Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lean - and the Power of ‘Why?’

Precocious kids ask it. Scientists ask it. Philosophers ask it. Inventors ask it.


It is the question that lies at the core of the principles of Lean. And it is a question that I have adopted as my personal mantra as I bring ‘curiosity’ in every aspect of business and life! It pushes me to ask “Why?” in anything that I see, anything that I experience - “Why do some transactions or processes perform so well? Why do others not?” “Why is this clients’ method of operating failing?” “Why is this client experiencing losses?” Over and over and over – “Why?”

And Lean and Six Sigma have always had the answers. Every day in our lives, in our business, in our operations and in customer interactions, there are opportunities to bring Lean thinking to drive improvement and value. The examples are all around us – a hiring process that takes too long, a customer service process that does not resolve a problem the first time round, delays and unnecessary money-wasting hold-ups. The Power of Lean thinking lies in the fact that it addresses all these questions – delivering utmost value from a customer’s perspective while consuming fewest resources. Powerful Lean principles such as ‘reducing lead time’, ‘reducing waste’ ‘driving continuous improvement’ ‘improved quality’ impact customer satisfaction and customer results positively – no matter what the situation is… always bringing in positive business outcomes such as increase in market share, reduction of costs, increase in profits - driving competitive advantage…each time, every time.
In fact Lean is a culture – the way we work, the way we do things, the way we deal with problems. Lean is all about creating an integrated system – a process – where it’s no longer about having efficiencies in individual silos…it’s about how all silos work together efficiently to bring in unprecedented value, end to end – bring in agility and flexibility.

But nothing works or makes sense unless it begins from the customer’s point of view. This is all-important and sacrosanct when one begins the process of attacking any area of improvement or opportunity. Never forget this. It is the way a leader has to think, it is the only way to successfully run a business. You have to know what your customer wants, ask all the ‘whys’ and then constantly look for causes that, when attacked and addressed, will drive improvement.

Our world is changing, our clients’ business needs are changing, processes are changing – and there are trends that are impacting not only the way our clients are thinking about the industries they are in and the customers they serve, but also how they run their businesses.  As companies continue to operate in a volatile, uncertain and lower-growth world, they are forced to completely transform their businesses by making them more nimble, with cost structures that are lower and much more variable. They are looking at adopting digital technologies, implementing new business models, creating new organizational structures, and making their processes more intelligent. And above all – they are looking for partners who can help them navigate their transformation journeys. Partners who truly understand their domain, their industry, their specific processes, the inter-linkages, the risks and the leverage points in the business. In other words, someone who aligns activities to business outcomes and speaks their language…helps them improve and grow in this ever-changing world…and this is exactly what ‘Lean’ thinking helps us do!

We launched Lean Digital last year - this is our unique approach that reimagines our clients' middle and back offices to generate growth, cost efficiency, and business agility. The feedback we are beginning to receive is that Lean Digital is a game changer that builds on our strength of using Lean principles to drive disruptive improvements. At Genpact, this launch has been the culmination of many months of building our digital smart enterprise process frameworks and getting a number of our key project and improvement leaders trained on specific Lean Digital capabilities. We now have a digital certification program for Black Belts and Master Black Belts that we are also taking to clients. For example, at one of the largest global banks, our Lean and digital experts are designing automated solutions leveraging new technologies for underwriting, customer service, and fraud detection, all critical areas for the bank and its customers. We are getting great initial feedback on the way the teams are reimagining the solutions and how other banking processes will run in the future. These are industry disruptive!

What is the richest reward for me at the end of the day? When a customer says - “We need you to help us reimagine our business, dramatically change outcomes – disrupt everything,  redesign our process and show dramatic improvements; no one knows better than you, work with us and I will pay for it” - there is no greater testimony to success than that. Lean defines us, it’s in our DNA and culture. It is a way of thinking for all our employees; it is a way of running a business. It is constantly looking for root causes that, when attacked, will drive improvement.

And it continues to make us ask ‘Why?’ – At its core it’s asking questions and listening
As long as we continue to question, and push and reach and aspire and work harder and do better – so long will we continue to reap the benefits of Lean. And as I have often said – there is no better and more important quality and behavior that I think is needed in today’s world than ‘CURIOSITY’!
I will continue to be intensely ‘curious’, and I hope that you continue to be that way too.

Good luck – and keep questioning the universe!