Setting the Scene
We had worked with St Andrews Lean previously to improve our Anti-Money Laundering procedures and we were keen to work with them again to look at our executry process. We were keen to try and improve both efficiency within the Private Client Department and our clients’ experience.
Objective and Scope
Our main objective was to provide executors with an exemplary service, and we sought to look at the entire process from initial contact after a death until the funds were distributed to the beneficiaries.
Our aims for the week were: 1) to come away with a new executry administration process, with clear roles and responsibilities for everyone in the executry team; 2) a training plan and a communication plan; 3) and the ability to obtain accurate reports throughout and track the status of our executries.
Our team of ten was, for the most part, comprised of those who are involved with executry administration on a day to day basis. It included a Partner, two Associates, a Senior Solicitor, and four paralegals all from our Private Client Department, as well as our Innovation Manager and an IT Systems Developer.
Days 1and 2
On our first day we were faced with the momentous task of mapping our current executry process. As we did so, we wrote down ideas that came to us about how things could be improved. By the end of the day we thought we had mapped the majority of the process. However, when we resumed our mapping on day two, we realised we were only about half way through! The whole process was mapped by lunchtime on the second day, and included 240 actions on a 21 metre roll of paper. The rest of the second day was taken up with waste dotting; the process of putting a sticky coloured dot on each step where one of the 8 Wastes applies. It was a good sign that the whole team seemed to agree on which steps in our process were wasteful, so we could already see areas where we might apply Lean to our process.
On day three we looked at the ideas which we had come up with while mapping our current process. These were put on the wall in clusters, under appropriate headings, and we added firstly negative comments to those ideas (the only negative part of the week) and then positive comments to each idea. Many of our ideas were the same, which highlighted areas that definitely needed to be improved.
On Day four we discussed how our process would be in an ideal world. After much discussion we came up with a three step process, where a person simply passed away, tax was taken automatically by the government, and assets were transferred. We then started mapping our real world new executry process, using our ideas as a foundation. While we were doing this, a list of action points was compiled.
On our last day we went through our new process to check that all areas had been covered. We then went through our list of action points, allocating tasks and deciding on a completion date, so that we could ensure matters would move forward after the week was over and our impetus would not be lost We then gave a presentation to the firm on our week, unveiling our new process for the first time.
The end result of our week is a new process that involves 125 actions instead of 240, and which is, on the whole, quicker and more efficient. One of the main focuses of our new system is only inputting information once rather than many times, as had been the case before. The use of standardised letters and electronic signatures is an important feature, which allows matters to be dealt with more efficiently.
Our list of action points is now a working document with over 70 actions to be taken, and we all have a clear idea of how we are going to get our process up and running.
Once the new process is in place, our clients will benefit from a simpler, more streamlined process, which keeps them updated throughout this most difficult of times. Our paralegals will have a system which enters information once, where documents are right first time and don’t need to be altered manually on a regular basis. For those supervising, there will be less time spent on the parts of the process that are standard.
We all thought that the Lean process was an extremely positive one, which allowed our ideas to come together in a fun way to form our new process.
It was necessary for us all to take a block of time away from our desks to accomplish this, and without that time spent focussing solely on our process we wouldn’t have been able to come up with what we did.
Having a cross-section of staff on the team worked extremely well, as the current process could truly be evaluated and critiqued by those actually involved at each stage.
We all agreed that the support from the Lean team during the week was invaluable.
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