One example of this last tendency was the way in which the Probation Service held rigidly to the idea that cases should be adjourned for a minimum of 3 weeks if social reports were needed. One of my tasks was to turn the provision of social background reports into a more responsive and flexible process. There was good reason for an adjournment period in many cases but there were also a good many occasions when appropriate information and guidance to a court could be given simply and quickly. Introducing these changes brought me to take more interest in business processes and in process mapping. Microsoft Visio was very useful. It provided a simple way of turning processes into pictures that could be easily understood and shared. It allowed us to specify the separate actions within a process and to make clear who had responsibility for each action. New staff could therefore see how things worked and what they should be doing to contribute to the effective operation of the processes. They also enabled staff to cover for each other when illness, holidays or vacancies had to be managed.
‘Lean management’ rests on the twin foundations of the elimination of waste, and of respect for people. The effect of involving all staff in process mapping was to identify where inefficiencies or muddles were wasting time and resource, and most importantly to value the perspective of every team member. Administrative staff especially felt empowered and valued by mapping exercises, important in an organisation where they often felt diminished or taken for granted by ‘trained’ probation officers. They also helped people understand that their roles were part of a wider system, incorporating probation teams ‘in the field’ and other agencies and professionals in the Courts.