Lean is the development of people put into a system, says Gro-Heidi S. Sverdrup, senior adviser in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority region East and project manager in the Authority’s Lean work. Like many other companies in the public sector, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has in recent years worked to remove time thieves and the implementation of other centrally initiated projects. In the spring of 2018, Region East began training in and implementing the Lean methodology and way of thinking in collaboration with C2U.

– Now it takes off. That is the experience we have, says Gro-Heidi. We are in the process of moving from working with concept understanding to practicing ourselves. It is about building ceiling height and creating security, so that testing hypotheses is not “dangerous”, she says.

C2U has provided training for management teams and selected resource persons in the East region. The learning has consisted of training and teaching in groups combined with a value stream analysis of the supervision process for production animals.

Halved the time for audit report
One of the pilot’s improvement goals was to reduce the time from the time an inspection is carried out until the inspection report has been sent out. It says respect for the result achieved:

The average time from completed audit to completed report has been reduced by half. While an inspector so far has needed an average of 24.2 days to complete the report, the inspectors in the pilot spent 12.2 days.

As far as we know, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority is the first state inspection that has carried out a change process using the Lean methodology. I am proud to be the first out, and the fact that we have been able to carry out the pilot in collaboration with C2U, has been an important contributing factor to what has gone so well, says Gro-Heidi S. Sverdrup

Ability to interact is often underestimated as a success criterion in change processes. During the pilot, it has become very clear.

– We have experienced that succeeding in building a good culture of improvement in the organization can be the very difference between a successful and unsuccessful change. I think we have come a long way in changing the way we work in the parts of the organization where we have worked. The culture has changed, says Sverdrup.

Seven departments with a large spread
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is organized to cover the entire country and is divided into five regions. Several of the departments, such as the East region where C2U has worked, have a large geographical spread, with offices from Porsgrunn in the south to Tynset in the north. The departments have good training in both remote cooperation and travel within the region.

– In the Lean pilot with C2U, we consciously chose to involve the department heads and two resource persons from each department. Nearly 30 people have received the same methodological introduction.

– In my opinion, this is an important part of the success. When we are not sitting in the same office space, it is a strength to have the team of resource persons. They support the department head locally, contribute to the entire region, and initiate their own improvement measures. We are very happy with this model, she says.

– So you make things happen in more areas than just animal husbandry?

– Yes, the offices in the region have initiated a lot of improvement work themselves, including defining problem areas and involving employees. The resource team that worked with the value stream analysis is in high demand in the organization and is involved in many processes. We have made a plan for further dissemination of expertise to several areas in the region, she says.

Regional director Wenche Aamodt Furuseth and senior adviser Gro-Heidi S. Sverdrup are positively surprised by the results so far.

Simplified and predictable year wheel
Although many of the improvement activities in the value stream analysis take place in their own region, some of the activities are such that they affect the entire Norwegian Food Safety Authority. One example of this is that we have made a proposal to streamline the process for business planning in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. We have experienced that shorter work processes provide better quality, she says.

The starting point for tackling the planning process was the inspector’s need to have concrete plans for the work well before the New Year each year. It is the inspectors who perform the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s core tasks. Therefore, it is important to listen to their needs and facilitate the work they do.
– Over the years, we have probably looked more at the planning from the management’s point of view and according to schedules that we receive from the ministry. The fact that we will now have a better planning process is directly related to what we learned in the value stream analysis in animal husbandry, says Sverdrup.

– Do you have plans for new areas?
– The next thing we will consider in the improvement work in our region is the food area, food and drinking water. This is one of the largest subject areas in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and no small task to work with.

Within the food area, there are many disciplines that must cooperate across the board. It is not only in our own region that we will work with improvement work in the area. We have just now started a small project where we will look at the interface between the head office and the regions. How can we achieve better collaboration and thus better quality of the end products for the area?

In order not to gape too much at a time, we carry out the project for the food area at the head office, the Greater Oslo region and the East region. We plan to conduct a value stream analysis in November. This will be very exciting, says Gro-Heidi

Welded management team
What do you think has made the cultural change take hold this time?

– A close-knit management team that has faith in what they have set in motion. They work systematically and stand together about what we start. The fact that we have managed to get a commitment from the employees who work with the core tasks of supervision. This applies in particular to the implementation and follow-up of the value stream analysis in animal husbandry.

– The fact that the leaders were involved and got to see how the resource persons could work with changes with both expertise and energy, made a big difference. When the management team also worked together in the learning process and shared the problem descriptions in A3s, it made the teams together see the problems more clearly and could find solutions. We worked much better together, she says.

– And now you are ready to spread this experience to the rest of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority?

– As I said, we have started small by contributing to other projects and meeting places, especially by launching the project in the food area with head office and the neighboring region. We can share much of what we have improved, but our working methods and standards will not necessarily work in other regions. The culture must be built in department by department.

Lean is a maturation competence. The key words are: practice, practice and persevere. Wenche (Aamodt Furuseth, regional director) has been quite clear that now we must stand in it. We have to have ice in our stomachs and be patient, she says.

Positively surprised
Gro-Heidi is positively surprised at how far the participants in the pilot have come after half a year, and how much of the business has turned around since the tank was sown a year ago.

– How long do you think it will take to “turn” the entire region East?

– Measured against how much we have achieved so far, I am optimistic and think we can get far in the whole region within a two-year period. But we will never be finished, the improvement work can never stop.

For Region East’s part, it is now important that we can spread the culture and working methods throughout the organization, so that all employees can experience that they are part of the “Lean journey”. To make the culture really sit, we must take a real lift together, says Gro-Heidi Sverdrup.