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How Lean Has Helped the IT Team Take Pride in Their Work

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More teamwork, a better vision of daily work, a team that works in a concentrated way, and more pride in doing a job well; these are the benefits that Mélanie Noyel mentioned that their IT team at Acta gained from using Lean. At the Lean Digital Summit 2019 she presented on how they applied Lean to improve the IT team’s daily work.

The IT team is composed of two people for development and three for system and network. The day-to-day work is divided among projects, customer support, development and maintenance for 18 business applications and various IT training.

In early 2018, the situation was disappointing, as Noyel mentioned:

The team was overloaded under support work, customers were not really satisfied, projects dragged on, and the top management pushed for a different way of organizing. Drowned in this situation, we didn’t see how to get out of it.

As Acta was already familiar with Lean, the IT team decided to try the Lean IT Academy, a rendez-vous held once a month in the company to learn how to apply Lean principles to the development and management of IT products and services. "What makes it different is that we see a little of Lean theory and a lot of gemba," Noyel explained.

Before, we just did day-to-day work; from problem-solving to more problem-solving, without a real global vision. Now, we have defined our goals focused on the opinion of our customers. And we made it visual so that the whole team gets it right and pulls in the same direction.

Noyel mentioned that the team members have become proud of their achievements, building self-confidence from success:

The first PDCAs allowed each team member to realize that they were able to tackle big problems and solve them. Later, satisfied customers started to give positive feedback. Then, the other services started wanting to work like us. We regularly present what we are doing, including at this year’s Lean Digital Summit, and it’s a real reward for the pride of the team.

InfoQ interviewed Mélanie Noyel, head of IT at Acta, after her talk at Lean Digital Summit 2019.

InfoQ: What made you decide to go on a Lean journey?

Mélanie Noyel: The opportunity that we got! The Lean mentality was already familiar within the company. Indeed, Acta is followed by the "Lean Institut France" and benefits from coaching in Lean engineering and Lean manufacturing. Because IT is also a particular domain and because the situation had to be improved, we start talking about another type of coaching for us: the Lean IT Academy. I thought it would help us to take time to start something and to get ideas.

InfoQ: How did the Lean transformation go, can you give some examples of what has changed?

Noyel: A first example is the reliability of our system. One way to measure it is to follow how long we spend on support in a week. We set an objective to reduce it by half in one year. We color a box per 15 minutes spent doing support on a visual graph every evening before leaving work, and we discuss it every morning during the stand up meeting. The goal is to understand what makes us waste time, and trigger PDCA to find the root causes and solve it. We have already met our objective to reduce it by half, but now it becomes harder to continue to reduce the support time.

The stand up meeting is the second great change we made. We set up this time for a regular exchange every morning to organize the work of the day and decide things together. It’s a way to align us on priorities.

To conclude, I mostly changed my mind! I’m no longer here to decide who does what but to make sure that we maintain the things that make our victories possible, and that the obstacles we encounter are overcome with greater ease.

InfoQ: How has the Lean transformation of Acta Mobilier IT team impacted day-to-day work?

Noyel: I think the day-to-day work has nothing to do with how it was before! Today, other offices in the company are starting to follow our example, simply because our image has changed. The other teams perceive us as more organized, more attentive to them, and as a provider of solutions (in IT but also in the organization of the day-to-day work). We also give the image of a united team, efficient and proud of our work. Our joy of living at work creates envy!

InfoQ: Which benefits have you gained?

Noyel: The IT system is more reliable and applications are faster and more intuitive. Our two types of customers are satisfied. Internal customers (other teams and workshop operators) rely on us to improve their professional lives. And external customers (those who buy the products manufactured by the company) are no longer impacted by problems related to IT. But the biggest benefit is for the people of the team! The team is closer together and ready to face bigger challenges.

InfoQ: What have you learned on your journey?

Noyel: You just have to start! Test something even if you’re not sure if it’s good or not. Test and observe what changes, then adapt and test again.

As an example, we tested allocating support to a different person per day. This brought up lots of problems regarding skills, availability, organizing the day, etc… But we learned a lot and we adapted. We did draw many improvements on the management and transfer of skills, on making visual the person assigned to support, etc…

Stay in this dynamic of improvement; celebrate your success and do not be afraid to admit your mistakes. For me, the true Lean theory becomes accessible only to those who really try.

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