Regulation with Rosie: Lean initiatives

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on following Japan's lead

Most organisations, however efficient, are probably doing things they don't need to do - spending money, in effect, on nothing.

At the commission, we have completed a 'lean' initiative on our registration function. The 'lean' model, which began in Japanese manufacturing before being taken up by retail and service industries, involves mapping processes and finding out what's necessary and what isn't. It also involves a mapped understanding of activities, capacity and demand. We found a number of ways to streamline our processes, stripping out some steps without any impact on the success of the function or any compromise to the service being delivered. Feedback on improved turnaround times has been encouraging.

I know of one charity that would automatically send a volunteer to the house of a victim of a particular type of crime. Sometimes they were needed, sometimes not. Now it phones instead to ask if it can help, providing this service only to beneficiaries who have confirmed they want it.

If all your member branches separately negotiate their payroll or HR functions, it may be that these could be centralised successfully. Work out what you need, when you need it and how it needs to be delivered. Get rid of anything that can't be justified by outcome.

Implementing the 'lean' model can save you money and improve service delivery times. But remember one thing: the experience of other organisations shows that the key to the success of this model is empowering the staff and volunteers who will deliver it.

 - Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission

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