Queen of Quality, part 4: A system is more than the sum of its parts

In the last part of the series Hanne Laitinen sums up her thoughts and insights from the program and her passion toward studying.

Annamari Typö, 19.08.2018

The 22nd Aalto PRO Master Class in Quality program is moving into the final stretch, but Hanne Laitinen is at least as excited about her studies as before. The most important insight gleaned from the program's latest modules has to do with systems thinking, says Laitinen, who works as Test Manager at Nordea Life.

The most important insight gleaned from the program's latest modules has to do with systems thinking.”

“It was eye-opening to realize that no matter how diligently one individual or team hones their craft, it's not enough. It's the entire system that creates value for the customer. This really became clear to me during the spring.”

At Nordea Life, processes have been streamlined to perfection and described in detail, Laitinen says. The company is also ISO 9001 certified. What's been lacking, though, has been an overall picture of how the numerous processes are linked together to form a corporate-level system.

“I oversee two processes, and during the program I began to think about how they actually fit to the whole,” Laitinen says.

This thinking process has already led to action. During the Master Class in Quality program, Nordea Life has, for example, introduced SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), which is based on the Lean-Agile concept and makes the system visible.

“It combines all the company's processes in one image, all the way from management to everyday work and each individual programmer. It helps us identify the system's best features, locate all processes and parts, and optimize them so that they genuinely function as part of the system.”

Laitinen says that systems thinking links directly to her previous realization of the importance of strategy.

If the strategy is clear, the system's objectives also become clear, and it's easy for all the operators to optimize their activities.”

“If the strategy is clear, the system's objectives also become clear, and it's easy for all the different operators to optimize their activities so that the system is faultless.”

The rapid pace of technological development presents an interesting challenge for applying systems thinking. Whereas twenty years ago, the system was formed by "automated data processing and people," it now also includes robots, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

"Robots, luckily, don't have feelings that should be taken into account, but it will be interesting to see how they are embedded into the system.”

Systems thinking is also part of Laitinen's project work, even though she was originally going to focus on an entirely different topic. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, then, that her project work has progressed at a somewhat slower pace than planned.

“The project work is a major effort and challenge, but once I tackle it, I'm sure I will feel a great sense of accomplishment.”

To help her keep up the speed, Laitinen has hung a quote by the F1 driver Michael Schumacher on her wall: “Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.”

“This says it all. When you're passionate about learning and challenging yourself, it's easy to keep your motivation sky high.”

Her biggest challenge, Laitinen says with a huge smile on her face, has been the desire to "explore the whole world." Fortunately, her program supervisor has made her slow down a bit.

When you're passionate about learning and challenging yourself, it's easy to keep your motivation sky high.”

“This has been so fascinating. After each contact session, I've carried piles of books home from the library. Studying has become one of my passions and I'm seriously considering further studies.”

Laitinen also appraises the team spirit among the program participants.

“Even though we represent a wide range of industries, we have managed to provide excellent support for each other and to act as a sounding board when going through our course work. Our discussions have been extremely fruitful and highlighted points of view that I for one would never even have come to think of. This group makes you go the extra mile!”

The participants have hung out together also after hours, going out to eat and, this being Finland, having sauna parties, too.

The program will culminate in a study trip to the Netherlands in September. "It's a fabulous reward for a fantastic learning journey," Laitinen says.

This is a final part in a series following Hanne Laitinen, who works as Test Manager at Nordea Life, as she participates in Aalto PRO's Master Class in Quality program. Throughout the journey, we have heard what it's like to study alongside work and what kinds of insights and eureka moments have come up during the program.

Read the whole series

Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: Queen of Quality, part 4: A system is more than the sum of its parts

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