Marijuana, Lean management and public records best practices

May 7, 2014

No, that's not the opening line of a joke but instead an example of how the (now misnamed) Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) is improving access to public records. According to Governor Inslee's Results Washington process, the Liquor Control Board has made progress using Lean management to improve its response time to growing public records requests as a result of the state's legalization of marijuana.

Here is how the LCB describes what has happened:

Summary: The Liquor Control Board, which struggled to cope with a flurry of public record requests about marijuana legalization, is now responding nearly twice as fast as it used to.

Specific results achieved: The average time to complete a request has dropped from nearly 14 days to less than 8. And page views at the agency’s 'Public Records Frequently Requested Lists' web page has risen from 704 to 13,772. Many requestors can immediately download the information they’re seeking.

What the problem was: With the passage of Initiative 502, legalizing marijuana, the state Liquor Control Board has seen a dramatic surge in the number and complexity of public record requests from businesses and the public. Because of that, the average time to fulfill a request had grown to nearly 13.74 calendar days. People weren’t getting the information they sought in a timely way, and the agency was potentially exposed to fines.

What we did about it: Using Lean principles, the Liquor Control Board worked with employees to streamline the process, eliminate unnecessary steps and reduce response times. Among the improvements: the addition of a list of marijuana license applicants and a broad effort to direct customers to public records sections of the agency website before filing a records request. The units involved included the agency’s communications, marijuana licensing, customer service and public records staff.

Next steps: The agency’s Risk Management Office will continue to work with other divisions to identify additional information that can be posted to the website so that requestors can immediately access the information they need.

Proactively making public records available online is a best practice all government entities should utilize. The LCB has also created this public records index to help citizens quickly find frequently asked for records. By adopting these strategies and committing to improve its response time, the LCB is demonstrating how to make sure taxpayer dollars don't go up in smoke to pay for easily avoided public records related fines and penalties.