Lean Office

Be Careful What You Measure, You Just Might Improve It

By Jon Miller Published on December 22nd, 2003

A continuous improvement manager at a mortgage processing firm told us how their Risk Assessment team was struggling. Their sales force consists of mortgage brokers who are independent, and their job is to sign up people looking for loans. There is a hand off to Risk Assessment for review. The Risk Assessment people do their best to approve or deny the loan application. Their function is to weed out the high risk loans. This firm measures success on the volume of mortgage requests approved. There is tremendous pressure to OK these loan applications, since volume is what drives the company. The pressure to approve the loans and make the volume reduces the quality of the loans. The pressure to turn around the applications makes it harder to do a correct analysis. This results in some questionable applications being approved. The volume driven metric looks good, but the costs increase. The large volume of loan applications causes the need to hire more people in Risk Assessment. People are hired, volumes are increased, yet costs increase. This is an example of a “push” from sales (overproduction) resulting in loans in process (inventory) at the Risk Assessment stage. This results in poorly analyzed loans (defects). The metrics were optimizing across a limited part of the process rather than through the entire Value Stream. The metrics used to judge success, volume through one process, must be revised to reflect the value through the whole system (profitable loans). This is an example of how expanding Lean thinking into a purely service company can streamline a process, improve customer service, and the quality of work life for the people in the firm.

  1. john cass

    December 23, 2003 - 4:22 am

    Sounds like lean can really help with operational excellance. I recently read a book called FusionBranding by Nick Wreden. He talks about business improvement processes in his book about branding.

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