Assessing Service Excellence:
The Lean Office Audit (LOA) allows benchmarking professional service organizations, such as engineering, commercial, accounting, education, and business administration against world-class references. The service self-assessment helps you define the current reality, evaluate working conditions, test assumptions, gain new insights, and provide direction for improvement efforts and data for operational excellence certification. It works as a measuring stick towards the smart office. After answering 119 questions, you will receive the evaluation report. Just make sure you are logged in, so you can receive the factory assessment results via email → Register and Login.
The Office Audit Measures Maturity Level, the Degree of Service Excellence → Test It!
The Lean Office Audit (LOA) works for any non-manufacturing and service business, while it is most effective for organizations operating in an office environment, adding value through analysis, design, advice, or control. The service excellence assessment model is used by banks, consulting firms, hospitals and other healthcare institutions, engineering and product development teams, quality professionals, trade services providers, maintenance and customer service teams, restaurants, university administrations, and also infrastructure providers for transportation and communication. The service-process matrix helps classifying service organizations by labor intensity and customer interaction (touch intensity and frequency).
A: Service Factory
Providing standardized services with low labor intensity and few customer interactions; e.g. such as hotel, public transport, trucking, postal service, resorts.
B: Service Shop
Providing personalized services with low labor intensity and high customer interaction; e.g. restaurants, hospitals, travel agencies, photo studio, beauty salon.
C: Professional Service
Providing personalized services with high labor intensity and high customer interaction; e.g. doctors, accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers, consultants.
D: Mass Service
Providing standardized service at high labor intensity and low customer interaction; e.g. schools, retailing, wholesaling, cinemas, commercial banking.
How to Assess Operational Excellence in Service Organizations
The Lean Office Audit (LOA) is a gap-analysis and benchmarking tool for any service enterprise and non-manufacturing operation to evaluate health and maturity based on 20 categories. The two *categories “Information” and “Roles” are specific to the office audit, while all other 18 keys are shared with the Lean Factory Audit.
The 20 Keys to World-Class Service (WCS)
1. Costing and budgeting, process and system.
2. Efficiency management and resource planning.
3. Information management and system.
4. Layout, distances, communication, ergonomics.
5. Leadership and policy deployment process.
6. Management, priority setting, decision making.
7. Metrics and performance measurement.
8. Quality level, process capability, yield.
9. Readiness, willingness to change, flexibility.
10. Renewal, innovation and improvement.
11. Roles, responsibilities and ownership.
12. Service level, internal and external customers.
13. Solving, root-cause analysis and elimination.
14. Standards, policies, procedures, instructions.
15. Structure, organizing and housekeeping, 5S.
16. Teamwork, cooperation and coordination.
17. Technology, equipment, computers, systems.
18. Time management, deadlines, commitments.
19. Training, capability building, skill flexibility.
20. Visuals, status signals, visual management.
Deliver Service with Excellence: Benchmark Your Operation to Identify Improvement Opportunities
How to Achieve Operational Excellence in Service by Applying the 20 Keys
To set optimal prices and make bottom-line oriented decisions requires a solid understanding of costs. Costing involves collecting and classifying costs that occur while carrying out an activity or accomplishing a purpose. This also includes allocating expenditures to different functions or various stages of a process. Budgeting, which is closely related to costing, is the process of translating quantified resource requirements for capital, people and materials into time-phased goals and milestones. The Lean Audit assesses how well costs are defined, allocated, and controlled. Relevant concepts include the budgeting process, costing system, cost drivers, reviews and controls, accounting of non-performance cost and the cost of poor quality.
Efficiency refers to the degree resources used to produce economic value; it is an organization’s ability to consistently deliver services that meet customer requirements—in terms of quality, speed, and service level—while consuming minimal resources. The office maturity assessment evaluates how time, money, people, and knowledge are used for the intended purpose. Efficiency concepts relevant for the service excellence include resource conservation, value generation, waste reduction, efficiency controls, overall process efficiency (OPE), flow of service activities and information, quick setups between orders and service deliveries, back office streamlining, and process complexity reduction.
Information refers to data that is accurate and timely, specific and organized for a purpose, and presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, which in turn leads to an increase in understanding or a decrease in uncertainty. Information is a valuable asset because it affects behavior, decisions, and outcomes. Since most office work involves information processing and decision-making, the service audit assesses the quality of data and effectiveness of information management—which encompasses all the systems and processes for the creation and use of corporate information. Concepts include relevancy and quality of information, accessibility of information, information maintenance, effectiveness of reports, and capability of the document management system to provide relevant information to its users.
Layout refers to the way assets are arranged to support people and systems as they perform work in a safe, efficient way. The audit evaluates the effectiveness of the service facility layout and ergonomic aspects of the workstation design, as well as the interactions between humans, systems, partners, customers, and the operating environment. The auditor evaluates working conditions, configuration of spaces, asset waste, level of transparency, effectiveness of walk-pattern, the time it takes to fetch required documents, degree of continuous flow, and how people exchange information. Concepts include lean office layout, cellular versus functional concepts, multi-process handling, distances and transportation waste, workstation ergonomics and motion waste, interactions between workers and managers, the ease of communication between teams, traffic pattern analysis and flow optimization, and conditions for visual management.
Leadership is a process of using social influence to maximize the efforts of others towards achieving of a goal. It involves making strategic decisions, organizing a group of people, and inspiring them to perform. When assessing leadership as an activity, there are timing implications to understand since the leader might chose to trade short-term gains for long-term benefits. There are also soft factors to consider that are hard to measure, such as influence and inspiration. For the purpose of the leadership assessment, we focus on business strategy, the strategy development framework and the policy deployment roadmap. Concepts include values, orientation, vision, mission, strategy, actions, prioritization, and feedback.
Management refers to the organization and coordination of resources to attain defined objectives in the best possible way. It involves organizing, planning, resourcing, measuring, directing, controlling, and correcting. The Lean Audit evaluates performance management, i.e. how effectively processes and behaviors are managed to ensure compliance and safety, and to achieve desired results. Concepts include planning and decision-making processes, effectiveness of actions, priorities and incentives, performance reviews and feedback, and cross-functional interactions.
Metrics are standards of measurement to evaluate the performance or progress of a plan, process, product, project, or person against known standards of accuracy, completeness, speed, or cost. The Lean Audit assesses the effectiveness of the measurement process and system. Concepts include goal alignment, key performance indicator, balanced scorecard, measurement process, and performance reviews (scrum).
Quality is a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies, and significant variations. It is achieved by strict and consistent commitment to established standards that drive uniformity in a product or processes to satisfy the customer’s specification, expectation, or user requirement. The service quality assessment measures the organization’s ability to deliver services that are “fit for purpose”, the level of quality designed into service processes to meet customer expectations. Concepts include process variability, sigma level, quality management approach, quality organization, quality assurance testing and inspection, quality controls, mistake proofing, process capability, yield and defect rate, quality-driven costs, quality culture, and the maturity of the quality management system overall.
Readiness refers to the state of preparedness needed to face and implement change. It involves having a vision and resources in place, engaging people, and creating the motivation to act. Readiness is strongly influenced by the thoroughness of planning, adequacy of training, and availability of support services. The Lean Audit assesses how prepared an organization is to adapt to (a) advances in technology, (b) a shift in customer preferences, and (c) changes in the competitive landscape. It scores awareness and openness towards change, attachment to the status quo, the sense of urgency, the capacity to lead change, the overall change culture and its ability to drive continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement to drive perpetual renewal is a prerequisite for sustaining success in the marketplace; it allows an organization to maintain continuity in a discontinuous operating environment. The Lean Audit evaluates an organization’s ability to renew itself, to continually create more effective strategies, structures, products and services based on the premise that different is not necessarily better, but better is always different. Concepts for evaluating renewal include back office improvement, service innovation, and management intervention.
Roles are jobs or positions that have a specific set of expectations attached to them. A responsibility is an obligation to satisfactorily perform a task, which has a consequent penalty for failure. A clear definition of roles and responsibilities is a prerequisite to effectively manage people and processes. People understand where they fit into the organization, what their management structure is, the jobs and tasks they are assigned to do, and which results they are accountable for. This also prevents disputes and misunderstandings over authority. The Lean Audit assesses how roles and responsibilities are assigned, how competency and authority levels are balanced, and how ownership and accountability for results are defined.
A service is a type of economic activity that is intangible, cannot be stored, and does not result in ownership. A service is consumed at the point of sale. Services are one of the two key components of economics, the other being goods. Examples of services include the transfer of goods, such as shipping product or delivering mail, and the application of knowledge by a teacher, doctor, or consultant. Service level is a measure of responsiveness to meet customer requirements, making it a key performance indicator for essentially all businesses. The Lean Office Audit assesses delivery performance to internal and external customers, capability of the service processes, expectations versus needs, customer service and satisfaction levels, service quality references, service level agreements, and net promoter score.
Problem solving is the process of correcting a deviation from a standard or target, or closing the gap between the initial state and the desired state. The auditor assesses the effectiveness of the problem solving process and quality system, and how well problems are addressed and solved. Concepts include abnormality detection, problem solving skills and processes, speed of intervention, root cause elimination, corrective versus preventive action, testing solutions, problem solving effectiveness and re-occurrence rate.
Quality excellence standards capture current best practices, define the service process and right way of working (WOW), while establishing a baseline for improvement. The Lean Office Audit assesses to which degree processes follow standards and the effectiveness of procedures to ensure predictable service outcomes. Concepts include accessibility of product specifications and process standards, procedure quality, capability maturity model, content and controls, usefulness to guide workers and managers, update frequency, and link between standards and continuous improvement process.
Structure is the foundation of a safe and efficient workplace. The Lean Audit assesses organizational level in the office based on the 5S concept that a place is defined for each item and all items are kept at their defined places. The auditor looks at the general appearance and cleanliness of the office and service-delivery environment, organizational standards, training and 5S knowledge, abnormality tagging, 5S checklists, housekeeping process, discipline to standards, feedback frequency, degree of deployment and 5S system coverage.
Teamwork refers to people working together toward a common goal, sharing ideas, transferring knowledge, and balancing the workload among members. Teamwork is an outcome when activities require more capacity or capability than a single person can provide, or when synergies among team members create more benefits than the sum of individual contributions. People working in teams with a clear purpose and good chemistry not only improve business results, but they improve engagement and job satisfaction; everybody wins.
Technology refers to the applied knowledge and use of methods, systems, modifications and arrangements to achieve a specific goal or to perform a specific function. For the Lean Audit, we evaluate the purposeful application of knowledge in the creation and delivery of services, the level of digitalization, and the organization of human activities. Concepts include benchmarking of service technology, technical capabilities, engineering prowess, technology readiness level, degree of automation and autonomation, computer-integrated workflow, work allocation and monitoring processes, digital maturity, and progress towards smart back office, service industry 4.0.
Time or workload management refers to the effective use of the available time to accomplish a task or job. With conscious use of time, productivity increases as more time is allocated to important tasks, and work is accomplished faster with less time wasted by waiting and idling. The Lean Audit assesses how well activities are planned, and time is used and controlled. Concepts include workload planning and pacing, resource allocation, task prioritization, right first time, takt time, task time, process time, lead time, status and progress tracking, absenteeism and on-time performance.
Training refers to an organized activity aimed at imparting knowledge to improve performance or to develop a skill. As part of the human capital management (HCM), the audit evaluates how well people are being trained and prepared for their future roles in the organization. It scores bench strength, skill assessment robustness, quality of appraisals, capability and capacity building processes, degree of continuous learning, effectiveness of coaching and feedback, how training is initiated and delivered, breadth of the training program, quality of the certification process, and how well career development is executed for workers, functional specialists, and leaders.
Visuals relay information to and between people so they can perform work without the help of papers and computers. Lean companies use visuals to improve speed and efficiency by involving operators in the decision-making process. The Lean Audit assesses to which degree the operation is managed visually, the types of visuals in use, the degree of transparency, visual management, visual processes control, and visual office management.