Applications for UK passports must be accompanied by two photographs of just the right size, shape, brightness, contrast etc. There’s a double-sided A4 sheet with the application form, giving a dozen examples of acceptable and unacceptable photos, so that you have every opportunity to supply them correctly first time. And as if that’s not helpful enough, our Post Office provides a “check and send” service (for the mere consideration of £7), whereby an expert will go through your form and check that your photos conform to the required standards. If you’ve messed up, there’s always a photo booth right there, so you can rectify any problems immediately. And hence the Passport Office will receive a greater number of correct applications, improving their turnaround time and everyone’s satisfaction. Until now.
Now we have new, more exacting standards for passport photos. The height of the chin and the eyes must now be checked by the helpful Post Office employee, to ensure that they fall within certain bands on the photo. But that information isn’t in the pack with the application form, and the hapless applicant only discovers the new rules when submitting the form for checking. The helpful Post Office clerk told me that “lots” of passport applications are now being rejected by the Passport Office. And each rejection costs the applicant at least two weeks in turnaround time, not to mention the postage costs for both parties.
Did no-one tell the passport office about the muda of rework? How could this situation have been permitted to occur? Some possibilities include:
- It’s just a cock-up, and the UK government has no-one with a lean background checking new processes;
- Throughput in the Passport Office is measured at the level of individual clerks, and rejected applications “count”;
- The problem is known and understood, but the fix hasn’t yet been implemented; we’re currently in a temporary local minimum;
- The problem is known and understood, but the fix is more costly than the perceived cost of rework for the hapless customer;
- The Post Office stands to profit from the additional use of their check-and-send service.
For an added dash of dramatic tension, I should tell you that the tops of my eyes fell on the top line of the eye band – which makes mine a borderline application. I decided to proceed anyway, on the grounds that I wouldn’t reject these photos if I were the passport clerk. But will I have wasted two weeks and £7? Will I suffer the muda of rework, or will I be lucky and get to go on holiday with my family…?