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Process Challenges in Services

The nature of service work makes it sometimes harder to identify what needs to be changed and how to fix it.


Service processes are far less visible than manufacturing processes. 

You can’t stand in an office and watch materials flow like you can on the factory floor.


So one challenge will be to take full advantage of tools that take invisible work and make it visible.

Other challenges :

Tracking of flow

Unlike manufacturing operations, service processes have no custom around using routers to schedule and track the flow of materials through a process, so there is no way to know where any given piece of work is at any point in time.


A tradition of individuality

People working in service areas are typically given some guidelines or an overview of how their work should be performed, but they are generally left to their own devices to structure their daily tasks. This individual control over work has let to resistance to defining processes in service areas - people fear losing whatever creativity and freedom they have in being able to do to their job anyway they see fit.


The lack of meaningful data/the lack of data-based decision making

Do you know how much work you have in queue at this very moment? Do you know how long on average, it takes you to handle those work items, be they phone calls, requests, reports, bills, orders, etc? Do you have a way to find out? Could anyone in your office answer questions about the quantity, quality, and speed of their work? Chances are the answer is no.


People can’t be controlled like machines

Service processes are far more dependant on the interaction of people (both internal handoffs and working with customers) than are manufacturing processes. In a relative sense, it is much easier to do something like “reduce the setup time on a piece of equipment” than it is to “reduce salesperson preparation time per sales call”.

People are your major asset but they are also your major cause of variation, and they can be resistant to changes imposed on them.


In a nutshell ...

Just imagine what it would mean if your sales people were interacting with the customer twice as often? If you could reduce customer complaints by 80%? If you could serve your customers twice as quickly? Think how people in your organization would feel if they could hire a new sales agent in just 30 minutes as opposed to 3 to 4 weeks?


The opportunities and payoffs from application of Lean Six Sigma in an office environment are enormous...

Business transformation, personal development, flmlean


Focusing on using specific lean tools and techniques (hard skills) ONLY is the number one reason that over 90% of companies fail to sustain their lean program: they fail to understand that improving methods does not mean that people will automatically alter their attitude towards change.

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