The founder of lean approach was, Taiichi Ohno, an executive member of Toyota during the 50’s. He wanted to focus on production processes, wastes, value streams and the Kaizen to improve Toyota’s efficiency and be more competitive on the automotive market.
This is the reason why, today, Lean manufacturing is often called “Toyota Production System” and this model is analysed by many companies in order to improve their activities.
In 50 years, Toyota became leader of a highly competitive market being in average 4 times more productive and 2 times more profitable than other competitors. These results are mainly due to Lean management and the way Toyota is organized, consequently we will look at how can we implement this model in financial services in order to reduce wastes and produce a more profitable and qualitative service.
Indeed, financial services are following very strict procedures mainly because of legal requirements and these procedures can be improve using lean management technics. As we discussed in the introduction, effects of lean has been demonstrated in the automotive sector which is organised by a succession of stages aiming to produce a final product.
The way Financial services are operating today, using sets of procedures explaining steps by steps what to do to accomplish a specific task, lead us to the conclusion that lean management technics used in manufacturing industry can be adapted to financial activities.
Knowing that lean management can be adapted to financial company, the most difficult point is now to look at how can these technics be implemented.
5 steps to Implement a lean strategy
A first step that company usually follow is to choose one or several pilot sites where they will test and generate their news technics and ideas on current practices. This step should last 1 or 2 years in order to analyse effects of this new organisation on company’s activities and observe points that need to be improved.
Step 1: Define a target
Define several objectives corresponding to key deadlines which could be represented in term of value, time, customer satisfaction or any kind of measurable data.
Step 2: Map
This step is important because we will define every action needed to create value in the activity such as the different step of a car production. We will create a map or a timeline going form the current state to the future state. This timeline or map is commonly called “value stream”. Then we will identify and categorize waste in the Current State, and eliminate them. This step will end up with a process where only “useful” steps are present.
Step 3: Flow
We will organise the value stream as a flow of step that we perform one after another. Then we will turn the flow to a product or service-focussed organization in order to put the service’s quality and performance as main point in the company. This will directly impact the production’s duration or services performance.
Step 4: Pull
This steps is mainly use for production of finished good as we will let the customer pull products as needed and so eliminate the need for sales forecast. In a services industry, such as finance, we will highlight which steps are needed by customers and focus on these ones. Consequently, it will remain only useful task and services in the company’s process as both customers and organisations will express what do they expect from each other.
Step 5: Perfection
This steps is not the end of lean implementation process because we can always improve a service or a production. We will restart at step 1 and go through every step again and again in order to keep only essential parts of the value stream.
What impact can we expect on Financial activities?
We can often hear people saying that lean management is only efficient in manufacturing activities because they are producing the same kind of product several times over long periods and that we can easily standardize this flow of production.
When we talk about implementing lean in industry of services, main part of people say that lean management is not applicable because tasks are too complicated.
When we step back and reflect about it, we observe that services are composed of long processes which could be sometimes more complex than those of manufacturing industries because they need to be specific to each client. The important thing to notice is that as long as we have processes to improve, lean management will be useful for the company. Hence, having processes in the financial industry makes the lean management implementable.
A difficult point will be now to convince people to get involve in a such organisation as lean strategy usually takes place on the long term and result are difficult to see on the sort term.
Many people will ask you the following questions: “Does this strategy will positively impact the financial turnover of the company? Will we see a real improvement on a financial point of view?”
A simple answer to this question is to make a quick exercise.
Find two teams having similar missions such as entering consumer transaction. We will give to each member post-it and ask them to detail how they process step by step to accomplish the task. This will create a map of the employee activity and way of working. At the end, we will put on a wall every map coming from each employee and will see which step are the most listed. This will give us the most important part to keep in the process and we will be able to look at the remaining others and see if it is possible to remove them.
After this exercise, we can now prove that on a middle to long term strategy, after some change in team’s organizations, the company will be able to perform a quicker and more qualitative service to its customer. The financial result of this strategy will be the reduction of costs, (less time to perform a task) and also an increase of the company’s turnover because employees will be able to perform more tasks in a same period of time compare than before thanks to this new organisation.
Lean is about standardizing processes to make problems visible and developing your employees’ critical thinking ability so that they can solve those problems and improve work processes. In these conditions, financial industry can take advantage of these methods and it’s sure that some of them have already started to use them in their daily activities.