Planet Lean: When you inherited it, Patria’s IT department was in trouble. In a nutshell, how were you able to turn it around?
Sari Torkkola:Three years ago, I didn’t know anything about lean. Very quickly I came across the idea that you don’t always know what is happening until you try. My approach became a series of experiments, of mistakes made, of things tried out, and then we got the results we wanted.
PL: When did you first realize you were onto something that was going to work?
ST: It didn’t take long. As soon as we started trying the first tools, people responded well. I didn’t understand why it worked at the time, but people did start to cooperate more.
PL: What is your approach to people development?
ST:I gave my people books and offered them training, but the most effective thing for them to do was to try for themselves. They soon discovered what it felt like to work differently. Then we started to talk about why it worked. Coaching and discussing were critical.
PL: How did the behavior of people change in the way they interact with one another?
ST: Traditionally, everybody was doing their own job. Now we have daily standard meetings by the boards, during which people provide help to one another, ask questions and analyze problems. It’s much more fun as a working environment, too.
PL: How did you change as a leader and what makes a good CIO in your opinion?
ST: Lean has totally changed my daily habits and the way I do my work. These days I have coaching sessions, go to see at the gemba, visit service providers, and so on. I try to have an understanding of what’s happening. Instead of giving answers, I try to ask the right questions to help people think differently. I also try to facilitate collaboration between IT and other business processes. I am interested in completely different things than I was before.
PL: What is the biggest challenge that you encountered in applying lean to IT?
ST:When I started I didn’t know much, and it was hard to give direction. It was a difficult journey at first. Today I have more confidence. The biggest challenge I find is to make people change their behaviors.
PL: What would you do differently if you could start all over again tomorrow?
ST: I would start with the kata coaching right away and I would start using the statistical process control metrics, but the first thing I would do differently is to have people try things at a quicker pace. I was waiting to have some results first, but now I know that lean works, so – if anything – I would go a bit faster.
Sari spoke at this year's Lean IT Summit in Paris. To access the presentations from the event, click here.