Establishing a Quality Service Delivery Model at Canada's TD (Transcript)

Leslie Behnke

Most processes don't start and stop at the borders of one business unit. Instead, they flow through an organization and require different business units and people to make decisions and carry out actions. But getting people to understand how what they do in their role impacts on other areas of the business is difficult at best and can seem impossible at worst.

So how can you engineer a shift to get people to start thinking about the bigger - end to end - process? In this PEX Network video interview, Leslie Behnke, VP Process Improvement and Service Quality at TD, talks about the journey to end to end thinking at the banking group, explains how she has implemented a Quality Delivery Model focusing on speed, accuracy, cost and risk avoidance and talks about the cultural shift required.

Processes don't just happen in these...

Editor’s note: this interview is a transcript of a video interview and has been edited for readability. To watch the original interview, please click here.

PEX Network: You’re going to be speaking at our upcoming Business Process Excellence for Financial Services Conference. One of the things that I understand you’re going to be talking about is establishing a Quality Service Delivery Model. Could you tell us a little bit about that model?

Leslie Behnke: I would start off by saying it does continue to evolve as we’ve gotten more and more expansion throughout our corporation. About five years ago when we started to really focus in on continuous improvement and process excellence the very first thing that I really wanted to do was to look at how we could have a consistent approach and have it be something that we can really teach the business how to do, so that they can take ownership of continuous improvement in process excellence.

Our model really starts with focussing on the customer. Everything that we do from an improvement perspective always has the voice of the customer in it. The next thing that we really take a look at is process. What process or service is delivering a given product or service for the customer. It’s very processed based, which was a different way of thinking for our company.

The next thing that we really focussed in on is standardised methodology that incorporates both Lean Thinking which is really to take out waste – i.e. non-value added steps. We also have a very robust integrated approach incorporating Lean Six Sigma principles as well.

That’s our quality model and I would say the big principles of what we’re driving on behalf of our customers is trying to improve speed, improve quality and, of course, ultimately drive down costs so that we can remain cost competitive in today’s environment.

In banking we have such incredible regulatory environments that we have to adhere to, so the other thing we have added into our quality model is to ensure that when we’re doing continuous improvement that we are also incorporating risk based factors as well.

In order to achieve all this, we established right off the bat a team of what I call "process experts"; in other vernaculars these people have also been known as Green Belts, certified and trained Green Belts and Black Belts. Essentially, this meant there was a core team of process experts working on behalf of the businesses that they support across the company to actually drive all of those things of speed, quality and cost reduction for us.

Once we did that we said we’re going to have a standardised approach to training as well. So I really looked around to see where can I find what I consider best in class training partner, somebody who had a good technical training, someone who incorporated both Lean and Six Sigma and also someone who helped to link all of the work up to some of the key principles and key strategies of the company.

The company I selected was Smarter Solutions. They’ve been a training partner with us for the past five years; we had them conduct training for us internally. They work with our Black Belts and Master Black Belts to do our Black Belt, Green Belt and Master Black Belt training, and then we do all of the training that is more for the teams and for the executives. Then our Service Quality Team, at the Centre of Excellence for Process, actually leads the projects that then get all the results that we’ve had over the last few years.

PEX Network: So what kind of results have you gotten since you started implementing this Quality Service Delivery Model?

Leslie Behnke: When I started with this approach, we had a team of about six dedicated process experts, and individuals. In the first year we had some really good results and got some proof of concepts out there resulting in about $10 million worth of annualised results. This is against a pretty large Canadian company and we were strictly based and only working across Canada at the time.

Today, I’m going to fast forward, we have about 100 dedicated process experts on the team that are spread across 27 business units both in the US and globally now as well. We do some work in the UK as well as supporting our businesses in North America. This year we are going to hit close to half a billion dollars worth of results in terms of the aggregated financial impact that we’ve had.

PEX Network: One of the things that a lot of people talk about when we look at processes is that end to end management to processes; how has that come into the work that you’re doing?

Leslie Behnke: I’m going to continue to use the terms journey and evolution. We train people process to think about end to end process from the customer’s perspective. But nevertheless, a lot of companies, ours included, are very siloed in their approach and organised by function. So we focussed initially on improving within those business units or silos.

What happens is once you get your initial improvements then you really need to start reaching out to the business that hands over the work to you and to whom you hand the work off. Just by the nature of that you start to really get people to start working together and start working on a larger scale of end to end thinking.

That’s actually what’s happened to us at TD. It’s been a very good foundation for us to begin to put a strategy in place that we’re calling the complete customer journey. This has just been announced by our President and we are on what I’d call "Phase Two" of our continuous improvement journey. Now we’re really looking across the organisation, pulling together all of those business unit improvements and starting to link them together from an end to end perspective. We’re really just starting on that this year.

PEX Network: So when you’re dealing with these departmental silos and that end to end process there are a lot of different things that pose barriers. What challenges have you encountered on that journey towards end to end thinking and how did you overcome them?

Leslie Behnke: Because not everyone was at the same place in the journey at the same time you had, perhaps, some units that could potentially opt out; so that was a big challenge to overcome.

What helped us to overcome that is that the various business units who are doing this type of work had such phenomenal results on behalf of the customers that it becomes a bit more apparent when some people are not part of the improvement journey as others are making this progress on speeding up the processes and really becoming more defect free and improving the quality.

PEX Network: You get a bit of internal competition?

Leslie Behnke: A bit. It was also the fact that our President has been such a strong advocate for process improvement, for investing in the training and the people. Finally, he determined that we’re at a point now where it’s no longer opt in or out – everyone is going to be doing this.

This strong leadership stance also designated, for the first time, who owns different processes. That was a big step. That requires a lot of cultural and organizational change; I don’t know if it would have worked five years ago, but, I think, we’ve gotten to the point where we actually have line of sight and we can see how we’re going to do it.

We have to do it on behalf of our customers; the bar keeps getting raised, our regulatory requirements, as I mentioned before, add so much complexity into the system that we are forced to look at how can we do things better if we’re going to be able to, at a minimum, give the same level of service to our customers. For us it’s not a nice to do, it’s actually becoming increasingly more and more we have to do it.

PEX Network: The final question, what’s next for TD?

Leslie Behnke: We’re going to continue to drive this whole complete customer journey that we’re on and continue to get better at driving process improvement and to really look at how can we more effectively link all of our various units together and start streamlining them horizontally. That’s where we think the big wins are going to be for us and we think it’s probably going to be a three to five year journey.