project presentation webinars are where we share those stories about successful Lean Six Sigma projects. So if you guys have any more, let us know because I know that there are lots of other projects happening at LA County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk.

And/or for those of you listening, if you have success story you want to share with us, contact us at Contact@GoLeanSixSigma.com. We also have lots of free templates, blogs, webinars, and project presentations on our website. So don’t forget to go to GoLeanSixSigma.com to leverage all of that free stuff.

So thanks for joining us. Thank you so much for helping share the news. So goodbye for now. Until next time.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.