HR
May 7, 2012

Leaning the Saskatchewan public service

In November, we reported on the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s lean methodology for efficiencies and the launch of initiatives within the ministry and throughout provincial health regions. Following Health’s successes, the Saskatchewan Public Service Commission (PSC) was tasked in June 2010 with rolling out the lean methodology across other ministries. It is using the process to improve human resource management practices.

 

Shorter staffing turnaround times. Faster classification procedures. Simpler timecard processes.

“e asked our clients what they would like us to change,” said Saskatchewan Public Service Commission Deputy Minister and Chair Don Wincherauk, “and in our most recent client survey, staffing and classification topped the list. We also know deputy ministers would welcome changes to timecards and related processes.”

These improved human resource management practices are among significant gains expected as the Saskatchewan public service implements the Lean approach across all ministries.

“We know that this approach is effective and works well in Saskatchewan,” said June Draude, minister responsible for the PSC. “We also know that government needs to be innovative and more efficient – and we want and need the public service to be part of that change.”

Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to apply lean across all ministries. The goal is to put the needs of those served at the forefront, and improve the quality and efficiency of programs and services.

The government-wide initiative began in summer 2010 with training sessions to introduce deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and executive directors to lean. This provided the basis for a common understanding and approach across the public service, to ensure that everyone – from the deputy minister right down to frontline staff – speaks the same language. To date, 250 executives have attended.

The lean methodology empowers employees – frontline service providers who know work processes best and know where changes are needed to generate and implement innovative solutions. Employees are encouraged to bring forward suggestions for review, and they are involved in, and receive training during, each value stream mapping event. Each event involves mapping a current end-to-end business process: identifying waste such as bottlenecks, delays or duplication of effort; designing a process to eliminate waste and deliver better value; and developing an implementation plan for change.

It is anticipated that this top-down, bottom-up approach will pay dividends.

“This is a textbook perfect approach, and over time will result in massive efficiency improvements and development of a culture of continuous improvement in Saskatchewan’s public service,” said Haneef Chagani, a partner in Westmark Consulting LLP, the firm selected to work with the PSC and ministries on this project.

All ministries have been mandated to identify at least two key value streams for improvement. Those currently underway range from the Public Guardian and Trustee payment process (Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General) and the contract and grant payment processes for school divisions and early learning child care facilities (Ministry of Education), to the PSC’s reviews of several people management practices, including staffing, classification and timecards.

While some problems will be quick to fix, others will take longer to analyze, test solutions and deliver results. The PSC will centrally monitor, coordinate and report progress across ministries, and major successes will be reported publicly. Successes are also being shared with public service employees.

“Employees are engaged and committed,” said Draude. “They are excited. Together, ministries have identified tremendous improvements.”

  • Staffing: Turnaround times for permanent full-time positions were trending upward, to an average of 85 days. A review in 2009 resulted in a reduction to 58 days, with a goal of 35 days. Through Lean, a new goal of 31 days was set, with an express-lane, fast-track process of nine days under development for certain positions.
  • Classification: In 2009-10, it took an average of 138 days to classify an encumbered position, and 48 days to classify a vacant position. The goal is to reduce encumbered reviews to an average of 35 days, and reviews of vacant positions to five days by the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year.
  • Timecards: The goal is to reduce the time employees and managers spend completing, reviewing and signing these off by 50 percent, and to reduce data entry time by 50 percent, as well as reducing the time spent checking timecards and making corrections.

“We are making a difference for our clients in ministries, so that they, in turn, can provide better service to the Saskatchewan public,” said Wincherauk.

 

Shelley Banks is communications director for the Saskatchewan Public Service Commission (shelley.banks@gov.sk.ca). She prepared the article with the assistance of the PSC lean team.

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