Lean IT Gets Some Good Publicity

It’s always nice to read about organizations that reap benefits from adopting lean strategies. I found one recent article especially interesting because its focus was a type of organization that isn’t the typical setting for lean initiatives.

            The article, from CIO magazine, is about the IT department at Acuity Brands. Writer Stephanie Overby explains how Pat Quinn, VP of information systems and technology, overcame cultural resistance to make his department lean.


Quinn was charged with providing systems to enable the manufacturing changes. But as he learned more about lean tools and techniques for cutting waste and enabling continuous im­provement, he saw that IT could benefit from them as well. “Eliminating waste doesn’t just apply to scrap metal. It can mean eliminating the waste of intellectual property or human resources or anything else,' he says.


            Through a series of kaizen events, the department began putting the concepts into practice.


Results have ranged from finally weaning the company off IBM mainframes in use for 20 years to transitioning corporate headquarters (and 175 call center agents and 25 apps) to VoIP in less than two months.


            And even though Quinn was a believer in lean, even he was surprised by some results.


One lean event revealed that application development could be greatly improved with pair programming—multiple programmers working together on code. 'I thought, there’s no way that's going to work,' says Quinn, a former programmer himself. 'But I was completely wrong.'


            I was pleased by the fact that this article was generated by a magazine written not for manufacturers, but for IT professionals. That’s the kind of publicity lean needs.



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