As part of my job to find the best lean stories for Planet Lean, I get to attend a lot of summits around the world. Not a bad job to have, uh? Especially when going to a conference means gaining useful insights into the state of lean in a country.
Let me tell you, it was really encouraging to see over 200 attendees flock to the Ramada Resort a few kilometers north of Budapest for the International Lean Conference last week. It showed there is a growing interest in lean thinking in this Eastern European country, even in sectors beyond manufacturing.
Our friends at LEI Hungary put together quite the summit. I particularly appreciated the structure of this one-day event, which was - refreshingly - characterized by a small number of strong speakers.
Each speaker represented a different sector, from education to services, from manufacturing to utilities. Their stories had interesting angles and provided food for thought for the audience.
Following a lively introduction by Szabolcs Molnár, President of LEI Hungary, Profession Daniel Jones shared his reflections of 25 years of lean, detailing the challenges the movement is currently facing, from a changed role of experts to big data and digitalization (Dan recently published an article on the subject on Planet Lean). His insights on lean in the digital age helped me to understand how much the lean movement has achieved, and how big a contribution it can still give to the improvement of our lives.
Next on stage was Attila Tószegi, the director of an elementary school in Budapest that is achieving great results by revolutionizing its approach to education and by building into its curriculum some core capabilities that students will need to succeed in the 21st century. Very inspiring.
Speaking of inspiring, the CEO of E.ON Hungary also spoke at the conference. Isn’t it wonderful to see a CEO directly involved in improvement activities? Eric Depluet’s enthusiasm was contagious, as he dragged the audience into an impromptu clapping contest first and told the story of how the energy provider is trying to improve itself right after. Old habits die hard, but until they disappear it’s not possible for a company to fully turn things around, he told us. However, E.ON seems to be on the right track, with lots of people being developed and top leadership making a great effort to gain the traction it needs to take the organization to the next level.
Right before lunch, Peter Bosánszky told the story of how an entire Raiffeisen Bank call center was relocated from Budapest, and how this gave him the opportunity to rebuild the organization from the ground up entirely.
But as far as greenfields go, the crown must go to Ilona Takács from LEGO, who spoke after lunch (good choice, as hearty Hungarian cuisine can make it hard to concentrate with a less than great speaker on stage).
The toy company recently invested in a new facility in Hungary, which builds on the expertise gained in other LEGO plants around the world to come up with a flexible solution to the current and future challenges the organization might encounter. From an expandable shop floor that grows along with demand to a layout that maximizes people and material flow, the new factory in Nyíregyháza is an extraordinary example of lean thinking applied to a greenfield (for more on the subject, read this essay from Jim Womack).
Closing this day of intense learning was a 90-minute session by Dan Jones, who discussed four main topics: prioritizing, diagnosing flows, building capabilities, and designing the future with users. Drawing from his recent experience researching in Canada and Sweden, Dan’s talk represented the perfect end to a very successful summit.