Design Thinking with Anna Tagliapietra

Design Thinking with Anna Tagliapietra

by Patrick Adams | Jan 18, 2022

 

Today on the podcast, I’m talking with Anna Tagliapietra, an Italian Lean Office trainer and consultant. Anna mixes methods and tools from design thinking and design sprint to the traditional Lean tools using micro structures to help people interact and find ideas during their improvement projects

 

In this episode, Anna talks about design thinking in Lean and how organizations can use micro structures. 

 

What You’ll Learn This Episode:

 

  • Anna’s background in Lean
  • What is a micro structure
  • How you can use a micro structure at a Kaizen event
  • The benefit of silent voting during an event
  • How microstructure or liberating structures can help in Lean projects or Six Sigma projects
  • Where you can use micro structures and liberating structures 
  • Ecocycle planning
  • Purpose to practice and how to use it
  • Lightning decision jam
  • Time boxing and why it’s important 

 

About the Guest:

 

Anna Tagliapietra is an Italian Lean Office trainer and consultant.

 

She comes from the marketing and communication sector and was a partner in an advertising company before committing 100% in her Lean career.

 

Anna worked for Ferrari, Scavolini and Clementoni and is now training a group of Lean Practitioners for Gucci RTW.

 

In order to make good use of her former education, Anna mixes methods and tools from Design Thinking and Design Sprint to the traditional Lean tools, using microstructures to help people interact and find ideas during their improvement projects.

 

Important Links: 

https://www.liberatingstructures.com/

https://www.instagram.com/leanoffice/?hl=en

https://www.linkedin.com/in/annatagliapietra/

https://www.youtube.com/c/AJSmart

https://www.youtube.com/c/AnnaTagliapietra

 

Full Episode Transcript: 

 

Patrick Adams  

Welcome to the Lean solutions podcast where we discuss business solutions to help listeners develop and implement action plans for true Lean process improvement. I am your host, Patrick Adams. Hello, and welcome to the show. Our guest today is Anna Talia Putra. And she is an Italian lean office trainer and consultant. And in order to make good use of her former education, Anna mixes methods and tools from design thinking and design sprint to the traditional Lean tools using micro structures to help people interact and find ideas during their improvement projects. I’m super excited to have you on the show. Ana, I believe you are the first one to speak about design thinking. So this is going to be a fun show. Welcome to the show.

Anna Tagliapietra  

Thank you for having me here. I’m very excited. It’s my first time on a podcast. So I’m very happy and glad to be here.

Patrick Adams  

Oh, that’s exciting. And where are you calling in from? I know we obviously hear the difference. The different accent? Where are you?

Anna Tagliapietra  

I’m from Verona. So Romeo and Juliet? Town.

Patrick Adams  

Oh, very nice. Okay. And English is not your first language, correct?

Anna Tagliapietra  

No, of course not. Then I always read or I read a lot in English, but I’m not so fluent in speaking because I’m, I don’t have the chance to do it. So often.

Patrick Adams  

Sure, sure. Well, that’s okay, because we’re going to take our time here. And we’re going to have some really great value add for the listeners around design thinking and micro structure. So I’m excited to just hear a little bit of your expertise and how you apply that in the Lean world. So can you tell our listeners just a little bit about your backstory, maybe people that don’t know you, obviously they can go out and check you out on LinkedIn a little bit about you know, your your background, but could you just fill us in on you know where you’ve been and what your experience has been with design thinking and lean

Anna Tagliapietra  

I first heard the word Kaizen when I was 18. But I never met lean again. Since five years ago, when I I met my sensei, I called myself and it’s quite funny because I was training in the gym. And he found that my commitment and my seriousness in training could be great behaviors for practitioners. So I just started working with him. And I was so lucky to begin with very big and important organizations such as the Nano if you know them, but claiming Tony Scavolini and February, were my first clients my first experiences, and I learned by doing mostly, but I then studied hard to get my green and black belt certifications as well. And mainly choose to focus only on the north face because it’s near my background story or my origins, I call them sure I graduated in international communication, and work for 15 years in marketing, sales and change management. Okay. And I also think that Lean is all about people and their motivation to change certain offices. My challenge is to really work on changing their way of doing things. And when you reach this point, you can see amazing things happen. So I also work now for the Italian Institute. Okay, so maybe you can work with me, but we can maybe meet some other colleagues of the lean Institute 10 Some years ago, that’s how my design thinking started. I started studying design thinking and found that it has a lot in common with Lean for the aim. And also for the steps they take. Because design thinking the first phase is empathizer or research, then you have an ideate prototype and test. Okay, so they’re very similar to PDCA. And also the make, so it’s quite the same thing. And last year, I decided to also study design spring and certificate myself in Design Sprint facilitator. And so I started just by just trying, I started using some structures to help people better engage with root cause analysis and countermeasure ideation mainly was the two first things I tried on. And this is mainly because 90% of the times I work with people who never heard about Lean and nor problem solving or process ownership, they don’t know what an outcome is, or an input is or flow is. So this approach or these structures helped me To be more soft in, in their Lean process, meeting them where they are. Yeah,

Patrick Adams  

Very nice. What are some of the organizations that you like? What industry do you work in,

Anna Tagliapietra  

I don’t have just one because I work with smaller organizations and very big ones. So I said before I work with Ferrari, and it was an amazing experience also, because it was my first experience, so it was very strong, and I had to grow very quickly. And I am actually working now, with Gucci. Gucci ready to wear, and we are working with the line managers in change management and helping them be better leaders and support their people. And also with the Italian Institute, we are training some resources in their Indian certification.

Patrick Adams  

Very nice. That’s amazing. Some really, really great experiences, I’m sure coming out of those, those relationships. So you mentioned microstructures, a couple of times in for those that maybe are not familiar with design thinking or micro structures, can you give us an overview of what is a micro structure?

Anna Tagliapietra  

Yeah, of course, micro structures are an alternative to classic interaction models we normally use to work together meetings, or endless keynotes or brainstorming. And they’re a sequence of steps, you have clear directions of what you have to do with people. And they always engage creativity, because I think that creativity needs some discipline, practice, and microstructures, give people clear instructions on how to explore ideas, and also go beyond the first thing that comes in their mind. And if you work with an organization that never asked you to be proactive, and to think farther or broader, it’s very difficult that you feel confident in having a lot of ideas and maybe also stupid ideas, just to build on. So microstructures help people feel safe, I think and engage them. And they also permit us to gather everyone’s ideas and point of views. Sure. Right,

Patrick Adams  

That makes sense. And for microstructures, when you’re primarily used in facilitation, correct when you’re facilitating with a group, but not necessarily it could be used by anybody, right? What would an example of using micro structures, what would that look like if someone was using micro structures, while facilitating a work team or a Kaizen event, or whatever it may be, I can

Anna Tagliapietra  

make an example of some of the micro structures that use the monster. And they are in the income text, and one is called the lightning decision jam. It’s the one I commented on your post. Yes. And it’s a sequence of structures. Actually, there are some great videos on AJ and a smart YouTube channel, they are grading this, and you start drawing a boat on Flipboard. And then everyone has to write silently alone on sticky notes, what they think is going well and is pushing the team forward about the problem at hand. This is why you always need a facilitator. It’s because you need someone outside the group that gives the instructions and keeps the time going. And this kind of approach comes directly from design sprint, where you always work together alone, they say, first you write alone, and only then you share with the team and the facilitator is given you the invitation it’s called so they ask a question, and the group have to write alone and then only then to share. And this is great because when you do an open brainstorming session, you always end up having two people speaking and the rest of the group just notes and say, Aha, I agree with the people before. So you ask everybody there to pick their notes and stick them on the upper side of the boat, the one with the same reading that they read out loud. You don’t have any discussion. They just have to read. So one by one they go, they stick their notes and they read out loud. You make another round then outside in brainstorming, writing everything that is holding the team back this time so what’s not working during the problem This time you don’t read out loud, all the sticky notes are on the wall at the same time, this was the part of the safe environment. So people feel free to write what they really think. Because they don’t have to read it out loud. So you really can have the real idea of what people is people are thinking, right? Right. So you have the positive things and the bad things on the wall. And then you go on selecting the main problem voting silently, because we have just the sticky dots. And they have to vote the the main, the main constraint, or the main problem they see, afterwards, they find as many solutions as they can. And after another round of voting, you have a free solution to test in two weeks, and everything is going on in just one hour and a half. So you don’t have any discussion. Nobody is the protagonist, everyone is engaged. And in one hour and a half, you have a problem. You have prioritization and you just have a few solutions. You can test your countermeasures correctly, maybe they don’t work, but it’s the same sure people are engaged, and they are the ones who have the ownership of the problem.

Patrick Adams  

I love that exercise. The one thing that you mentioned was silent voting. And I wanted to just hit on that just briefly for a second, because it’s important that everyone is there, everyone’s voice is able to be heard. You mentioned that as well. And sometimes when you get into a group, especially if you have leaders in the room, and you know, a leader is naturally going to step up and throw their vote up first, or they’re sticky up first. And so it’s unfortunately, a lot of people that maybe are more passive or quiet, will tend to just follow whatever the leader, you know, throws up or whatever the leader votes, because they you know, they want to agree with the leader. And sometimes that doesn’t give us the best possible outcome. So having silent voting where nobody knows what the leaders in the room have voted, they can vote honestly, and let you know that then you get the best outcome afterwards. Would you agree with that?

Anna Tagliapietra  

Yeah. And also between the team, because you gave all the people three dots, or seven dots, the same. And first, they have to just stare at the sticky notes and decide what they are going to vote for. And then they vote all together. That you know that everyone is independent in their voting in their choice. And in the Design Sprint, that’s a little bit different. Because you have a decider. A decider is mainly the leader? Sure, because you need to have someone who is able to decide yes or no, it’s going to work or it’s not going to work or those organization will do it or don’t. Right. So, but this is a transparent process. So everyone in the team votes what, what they want. And the decider then can see, they can say can choose if they will follow the vote of the team, or vote something else. And they have to explain to the team why they decided to do something else. So you have a real open relationship. And your decision as a leader has a reason why it’s not just I am the leader, I decide to do this. And this is this is quite different,

Patrick Adams  

Right. And you’re engaging the people that are closest to the value at work, the real experts in the process. And by having them engaged and involved, the outcome is dramatically different than someone who may be a leader that has some knowledge of the process, and has some later leadership capabilities. But you know, making a decision about a process, you know, from their desk, or from a conference room, by themselves does not always give us the best outcome. But when you engage those that are closest to the value at work, as you’re, as you’re talking about and have these micro structures in place that help to direct and engage, you know, they’re the minds of those that are closest to the value at work, the outcome is dramatically different.

Anna Tagliapietra  

And what I like most about this, my structures are this kind of exercise or approach is that they completely cut out frustrating discussions and arguments, because you don’t have time because every exercise has a time to complete and then you only have to share and to vote if you need to read Use and prioritize things. And I found that in Italy, very few organizations really invest in training on communication and people management. And a lot of people think that being a good leader or a good communicator is a talent, and you have it or have not. But I totally disagree with this. I think that even if it’s the hardest job in the world, you can learn to be a good leader and practice every single day, your capability to use the right words and the right tone of voice. And this should be your job, not firefighting most of the time. And I found that this type of culture microstructures really helped to gain confidence following a framework and not having to improvise with me, also for managers, because they do not know how to engage with people and need clear instruction and a bullet point of steps to follow. So for someone, or somebody who doesn’t know how to do this, microstructures are clear. And they’re, you can just follow them, and try by yourself and then become more confident every time. So you can use just some parts of it, and not the whole microstructure. And this is what I do, because I use the lightning decision to jam it many times. And it always worked. I made it at the end of a training path asking, what’s the challenge now that you have a new approach and you choose to use it because I would like to, to make them think about the constraints and the fear they have in using lean in their environment. And, also one time, I made one lightning decision on email overburden, really, so what’s good, and what’s bad in using too many too many emails in communication, and from them, finding some solutions and some other kinds of interaction instead of emails. That’s amazing. The great thing is, people come up with a solution. So it’s not you. You’re not giving them a solution, but you’re just guiding them.

Patrick Adams  

That’s, that’s one of the things I think that I love most about my job. And what I do is I don’t have to be an expert in any industry or application. That’s, that’s out there, I just have to be a good facilitator. You know, I have to understand how people work, how people’s minds work, and help them to get the expert knowledge out of their heads and make it visual so that we can do something with it. And I love that about you know what I do? So it sounds like we’re on the same page there. You mentioned lean and your connection with lean and using design tools in Lean environments or on lean projects and in Lean and Six Sigma projects. Can you give us maybe some other examples of how you think that microstructure or liberating structures can help in Lean projects or Six Sigma projects?

Anna Tagliapietra  

Yeah, I use some parts of mega structure or also from the lightning decision jam. And to have people that have no idea about lean or simple problem solving, to do a three, so they use the microstructures to make the Ishikawa and to come out with all the possible causes. And then they silently voted on the one they started with the route codes. And then they also use another infrastructure, it’s always the same. It’s always there. They’re just small parts of the lightning decisions. So you don’t do the first part, and you just use some parts of the exercises they do. And so on the root cause, and then they had to reframe the root cause, that’s a phrase sentence, and they had to reframe it as a question. And these questions always start with how might we? So if someone is coming and the root cause is our manager never talks to us? Okay, you have to reframe it. So how might we find a way to free our leader to speak to us? Because how we might do something or find some is unleashing creativity. So it’s a question it’s not, it’s not just a sentence. Right. So when they, when they voted the root cause they had to reframe it as a how might we question and then to do another silent brainstorming on the countermeasure they found. So everyone has to write at least five, okay, five ideas or five countermeasures, and then they stick them on the wall, and then they read out loud, no discussion alone, and then they vote.

Patrick Adams  

Very nice. And from that standpoint, the engagement, again, the engagement goes up. And you’re able to apply, you know, some of these different structures in probably different at different places along a project, a project plan, right, because you can use these micro structures in the beginning, when you’re defining a project, you could use them during the root cause analysis portion, you can use them during solutioning. Right, so it sounds like these tools can also be used throughout. 

Anna Tagliapietra  

Yeah, always, when I see some teams that are stuck, they can think about nothing more than what they already thought. So I always give them sticky notes. Everyone has sticky notes, and they silently have to write everything they can think about, and then stick them on the wall. So because this is a fantastic way to help people talk to each other in a productive way. And without discussion and without arguing. And it’s very, it’s quicker. And it’s respectful. Sure, sure. Because another microstructure I use is called a liberating structure. There’s a website liberating structures, there are 33 structures you can use. Okay, yeah, there’s the website, the book, and also the mobile app. Okay. Eco cycle planning is called. And it’s very useful to map out all the projects your organization is working on, to see if they are in the birth, growth, maturity, or creative destruction phase. So you can stare at it, the reality of facts, you can see you can map out all your different projects, maybe could be three projects, and make some decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. So maybe this could be a great new construction to use after having done the ocean carry. Because you pick out all the projects you have on hand right now and see if everything is useful. Or maybe you can just throw something away, or you have to renew a project because it’s stuck right now. Right? So eco cycle planning and lightning decision jam are great exercises to do. And I use eco cycle planning in Gucci to help leaders save in the war, the managers to make a step back on all the projects and the innovation they were doing. So they needed something, someone that make them throw everything out of their head and out of Excel, or some other planning tools you can use because they’re very simple to use, but very powerful, right?

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. And so out of all of the different micro structures and liberating structures that you have in your tool belt, right? I imagine all of these different micro structures and liberating structures on a tool belt. Which one would you use the most? Or which do you think in all the teams that you’ve facilitated these activities with? Which one do you use the most? What’s your go to?

Anna Tagliapietra

Lightning decisions?

Patrick Adams  

Okay, and why would you say that?

Anna Tagliapietra  

Because you can use it for everything. Okay, in every part you can. You can make the last three hours or just half an hour, you can use just one the first part so what’s good, what’s not, that was the one you from the past recommended for you. Yes. And use it. Yeah, start, start, stop and continue. And lighting systems and finishes with an impact effort matrix. So you give people a lot of different exercises they can do alone also, because they have to always think about what’s the problem? What’s okay, what’s not okay about this problem? Because everything you do have a positive intent, right. So, also if it’s not working, okay, but You have something positive. And also waste, sometimes, it’s because the way they are working right now, it’s easier, and for what they have for their capabilities right now. So you just throw everything outside your mind and what’s good, what’s not. And then you have to brainstorm a lot of solutions, you have to build on the ideas of others. The great thing about mega structures, building, building on the ideas of others, together, we always get something greater than alone. That’s right, my opinion move. 

Patrick Adams  

Well, and the way that you facilitate microstructures, you do allow for a single person’s ideas to, to come out sit by themselves, but then you also use the structure to then collectively bring everything together. And so it’s very structured in that it’s not just a big group of people arguing and throwing their ideas out there and talking over each other. And it’s very structured in that a single person has some ideas in their mind, and we need to get those out of their mind. And then And then obviously, bring them together collectively and figure out okay, what is how we now take all of these different individual ideas, bring them together, and then create some action out of that. And that’s what I love about micro structures, too, is is that it’s it’s the structure behind that helping to make that happen, as you said, it, it, it drives out a lot of the waste that happens sometimes with large groups trying to solve a problem or, you know, move a project forward. 

Anna Tagliapietra  

So distraction and discussions is the best part. Yeah, is it? We don’t have time to argue to make some noise. Just the pacing. Yeah, this exercise is great.

Patrick Adams  

Right? And it doesn’t because it’s fun. It is fun.

Anna Tagliapietra  

Other people. Yeah, it’s fun. And they people who have never heard about problem solving are afraid. So if you ask them just, okay, just do some root cause analysis. They never ever talked about that. They’re used to hide problems to hide causes. And they are afraid because they don’t have a trusted environment or trusted trustful culture. So they are afraid to speak up. So when you just use the sticky notes and dots, and just face the time and have fun with them, brainstorming and problem solving becomes fun. That’s maybe the approach that it’s different from some very structured, Six Sigma approach.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. And we’ve talked about some different applications and examples that you’ve applied to microstructures or liberating structures. Can you tell us maybe a few other applications of where and how you’ve used these tools?

Anna Tagliapietra  

Yeah, maybe another one can be another liberating structure, it’s called purpose to practice, okay. And it’s very useful when you have a project, so you have people that are not used to working together. And it’s called purpose practice because it’s five different parts. And it also involves a little bit of emotion and works well when creating a sense of identity in teams to work better together. And also, in this case, you always have an invitation from the facilitator, this the question facilitator makes, and it always, these questions or these invitations always have the same structure that must be adapted, of course, to the situation and the five parts are, what their purpose is. So, they have to use the same approach. So they write silently alone, then they talk together as small groups, and they stick on the wall, the different groups stick on the wall, what they thought together. So, the first thing is, what their purpose is. So, why is their work or the project important for them and for the community, so, they have a why why are we doing this and why this is important for us. So, this is the emotional part and then they have to What rules do they have to follow in order to reach the purpose so they do always the same approach first that alone then they discussed in small groups and then they stick what the group has come out. Then the third one is the people they need to engage to have a successor, that level and the structure, that is how they will organize themselves. And lastly they have, what they’re going to do, and what they’re going to offer to their clients and stakeholders. So it’s two hours, this is quite longer and two hours. But it’s great, because at the end, the group by itself, decided why they’re doing what they’re doing. So why is this important? What rules the group has to follow? And what’s the structure? So what are we going to do to fulfill this purpose?

Patrick Adams  

I love it. And you mentioned time boxing again. So you mentioned there’s, you know, a time period for this activity? So do you, obviously, you’re trying to get the most out of a short amount of time. Right? And you talked about that a few times? What do you think that the importance is of time boxing of really having a time limit for each one of these activities,

Anna Tagliapietra  

and it keeps the pacing. So the energy level is always high. And it helps creativity because see, people are not, are not used to writing a lot of ideas or a lot of causes or a lot of solutions. Sure. So if they have too much time, and they don’t have the pressure of the time scoring the time. Yeah, really, time keeper. So the clock is running. And it’s easier for them to just write, because they only have five minutes or three minutes or two minutes to do this. And the rules are that you don’t do it, you don’t have to if it’s streaming, and you do not extend the time, but you do another round. It’s three minutes, it’s two minutes, it’s over. If there’s some difficulty or something like that, you do another round. Okay. But pacing is very important in these kind of interactions.

Patrick Adams  

Sure, sure. So obviously, you’re very passionate about this. And I love that if other people want to learn more about design thinking design sprints, microstructures, liberating structures, you did mention a website earlier in the show, I want to make sure that we add this into the show notes so that people have somewhere to go to to maybe get some more information, you know, if someone’s interested to learn all of these amazing tools and techniques, where where could they go, or we’re working to get more information.

Anna Tagliapietra  

So liberating structures.com, I think, okay, it’s sufficient. So you have, it’s not all my constructions there. But there are 33 that you can use. So the purpose of practicing eco cycle planning are liberate structures. And you also have the web, the mobile app, it’s called Liza, and it’s there. So you have to book the site and the app, and I suggest you follow AJ and be smarter, okay, it’s an app design sprint agency, they have an amazing YouTube channel, where you can start looking for something like that. It’s not, of course, that what I’m trying to do is mix the two things. So which liberating structures or mega structures are the best to use in a Lean journey. Maybe I’m going to write something about that on LinkedIn or on Instagram,

Patrick Adams  

I think that would be great. Because obviously, these tools definitely apply. I mean, we use a lot of them regularly. And because for all the reasons that we talked about on the show today, there’s so many good techniques out there to be able to get people’s ideas out of their heads and get them out on the table or, you know, on the wall to post notes, and then actually turn that into action. And these activities are really, really great these facilitation techniques right there. They’re very great at helping to turn the ideas into action. So there, they definitely apply. I think that would be great. And definitely let me know if you do put anything out there because I love to continue to add to my tool belt as well. Hopefully, most of our listeners are continuing to add to their tool belt. So this is another area that can be you can just continue to build your own personal knowledge base and look for opportunities to apply this in. Whether you’re working with a Lean transformation, whether you’re in the office, whether you’re out in it and operations, environment, manufacturing environment, whatever it might be these tools definitely apply. So if anyone has more questions for you, where can they get a hold? Do you with any questions that they might have? Or? Or how can they find out more information about what you do and what the services that you offer?

Anna Tagliapietra  

I have a LinkedIn account, of course, and I’m quite active on Instagram, the account is called lean office. Easy. And also on YouTube, of course, it’s in Italian right now. But maybe they can just translate the text automatically.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. We do have I was telling on it earlier, probably 50% of our listeners are US based in English speaking, however, we do have, we also have many listeners in Europe and, and so who knows, you know, the Italian world may continue to grow and but obviously connecting to your page, your LinkedIn page or looking at out on Instagram, and connecting if you are Italian or speak Italian and would like to more information, but obviously does speak English as well. So definitely feel free to reach out to her. And we will put her contacts in the show notes. If you if you do want to reach out to her, it’s been great having you on the show. You know, we only talked about maybe a few of the different liberating structures you said there’s 33 I think you mentioned

Anna Tagliapietra

constructions fsec Yeah, so So

Patrick Adams  

I’d love to have you back in the future and maybe we can dive into a few of the other ones in detail and talk about examples in application. So thank you for being here today.

Anna Tagliapietra

Thank you so much for having me.

Patrick Adams  

All right. Have an amazing week you too. Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the lien solutions podcast. If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to subscribe. This way you’ll get updates as new episodes become available. If you feel so inclined. Please give us a review. Thank you so much.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.

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