Lean Six Sigma projects and USDA Listening Sessions were used initially to identify process improvements and gather feedback which helped form a foundation for the MIDAS Project.
While the MIDAS project is just getting underway, some of the underlying modernization and innovation has already been going on for quite some time and achieved significant results. In fact, the output of quick hits projects using the Lean Six Sigma methodology has resulted in more than $10 million in savings per year (combination of hard and soft savings)
Lean Six Sigma is a recognized industry best practice for business improvement which focuses on increasing the speed and quality of a process. In 2008, FSA began its LSS efforts with site visits to county offices throughout the country to capture current business processes for the top 5 farm benefit programs, to uncover pain points, and to seek recommendations.
Thus far, one of the greatest LSS success stories surrounds the Signature Authority process that county offices identified as their biggest issue. An LSS team was put together by the MIDAS office, consisting of state and county staff, along with DC staff. The team used standard LSS methodology to complete this quick-hit project. The data collection and analysis by the team showed that on average, it took nearly two hours for the county staff to verify signature authority for one producer, going through the legal document(s). Even then, staff was not always certain as they are not lawyers by profession and sometimes it is hard to interpret legal language written in those document(s). The MIDAS team quantified that over a half a million hours per year were being spent by the county staff across the country examining legal documents to determine signature authority.
Based on this analysis, the MIDAS LSS team came up with a proposed solution, allowing producers to self-certify their signature authority on CCC-902 form, resulting in an annual savings of approx $8 million to FSA. The proposed solution was put forward to Production, Emergencies, and Compliance Division (PECD) and Office of General Counsel (OGC). Based on the data analysis and the potential savings associated with the proposed solution, PECD was able to change the policy; now producers simply check a box on CCC-902 form to self-certify.
Going forward the MIDAS LSS team will support the business functional teams as they prepare for and conduct blueprinting and Proof of Concept work for MIDAS.
In 2010, USDA conducted a series of Listening Session Tours to gather feedback from the USDA field office employees and producers about the effectiveness of our service delivery. Over the course of 22 listening sessions covering 10 states, we heard from farmers, ranchers, and producers, and from our Service Center staff, about the pain points they currently experience and their recommendations for improvement. The Report below, Understanding the Challenges of Service Delivery to USDA Producers and Customers
, provides a full description and analysis of the feedback we gathered, and the actions we are taking to address those pain points.