Better Ways to Work
Creating the path for a Lean IT transformation
It started out as a friendly conversation over a bottle of wine. From there, it grew into a shared passion that first sparked the idea for a groundbreaking new book, and ultimately led to an interactive new eLearning course that explores the concepts even deeper.
Together, Michael Orzen and Thomas Paider are leading the charge to help organizations of all sizes initiate, execute and sustain a successful Lean IT transformation.
After hitting it off during a Lean conference in 2014, Orzen and Paider worked together to co-author the 2015 book "The Lean IT Field Guide: A Roadmap for Your Transformation." Now they've partnered with MoreSteam.com to create an online course aimed at helping IT professionals across all industries.
The eLearning course, titled "Lean IT Essentials for Teams & Leaders," takes a deep dive into the principles first introduced in the book, showing you how the fundamentals of Lean Management can drive sustainable change in your business. It focuses on developing problem-solving behaviors in frontline employees and turning managers into coaches — all in an effort to create sustainable, long-lasting solutions.
We asked Orzen and Paider to share a few insights about their history together, including the story behind the new course and who can benefit from it.
Let's start at the beginning. How did you two first meet?
TOM: We kept in touch after that and kept coming back to the same conversation, which ultimately led to the book.
What prompted you to start writing the book together?
TOM: Mike had experience co-authoring a book before ("Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation"), and I think that really helped. I remember we started by putting together a sample chapter and running that by a publishing company. From there, it took about 9 months to write the whole book. It was a really rewarding experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world, although I'm not sure I'd do it again (laughs).
Why are you both so passionate about this topic of Lean IT?
TOM: If everyone in the world was a Lean thinker, I don't think we'd have a lot of the problems we have today. I'm passionate about root-cause problem-solving, and finding ways to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over. During my career at Nationwide, we've had so much success with this, and I feel a duty to share what we've learned with a bigger community. I don't think these ideas should be hidden away somewhere.
Moving on to the eLearning course, when did the idea first arise to expand on the concepts from the book in an interactive environment?
MIKE: Yeah, we always envisioned some sort of training to go along with the book — a workshop or something to make the book come alive. We actually did a one-day, trial workshop in Columbus, Ohio. It went really well, and we had an uptick in interest afterward, so we knew it was something we wanted to pursue more thoroughly.
What can someone get from the eLearning course that they can't get from just reading the book?
TOM: On top of all that, it's exciting to explore these concepts with a multimedia approach. The course utilizes videos, quizzes and interactive exercises that lead to a much richer, more immersive learning environment.
Finally, let's talk about your audience. Who could benefit from this course? Was it created to help global corporations, small businesses, IT professionals?
MIKE: It's about getting everybody aligned and on the same page. It's not that Lean is in competition with Agile or DevOps, but what Lean does is provide some core universal principles. Once everyone understands what those core principles are, everything else falls into place.
View from the top: Why Lean IT matters
"In my experience, IT folks — and I'm using IT in a broad sense, to include application development, deployment, security, networks, and infrastructure — often don't embrace organized process improvement. There are probably several reasons for that, including: A) They think Agile is enough as a process improvement method, and B) They don't think of what they do as a repetitive process. They think in project terms.
"We love Agile, but it works best as a subset of a broader Lean Management System. Agile is more about 'How the work is done' and not so much about 'What work should be done?' or 'How can waste be removed from the overall value stream?'"
— Bill Hathaway, CEO of MoreSteam.com