Magazine article Corrections Forum

Task Master

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Task Master

Article excerpt

Calipatria State Prison is one of California's 33 state prisons. The charter of the facility is to provide for the confinement of minimum custody inmates and maximum custody inmates who are willing to participate in academic programs, prison industries or support services. Additionally, a portion of the facility is designated for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services to house inmates that are within 30 to 45 days of scheduled release. Calipatria has more than 1,000 staff members and an annual operating budget of $78 million.

With the shear number of inmates and staff, managing incoming correspondence, including requests for information from family members of inmates and the courts, in addition to the general work assignments for staff members is a challenge of major proportions. Five years ago, this was managed using paper work requests and a system of colored folders. Often paper requests were misplaced, or misfiled leading to confusion and a time-consuming process of tracking down the work request and investigating the history of what had or had not been completed. The prison needed a more efficient way of managing this process to eliminate lost time and wasted effort.

The key to boosting efficiency and accountability was to implement task management procedures to oversee all work and correspondence at the facility. In other words, management implemented a systematic approach to helping employees answer this fundamental question: "What are the most important tasks I need to complete today?"

During the course of everyday work and correspondence at the prison, planned tasks spawn many other unforeseen tasks: Additional inquiries, problems, repairs, enhancements and action items abound. However, without a place and procedure to log this information work could easily bog down, proceed in the wrong direction or stop altogether.

Calipatria needed a way to assign, track and measure tasks and correspondence separately from their other systems. Using a system specifically designed to manage tasks allows groups to quickly identify bottlenecks, tweak workloads of team members and provide management with a real-world glimpse of how much work has been done-including those unforeseeable issues that crop up and need to be resolved.

Ultimately putting task management in place has helped give the prison the tools and information necessary to collaborate and manage their workload as a team.

Key elements of Calipatria's task management approach include the following:

Classify-Define the type of work: Correspondence, Repair, Action Item, etc. It helps everyone understand what needs to be done.

Target-Target tasks to milestones-not necessarily datesthat all team members understand. Measuring progress is easier when remaining tasks and issues can be related back to common milestones, keeping team members focused and working toward a shared goal.

Prioritize-All team members should understand the priority system. If priority 1 is critical and priority 3 the least critical, it makes no sense to make all tasks priority 1.

Collaborate-Get the right tasks assigned to the right people and get the help they need. Make sure that ownership is clear and reasonable. Workloads have to be balanced and fair and it should be easy for people to get the help they need from other team members.

Check Status Track task status. It should be easy to see what is completed, what remains to be completed, and what issues exist. …

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