In 2016, the Riverside County jail made a surprising discovery.

According to a study conducted by an outside group, almost 50% of the people in Riverside’s jail were being held for reasons other than committing a crime.

A handful were serving jailtime because of warrants. Others failed to show up for court appearances. Many violated probation. But few of them – far fewer than expected – were actually serving time directly related to committing crimes.

Rudy Lovato, the division director for the Riverside County Probation Department, realized a simple truth about his jail.

The more people in jail, the more upkeep the jail required.

The more upkeep the jail required, the more money Lovato had to spend.

It inspired some creative thoughts about how his jail was run. If he could prevent these non-criminal-related inmates from violating probation or missing court dates, then they would never actually get to Riverside, and Lovato wouldn’t have to spend the time or effort to process them.

Lean and Value Stream Mapping

This led to some really beneficial programs (like The Bridge Program and a communication initiative called CORE), but more importantly, it caused Lovato to permanently adjust the way he thought about his jail’s processes.

That’s when he discovered Lean.

“It’s been a good paradigm shift for the department because we’ve always done things because ‘That’s how we’ve done it,’” Lovato told California Forward. “When we started with our Lean transformation, we really started scratching the surface and seeing why we do these things and started looking at all the processes that we have in place right now that have no value to anything that we do.”

Lovato’s primary tool was a tried-and-true Lean strategy called Value Stream Mapping – and it’s arguably the most powerful tool in all of Lean thinking.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

A Value Stream Map is a visible representation of a process.

That’s it.

Take a pen. Then find a whiteboard, a piece of paper, a napkin, the back of your hand, or whatever else you can write on, and create a diagram of a process. List out every single step required to start that process, follow through and bring it to a close. Make it as granular as possible.

  • What conversations need to happen?
  • What physical movement needs to occur?
  • What paperwork is involved?

Once everything is spelled out, it’s extremely easy to see redundancies, bottlenecks, wasteful activities and other process-limiting problems.

For example, after Value Stream Mapping was applied at Riverside, Lovato discovered how much time and energy were being wasted by printing and distributing hardcopies of all necessary paperwork. He created an immediate process improvement by moving Riverside to an electronic paperwork system.

And that’s just the beginning. Lovato and his team meet weekly, with the expressed goal of making Riverside as Lean as possible.

“It’s going to make their job a lot easier,” said Lovato. “And as they do their job, they realize we have so much redundancy and inefficiency.”

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