Last October, a 15 year old girl in Newark, USA was walking to school when a stranger, who had been following her, forced her under a bridge and into a wooded area. The man, who had a gun, forcibly sexually assaulted her.

The girl reported the attack when she got to school. Detectives investigated and gathered evidence.

12 days after the attack, the evidence pointed to a suspect, Zakery A Neldon, a 23-year-old. He has since been apprehended, charged with two counts of rape, one count of kidnapping, and aggravated robbery. The trial is scheduled for this April.

Now what, you ask, does any of this have to do with performance improvement?

The answer is … the crime lab which analysed the evidence in this case had streamlined their processes so that turnaround time – the length of time it takes to complete a service – had been massively reduced. Two years ago, it would have taken 125 days to get results from the crime lab; in 2012 the figure was half that. And in this case, it was 12 days.

What underlay this massive cut in waiting time?

The crime lab – known as BCI – had conducted a top-to-bottom analysis of processes and streamlined their procedures in areas ranging from DNA, drug analysis and identification of suspects. Funds were shifted from other areas so that scientists and equipment could be added to the crime lab.

The detectives in this case commented that the quick turnaround time was critical, and the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (whose crime lab did the analysis leading to the charges) commented that catching criminals faster keeps more people safe.

This is a nice example of the social benefit that performance improvement can deliver.

It’s easy to see process improvements and cost-reductions as the kind of dry management material which should be relegated to Appendix J of a bulky executive report.

However, these kinds of improvements go far beyond organisational budgets and bottom lines: they can impact how long clients and customers have to wait for much-needed family services, how long an ailing person has to wait for medical treatment, or how soon a taxpayer can get their tax refund. Or how long a teenage girl has to wait before she can rest assured that the authorities have caught her attacker.

The major steps in conducting this kind of process improvement are:

  • map existing processes
  • measure existing performance (turnaround time is a key process performance indicator)
  • brainstorm and capture key ideas for improvement such as triaging. (You’d be surprised how many improvements emerge organically from simply mapping and measuring the current state of things: a facilitated participatory process can work very well for this…)
  • pilot improvements, including taking measurements along the way, and evaluate
  • full-scale roll-out, and
  • post-implementation review.

In terms of the crime lab case, my comment is that process improvement can and should precede any shifting of resources or new investment in equipment – there’s little value in throwing more resources at an inefficient process. Getting a process working at its best enables extra resources to have the greatest impact … and more transparently highlights where funding shortfalls may exist.

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How long does it take to provide a complete end-to-end service to your clients? And what difference would a 15 percent improvement – or a halving – in that turnaround time make to them?

Call me on 0414 383 374 to discuss how we can work together to establish, and then improve your service’s performance.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Michael Carman
Director | Michael Carman Consulting


© Michael Carman 2013