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Cassaundra Rouse is the Chief of Administration for the Illinois Tollway. She has been a Board Member of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and has served on the Education Committee as well as the Government Advisory Committee to the IIA Board.

Kent James is the Executive Director and COO of Illuminative Strategics Inc. and is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Illuminative Strategies is a Management Consulting firm that focuses on helping Public Sector Organizations improve their hiring processes, technological utilization, and change management to increase process excellence and return on investment.

The Challenge

Kent partnered with Cassaundra to improve the Illinois Tollway’s hiring process that was 95% paper-based and would take over 10 months to fill a position. They were also facing a high turn-over rate, lack of technological assistance, and low applicant alignment to position needs. As it stood, the hiring process could use some help.

They started out by asking themselves two questions:

  • What’s possible?
  • What approach should we use to improve the hiring process?

In order to answer their first question, they needed to develop a better understanding of the current process. They chose to use DMAIC as their approach to improving the hiring process. They also thought it was important to identify the inhibitors of process change within the Illinois Tollway. Unfortunately, There were several: politics, policy, law, processes, technology, culture, and staff.

With their approach determined and inhibitors in mind, they set out to map their process.

The Discovery

Kent and Cassaundra decided to create a Swimlane Map of their process to understand every step in the process and every person that was involved. This helped them identify waste in the process. They found that the hiring process included hundreds of process steps and required the use and storage of over 2,000 pages for a single hire. Yikes!

After mapping the process, they identified all process steps that were non-value add from the customer perspective. There was so much waste in the process that Cassaundra and Kent decided the processes needed a complete overhaul. It needed to be redesigned.

The Improvements

When redesigning their process, they established four core tenets that the solution must include: stakeholder investment, transparency, hiring quality, and efficiency. They created a Future State Map of what they wanted the process to be and used a multi-phased approach to execute the improvements.

The first phase involved enabling their existing HRIS technology assets. This allowed them to reduce the amount of paper involved in the process and make it easier to find applicant information. They ran a pilot for proof of concept to demonstrate what the process could be.

The second phase involved measuring and analyzing the results of the pilot process to develop their incremental solutions. They also expanded the new process to other Agencies and Positions.

The last phase was to repeat the entire process for the next wave of open positions.

During each of these phases, they were continuously improving all hiring related tools, drafts of new standard operating procedures, and their Future State Map. They were also training employees on the new process and checking-in with stakeholders to gain Voice of the Customer.

Success Story: Reducing Hiring Time From 10 Months to 36 Days, Featuring Kent James & Cassaundra Rouse -

The result of their efforts was a significant improvement. They were able to reduce the hiring lead time from 10+ months to just 36 days! They also conducted a satisfaction survey across all stakeholders in the process to understand how they felt about the new process. This included the applicants, interviewees, and interviewers. Of everyone involved, 65% completed the survey, and they found that 86% of those surveyed were highly satisfied with the new online application process!

With these kind of results, it’s needless to say that Illinois Tollway’s new hiring process was changed for the better. We can’t wait to see how Lean the Illinois Tollway’s processes will become!

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Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC 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.
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