Inside Look: Nationwide’s lean IT management (cont’d)

This edition of Think OpEx features a guest blogger: Tom Paider, an AVP and build capacity leader at COE member Nationwide Insurance. Paider, also a graduate of Fisher’s MBOE program, gives an inside look at the lean transformation that took place in Nationwide’s IT division.

In part one of my blog about Nationwide’s Lean IT Management system we discussed the needs for management to change during a lean transformation. That’s sometimes much easier said than done, so what were our steps in making this a reality?

When we first started our management system transformation in the Application Development Center we began with the definition of leader standard work, first attempting to understand the current state and then moving into a definition of the future state. Very quickly, we realized we had a problem: We couldn’t even agree on the current state of management processes, let alone how the future should look. Taking a step back we instead went through a brief lean 101 education for all our managers and defined champions for different aspects of the transformation such as visual management, coaching, sustainability, etc. With all the managers at least talking the same language we began again in earnest.

Nationwide visual management
Our first implementation of a visual system for management quickly was replaced with a more sophisticated model, but the act of just making things visual quickly allowed us to move forward. Getting hung up on making visuals perfect is a trap to avoid.

This time we didn’t start with leader standard work, opting instead for making the work of management visible. This proved to be a wise decision for us as it quickly eliminated the arguments about what current state looked like. Our first attempts were rudimentary but provided us the context we needed to move forward. Elements of the visual management system included an accountability board, transformation items, and any special assignments.

Once the work was visual we were quickly able to see all the waste in the system and create leader standard work that emphasized the value-adding activities that lean managers should do every day. Successive layers of standard work were created up and down the management chain that reinforced the desired behaviors through cadenced gemba walks, auditing mechanisms, and a focus on process excellence as a leading indicator instead of the typical focus on results.

This series of three stand-up meetings that occur daily allow very fast escalations as well as deployment of process improvements.

The next step for us in the transformation included a more robust accountability system. While leader standard work, including gemba walks and visual management, went a long way for us, there was still something missing. Following the patterns David Mann outlines in his book Creating a Lean Culture, we implemented a three tier accountability system. This consisted of three daily stand-up meetings all held at their respective visual management boards.

The implementation of the accountability processes ended what we considered to be phase one of our transformation. We still had a long way to go and lots of improvements to be made, but at this point we were all at least moving in a common direction and had an understanding of our true north. Our journey will never be complete, but with the basics of a lean management system we were finally able to truly support our associates in delivering ever higher value to our customers.

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