Observations at the Passport Office

I spent 34 minutes today at a local Passport Canada office applying for my passport. It is a pretty lean operation. It was actually a very busy day in their office, in the middle of the summer, lots of people wanting to travel. I also had two applications in hand, one for myself and one for one of my children, on two different forms. All things considered, 34 minutes is a very good time. (I’ve been there before, on a much less busy winter day, was out in a fraction of this time, so I kind of know the source of variation.)

I had some time to observe and sketch the workflow. Here it is:

The efficiency ratio in the case of my ticket was 23.5% (value-added time, 8 minutes, divided by 34), which is pretty good.

The check-in station was clearly building quality in. The parts of application, photos, and attachments were checked and arranged in a particular, standardized order (seiketsu – one of the five S’s). If you forgot to fill in some item on the form, the defect was fixed on the spot instead of sending it downstream.

The efficiency, the quality of work done by this office, and its obsessive thinking about the process clearly put to shame most software development organizations.

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