essential Lean foundation
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Basic Stability essential Lean foundation
The Lean concept Basic Stability starts with a mind-set. This mind-set being that we provide the services to our customers in accordance with the agreed quality and quantity on an every-day basis, without exception. Basic Stability is the foundation of Lean on which we can build, i.e. grow without relapse.
Basic Stability may seem a paradox as we improve by stabilising. All Van Ameyde’s departments that have adopted Basic Stability have achieved their best performance ever in a matter of months. The first departments started in 2017. For over a year they have been performing stably in accordance with the KPI. In other words, all customer questions are dealt with to the satisfaction of the customer within the agreed response time: usually within 24 hours. As a result, the NPS of all the teams has risen demonstrably, sometimes by 23 points!
People are used to improve performance by process optimisation and innovation. However, making changes in an unstable environment enhances the risk of backlogs. Backlogs, in turn, result in extra work such as:
- more questions from customers
- more complaints
- more mistakes
- and the greatest waste: ‘firefighting’
This is why a stable operation has the greatest priority. Improvements that upset stability are no improvements at all.
Cooperation in small teams
The first step in our Lean approach combines Basic Stability with the Lean Work Cell concept. Within the scope of Lean Work Cells, we create small teams that are entirely responsible for servicing their customers. We stimulate a strong cooperation within the teams to meet our targets each and every day. Implementing this small teams structure has an immediate positive effect on performance, as problems are isolated. It immediately becomes clear which teams struggle to achieve their targets on a daily basis. By means of a team-specific approach the performance of such teams is improved.
For more details on Lean Work Cells do check out my previous post Lean Work Cells in claims services.
Management to support teams
Another requirement for a stable operation is a robust and logical management structure. Unfortunately, management is often the cause of instability. Getting caught up in the details, management often makes unnecessary changes. We would like management at all levels to be primarily focused on the teams’ performance. Everything else comes second. We aim to create a logical environment that supports the teams.
A logical (management) environment also reduces discussions and bickering among managers, thus improving the cooperation. We create this logical environment by coaching the managers intensively in the areas of:
- the decision making process
- managing using frameworks
- working with Hoshin Kanri
- consistent use of quarterly plans and weekly accounts
- minimising variation / simplifying products and processes
- creating a consultative structure, halving the time spent
- implementing a clear structure, the frameworks, within which each team operates
- finding time to react to problems within the teams and solving these thoroughly
A stable operation is achieved by coaching each individual team towards a stable performance. Each team works in cycles in which targets must be met. By visualising each person’s progress, team members are enabled to help each other. They see where assistance is needed and whether targets are met. In daily and weekly kick-off meetings teams discuss the progress and if necessary the approach to meet targets after all.
After a while, the teams’ Throughput – i.e. the amount of work each team can handle – is determined. Throughput is an important parameter for a stable operation. We do not just wish to know today’s Throughput, but also the Throughput for the coming months. That way we can anticipate problems.
As the inflow of new claims files fluctuates, we must adapt our capacity to these fluctuations. This so-called Levelling can be achieved by
Balancing on the basis of Throughput
When teams have achieved stable performance, the degree to which the team can deal with the inflow is easily established. In other words: is it easy or difficult for a team to deal with the inflow? Using this input, the teams can be balanced by distributing the right number of files to the right team. This is achieved by either having team members move on to other teams or by assigning tasks to other teams.
Buffers for fluctuations during the day or week
As the teams’ progress is monitored continuously, it is easy to determine which teams need assistance and which teams can give it. For this we do need a buffer and clear rules as to when teams may ask for or give assistance. As a result we can respond immediately to a higher inflow during the day.
Levelling is not just a must for stabilising the organisation, it also has an immediate positive effect on performance. Through levelling we make the most of our teams.
Part 2: increasing stability even further
In part 1 I have discussed the first steps of Basic Stability. In part 2 I will focus on the next steps for creating even more stability through standardising, obtaining in-depth insight and coaching team members.
 Rather than ‘check-ins/check-outs’ or sessions to update colleagues, the daily and weekly kick-off meetings at Van Ameyde are primarily geared to support stability. Are we meeting our targets? Or, if not, what approach will help us meet our targets?
 Team members moving on is part of Van Ameyde’s continuing staff development programme. Team members will only take a next step when they have mastered the present step.
About the author
Barry Pappot is Manager Continuous Improvement at Van Ameyde. Barry coaches managers in the area of Lean and is specialised in Lean within service environments. He is a Certified Champion in LEAN (CChL) at IIBLC®. For more information on Lean and Teamwork, please contact Barry on LinkedIn.
Improvements that upset stability are no improvements at all.