Meeting with Marie-Pia Ignace, pioneer of Lean in France in the service sector

You are a pioneer in the deployment of Lean in France in the service sector since 2004: what has changed for almost 15 years?

When I started in 2004, Axa was doing Lean Six Sigma, BNP was launching and around it was a complete desert. One of the bosses of a bank that I knew well even asked me “how is it written? “.

Today, many leaders in France, whatever their field, now have a minimum of knowledge of what it is Lean! Examples: At Crédit Agricole, in BNPParibas group, at Cetelem, in insurance.

How did Lean spread in these structures?

The diffusion of Lean took place within the organizations themselves. If I take the example of BNNParibas, this started from the Retail Bank in France and was adopted in Italy in the same branch. That has interested. Still in this country, the deployment of Lean was then made in a company bought and expert in consumer credit. When the French leaders of this Italian entity returned to France, they then deployed it on a large scale in France and Belgium at Fortis, a subsidiary of BNPP.

Does Lean spread differently?

Lean also spreads during meetings between leaders. On these occasions, a company realizes that its competitor has an advantage: he wants to understand and then decides to get started. This creates a community of professionals who know how to do lean and then can irrigate smaller companies.

Another illustration: The expansion of Lean by turnover. One executive leaves his company, goes to another and decides to set up a Lean strategy. This has been the case between Toyota and Auchan.

You are among the first personalities to have published a book in French on Lean in the world of IT. What’s new in the 2018 edition?

Book Marie Pia

The novelty is in the part dedicated to feedback that has been enriched by two cases:

  • The first describes the acceleration of the delivery of an “object” by the management of the pulled flow. For example, the object “create a server” can be realized in a few hours of work, even a few minutes at Amazon. This is the actual working time. However, if we look at the “lead time”, that is to say, the overall time to actually have this basic service at our disposal, it takes weeks or even months. So, how to get to develop more industrial systems to create a server in 3 days? Answer: by setting up a Devops strategy that helps to develop and deliver an IT object faster.
  • The second case details the setting up of obeyas – Japanese term which means big room dedicated to a visual management – for big IT projects. The idea comes from the presentations made at the Lean IT Summit in France in 2010 and in England in 2008 by the Japanese Tanaka Takashi. We built obeyas with the proposed standards by highlighting the information to promote collaboration between the Métier, the Business, the development teams, the external service providers etc. The objective of these obeyas is to drive the performance and the timeline, a major criterion for example for large regulatory projects.

What challenge does a manager have to give for the customer to be at the heart of the Lean?

A manager must realize that he / she has the responsibility with his / her teams to deliver a service to a user who can legitimately say “it suits me” or “it does not suit me” or “it really helps me”. Is this user known? I often ask agile user-oriented teams to find out if they’ve ever met them. The answer: “they are no longer at home” is not acceptable. It is essential to be in contact with users, such as going to sellers if you develop a product for retail or use your service yourself. At Blablacar, everyone must propose carpooling or be in a carpooling and this helps them to build better services.

And how does he become aware of the responsibilities of each within his entity?

Within the organization itself, the manager aims to build a framework in which everyone has clear ideas. His/her challenge is to create a dynamic team responsible with the development of a quality research attitude. This is reflected in particular by a “performance management”, a set of indicators updated by each team, daily, which helps to think about improvements to lead.

What would be your most cherished wish in 2018 for the Lean world?

I would like people and journalists to communicate better on the subject. Example with the company Toyota which in January 2018 announced an investment of 400 million euros in the Valenciennes plant, for production equipment and also for the recruitment and training of people. The next day in the newspapers, the information of the amount was mentioned but nowhere with a logic of explanations.

I would like the media to decipher the why! Why is a Japanese company becoming the world leader in this field? What is his DNA? Why did they decide to do it in France and not in another cheaper country? What is the logic behind? You really need an educational side to develop.

As part of your Operae partners company, you have taken a stake in the Ubikey start-up to develop digital visual management. What is it about?

For 10 years, every time one told me “we’re tired of post-it”, I replied that they were doing service because they structured the thought and the discussion. Then I thought there might be another way.

At the Vivatech 2017 Technology Conference, we met Ubikey company. We had already done benchmarks of other similar products. We discovered a more modern tool. Ubikey needed to raise money and we thought we were going to do it together. We could also bring them our know-how in visual management and thus obtain an offer that would suit us well and that could then be offered to our own customers.

What are the feedbacks you have noticed?

The first feedbacks are positive. Even if the product is not completely finished, there are powerful features. We do a lot of tests based on our actual needs of use.

Finally, this digital visual management is very interesting when the collaborators are not together because they are really far from each other, or because the offices are in flexoffice. However, all must share the same flow of information. The tool answers it!

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