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We have been working with an Office of Financial Aid for a local college. Annually they process nearly 20,000 financial aid applications. It is a highly regulated organization that is high stress. Turnover has been high. Students want their applications awarded – fast. Administrators want maximum award because this impacts enrollment. They are often the first touch point with the college for students so the experience reflects on the entire college.

As part of a lean, kaizen event we determined that a way of reducing errors in the award process was to develop a check list. The aviation industry has been using them for years and surgeons are just starting to use them and lives are being saved. So we spent a few hours identifying what data points should be on the list. Then we organized the list according to order in the process.

Then the lights went on. Staff realized almost instantly that there was more value that just removing errors (as if this is not value enough). With high staff turnover consistency in processing has been difficult. The check list solves this dilemma because the check list organizes the process for them. Also, training has been a consistent issue. Never enough training and never enough time to do it. Again, the lights went on as we realized the check list just became the outline for training.

So we found two additional value added benefits for a simple check list: process control and training.