Requests and orders in many organisations are handed over from department to department. Different expertise is needed to deal with different aspects of the order. For example, a permit request at a random city. This request will be handled by different experts before being approved (or rejected), invoiced and return to the requestor.
But is the personal involvement of these experts really needed?
If you ask the individuals separately, the answer will be: Yes! They will tell you about their training and background. About compliance and regulations, construction guidelines etc. and the justification that only trained and approved personnel of their department are approved to deal with that specific part of the request. At an insurance company, you will get similar answers from the claims department. And at the bank, again, similar answers from the loan department. Companies are used to assign their staff to functional departments and chop up their processes to be handed over, one step at the time, to be handled by those functional experts. And as complexity and regulations grow, so do the number of steps in our processes.
The result is a large number of hand-overs, that always result in lower quality, higher costs, longer lead times and reduced job-satisfaction.
Since staff is divided up in departments based on their background and training, the understanding from which they see the same case is different. Do they pick up the case in the same way it was handed over to them? At every hand-over, there is an increased risk for miss-communication and errors.
Especially in administrative organizations, like insurance companies, banks and cities, the costs of hand-overs are large. In administrative tasks, the time needed to understand the case and all its particularities is often greater than the time needed to execute the task. We see a Case Manager approving a permit request and then handing over the case to the finance department for invoicing. But since he has studied the case in depth, isn’t he best suited to assign the standard invoice to this request himself? It might be “below his skill” to do this part of the work or he might not have access to the financial systems. But the process will be much more effective if he just assigns the invoice and completes the process.
Longer service time
The gain in service time is possibly the easiest to explain. Every time a case or request is handed over to someone else, the next person will not necessarily be idle and waiting to start immediately. The request is always waiting to be handled. This waiting time might be irrelevant when there’s only 1 hand-over. But in administrative organizations, the sum of all waiting time often exceeds the sum of all handling time. A permit request for a city can easily take 30 days for the requestor to get his permit. In those 30 days, the sum of all service time will only be some hours, perhaps even minutes. Every eliminated hand-over will have an immediate impact on service time.
Quality, costs and service time; but how about the employees themselves? Studies have shown it time after time; the smaller the share of the total job an employee is allowed to do, the lower his / her involvement and job-satisfaction will be. And the opposite is true as well; the larger the share of the job, the more the employee will feel responsible and ultimately be satisfied with a job well done.
There are many ways to improve processes. But companies that already have a program for pro-actively combining tasks and roles, and thus reducing hand-overs, will see benefits, in both the short term and in the long run. Some benefits are directly measurable; others, like job-satisfaction and customer satisfaction might be more difficult to measure.