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INTERVIEW – Rose Keanly discusses the role of lean in a strategic business transformation in the financial services sector and the dos and don’ts of bringing lean to a large organization.

Rose Heathcote: What triggered the need for a transformation at Old Mutual?

Rose Keanly: Any business transformation should start with being clear about the problem you are trying to solve. First off, we had a cost problem we had to solve – essentially our unit costs were too high. Secondly, our customer service experience was not great and not where we needed it to be. Third on the list, we had a sense that the staff morale could be improved.

How did you help your teams to focus on the vital things?

RK: When I took on the role as the leader of Operations, Customer Service and Technology, my mandate was to focus on these three areas. In other words, we knew what we had to work on. Knowing what to focus on meant we could go and measure where we were, set targets for where we needed to be, and demonstrate progress.

We cascaded our goals for these three areas to every person in the business – all 4,000 of them – so that everybody knew what mattered and we could establish line of sight between what was happening on the gemba and how the focus areas were progressing.

For example, at the front line we would measure turnaround times on calls and how many calls were resolved and track productivity at this level. By improving this, we would naturally impact customer satisfaction and unit costs. This was also tied into the employee’s performance reviews and bonuses.

A lot of it was perseverance. We stuck with it! For the eight years that I was leading the change, we remained consistent with our focus. We didn’t change what we measured every year. We understood this was all about a culture change. People had been doing good things, but we didn’t have absolute clarity and clear direction before and this was about step change in performance.

Read the full interview with Rose Keanly on Planet Lean.