“Lean practices reduce the variation. Technology can help that.”
Michelle Griffey, Chief Risk Officer at Communisis, discusses lean working practices, the new way of working and the role of technology with Jeremy Swinfen Green.
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Do you see this changing? Do you see technology changing to support lean working practises at all?
I think it needs to. I think putting in lean practises, I think in the world that we move into, they will be even more beneficial than they have been. So, and potentially, in terms of risk mitigation, in terms of benefits, because lean practises clearly reduce the variation, and you can help that. I think technology can help that because I think if you use it correctly, you can direct things more swiftly in the right channel.
I think you still need exceptions to processes. And I also think with the new way of working, implementing lean practises is probably going to be harder to assess what you want to look at the outset because I guess when you go into some form of lockdown and you batten the hatches, you become very, very, very forward focused and almost blinkered in terms of, we’re going in this direction. And part of the thing about implementing lean practises is you have that broader lens that allows you to think more laterally and implement the processes.
And I guess “Gemba” are going to be key, isn’t it, because actually you can’t see people, you can’t be in the place when you’ve got lots and lots of people working from home. So virtual meetings are great, and they have become great, but it’s that play off that people have when they’re in a room that works quite well. And in order to enable technology to support us on that, you’ve got to have those techie people there using their brains, but being challenged so that actually it works.
OK, so you’re saying that lean needs a reduced variation, and therefore, reduced risk. But I wonder whether there are different parts or different elements to lean that actually increase risk?
If it’s implemented incorrectly, I think, yes, absolutely. And I think this point about parts of lean is often getting people to understand a process or where it can fail, and inherently that means brains coming together to challenge each other. And this is part of the risk in terms of our lean processes and doing it remotely is that you don’t have that level of challenge. And how many of us have sat on a call, and about to, I want to say something. Oh, my microphone isn’t quite working, and eventually it’s–
OK. OK, I’ll sit back. Now that could have been the critical comment that actually changes the way you develop something, and therefore changes how effective it is and how well it works. So, yeah, there could be an increase in risk on that front if you don’t engage all of the, I suppose it’s the De Bono’s hats. Is it De Bono’s hats? Yeah, so if you’re not engaging all of those hats, and you’re leaving two or three of them out, then your risk is definitely going to increase.
Yes. Yes, indeed. So I suppose when we’re talking about lean, we’re talking about “muda.” That Japanese waste, the avoidance of waste, which, of course, originally was applied to manufacturing, very largely. Have you sort of been able to translate that into the digital world at all, digital waste?
I think you translate it in to moving some of the physical to the digital. So I guess elements are how much waste is there, for example, and taking this into our world. If you are having to send somebody a letter out, for example, how much more effective is it not to send a 50 page insert, but to actually put the relevant bits for that customer on that letter, and then you digitally do that?
So you say, OK, well, I know from my CRM database that actually this customer has got– let’s take insurances, has got a contents insurance, but they have a bike as well, and they have a very expensive ring, and that’s on their insurance. So let’s use what we know to digitally pop that on to the document and even deliver it via email rather than delivering a 50 page insurance policy document where you’re telling them about things that are totally irrelevant to them because, you know, they haven’t got whatever that is. So I think using lean and the removal of muda, removal of that waste, to enable processes in the digital world, I think that helps that transformation or that evolution to bring your customers onto a digital platform.