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Lean Six Sigma in the Financial Services

Industry: Germany

Technical Report · October 2017

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.27000.55043


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5 authors, including:

Jürgen Moormann Ayon Chakraborty

Frankfurt School of Finance & Manage… Indian Institute of Management Tiruch…


Yevgen Bogodistov Ronald J. M. M. Does

Frankfurt School of Finance & Manage… University of Amsterdam


Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Systematic Literature Review of Lean Six Sigma in the Public Sector View project

Thesis View project

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Lean Six Sigma in the
Financial Services Industry:
Professor Dr. Jürgen Moormann
Frankfurt School of Finance & Management (Germany)

Professor Dr. Jiju Antony

Heriot-Watt University (United Kingdom)

Professor Dr. Ayon Chakraborty

IIM Tiruchirappalli (India)

Dr. Yevgen Bogodistov

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management (Germany)

Professor Dr. Ronald J.M.M. Does,

University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Dear friends and colleagues! Management and the Six Sigma concept. It has
We are glad to present the first results of our become one of the globally most popular
survey on Lean Six Sigma. We collected (actually approaches to increase efficiency of business
we are still collecting data from some countries, processes and organizational routines and to
so feel free to participate) data from many reduce costs.
countries, but this particular research report is The financial services industry has adopted LSS
about financial service providers from Germany. too. For instance, this industry is receptive for
The reason is simple: at the moment Germany is OPEX initiatives. The pressure on the cost side is
very good represented in our sample and, in the high because of the long-lasting zero interest
financial services sector, Germany is one of the policy of the ECB. Consequently, it becomes
leading countries to implement LSS. The results, extremely challenging to generate income – at
thus, might be of high value for practitioners all least in Europe. The processing of huge numbers
over the world. of transactions per day represent a perfect
In this research report, we present some application field for LSS. In addition, financial
interesting descriptive statistics as well as services represent a major part of the economy
introduce some of our research hypotheses. We worldwide. The sector thus serves as a
present data in a easy-to-read way and we try to transmission belt for other sectors. For these
inspire you in the further cooperation with our reasons we chose this industry to look into.
research team. Independent from industry, size, or location,
continuous improvement of the quality of
Why Lean Six Sigma? business processes in firms is a sine qua non.
Emerging new technologies and regulations, fast
Improving the quality of products and services in changing customer requirements, and emerging
order to attain customer loyalty, whilst at the supplier networks are just a few examples why
same time retaining control of costs is high on companies have to dynamically adapt their
the agenda of the firms’ executives. Conducting processes and even business models. The growth
initiatives to improve business processes, of importance of operational excellence
therefore, is a major success factor for firms to programs by top management reflects the need
achieve or maintain their competitive advantage. to cope with competitive circumstances. By this
To do so, a number of concepts have been degree of demand, Lean Six Sigma became
introduced over the last decades ranging from popular for both practitioners and academics.
evolutionary approaches (e.g., Total Quality
Management, Kaizen, Theory of Constraints, Six
Sigma, Lean Thinking) to rather radical This report shows some new insights on Lean Six
approaches such as Business Process Sigma in the financial services sector. We hope,
Reengineering and Business. This (incomplete) you will appreciate this brief report, and we are
list of methods and tools shows, on the one always open to your critique and ideas!
hand, the necessity to improve organizational
processes and routines. On the other hand, one Sincerely,
can see that there is still no best methodology Your researchers’ team
and some of them are still being improved, since
all of them carry certain insufficiencies.
One of such approaches is the Lean Six Sigma
(LSS) methodology – a combination of Lean

Sample and Method
In order to test the LSS capability in the free text field, e.g. project manager, process
financial services sector, we started collecting manager, team manager etc.
data in Germany. We clearly outlined that we n/a
look exclusively for experts who apply or have
applied LSS in their organizations – thus having Gender Female
a certificate was not sufficient. We excluded distribution Male
professional consultants from participation in
the survey, since we wanted to survey real
business effects of Lean Six Sigma in the
financial sphere.
The final sample contained exactly 200 C-Level 10
questionnaires, which remained after all Senior Manager 49
withdrawals and data deleted through our
team due to a number of missing values. Middle Manager 30
Following groups appeared in our sample: 83 Employee 98
participants working in the banking sphere, 72
Other 13
in the insurance business, and 49 indicated
“other”. The latter participants mentioned as
their background for example, “payment We also asked about the level of LSS education:
provider”, “corporate payment”, “crediting 16 participants were Master Black Belts, 52
services” etc. None from the “other” group Black Belts, 98 Green Belts, 6 Yellow Belts, and
indicated a non-financial enterprise. 25 selected the “other” category (e.g., “in
certification process”, “Executive Green Belt”,
Banking 83 “Only theory part of…”). Our participants
obtained roles of LSS Project Champions (13
Insurance 72 participants), LSS Deployment Champions (9
Other 49
participants), LSS Program Coordinators (23
participants), LSS Project Leaders (98
A number of 12 participants were from small participants), LSS Project Members (31
financial service providers (less than 250 participants), and 8 participants selected
employees), 17 were from firms between more “other”.
than 250 up to 500 employees, 55 were from Master Black Belt 16
firms with more than 500 up to 2,000
employees, 22 from firms with more than 2,000 Black Belt 52
up to 10,000 employees, and 94 from firms with Green Belt 98
more than 10,000 employees.
Yellow Belt 6
<250 12
Other 25
250 – 500 17
5,001 – 2,000 55 We think that our sample is very interesting and
2,000 – 10,000 22 powerful due to all roles covered and a high
number of participants with a high degree of
>10,000 94
organizational responsibility (high number of
121 participants were male, 73 were female, 6 participants in managerial positions). To the
did not indicate their gender; the mean age was best of our knowledge, this is the largest data
42 years (SD = 8.8); 10 were C-level managers, base which has been collected for academic
49 senior managers, 30 indicated that they are reasons in the field of LSS in financial services
associate or middle managers, 98 obtained no up to now.
managerial positions. The rest selected the
“other” option and added their position as a
Lean Six Sigma Performance
Having people with LSS certificates might not Important is also the view on routines as
be sufficient for a firm to achieve sustainable responses to environmental stimuli. An
results. Nevertheless, our research in progress environmental change can cause an unlimited
shows that a routinization of LSS activities, i.e. number of reactions of a firm. If a firm develops
regular application of LSS tools until an certain routines, however, the routines are
automatism is achieved, has a significant activated and executed – thus simplifying a
impact on the achievement of organizational firm’s decision making. Indeed, simply having a
goals. number of employees with LSS certificates
Routinization is a key for the development of a does not mean that an environmental change
capability. Put differently, “knowing what to do will activate those people. In contrast, a trained
with a resource” (capability) is of more team, regularly applying the LSS methodology
importance than simply possessing a resource would be the first group to be addressed by a
(e.g., number of LSS trained experts). firm’s management. Therefore, a LSS capability
A capability is a high-level organizational would save time and simplify the managerial
routine or collection of routines which are choice.
repetitive patterns of interdependent actions,
where multiple actors are involved.
5-point Likert-scale
Cycle time of the improved processes now as compared to
1 Year ago:
Full-time equivalent (FTE) needed for the
1 – much worse
improved processes 3 – the same
5 – much better
Reaching financial projects goals

Cost-benefit ratio of LSS initiative

Penetration of LSS knowledge into other

organizational units

Acquiring/training new LSS experts

Growth of scope of the LSS initiative

Growth of the number of LSS projects

Willingness to cooperate in further LSS

Delivering what your internal customers
Delivering value to your internal

Internal customers‘ satisfaction

1 2 3 4 5

Why Is It Problematic to Implement Lean Six Sigma?
As we all know, there might be several reasons 1. Many project which run simultaneously and
for not implementing the LSS methodology. We cause ongoing changes.
proposed to our participants a set of reasons 2. A missing strategic meaning: LSS is used as
and asked to rate them. We also asked to one of many options.
propose other reasons which were not 3. A strong link to statistics makes LSS out-of-
mentioned in the list. First, we received 5 new favor.
propositions. Although they are not
overlapping and have only one vote, we would 4. The management seeks productivity and
like to list them here. Maybe it is something you new customers, but forgets about the
did not think of but makes your company less quality. We have many products, but
successful? nobody wants to buy them.
Added obstacles on the way of Lean Six Sigma 5. Keeping IT from choosing analytics
implementation: software.
Apart from the mentioned hindrances, we list a
table with a rank of most popular obstacles for
LSS implementation below.
5-point Likert-scale:
Dealing with people instead of machines in 1 – very weak
manufacturing companies
3 – partly
Company culture is not ready to change 5 – very strong

Other concepts are being applied in process


Our lack of resources for applying this methodology

Our lack of customer-oriented thinking

Methodology is “new wine in old bottles”

Methodology is only applicable in production


Difficulty in collecting data Average

Too complex to learn and train

Too complex to use

Insufficient support from top management

High cost of training

Very time-consuming

Unknown to us

1 2 3 4 5

Lean Six Sigma Success Factors
In our study, we asked the participants to As one can see, the list of success factors is far
indicate success factors for high LSS from being complete. For instance, our list of 18
performance. We proposed a list of items and success factors was also developed by scholars
the participants had to rate them on their in cooperation with practitioners, but more
importance. We also asked to provide factors necessary items were indicated during the data
which were not in the list but were important collection phase. It brings us to the conclusion
for their companies. Interestingly, there were of a multidimensionality of LSS.
many options added and we list some of them: In our research, we therefore proposed the
1. Proactive, convincing, and empathetic LSS notion of a LSS capability – a multilevel concept
specialists which sheds light on why some Lean Six Sigma
2. Speed of implementation and prioritization initiatives become successful, whereas the
of LSS tasks others don’t.
3. Quality of HR resources, esp. of project You can find below the most important five
leaders success factors as indicated by our participants.
4. Binding character of LSS projects The full items list may appear in our subsequent
academic publications. Moreover, we plan the
5. Sufficiency of IT capacities analysis of the success factors: which factors
6. Stakeholder engagement are more important by which conditions? Which
7. Motivation and commitment at all levels factors provide a greater impact on LSS project
8. Acceptance of the project leader position outcomes? Which environmental triggers make
as a career path certain factors leading to success? These and
9. Focus on outputs at each phase of a LSS other questions are being answered in our
project study in progress. So, keep following our
10. Routinization of the application of the LSS
5-point Likert-scale:
1 – least important Average
3 – average
5 – most important Sufficient employee
capacity for project

Clear awareness of 3 Top management

the need for end-to- initiation and
end process 2 support of Lean Six
thinking Sigma projects

Existing company
Necessity for
culture for
process thinking at
management level

Goal Achievement
Finally, we present some information on goal below the preliminary results.
achievement. It is all about the economic result, Please note that these results are only the first
isn’t it? So we asked our participants to descriptive part of our findings. After the study
estimate, in how much Lean Six Sigma projects is finished, we expect to find more interesting
were successful. We proposed a scale where 0 insights, such as the predictors for goal
mentioned “no success at all”, 100% mentioned achievement, moderators in this relationship,
“achieved as planned” and 200% mentioned and other interesting results. Keep tracking our
“twice as was initially expected or more”. The research and contact us for further details!
participants used a slider, i.e. they could be
pretty precise in their estimation. You can find

5-point Likert-scale:
Change of business culture 0% – no achievement
100% – as planned
Developing customer-focused end-to-end 200% – twice as planned +

Creating new, innovative processes

Digitalizing our processes

Fact-based process organisation

Improvement in product development

Improvement in cycle times

Increase in productivity

Increase in quality

Increase in revenue/yield

Improvement of process costs

Increase in customer satisfaction

0 50 100

What Can/Should/Must You Do?
We thank you for taking time and participating We also would like to announce our new
in our study! We very much appreciate your studies on process innovation, psychological
help. Moreover, your participation contributed factors influencing organizational capabilities,
to academic research and, thus, made our and new aspects of managerial decision
business world a little bit better. Hopefully. making. If you like science, if you liked this
As a research team, we keep working on the report, feel free to contact us! We can always
data analysis. We hope to provide more insights find an interesting topic for a conversation!
about the state of the art of Lean Six Sigma. We
also keep collecting data for a cross-cultural We wish you all the best!
study and ask you to invite more participants.
As you have seen, we not only collect data, but
also propose a research report: with a short
overview of most important data for single
participants or with a particular information for
those, who organized a representative sub- Please contact us at:
sample from one company. y.bogodistov@fs.de

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