Lean Mindset and Culture with Alessandro Lasi

Lean Mindset and Culture with Alessandro Lasi

by Patrick Adams | Feb 8, 2022

 

Today on the podcast, I’m talking with Alessandro Lasi, whose career includes more than 10 years in continuous improvement leadership positions. Alessandro also earned a master’s in industrial engineering and has a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification and is also a Kaizen facilitator.

 

In this episode, Alessandro and I talk about the mindset and culture of Lean and Continuous Improvement including different tactics and techniques to support the continuous improvement culture. 

 

What You’ll Learn This Episode:

 

  • Alessandro’s background in Lean 
  • The importance of failure and learning from failure
  • Psychological safety within Lean culture 
  • Why you need to focus on process and purpose in Lean to get results
  • What’s needed to get continuous improvement to the next level
  • Getting to the sweet spot in Lean 
  • Why it’s difficult for organizations to nurture CI culture
  • Why psychological safety is so important

 

About the Guest:

 

Alessandro’s career includes more than ten years in continuous improvement leadership positions in FMCG, Mechanical and Machinery, Services and Retail industries at top-tier global corporations –including, but not limited to, Hertz Corporation, SCA/Essity, and Leonardo.  

Known for his daring vision and tireless energy, Alessandro has been helping improve processes and drive company growth for the past five years at his current employer, a multinational company active in the Mechanical and Machinery business. He joined the company in 2016, with a mission to create and apply a new pan-European Continuous Improvement approach.

 

After such a successful endeavor, Alessandro advanced through positions of increased authority and decision-making to his current position as a Global Director Continuous Improvement. His unique ability to establish rapport with a variety of professionals, engage people across functions and offer innovative solutions for short-term and long-term process setbacks, has allowed the Company, to not only reduce its costs, but to significantly improve processes in the Manufacturing and Supply chain, and Global Aftermarket and Service divisions in a very short time.  

Alessandro developed and implemented a unique Global Business System (XPS) for Service and Aftermarket currently used in 30+ countries, and he successfully managed 40+ strategic business transformation improvement projects with multimillion budgets on four continents in only three years, including various restructuring and growth initiatives. For his excellent results, he was declared the 2020 Global Continuous Improvement Gold Award Winner, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion for Europe at his current employer in 2021. He is currently leading Continuous Improvement for Global Aftermarket and Service Business Unit at his current employer, driving the strategic transformation to double global revenue in 2025.  

 

Alessandro earned a Master’s in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pisa, and he holds a Lean Sigma Black Belt Certification since 2015, and a Kaizen Facilitator Certification since 2017. He is married and lives with his wife and two children in Switzerland

 

Important Links: 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alessandrolasi/?originalSubdomain=ch

 

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 everyone and welcome to the Lean solutions podcast. Today’s guest is Alessandro Lasi and his career includes more than 10 years in continuous improvement leadership positions. He also earned a master’s in industrial engineering and has a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. He also is a Kaizen facilitator, Alessandro, welcome to the show.

Alessandro Lasi  

Thank you. Thank you, Patrick. Fantastic. Thanks for having me on.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. I’m excited to have you here. Alessandro. Where are you in the world?

Alessandro Lasi

Switzerland, the beauty of Switzerland. I mean, Schaffhausen. Ah, such a beautiful place. 

Patrick Adams  

Very nice. What is your favorite part of Switzerland?

Alessandro Lasi  

Here we have the beautiful rainforest, actually the largest waterfall in Europe. Not as big as Niagara Falls, but a pretty nice one. So happy to see.

Patrick Adams  

Beautiful. Have you seen it? Have you been to Niagara Falls or not?

Alessandro Lasi  

Yeah, probably three times. Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah, very, very beautiful.

Patrick Adams  

That’s amazing. I have never been to Switzerland. But if I do come to Switzerland, I’m definitely coming to visit us so we can go see the waterfalls?

Alessandro Lasi

Absolutely.

Patrick Adams  

All right. Good deal. So Alessandro, one of the topics that I want to talk about today, I want to stay kind of general today. And I’d really like to just talk about continuous improvement in general. I’d love to know, for you based on your, you know, 10 years of experience in different leadership roles, you know, what exactly does continuous improvement mean for you? What is it? What is continuous improvement? How do you define it? How does it apply to the work that you’ve done? 

Alessandro Lasi  

Sure, thanks. So, first of all, I would say continuous improvement. And lean is a mindset. It’s a culture, let’s say it’s a set of behavior, aiming at changing for better any processes, both in business and also in personal life. And it’s also, we can also probably define these as the most powerful strategies for company’s growth. On the other hand, it’s also helpful to define what Lean is not. And it would probably say that it’s not just a bunch of tools. On this, I would like to use the creepy analogy, back also to art burn, which is one of the most successful, lean SEO in history and art talked about the creepy like, martyrs, proofs and people part was because any kind of lean initiative needs to start with a customer in mind needs to start by understanding Voice of the Customer process, because we need to act on our processes to deliver value for the customer. And removing waste and non value added for the customer in our process. And people because it’s the transformation of its culture. And we need to win people’s hearts and minds. And here we go to my second point about the definition. And it is probably more personal and more related to my personal life. So you know, I have a couple, I have two kids, one is five years old, and is very passionate about drawing us to school here is Schaffhausen. And he probably understood he’s not the best drawer in the world. So compared to other keys, and he compared the other ones to his friends, he understood he has room for improvement. And you need a lot of imagination to understand what’s the peak in his escape. So you need to know that since one month you every only night after dinner, he sits at the table and he sketches something. His friends, The Teacher, my wife, dog, sister, myself, whatever, right? And, yeah, a couple of days ago, a couple of nights ago, he handed me into my hands. He’s the masterpiece of the day. And look at it, there was a bow with a couple of stripes, probably eyebrows, a couple of sticks, probably my legs, some hairs because he already understood the hemorrhage in my head, but that’s another story. And he told me, hey there, that’s you. And I told him, that’s wonderful. And then he told me something which I got very surprised about. He told me, Hey, look, I know you don’t have a neck in this room, so I’m flying again. And as I grew up, I promise you that I will be able to draw your neck. And that’s probably the best definition but goes back also to a good sentence we sometimes named because we say, let’s not get perfect. You the way of better, right? Yeah. And I, Nicole, my five years old kid, probably got it very well.

Patrick Adams  

I love that story. I love it. It’s such a great analogy for, you know, the way that we should be approaching business. You know, sometimes we spend so much time trying to put the plan together to make it right, we, you know, get with all the right people, we collect data and, you know, two months down the road, it’s like, Is this even important anymore? Right it, you know, at some point, you have to pull the trigger, that’s a guess, an English language slang term, but you have to pull the trigger, you have to do something, you have to actually do it. And then once you’ve done it, refine, and learn from what you did continue to, you know, refine it and improve it. And that’s exactly what your son is doing. He’s realized that, you know what, this might not be the perfect picture of my dad. But this is my dad as I can do it today. And I’m going to keep improving this drawing through iterations and learning. Right as I go, Wow, that’s awesome. Very cool.

Alessandro Lasi  

Yeah, fantastic. And this goes also into another topic, which is the importance of failure and learning from failure.

Patrick Adams  

That’s right, absolutely. And the only way that we’re going to do that, the only way that we’re going to get better is if we start if we do something, and then we look at it, we go, okay, you know, what didn’t work with this process? What didn’t work with this? Whatever, you know, that work that we’re working on? And what what? How can we improve on that? What did we learn from that, and let’s do it better next time.

Alessandro Lasi  

Absolutely. And just to connect the dots to what we mentioned, capital needs to go. Lean is all about culture. What is important in the culture and environment is that there should be some kind of psychological safety. So when you build your limb path, and whatever, it’s important that people feel safe, it’s important that people feel comfortable, to speak up about the problems, because we always say that the biggest problem is having no problems. Because people if they don’t feel comfortable speaking about the problems and the opportunities to improve, they can hiding these, probably because company culture environment to culture is finger pointing, finger pointing one, blame culture, problem leaders asking too much, who is said of what, and this is a great important point for the start of any lien journey. And a great point for any Lean culture. Which can I try?

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely, you know, a lot of companies think about Lean, when they think about Lean, they think it’s a cost, a cost reduction initiative. And that’s not the right way to define it, you know, does it result in some cost savings, absolutely. But I love that you started out with those three P’s, you know, and it’s not just purpose and process. It’s also people, and a good continuous improvement culture understands respect for people, and how to engage and involve them in the decision making process, shared accountability, so on and so on, in the benefits of that, you know, again, it sometimes does result in cost savings. But, but that’s not the that’s not the main goal, right? I mean, we are in business to make money correctly. And, you know, continuous improvement initiatives will definitely result in that. But if that’s your only focus is just saving money, you’re not going to get the results you have to focus on people’s process and purpose.

Alessandro Lasi  

Absolutely, very well said Patrick, and we can see that it’s cool. Saving is just a sub product of lean, probably just one aspect, but if you’re just looking at is, there’s also another important point, if you’re using lean to cut jobs, right, your lean initiative, your lean part is not gonna gonna last forever, because you lose people. So that’s also a very important point. Don’t use Lean to fire people because Yanjing or lean is people who need to hate at adding an army of Lean agents of change agents who have problem solvers. This is how probably the author really and other companies like Danaher probably, were able to move the needle to be so successful.

Patrick Adams  

That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. And not only do you lose people, but you know, people when they start to see that, hey, I brought up some really great ideas or I was involved in a Kaizen event, and then oh, all of my friends lost their jobs. You know that they’re not going to continue to help you. They’re not going to continue to align with the cause and it’s going Give them a bad taste in their mouth about Lean. So, you know, one of the ways is that because sometimes, you know, continuous improvement initiatives do result in a reduction, you know, hey, we could run this particular area with 10 people, now we can do it with eight people. Well, you know, different, there’s different ways to respond to that. And I’ve talked about this in the past on other shows, but, you know, one of those ways is to move those two individuals to a continuous improvement team that, you know, where they can focus on carrying through other tasks and action items that came out of kaizen events or, you know, learn help them develop their continuous improvement skills. And then as normal attrition happens, you fill them back into, you know, to other positions that are available, but allow normal attrition in an organization to reduce and that is a long term play, right? It’s not going to happen, you’re not going to get the reduction in staff overnight, or whatever it might be, but it’s the right approach. And it’s going to, it’s going to help you to develop that long term, develop and sustain that true culture of continuous improvement. Alessandro, you have been an internal leader, we talked about, you know, your 10 years experience at different companies, and you’ve seen many different approaches to continuous improvement in the different companies you’ve worked in? What would you say in your experience is needed to get continuous improvement to the next level?

Alessandro Lasi  

That’s a good question, Patrick, thanks for asking. I think before getting lean to the next level, you need to start planting the seeds of lean in the most correct way. If you look at my experiences as an internal leader for leading continuous improvement on multinational companies, I would say that, we probably need three last one dimensions, okay. First, you need to lean being led from the top. And you need to start from the Second, you need a bottom up approach, which is called Lean learn from cases. We have already touched these a little bit earlier. Sure. Third one is what I want to call this sweet spot. Okay. And it is just at the match of these bottom up and top down. Dimensions. Do you like playing golf Patrick?

Patrick Adams  

I do like playing but I’m not very good at it. But do I like to play?

Alessandro Lasi  

Yeah, it’s probably one of my resolutions for 2022. Probably, it will stay. For 2018 Choose the on the drawer, however, probably you have heard about the sweet spot if you love golf, right. So the sweet spot is exactly the point of the club, you should hear the bow wait for perfect heat, right. So you know, if you use this analogy, where for having lean being successful and being sustained, you really need a match from the top down approach, bottom up approach, as we explained, and then you need to sustain these very few companies that can stay in the sweet spot for long times. But it’s really where most initiatives try and can endure. And then you need the last one dimension, which is the catalyst mean, meaning you need to tie this all together. And this is probably the job of continuous improvement people which really need to coach, top leaders, coach people on the shop floor and team leaders and to tie all the dimensions together.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. I love that. And I know there are people listening that have heard that, you know, top down bottom up approach, they’ve probably heard it, I don’t know that there are many that have experienced it because it is difficult to get there. Now, there’s a lot of different things that you can do to help get to that sweet spot. You know, just like in golf, it’s not gonna just happen. You know, there’s certain things that you have to do: you have to go to the driving range, you have to go to the putting green, you have to, you know, there’s different things that you have to do to work with a coach. Right. So I’m curious, in your experience, have you seen the sweet spot? Have you experienced it or been involved with that sweet spot at any of the companies that you’ve worked at or worked with?

Alessandro Lasi  

Yeah, I did. And at the beginning of my career, CTS was my very first job. I didn’t realize these when I sold. So I started my career probably 17 years ago as lean six sigma three neon manufacturing lines for tier one multinational company, and I was tasked with a quality improvement project on those one factory lines. So I do interact with operators and team leaders on the lines and what could appear quite normal to me is that those people directly came to me and spoke up about the problems, their issues, and showed me their red fingers on the daily management boards, right? And they explained to me the words. And I didn’t realize that so I compared these later on in the years we got our experience. Then they realized it was white, difficult to find such an environment, because once again, they were probably in an environment where they felt comfortable talking about issues. And we felt comfortable talking about those issues. It was, that was the trigger point that instigated probably some kind of problem solving activity to stop those problems from occurring. Right? And to fix what back then. So that’s the first thing second, in that same company on that same site. I repeatedly asked the plant leader, and an executive with was managing shorthand, 2500 people, to definitely notice more sides, and to show him treating the ground, right? Repeatedly, several mornings. So at the time I was probably 2324 years old, and ask myself, why, why is this guy doing that? Don’t we have enough money to pay for clean service? So I didn’t get the point? Right? I got that point later, only wrong. But the point was that that person was kind of was trying to act as leader, projecting his leadership and showing others lower in the organization that they should care about manufacturing lines, they should close the gap into organizational ladders. And this also goes into the topic of servant leadership. That’s right. These two these two elements made me think he is in years later, that was a particular environment. Why I talked years later, to my old colleagues, I understood that that leadership had left the company and had left the site, and guess what the sweet spot was not there anymore. Because it’s probably connected to that style of leadership. So once you reach the sweet spot, the messages you need to be able to sustain.

Patrick Adams  

That’s right. Yeah. And part of sustaining it is making sure that you have the right development program in place for your leaders. You know, I just think about the opportunity to promote people from within. And I think that a lot of leaders get promoted into leadership roles, because they were really good at their job, or they were really good at running this piece of equipment or whatever it might be. But you know, they don’t necessarily have the leadership skills or know how to lead people, you know, I talked about the fact that there’s a difference between managers and leaders, managers manage equipment, or assets or things, right. And there’s a lot of people that can be good managers, but leaders manage people, and to manage people is a totally different animal. And, you know, a good Lean leader understands that both you have to understand both and be part of both, you know, be a good leader and be a good manager in order to support continuous improvement initiatives. And you hit it on the head when you talked about servant leadership, a good servant leader, someone that understands the value of the people that are really there doing the value at work. They’re the experts, they’re the ones that are delivering what the product, the service, whatever it is to the customer. It’s my job as a leader to serve that person and make sure that they can do their value at work. And when you start to understand that, you know that, like you mentioned about the leader who was sweeping the floor, it made me think about, there’s a plant manager here in Michigan that I know, who created a cleaning schedule, they got rid of their cleaning crew, and he was the first one to sign up to clean the toilets. for that exact reason what you just said he wanted to show everybody that just because I’m a plant manager doesn’t mean I’m too high in the organization to clean toilets. I’ll clean the toilets, right. So anyways, I love that great, great point.

Alessandro Lasi  

Absolutely. Because we talked about manager leadership. Leadership is not a matter about Yerington. Also as continuous improvement people as I as I said at the beginning, you need to win people hearts mind and you don’t do that through your article power. But you do that through leadership through going through change management.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. We’re talking through a lot of different tactics and techniques and in different ways to support a continuous improvement culture, but yet still, so many organizations struggle, you know, to maintain a true culture of continuous improvement. Why do you think it’s so difficult for organizations to nurture this, this CI culture that they’re trying to create

Alessandro Lasi  

a lot of organizations, most of the organizations I work with developed continuous improvement and lean programs. And note, I use the word proven, why could use improvement, lean is not appropriate. That’s right is not a set of projects on one shot projects, right. It’s a culture meaning its behavior, and things like that. Absolutely. So what I noticed is that those organizations probably start building their marshals. But then after tours, I borrowed an expression from Mark to lose you, they probably either flat line, and they slowly lose focus. Or on the other side, they just keep considering lean as a single product. Two important points here, first, too much focus on tools. This probably comes from sample consultants, they probably use tools more than talking about culture. Because if you just use tools, you have quick wins, you can have faster results out of your projects. But in the end, it’s much tougher to get repeatable results, because you’re not nurturing a culture, you’re not nurturing an army of problem solvers, just to use a term we have already touched. The second is probably management. So understanding or misunderstanding the leadership of what Lean is, we’ve already touched it. However, we need to understand that Lean is not a short term gain, lean is culture, to move culture, you need to talk to people. And that’s probably one of the longest term schemes you have, right. That’s why Lean is a long term game. It’s not just about cost cutting, as we said. So these are probably two of the most, two of the most important things that I experienced in my life, about why it’s so difficult to nurture a continuous improvement culture in companies.

Patrick Adams  

Sure, sure. And, and you mentioned psychological safety earlier, we’ve talked about, you know, a lot of different things, but also, you know, a lot of companies there’s this, they have maybe a fear based culture where people are scared to, to, to bring up challenges or problems, or they’re scared to try new things, because they think maybe, you know, maybe I’m gonna lose my job, or someone’s gonna yell at me or, you know, whatever it might be so so they end up just coming to work, punching a clock, doing what they need to do, and then getting out of there at the end of the day, why do you think psychological safety is so important?

Alessandro Lasi  

So let me let me bring one example. Okay. So I’ve implemented and have facilitated the implementation of the management in different companies, for example, from manufacturing, to r&d, to rent a car, a supply chain, mechanical manufacturing, where they’re at a certain point, you end up where a cold read is no easy read should not be bad. So you end up at a point where people are using their these are monitoring metrics, they try to hide the rats because they perceive the field that red could be a treat for them, because they once again, they could feel uncomfortable, because as you pointed out, they could see they may be finger pointed, they may be punished. So also cut, coaching, this culture of red is not bad is not necessary. A gap is not that you don’t necessarily need to understand who was the culprit, but you need to understand why that happened. So this kind of shift really needs to happen in the culture and is part of the psychological safety. So shifting from who kind of questions to our why kind of questions and here we go to the five whys, which, the second problem, as mentioned, is having no problem is the biggest problem, right? Which is which comes from here, so if you hide your opportunities, you’re never triggering problem solving activities too. challenge the status quo also wipes ecological safety is important, because you need to experiment Lean is about experiments is about to try new things. There’s a good motivational speech from Denzel Washington. And he says, If you’re not, if you don’t fail, you’re not even trying. So when you try, and this is part of the experiments, you need to be allowed to fail. But not just fail for the sake of failure, but fail, because you need to reflect on what drove a team to fail. And you need to reply to lesson learn, and build on those lesser entities, the great value of accepting failure as a starting point for new experiments, it’s just by experimenting, that you can build up your lean approach. So people really need to make feel comfortable about experimenting about also failing, but needs to be this kind of approach about learning from failure needs to be sponsored by Lynch.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. I think that that’s a great way for us to close today. Alessandro I love that the idea of just you know, thinking about the the culture that we’re trying to create, and what are the inputs to that culture, you know, psychological safety being one of them, and all of those things that you just talked about, I so much appreciate you, you know, bringing everything full circle back around to that, because I think that is the key, you know, when it comes to continuous improvement is really understanding that the culture is the output, there are certain things that have to come into that and that we have to make sure that our sustain in order to you know, whether leadership changes or whatever changes, we want to keep that same culture. So thank you so much for bringing these great points today based on your experience, and we’d love to have you back on the show sometime so that we can dive into maybe a couple other topics. I feel like you and I could talk about this forever. Our approach is very much aligned. So thank you again.

Alessandro Lasi

Fantastic. Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick Adams  

Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the lean 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.

1 Comment

  1. Tina Pietrangelo

    I enjoyed this pod cast. The reflection of lean culture verses a lean program is fundamental to the sustainability of lean for any organization. If you connect with the heart of your workforce they will give you their best discretionary effort and that is where the gold is found for a lean culture. In order for members to want to share their best discretionary efforts they need to feel that you care about them and the psychological safety needs to be in play within your company. ( not who but why)

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