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Lessons from Wipro’s Tryst with Lean (TPS), Part-3 of 3

This is the concluding part of my previous posts: Wipro’s Tryst with Lean (Toyota Production System) and Lessons from Wipro’s Tryst with Lean (TPS), Part-1 of 3, and Lessons from Wipro’s Tryst with Lean (TPS), Part-2 of 3.

5.  Remember, a lean system takes years to build.

This is about planning and gearing up for an incremental journey.  Applying lean principles to knowledge work is not simply a matter of copying tools that have been successful in manufacturing.  Instead, you must use the contents of the toolbox to invent something new. 

eiffel tower construction copie

You probably won't get it right on the first try, but over time you can put together a system of continual improvement by doing the following:

  • Start small.  Wipro launched 10 pilot projects to explore whether a lean approach was a viable option.  When 8 showed promising results, it tasked the productivity office with leading an enterprise-wide effort.  Bit by bit, the company learned which ideas worked, which ones needed refinement, and which should be discarded.  Today, of nearly 4000-5000 projects being delivered by Wipro, over 1600 projects are now Lean, bringing a minimum of 20% savings on an average.
  • Codify the lessons learned.  It's important that someone in the organization have an overall view of the initiative; otherwise valuable learning could easily be lost.  Wipro's ‘Productivity Office’ filled this role, reviewing every lean project, leading education efforts, and helping standardize practices.
  • Keep looking for new ways to work.  Although progress at Wipro was steady in terms of the number of lean projects undertaken, senior managers recognized that widespread adoption was only one measure of success and that implementation also needed to be deep.

Remember that the lean approach is not useful everywhere.  If the work at hand is visionary and experimental and requires inventing new ways to perform tasks, don't try to apply lean principles everywhere.  Repetitive tasks within the work can and should be addressed with lean ideas.  But innovation will suffer if the time needed to come up with and test wild ideas is classified as waste and eliminated.

6.  Leaders must blaze the trail.

It is purely about engaging your managers.  In the long run, lean principles result in bottom-up improvement: Front-line people generate and implement new ideas, while managers play a supporting role.  But this is the end state; an organization rarely, if ever, starts there.  Middle and senior managers are critical in launching the process.

Lesson 6 Leaders must blaze the trail

  • Project managers and other midlevel leaders must train and motivate their teams.  This requires a significant investment of management time.  At Wipro, it was found that teams that had leaders who were heavily engaged in the lean initiative—who educated their teams and persuaded them that lean efforts would improve performance—were more successful than teams whose leaders were not.  At Wipro, either the project manager or a certified lean instructor conducted the initial training.  Then it was up to the project manager to push the team to use the ideas .
  • Senior leaders must be long-term champions.  Many organizations suffer from ‘process improvementitis’.  Their leaders pay lip service to the initiative of the month—and, not surprisingly, people don't take the initiatives very seriously.

Turning a knowledge organization into a lean system requires a grassroots reinvention of how work is performed.  That's as true in knowledge work as in manufacturing.  The transformation demands sustained investment, a huge amount of training, a new culture, and new processes.  Senior leadership must treat it as a long-term change program.

Azim PremjiAzim Premji, Wipro's chairman, understood this well; he was deeply involved with his company's initiative from the start.  He, Premji, was always aware and was even part of the Lean briefing sessions, it really helped drive this initiative.  He personally reviewed lean projects, consistently met with the leaders of the initiative, and spoke about it to the outside world.  His public commitment made clear to employees that the program was there to stay


“Wipro's example shows that Lean can work and become a critical success factor for organisations operating with projects to provide IT-based services, where substantial variability in customer demand, technology prerequisites, and human-centric intervention is common,” says Alexander Peters, Analyst at Forrester Research.

During recession of 2009, Wipro decided to apply Lean across all application maintenance projects and squeeze the cost out at a time when customers were asking for rate cuts and do more with less.

During last 2 years, Wipro has moved over 25-30 customers to the Lean model.  By using Lean principles, Wipro was able to transition projects from rival vendors to its own project teams in 100 days-a process that used to take up to six months earlier.

"Now, our projects, especially where a transition is involved, are becoming profitable much faster," says Deb. This is because the transition time is reduced-the period when projects are not normally profitable. One of the top worries for any new outsourcing customer is the cost of switching between vendors. By using Lean, Wipro is now able to bring down that entry barrier and make it more attractive for customers to switch.

Alexander Peters of Forrester ResearchAlexander Peters of Forrester Research says that Wipro's case study is a lesson for other organizations seeking to start a similar initiative.  Organizations embarking on the journey to Lean should follow-- Wipro's staged approach centred on the deployment of a ‘Lean productivity team (or centre of expertise)’ and 'Unified Lean tool kit’ and ‘performance measurement system’ ………which they did with the help of devising a measure known as EI or ‘Excellence Index’.

At Wipro, they made a point to include various ‘Lean’ tools in their unified toolkit for each stage a project goes through.  For example, they embarked upon Dependency Structure Matrix (DSM) for prioritization of requirements, sequencing the test scenarios, analyzing the impact, competency management, forward engineering.  They emphasized upon mistake-proofing, Value stream mapping, Standardization, 5-S, automation, visual controls, workload leveling, concurrent engineering with the aim of waste elimination.  They used Pugh matrix or tradeoff matrix for the selection of designs.  They focused upon structured testing, orthogonal arrays, Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED), NHPP for test setup optimization.  Some other tools such as FMEA, statistical Tools, paired programming etc also made parts of their unified toolkits.  All these tools or categories of tools were given respective weights accordingly which eventually led them to obtain the excellence index for the projects in consideration.

In addition, PO, their productivity office, continued to monitor the impact of different tools.  They reported that, a few tools such as DSM, statistical analysis, and orthogonal arrays contributed significantly to increase the business value.

The PO and the EI tool kit are the visible elements of Wipro’s Lean framework, but equally important are the invisible parts:

1) Alignment with the company strategy;

2) The top-down enablement through senior management; and

3) Bottom-up employee behavior and engagement.

Wipro worked on both the visible and the invisible parts.

Wipro has successfully applied knowledge gained through its own internal Lean initiatives to clients via offerings from Wipro Consulting Services' Process Excellence Practice.  The Practice utilizes Wipro’s intellectual property, lessons learned from internal Lean projects, Lean methodology and qualified, trained and experienced engagement teams.  Wipro has continuously developed its own Lean framework and has applied its improvement processes and tools into a strategic capability.

A Note to make:  Lean methods and Lean advisory services play a significant role in Wipro’s successful implementation of Process Excellence services. Lean principles are embedded into every Wipro engagement and allow the firm to help customers generate significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness with IT departments. To help customers transition to a Lean organization, Wipro has developed a “4E” methodology, which takes customers through four key phases from the initial training, adoption and credibility-building around Lean adoption to a full-scale embracing of Lean-thinking across the organization, ultimately driving significant strategic benefits from a combination of customer, operational and financial improvements.

TURNING a manufacturing plant or Knowledge Operations into a lean system requires enormous, relentless effort.  Persistence, not genius, is the key.  Turning a knowledge operation, which has far fewer repetitive codifiable processes, into a lean system is harder still.  But as we have witnessed, it can be done.  And the very difficulty means the system will be tough for a competitor to replicate.  This is its power.


“The "Toyota" principles can also be effective in operations involving judgment and expertise.”

- Bradley R. Staats & David M. Upton

I hope that you would have liked this whole compilation about Wipro's tryst with TPS and lessons derived.  You are welcomed to leave your comments here. 



This article is written & published by Rajneesh Kumar, General Manager at Luminis Consulting Services Pvt Ltd, India. He can be reached at Email:  and/or Linkedin: https://in.linkedin.com/in/rajneeshkumar1 

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