My Lean journey started with a leap of faith and my love of problem solving – the ability to put all of the puzzle pieces together. I love it!
While working in operations at Capital One, I got a phone call from a man named David Cupps from the IT group. He wanted to know if I would be interested in building a Portfolio Management Office for the IT group. My response was “What is a Portfolio Management Office?!” He explained to me that there were over 450 projects in a pipeline and the IT group needed to be able to understand and manage capacity and demand. David said that he would mentor me in the process.
After several conversations, I decided to go for it. Talk about a pit in your stomach, I had one, but without that you don’t find real growth. Discomfort is the source of learning!
We established an operating system that forced leaders to get in the same room and talk about priorities and conflicts with a lens for capacity. Little did I know this was a foreshadowing of my love of Lean Management Systems! Yes, I put an explanation point there because I really am a mission-driven operating system nerd! Once we had the flow working in our favor, our CIO asked if we could look into this “Agile” product delivery. We needed to supercharge our speed to market.
Enter Ken Schwaber of the Agile Alliance! Ken was a godsend as he was my coach and a master at aligning and holding leaders accountable to the behaviors needed to drive sustainable change. As we successfully rolled out the program, I was blessed to bring in Esther Derby and Diana Larsen to scale our Agile competencies across a team of newly minted coaches. And, as with most things in Corporate America, the pendulum swung back and forth from agile to waterfall delivery. However, each time it swung, we built critical skillset mass and delivered better results that eventually allowed Capital One to become one of the best agile delivery companies in the world!
Once that was moving smoothly, we decided we need to take the organization to the next level. I started taking classes and attending the annual Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) Summits. Here I learned from Jim Womack and John Shook. We dabbled in Lean in several areas, but my next move really catapulted me to the next level!
Adventure! It was time to learn more. I was part of the team that was a startup of the new Partnerships program for Capital One. I was super excited to say the least. Our first couple of clients were fun! We were moving fast – but there was no process discipline being implemented, so I filled the gap. Funny how process often goes unappreciated when businesses are doing well. I pushed and delivered with the help of my team the Onboarding Processes for new Partnerships. We took legal processes like NDAs and cut 75% of the wait time out. We created an operating system with visual management to manage the pipeline of Partners. We also pushed the limits (at that time) and delivered our business projects in an agile format. Agile was only supposed to be for IT back in the day. We changed the game and delivered our projects faster and built a really tight knit team in the process. Agile for services was alive and I continue to use this today with teams that need to move fast to deliver customer value.
Rewards The biggest reward from that role was when my VP a year after I left said, “I discounted the work you did to make sure we were buttoned up, but we just had an audit and we wouldn’t have passed had it not been for your relentless efforts to have standards and documentation that was sustainable.”
Silver lining: 2008 brought the great recession. Things slowed with the partnerships business. So, In walks Amanda Aghdami. She was the best manager/leader for whom I ever worked. We were in an area where a real transformation was needed. It was a collections area and people were charging off at high rates and it was only going to get worse. On top of that we needed a whole suite of lean and agile tools: visibility, customer-back thinking, a north star, flow, process and agile delivery. It was the perfect playground to take my skills to the next level and train a leader that was open to learning.
For me, the most impactful part was the customer journey. As a manager, mother, daughter, friend and sister, I wanted to positively impact the way we treated our customers in crisis. And, we did! Team members went from referring to our customers as numbers to speaking to them by name. They truly wanted to understand their problems and see how they could help solve them.
What may have been even harder was turning the leadership team into Lean Leaders. We established standard work and my coach, Joe Murli, came to help! When the student is ready, the teacher appears. He was an amazing mentor and now long-time friend. Joe taught me how the management system supported with leader standard work was really the glue that kept a business running. We implemented simple visuals and coached others through the “struggle moments” that come in transformations. We created circles to solve problems and built the system from the frontline service level to the executive level. After perseverance and struggles, you could finally feel the difference. It was magical!
So, what does it all mean? – Changing lives and ending human suffering at work fuels my passion for running transformations. When you run successful change management programs linked to mission from the bottom to the top and you teach people to communicate daily to drive customer value you can literally feel the difference as you walk through the door. People wake up. People are excited about their roles in meeting mission and driving a positive customer experience. I have continued my career leading organizational transformations. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to work with multiple types of teams, but the things that connect them all is humanity – the need for purpose and connection!
Inspired. Humbled. Thankful. I have been inspired by so many innovators and founders in lean, design thinking, change and agile: Ken Schwaber, Esther Derby, Diana Larsen, John Shook, Joe Murli, Tim Creasey and Jeanne Liedkte to name a few. I have been fortunate to work with amazing partners in our quest to end human suffering at work: Tony Curtis, Oz Parvaiz, Tabitha Dubois, Khary Scott, Jeff Vales, Mark Pushinsky, Chris Doss, Emma Parnell-Klabo, Stephanie Fleming, John Carlson, Lori Stone, Chris DeFilippo, Chris Mead, Satish Reddy and Roxanne Brown. There have also been leaders that truly cared and wanted to see real organizational and cultural shifts to drive customer value and employee satisfaction: Amanda Aghdami, Nigel Morris, Cindy Yao, David Lewis, Sanjiv Yanik, Jason Dandridge and Sharon McGinty. And I have been blessed to get to know and learn from some amazing visionaries: Ken Newsome, Rich Fairbanks, Dee Ann Remo, Mark Brennan, Lynne Laube and Dan O’Malley. Finally, I have blessed with working with amazing talented peers that are too vast to list, and like family – you all know who you are, and I am sure you will see yourself in a blog coming soon!