This is the first article in a blog series following the green kaizen journey of a lean IT consulting firm.
It’s easy to be inspired to make eco-friendly changes at the office. Everyday we hear how climate change is causing irreparable damage to our communities and we see the amount of paper, energy, and natural resources wasted at scale. The biggest obstacle for many is not finding ways to contribute, but knowing where and how to start.
Edmond Nguyen, a Paris based Lean Consultant, has been passionate about sustainability in his personal life and wanted to help his firm, Operae Partners, become more “Lean and Green”. He felt the uncertainty of what green problem to focus on first, so he looked to lean thinking for the answer. He said, “Just as in lean production where customers pull value, we have to let our problems pull us toward a kaizen instead of pushing a siloed improvement initiative through which leads to even more waste.”
The Obeya Room at Operae’s headquarters is where Edmond first felt the pull of a green kaizen opportunity. Every Friday the team meets for the Obeya meeting to report on key performance indicators around the company’s strategic goals. Edmond owns reporting on safety and employee well-being, which is paramount for the company to achieve its other objectives. “Without happy healthy employees, how can we satisfy our customers” Edmond says.
He sends a simple survey each week to get a pulse on the team’s health: are they in the red (bad) or the green (good). After seeing a growing trend of red a few weeks ago, Edmond dug deep to discover the reason and it became clear that travel was a burden on many of the consultants. Operae Partners is one of the most sought after Lean Management consulting firms in France (possibly Europe) and they have clients and coaches across the country. However, coaches are based in Bordeaux, Bruxelles, Lille, Milano and Paris, so the commute can be heavy at times.
Striving for perfection, the firm’s goal is for all employees to be “in the green” each week, so the travel issue had to be addressed. Reducing travel was a win for the environment as well as it clearly reduces carbon emissions when the carbon footprint of work commuting continues to grow. In fact, since the start of the 21st century, there has been a two kilometer increase in the distance travelled by a French worker between home and the workplace. All this back and forth adds up to more than what might be assumed. Studies have shown that workers use 30% more energy commuting to their office than the energy the office building consumes. Reducing the amount of work-related commuting is one of the greenest improvements a company can do.
Consultant travel was also a growing business expense for the firm. A reduction would have a positive impact on the bottom line. When Edmond discussed the kaizen idea with the Operae team, everyone was supportive. It was a win for multiple stakeholders.
When your improvement initiative satisfies people, planet, and profit, you’ll likely experience pull and get the most participation and buy in. It’s a great place to start the green journey.
Now that Operae has identified their problem and the method for identifying future green problems, we’ll see how they take the next step of validating their assumptions and mapping the current state of their transportation next week on www.LeanGreenInstitute.com.