I have recently been transferred back to a professional service position as a Rehabilitation Counselor in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. This is a long standing federal program that helps individuals with severe disabilities train for, maintain and obtain gainful employment within their functional capacities. The program was initially started for injured military personnel early in the 19 century and now includes civilians with severe disabilities. Historically, for every dollar invested in Vocational Rehabilitation 7-10 dollars are returned to government tax revenue, so it is an excellent program from an investment standpoint.

My Lean Government training has made me cognizant of value added tasks in relation to wasted tasks and this alone has increased my professional efficiency tremendously. Besides the 5S process, which has worked great for me, I have developed an idea to measure or analyze my own Professional Task Value Stream or PTVS. I am suggesting this is as a voluntary process that professionals can complete by themselves on themselves. This is sort of a hybrid time management process but in the world of social services may be the key to cutting waste and providing professional direct care providers with a tool to assure a majority of their tasks are value added from the customer’s point of view or VOC (voice of the customer). Where is the VOC for government operations? Taxpayers, contractors, legislators, citizens who receive services? That is a topic for another blog.

Back to my original thought. I wondered as I developed this idea. Is there a Six Sigma tool for professionals to measure their value added task effectiveness? If so, I certainly do not want to reinvent the wheel. Someone please let me know. If not here are some suggested steps for how such a tool might be developed:

Step 1: Divide daily professional tasks into 5 or 6 major task categories.

Suggested Categories (These could be developed in a professional team meeting so results could be standardized).

  1. Travel to client meetings (this includes driving time and walking to meetings in the building)
  2. Case work documentation, paperwork and phone work (this includes case notes, letters, data entry, and related case documentation, case related e-mail)
  3. Case work review (reading of medical and other case evaluations, research regarding accommodations required, labor market research specific to the case etc)
  4. Other behavior – (Talking with other staff for relief, avoidance behavior, checking the internet, reading general e-mail, coffee breaks et) Clearly much of this activity is waste but some of it is necessary. I clearly recognize that the social aspect of social services is a very important component for maintaining staff morale and reducing burn out. But how much “social” is too much? A tool like this would generate some controversy but would also increase awareness of the possible significance of “muda” in the world of direct client care.
  5. Administrative Meetings required by management
  6. Professional Development, training, reading journals, case study discussions with other staff individually or in a group.

Step 2: Log daily tasks for a week or a month or at least a few days.

Step 3: Assign each task % of daily work hours.

Step 4: Decide how much of this is non value added and then develop a plan to reduce the non value added tasks. This is the key to this working. Some consensus would need to occur as to how much “other behavior” is waste and how much is necessary to high level professional function Ideally the most important value added task is number 2 (casework), but this is the conversation that professionals in the organizational system in which they workmust have to determine a reasonable ratio of professional development vs casework vs other.

I suspect this may be controversial in some professional circles. I mean… we are professionals. We can manage our own process. Right? Hmm…. I just ask the question. I look forward to this group’s comments.

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