Yes, most organizations would be well served by identifying all the people checking other peoples work as all or part of their job. Big organizations are just full of checking and any process where work products wind through various teams is sure to have lots of it. It is easy to miss though because traditional process approaches focus too much on conference rooms and unneeded complexity for the task at hand. When looking at efficiency, you really want to get out in the field and at desks observing actual work. I like the “checker” term because it is easy to describe and when you are actively looking for it, you will not miss it.
For me, checking includes document reviews, approvals, and other types of oversight that very often gets out of hand. The other aspect of checking is that it tends to be triggered by quality issues that were tough to resolve so checking was added just to survive. I have often found cases where checking was still occurring when the underlying quality issue had been resolved years before. Organizations are often reluctant to eliminate these activities and senior managers often unknowingly contribute to this. The more distressing situation is the one where severe quality issues persist and must be addressed to eliminate the checking. These checking steps are a canary in the coal mine for deeper quality problems.
So how do you find checking? You have to go out in the field and observe real work getting done. Pulling people into a conference room rarely reveals insights about these activities. Getting out and having someone walk you through how they do their job can be very revealing. I have developed a simple spreadsheet tool for recording the details of what people are doing along with descriptive notes that can be used later to evaluate the process in more detail. Many of the graphic formats are just insufficient. The Learn to See method is fine for high level summaries but does not efficiently represent this kind of detail (although the updated formats are much better). Traditional flow charts do not adequately represent the real flow of work (for instance, that a certain decision and review loops happen ten times). Any of these methods can work, I am just pointing out some short falls that I have seen in the real world.
I have seen many instances where entire teams were dedicated to checking the work of another team. In other instances everyone is doing some of this. I nearly always see this in back office and support processes though.
So in short,
- Look for the checking explicitly
- Observe the actual work (do not do this in a conference room with stickies!)
- Find the root cause issue that led to the checking to begin with (and remember that it may not be there any more)