Pictured above is the my team - the Fraud Legal Department. From left to right: Brenda Cox, Susie Union, Me (Malisa brown), Paige Sturgeon and Judy Ann Sanchez
Pictured above is my team – the Fraud Legal Department in the City Attorney’s Office. From left to right: Brenda Cox, Susie Union, Me (Malisa Brown), Paige Sturgeon and Judy Ann Sanchez

By Malisa Brown, City Attorney’s Office

WHAT AM I SIGNING UP FOR?” I have to take an entire week off of work? Hmmm, not sure what this will do for me but hey, it will look good to my boss! These are just some of the thoughts that went through my head when my director recommended that I participate in Peak Academy’s Black Belt Training in August of 2015. But once I committed and actively participated and completed the training, I never looked back. It completely changed the way I view my professional and personal life. It led me to bigger and better things in so many ways, but first let’s take a look at the actual training, the purpose and its process.

Before I entered the training, I had never heard of process improvement. I had never heard of a spaghetti diagram or a fish bone diagram, nor had I heard of the super-famous author Ken Miller! All of these elements have been incorporated into my work. Want to shave time off a process?  Begin with process improvement. Want to physically streamline your work? Use a spaghetti map. Define waste in your processes? Use a fish bone diagram. Want to develop new ideas on these processes and real life (specifically government) examples? Read Ken Miller’s We Don’t Make Widgets.

Let’s start with the training provided by Peak Academy. While enrolled in the black belt training you really begin to develop ideas on how and what you can do to change your processes at work, make them better, faster, and more efficient. Of course, the training and its trainers do not do it for you, they provide the tools and some pretty potent motivation and inspiration.

With my first innovation, I began with the most simple of changes – amending a form, also known as the Installment Note. I am a paralegal with the Fraud Legal Department in the City Attorney’s Office. One of my responsibilities include reviewing the Installment Notes for our client, the department of Human Services. This Installment Note is essentially a payment plan for those who commit to paying back ineligible benefits received from the Department of Human Services without being taken to court and receiving a judgment against them.


Our legal team would receive these notes every so often from Fraud and Recovery in the Department of Human Services, in order to use as evidence in pursuing a court ordered judgment once they default or stop making payments on their  plan. When I received these notes, I noticed that the information they provided was inconsistent. The formats were different and some seemed to be inaccurate.

I was able to get approval from my attorney and the Fraud and Recovery unit to amend this note and make it consistent among those who prepared the note.  Making simple changes, such as the format, so that it would fit onto two pages.  I added an initialing space on the first page to make sure if the document was ever separated, Legal knew the parties were aware of the information on the first page.  I also streamlined the personal identifying information and claims data so that the note was easily identified by the top of the page and the information could be put in the same order it was in to the claims program. With just a few minor tweaks and the Note is now more efficient and consistent among all of the investigators.

New Note
New Note

I saved two to five minutes of time by eliminating the back and forth of emails and phone calls with the investigators on information missing from the note. This doesn’t seem like much, but over the course of a year it saves at the very minimum 72 minutes of my time a year. Now include the investigators’ time as well as any others involved in the processing of the payment plan; it is 288 minutes or approximately five hours a year. This is a very small change with a pretty big impact. because its success led me to amend all the forms I use in legal, (with input and approval from others of course).

I have seen firsthand the success of implementing ideas and innovations in my professional and personal world and I owe much thanks to Peak Academy. No matter how seemingly minor the idea or innovation, it can have a very big impact, so start innovating!

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