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DMAIC Application in a Retail Banking Environment

Posted on September 18, 2014 in Case Studies


Application of DMAIC in service or transactional environment has always been viewed in having a bigger challenge as compare to manufacturing. However, the assumption can be challenged through ensuring a focus objective plus the commitment of the project team leader and its members throughout the project life cycle.

This case happened at a retail banking environment where the identified project team (with external coaching support by Neville Clarke) were tasked to improve their credit facility application process. Currently, it was feedback with long processing lead time due to non-value added activities suspected in place. The scope covered multi-sites within the region with the objective for efficiency improvement and work standardization.

A pilot site was then identified as a model branch and the successes achieved from this site would then be replicated to other sites. Based on the principles of Lean Sigma, the team approached this project using the DMAIC approach.  At the end of each phase, it was scheduled with a toll-gate review (chaired by project sponsor and the working committee) to ensure the rigor and rhythm of DMAIC. In addition, the project team members were adequately trained beforehand, with the project team leader equipped with the knowledge of a Lean Sigma Green Belt.

Starting from Define Phase, the project charter was established and agreed upon in terms of its problem statement, business case, goal statement and project scope. The processing lead time was targeted to reduce 50% from current situation in 3 months. Related financial benefits were estimated together with their finance team that would be validated at the end of Control phase.

The team proceeded to Measure phase to understand the ‘As-Is’ situation through Value Stream Mapping and Process Flow analysis. Apart from performing value added analysis, the team was facilitated to stratify the ‘As-Is’ situation in the aspect of fulfillment (provider) versus consumption (customer). This helped the team to review the area for improvement from the bank’s perspective and from customers’ experience. Data and information collection activity was performed in order to provide additional inputs required to clearly understand what was happening at that time.

During data and information collection process, resistance was observed with some area owners for not being cooperative where these area owners felt ‘threatened’ of being reviewed and scrutinized. To overcome this, a communication session was held with them together with the management team and the project sponsor. All area owners were assured that this initiative was meant to create a better working life instead of a fault-finding activity.
Then came to Analyse phase for the team to dive in to the problem to identify and verify the causing factors of the process inefficiencies at credit facility application. Conflicts between area owners arose with finger pointing to one another on who should be blamed for the inefficiencies. To overcome this, facts and figures were gathered for verifying the suspicions between participating area owners.

After concluding the major causing factors at Analyse phase, the team moved on to Improve phase to identify solutions needed. Each solution was evaluated for it suitability before performing trials or full implementation. From the successful trials achieved, it was observed that all participating employees from the pilot site were motivated to see more solutions to be implemented with earlier disagreement put aside.

Finally at Control phase, controls were in place with monitoring and feedback systems, plus process documents updated for the pilot site. This is to ensure sustenance of the results gained. As part of the Control phase initiative, mistake-proofing methods were put in place to those manual controls that could cause inadvertent errors.

The bigger challenge has in fact just started after a small celebration, i.e. solution replication to other sites. Due to strong demarcation in this bank’s working environment, getting every site’s acceptance was of no easy task. To overcome this, all involved site managers were first invited to the pilot site where the achievements were presented by the area owners and not by the project team.

A road show was then carried out with one-to-one interview with the site managers, to understand the working climate and the behaviour of their staff. After all the information was gathered, the project team reviewed and fine-tuned the solutions feasibility on each site to be replicated. This greatly enhanced the acceptance level of the solutions from each site, which led to overall success at the end.

Undoubtedly, it would ideal to get everyone to buy-in an idea but that hardly happen in practically. Therefore, the replication strategy for this project was to get to those in favour with this idea before attempting on those against it by understanding and aligning their needs and requirements to what needed to be changed. Last but not least, the cooperation and support of the management team was also one of the critical success factors to make this project happen.

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