Virgin Holidays

Lean Management - why wouldn’t you...


In 2010, Virgin Holidays, led by Head of Business Improvement Sarah Fox, embarked on a mission to identify and implement a new method to effect change across the organisation. With a vision of their objective agreed, Sarah’s team looked to the market for a suitable methodology and chose Lean


With a strategic vision in place, Sarah had to create an in-house Lean team, implement the methodologies and build a solid foundation for future Lean roll out within the business. She needed advice and practical guidance on the best way to achieve the vision, support, tools and techniques.


A carefully-designed programme

Bespoke training programme was created along with regular mentoring, run catch-up sessions and helped the business improvement team work through challenges they encountered. As well as this,  ad hoc change consultancy, helped Sarah’s team roll out Lean training to a wider Virgin Holidays audience and supported a Kaizan (‘change for the better’) team. Three years on, Sarah’s world is very different.


‘I keep recalling how they offered us a package to deliver Lean management, not just theory and recommendations. I can’t over-emphasise their approachability and depth of relevant experience. And their intuitive understanding of our customer service environment.


‘When we started to roll out Lean our business improvement team we worked seamlessly together and we were able to draw on examples from within our business.'

Nearly three years on, Sarah proudly enthuses about her fully-trained and qualified Lean team. With solid foundations in place, her business improvement team (and the rest of Virgin Holidays) is ready for future expansion of Lean. ‘Qualification in Lean and success with putting a toe in the water to roll out Lean more widely has given us new confidence and measurable benefits.’


The benefits

Asked about those quantifiable benefits, it’s no surprise that Sarah Fox is guarded. With Virgin such an important player in a very competitive sector, her reticence about clearly measurable benefits is understandable. What she is happy to say is that they have been justified financially – and substantially.   


Positive reactions from stakeholders

Sarah enthusiastically reports regularly hearing colleagues using Lean terminology around the office. The methodology may not be engrained throughout the 1600-employee business yet, but it’s clearly ‘under the nails’ of the travel giant. As well as their adoption of Lean’s language, Sarah describes colleagues’ positivity about the methodology and the promise it holds for the future. ‘There’s genuine enjoyment of its visual management, document output, and the language of change


Unhesitating recommendation

And tomorrow? Sarah describes her vision for the future of Lean within Virgin Holidays: our newly qualified team has everything it needs to champion Lean across Virgin Holidays and help reshape the future of our business.’

Based on Virgin’s experience, it’s a challenge with only one logical response for any large or small customer service organisation that wants to start enjoying the benefits of Lean methodologies before their competitors do.

For programme update keep reading…………….


Programme update

Successful change implementation at Virgin Holidays

We needed a team with a box of tools and techniques to help (and share with) colleagues. We also needed a team with sufficient knowledge to roll out Lean management and embed it into the broader business.


Considerable customer service improvements
While delivering the initial change-programmes, we used a very wide range of recommended tools and techniques. Boy, did we deliver what we set out to achieve – and some! Our improvements and efficiencies translated into tangible financial gains. Equally importantly, we made considerable, measurable, customer service improvements. As we’ve increased capacity we now carry out customer requests in a timelier manner; we’ve also all but eradicated the need for last minute amendments. Additionally, we now offer a wider range of services to internal and external customers and have been instrumental in some real policy changes.


In our journey to sustain and embed Lean across the business we’ve unashamedly played to our proven success. We’ve compiled a standardised, team-branded documentation suite and successfully positioned ourselves within the business as improvement consultants. Each month we also continue to circulate our success measures to show how improvement has been maintained. Part of this sustainability is due to holding regular touchdowns with keeping our knowledge current, relevant and extended to new team members. With time, and the support we’ve had, we’ve gradually reduced reliance on others and done more and more on our own initiative.


Significant benefits
Undoubtedly, our journey was challenging and required tenacity. Two years on we’ve clearly demonstrated how you can successfully implement a change programme, engage the key areas of the business, enjoy significant benefits, and then sustain and improve on it.


Sarah Fox
Virgin Holidays