Sometimes innovation starts with a “No”.

Juan Garza, a cashier in Denver Public Works’ Finance and Administration, attempted an innovation shortly after taking Peak Academy’s Black Belt class. He wanted to allow customers to search for license plate tickets online, hoping to reduce the number of calls he gets. However, the idea ran into legal and privacy issues and Juan was told that it wasn’t possible.

“Coming out of Black Belt, you think you can change the City. Then you get told no, so you try to change your agency. Then you get told no again, so you change yourself,” he said.

Since he didn’t have a lot of metrics to back up this idea, he thought “why not make my some kind of tracker to help justify my innovation?” So, Juan picked two days out of the week to collect data on his interactions with customers, both when he worked in the back office and on the front lines. He created an interaction log to track touch points between the city & the customer, how often parking tickets are being reduced, how long each interaction takes, and so on.

Juan Interaction Log

This interaction log helped Juan identify future innovation opportunities, and provided some really interesting information. For example, he can see that it takes about eight and a half minutes to talk to a customer about traffic tickets, but they don’t process traffic tickets. So, they could work to provide better information to the customer about how to direct questions about that topic. There’s also some opportunities to engage other service providers to handle some issues that Juan and his coworkers are resolving.

“It confirms a lot about what we do, such as most of the calls we receive are about citations and residential parking permits. I had to start somewhere, and this has been really eye-opening.”

He found that his actual processing time got faster over time, as he was more mindful that he was logging his time. One of his goals is to create a generic, one-size-fits-all interaction log for other roles citywide, so they can do some similar analysis and collect data for their unit.

Juan took the data he collected and made graphs based on it, which helps him justify innovations to his supervisors and tell a story for change. These graphs all highlight potential areas for improvement, something he might not had realized until he had collected and analyzed the data. This collection process itself is an innovation that yields more and more opportunities.

“Since taking the Black Belt training my motto is: Don’t ever let someone tell you can’t innovate,” said Juan.

Juan in front of log

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