Bank One is a national company with branch offices in many states. Each month, its National Enterprise Operations staff handles more than 200,000 requests from customers who want to get copies of old checks. Data from early in 2000 showed that on a monthly basis, anywhere from 10% to 25% of these requests were not filled to the customer’s satisfaction. Often the copies were late, or unreadable, or the original couldn’t even be found.
And it wasn’t just the customers who were unhappy. How would you like to be one of the service staff having to handle all the complaint calls they got?
Time after time, the bank had tried to solve the problem, but with no lasting results. Then, when the company embarked on a new initiative based on Lean Six Sigma methods, management decided that the check retrieval process was one of the first things they should tackle.
This time around, the approach to solving the problem was very different. For one thing, people representing each part of the check retrieval process were brought together. The team included frontline staff who received the requests, people responsible for locating the filed original or microfiche copy, as well as some who mailed the photocopies. (In the past, it’s the people who received the requests who took most of the blame for problems.) Secondly, the team also got a lot of support from coworkers who had a lot of experience in making improvements.
Thirdly, the team didn’t just rely on their opinions about what the problem was. They used a problem-solving method that required them to
The team ended up making changes in nearly every step of the process. For example, the clerks who took the requests from customers got better training, including how to fill out the request forms correctly and completely. The staff who processed the microfiche film started operating under new procedures for maintaining equipment. As a result, service failures are now just a third of what they used to be (about a 66% reduction from the peak)… and service staff are happy that they have far fewer angry customers calling!
This case study highlights the foundations of Lean Six Sigma, as shown in Figure 1.1 (next page). Above all, the team was working on a problem that was important to their company and its customers. In addition…
Figure 1.1: The Keys to Lean Six Sigma
It took all of the elements, working together, to create real solutions. Any of the elements alone isn’t enough. You need to combine the creativity of people working on the process with data and with an understanding of customers and processes. The next four chapters of this book walk through each of these elements in more detail and show how they apply to your own job.