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  • philippajdengler

Culture of Continuous Process Improvement

Many traditionally led organisations are set up with clear a hierarchy. Hierarchies form not only senior and junior members of staff but also between departments and business units. At the investment bank it was no different. For years problems in the processes were also sorted out, often very manually, by Operations. A visionary management team decided however it was time to change and introduce a culture of continuous process improvement, the likes of which Toyota and other car manufacturers are well-known for. I accepted the challenge of introducing and embedding these concepts into Swiss Operations. Together with colleagues globally we developed a global framework to facilitate a new way of thinking about process management and improvement in the bank.

Based on an understanding of the business and it's goals a tailor-made framework combining ideas and methods from Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen, Kanban and Five S evolved. I lead a local team to roll out training and coach implementation projects led by Operations staff across operations. We saw improvement in process performance, reduction in error rates, increase in efficiency - and equally exciting - changes in the way Ops leaders and employees began to embrace that they can and should make changes to improve the situation.

From there it was pretty clear to all that in order to really move the needle the focus needed to be extended beyond Operations to include the Front and Middle Offices. Only then could the "front-to-back" process be viewed from the customer perspective. Over time a better understanding developed between the teams as awareness increased of where, why and when problem occurred and how they could be designed out of the process.

Following these successes I was able to lead a small global team of Six Sigma Process Experts who worked closely with senior management in London, Zürich, Singapore and New York. Together they implemented continuous improvement and completely redesigned some processes using Business Process Reengineering methods.

Whilst every single process improvement was important in it's own right, the original goal was to shift how people view their role - not just as a cog-in-the-wheel of the huge banking machine but as someone whose insights, creativity and problem solving abilities are essential and who the company is willing to invest time and effort with to ensure these abilities can be utilised at work.

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