A while ago someone I worked with asked me: so … we get how agile works, we think we're doing it reasonably well, but if we want to get better, who should we be looking to as role models?
My answer wasn't Toyota or Google or Facebook or [The Lean Startup movement]
My answer was: the Zara Clothing company.
Read this article, from this weeks' New York Times, and I think you'll see why.
Their "development model" (they develop fashion) is very, very lean and agile. An 2004 HBR article described it as Rapid-Fire Replenishment model.
Here's a snippet from the NYT article:
But a brand at Inditex will make a fall collection, for example, and then ship only three or four dresses or shirts or jackets in each style to a store. There’s very little leftover stock, few extra-smalls or mediums hiding in the back. But store managers can request more if there’s demand. They also monitor customers’ reactions, on the basis of what they buy and don’t buy, and what they say to a sales clerk: “I like this scooped collar” or “I hate zippers at the ankles.” Inditex says its sales staff is trained to draw out these sorts of comments from their customers. Every day, store managers report this information to headquarters, where it is then transmitted to a vast team of in-house designers, who quickly develop new designs and send them to factories to be turned into clothes.
I'll share more over the coming weeks. I'll start with a little surprising information about fruit flies.