The Brilliant Lean Lessons
I’ve Learned From Alessio Alionço
Recently I had the chance to talk with Alessio Alionço, CEO of Pipefy, about the groundbreaking changes that a Lean mindset can bring to companies from any field. He shared not only his thoughts about how to run processes in a better way, but also how adaptable, dynamic and modern Lean is today–something most people aren’t aware of.
Coming from someone experienced who developed a Lean Management Platform as relevant as Pipefy, his insights were valuable, applicable and realistic. I was surprised by his stories of how Lean can enable innovations in all contexts. Let me share the highlights of our talk!
Lesson 01: It has to be simple
One of the points that caught my attention in Alessio’s talk was the way he sees and applies Lean. In his opinion, Lean shouldn’t be something mysterious, complex or far away from our daily lives. Even though it was born in the manufacturing world, it doesn’t belong exclusively in industries. We always have processes that can be improved through better practices.
Lean has to be accessible and effective for all. Oversimplifying, we’re talking about a set of principles, practices and tools that can help you accomplish greater results with streamlined processes, in less time with fewer costs while increasing quality and productivity. Therefore, people have to see Lean as something feasible to solve all types of problems.
That’s precisely the purpose of Pipefy. In our talk, Alessio listed some of his goals:
- Evangelize the market so people can have quick and easy access to Lean benefits
- Simplify Lean so that any professional with problems on a daily basis can apply it
- Improve the performance of professionals with their teammates
- Boost productivity, quality and execution of daily tasks
Lesson 02: Start small
Okay, so you’ve decided to adopt Lean in your processes. But where to begin? Alessio stated that you should always deploy Lean in small pieces. First, you have to have a clear vision of where value is generated in your processes and which wastes can be cut at the maximum.
Alessio’s biggest advice to managers is to never make drastic changes in the operation without consulting the team. Lean is about being collaborative, listening to opinions and suggestions of all involved in the processes. Instead of redesigning things by yourself, it’s essential to learn how things and people work in the current state to then identify opportunities for improvement.
You take a lot of risks when changes come all at once, so it’s recommended to take a problem or situation that you have under your own control and improve it with Lean practices/tools to later use it as an example of success. Preferably, with small groups of people. This way, the aimed future state will be naturally reached.
Alessio stressed in our talk that this is the only way to secure the validation and acceptance of the other teams, areas and eventually even from the CEO, so the Lean philosophy can spread throughout the entire company. Small victories in your daily activities become great examples for future changes. Lean has a set of different tools that can help you accomplish this, such as A3, Kanban, Value Stream Mapping, PDCA and so on.
Lesson 03: 1% better every day
It would be odd if Pipefy didn’t apply Lean in its own daily activities. As a Lean Management Platform, Alessio says that Lean has been the core of Pipefy since day one.
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Pipefy employees have to keep a mindset of continuous improvement within their daily routines, regardless of their area or role. He says all honey badgers (Pipefy employees) test different ways to improve their own activities and internal processes. They are empowered to speak up without holding back. He even gave me a quick example:
Let’s suppose a Sales Development Representative (SDR) has a weekly goal of Demos Scheduled for the Account Executives. This person has to follow a script (a process) in the calls. However, the SDR envisions another approach. Instead of asking the client if he wants to schedule a demo straightaway, the SDR could show how other managers apply Pipefy in their business around the world–a more alluring technique.
It’s a hypothesis (for now). A good measure in this case would be to set aside 20% of weekly calls to follow the suggested approach, creating a control group. Sometime later, data is collected for the proposal evaluation. If an efficiency gain is found, then the idea is incorporated and spread to ot
her teams. If not, they learn with the experiment and start this PDCA cycle again. That’s a simple example of how new ideas take shape within a Lean mindset.
Lesson 04: Don’t do drastic changes right away
One of Alessio’s greatest learnings is to always begin changes gradually, in small pieces. The chosen processes to be analyzed and improved don’t have to be transformed overnight and definitely shouldn’t be in the hands of a single person. Keep in mind that when changes come all at once, they stress the workers out.
He advises deploying small-scale changes to attest their success and benefits, only then performing changes in the other departments. Minor victories can turn into cases for greater modifications this way. When you have numbers, validation and people’s endorsement, you’re set up to take on the next challenges. Lean shows us that ideas shouldn’t be judged before implementation. So tests, experiments and hypothesis constantly come with the package.
Continuous improvement is about never settling down. There’s always a new and better way to do things— something new that nobody’s tried before. A problem is not a real problem, but rather, an opportunity for improvement and growth—that’s the mindset Alessio has. Respect your coworkers, be humble, let innovation speak and adopt analytical eyes. Do these things, and the Lean problem-solving attitude will start to become part of your own DNA.