Kaizen Wins

Employee Complaints Answered in 29 Days versus 180 Days

          The grievance of a worldwide logistics system was notoriously slow and employees had to wait on average of 180 days for the grievances to be answered. Worse yet employees had a hard time finding out the status of their grievance. There were individual case workers assigned to each grievance who were competent but often hit roadblocks in trying to close the grievance case. The case workers were assigned specific cases and were expected to have the case from start to finish. There was very little collaboration between case workers.

The department received an ultimatum from their executive, either you improve the process, or action would be taken to improve it including the threat of job loss. A Kaizen was begun under tense circumstances. The team had to be trained, on the fly, on the tools as the Kaizen process progressed. The team would not let the Kaizen leader postpone or delay the Kaizen. It was a drawn out brutal process from start to finish.

The case workers clearly understood all the steps in the As Is process, and the Kaizen Leader discovered a surprise. A computer system and report that the department looked at as a burden actually contained data about the length of all the steps in the As Is process and quickly confirmed which steps had the longest delays.  This system would now be used to visibly show the status of each and every case to everyone. The team quickly brainstormed ideas to overcome the delays in the process. The Kaizen Leader made suggestions to improve visibility of individual case progress and the department put in a collaboration or help system between case workers. It was discovered that one delay in the As Is was caused by ill will and animosity with another department which had to approve the next step. An escalator clause was put in place that required this department to approve or disapprove in 48 hours or the executive’s second in charge would make a decision. All case progress was made visible in a team room on a large tracking board.

The six month average for grievance cases cycle time dropped to 29 days. The positive impact on employee morale was also documented in the annual employee survey.