Case of the overworked employees/1


I have done projects at several different companies. The names are not the real names of the people involved.

I will divide this case studie in three parts:

  1. The request for help
  2. Going to the gemba
  3. The improvements


The case

The question for help at the start of the project was this:

How can we make management understand that we need extra people? We cannot keep working overtime like this.



quotes from interviews with the overworked employees

Quotes from interviews

The work

The team did highly specialized mathematical and judicial work in order to finalize the specifications and legal documents.  When it was finalized they would then make sure that the policies were built according to specification in the administration system.

Each client had slightly different specifications and there were no standards.  Each case was treated as unique. Once a customer had signed they would first be serviced by this team before moving further downstream.

There was only a little automation of processes.  Most work was done by hand or personal tools in Excel.

The value stream

The value stream consisted of sales, customer service and the team. There were a lot of requests were they needed even more specialized help, for instance from people with a specialized law degree. Whether or not they needed extra help would become clear once the request was being handled.


The team

The team consisted of judicial workers.  Most people had been working there for over a decade and sometimes a lot longer. Teammates know each other well and have known each other for a long time.


Planning the work

Every employee made an educated guess about how much time they would spend on each request.  They did this planning on two metrics:

  1. Lead time
  2. Handling time

The team had an excel sheet for both. In the handling time sheet you could see people planning the same types of work ranging from 2 to 16 hours per request. Everybody had more hours planned than they had available.

In the lead time sheet you could see a line for each request with the customer name,  a projected date of product delivery and status (unassigned, assigned or closed). The lead times could vary from a week to over nine months.

KPI score card case overworked employees

The score card when the team asked my help

What would you do or ask?

Above you can see some of the key metrics for this team. I added some comments based on the interviews.

As you can see from the description there is a lot going on. How would you go about helping this team? Would you even start a project?


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