What Bruno Afonso Taught Me About
Management, Cultural Changes and Lean Practices

Bruno Afonso cover

What Bruno Afonso Taught Me About Management, Cultural Changes and Lean Practices

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my journey so far, it’s that Lean is a hands-on process and the protagonists should always be those impacted by it.

In my recent talk with Bruno Afonso, the logistics coordinator at the Boticario Group, I was lucky to find out that we share the same feelings on this topic.

The Lean transformation he leads at the largest beauty franchise in the world has been life-changing not only for his department, but to the entire organization, once it broke down the top-down management style and adopted a semi-autonomous approach.

Because this was a genuinely eye-opening conversation, I’m here to spread the word hoping to help Lean managers all over the world to achieve success in their journey as well. Here’s what Bruno taught me:

  1. Lean at its core is about collectivity, respect for people and value: I can’t think of any scenario in which an authoritarian management approach worked out in a healthy environment. That’s one of the reasons why Lean preaches collectivity, respect for people and value delivery. In Bruno’s experience, Boticario wasn’t successful in their first try mostly because they were trying to implement it like a methodology, in a top-down way. They learned the hard way that to become Lean, it’s essential to see it as part of the company’s culture, not as an isolated practice.
  2. Start with what you got: It doesn’t matter if you have a Lean Specialist on your team or not. Lean is easy to understand and it applies to any business. Start with your most dedicated people, those who are willing to make a difference in the company, and get them to act in a hands-on approach. Bruno’s method became successful when he started developing Lean with Boticario’s High-Performance Teams, which were built to get the transformation started.
  3. Introduce Lean in a friendly way: Yes, Lean can be scary at first sight. It looks like an overly complicated practice destined only for very complex business—but it’s not. To avoid the strangeness, it’s essential to be friendly and gradually bring Lean in. Bruno Afonso’s strategy was to first introduce the basics such as Visual Management and quality tools, evolve to Value Stream Mapping and Kaizen and only then he started to talk explicitly about Lean Management. It was a journey that took over a year to be deployed, so don’t be afraid if your team needs more time than expected. Be friendly with the process and with your team.
  4. Encourage periodic audits to help your team evolve: In the Lean journey, it’s vital for the people involved in the process to be humble and collaborative—it’s a learning moment for everyone, even for the leaders. At Boticario, this mindset transformed its top-down management into a semi-autonomous approach. Bruno told me very proudly: “in the traditional management, those who walk alone go faster. However, in Lean management, those who walk together go further.” And I couldn’t agree more.
  5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: The Lean journey is different for everyone. You can definitely do some benchmarking, but don’t let it rule your progress. It’s necessary for everyone to make mistakes and adjust along the way in order to achieve better results. Failing is so important when becoming Lean, that Bruno emphasizes it as key, especially for beginners: “the main message for those who are about to start their journey: define your purpose and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.” Those are the characteristics that help the Lean manager grow.
  6. “I won’t dare say that we are Lean—we do Lean”: Bruno summarized the Lean journey in this simple quote and that’s golden. It was definitely the highlight of our conversation because Lean is not something you can copy and paste and get done overnight. It’s way more than a methodology, it’s a philosophy, a lifestyle. It’s something you build together with your team daily and in a hands-on process. It’s cyclical, and that’s why you never are Lean, but you continuously do Lean.

In a broad sense, my talk with Bruno taught me how companies like Boticario, which are solid in the market for decades, can successfully change their management approach and culture. The Boticario Group’s case is proof to me that the adoption of Lean doesn’t have to be traumatizing. On the contrary, it can occur in a smooth, healthy way without drastic changes.


As  extra advice, Bruno told me his three tips to engage the team on the transformation:

  1. Make the purpose of this process clear to the team. You really want everyone aboard in this journey, so tell them the strategy and show the gains and challenges they will encounter along the way.
  2. Get the team involved. Don’t let a specialist in process improvements solve everything, and don’t throw this responsibility to the continuous improvement squad.
  3. Respect people. Understand their limitations and why some people won’t want to join the transformation. Respect everyone’s opinion and ask for feedback. Lean is most of the time incomplete by itself. It needs the team in order to be complete.

Bonus: If you are a Portuguese speaker, don’t miss the chance of watching Bruno’s full Gemba Talks interview here.


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