To start, Carissa Mah is one of the most collaborative and dedicated Black Belts in the City & County of Denver (CCD) by way of the Denver Sheriff’s Department (DSD). Along with her team & lots of executive-level support, Carissa identified (actualization is pending an audit) over $10 million in soft savings (employee time) for the DSD. 

Making small improvements to consolidate the policies (redundant & contradictory in some cases) that staff members have to read & sign off on every year, Carissa helped DSD (Denver Sheriffs Department) staff members become more efficient. DSD went from reading 339 polices/year to reading 293 policies/year and taking approx. 120 min to read a DSD policy to 74 min to read/DSD policy. At the time of this improvement, DSD had roughly 1100 staff members reading & signing off on these policies. 

The following paragraphs are Carissa’s answers to Peak’s questions regarding her thoughts about the gritty innovations she & her team put into place since she became a Denver Peak Academy Black Belt.

Tell us a little about yourself & your team; what should the world know about you & your team? 

I worked in the public sector for ten years in writing mostly, never thought I would be government working with policies. My team is the Research & Development Team & we are part of the DSD, & we’re a creative group, driven to make the DSD the best it can be locally and nationally.

They don’t write the procedure but analyze the system to understand how to make it better; as a liaison, she’s loves working with people.  

How did you start innovating & using the Peak Academy tools to innovate? 

After I went through the Denver Academy Training, I just started using the tools that I liked. I also began to share those tools with my coworkers to consolidate the DSD policies that leadership identified before the training. I Laid out the due dates of policies via calendar reminders; to remind the team to publish or update procedures. Also, I’m a visual person, so I found Peak’s visual management tools/method inspiring, especially when managing a large project. 

What was your first Peak Innovation? 

Drafting writing guidelines – to standardize the way we use grammar and terms in DSD policies. 

What is your most successful Peak Innovation to date, and why?

I would say the DSD policy consolidation effort, just based on the number of savings; the most successful innovation is an entire DSD effort. My former boss initiated the policy efficiency effort & I kept it going. I continuously worked with stakeholders to identify policies to help streamline or consolidate DSD systems.  

What went well while working on your most successful innovation? 

The consolidation project went well because of collaboration & buy-in, belief, & support from DSD executives. It made a big difference. When you have executive-level permission & complete team support, it makes all the difference in the world. 

What did not go so well while working on your most successful innovation? 

Once we would do the consolidation, getting it through the workflow took a significant amount of time. Sometimes, pain-points in the process slowed things down. For example, the project’s logistics overall slowed down the project’s momentum and brought the project to fruition later than expected. 

What would you change about your most successful strategy or innovation to date? 

I would have more communication and meetings with individuals. Sometimes we didn’t have enough clarity around the logistics and intricacies of the policies we were improving.

What advice would you give to someone trying to innovate for the first, second, or even third time? 

I would say working with your teammates, collaboratively, asking for ideas, & asking for help. It might feel like a process needs improvements, but the best ideas come from sitting with your team and brainstorming. Also, having consistent support from your boss or leaders, and growing through consistent training (knowledge & insight), can help you identify and realize your best ideas.

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