In late January of 2017, I entered into my first partnership as a Peak Analyst with Public Health Inspections (PHI) in the Department of Environmental Health. A Peak partnership is when a Peak analyst gets invited to spend six to 12 months with a team to work with staff, supervisors and management on a project. We’ve found that this is one of the best ways to really understand an issue in its entirety, and it allows our analysts to get to know staff in ways that wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t “move in” to the office of the team with which they work.
The team I’m working with currently is the Residential Housing unit within the Healthy Families, Healthy Homes section of PHI. The team consists of seven public health investigators, an administrative support assistant, one supervisor and a manager. Some of the investigators have been on the team for less than a year, while others have been there for more than 20 years. Although their experience levels are different, the thing that ties them all together is a passion for public health and the citizens that they serve.
The first thing we identified as a team during the assessment phase was that the process for closing out a complaint investigation was taking too long. We also discovered that the investigators’ volume of work was starting to reach unsustainable levels. Now before I get into how they solved these issues, here is some background to their work:
The process starts with 311, where a concerned citizen call’s the city to complain about a problem related to their home, which could involve any of the following: bed bugs, a hoarder next door, mold, roaches, not hot water, water damage, no heat and many others. An admin assistant receives the complaint from 311 and assigns it to the proper investigator based on the address of the complainant. The investigator then reviews the complaint and its details, and schedules a time to follow-up with a site visit to see if the complaint was legitimate. If they find that it’s in their scope of work and an actual problem, they issue orders of correction to the owner of the apartment, house or facility and then schedule subsequent “re-inspections” to find out if the violations have been corrected.
When I ran my first report of the team’s inspection statistics, they had an active case load of about 320 complaint investigations, which take about two and half hours on average and total to around 1,200 complaints per year. Split up among the six of them, each investigator had 50+ complaints to follow-up on at any given time. Also, in 2016, almost half of their cases were taking longer than 90 day to resolve. As of the time of this writing, they have brought the active case load down by 45% and reduced the number of cases lasting longer than 90 days by almost 60%! They did this in a period of only three months, which is nothing short of amazing.
Here’s how they did it.
With some help from the Peak Analytics program and interns, the team was provided with highly specific data related to which kinds of cases were taking the longest and appearing most frequently, how the workload was distributed to each investigator and the trends of complaint volume over the last five years. Using the data and a focused bi-weekly check-in with their supervisor and manager, the team identified ways to improve their complaint resolution practices and develop targeted efforts to pro-actively prepare for certain types of frequent complaints like bed bugs and water issues. They did all of this while also keeping up with inspecting pools, tattoo shops and homeless shelters.
In Peak, we call this “knowing your score” and as author Peter Drucker likes to say, “only what’s measured improves.” In the past, their team got caught up in the whirlwind of their busy schedules, something every workplace can relate to. That feeling of being overwhelmed and the anxiety that comes from seeing your to-do list get longer and longer. When they began to truly understand what the score was, they saw an almost immediate improvement in the length of time for open cases and overall workload.
A Peak partnership can be a game changer for a team ready to take the next step toward improving their processes in big ways. But any team, armed with the right tools and a willingness to look at what their inefficiencies might be and take steps to address them, can make huge strides in improving their work. Call us if your team is interested in a Peak partnership.
Drew Brown is a Process Improvement Analyst for the City and County of Denver’s Peak Academy, with a background in sustainability and a business degree from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. He specializes in helping employees build trust on their teams, and facilitating departmental strategic planning and goal setting. His belief is that everyone’s voice matters and he strives to create opportunities for individuals to express their ideas and find productive ways to implement them. In college, he was a Division 1 athlete and received Academic and Athletic All-American honors, and he competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials. He grew up in Aurora, CO and currently lives in Denver with his amazing wife Megan and his cat and dog, Loki and Remus.
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