The MDA management model



The MDA is a management model based on the lean philosophy. The term "lean" was coined to describe how Toyota was efficiently managing its precesses during the late 1980s. Among its foundations is the work of Walter Andrew Shewhart, who created a way of analyzing processes’ results through "control charts" and also the work of Dr. William Edwards Deming, who developed a series of management principles. The work of these two professionals was perfected in the 1980s by Shigeo Shingo, who applied it at Toyota. Lean thinking was born. It revolutionized the way of managing manufacturing, resulting in better products, faster and cheaper. It was then adopted in other industries such as services, technology and healthcare, which like Toyota, transformed their cultures and obtained excellent results. By 1990 in Brazil, Professor Paulo Fernando Machado began our work of adapting the "lean" philosophy for agribusiness, initially focused on milk production. The results were impressive. It started at Colorado, a farm located in Araras, São Paulo, where the method was initially introduced. Our agribusiness application of the lean philosophy proved to be successful when milk production increased from 48 to 61 pounds per cow per day. This improvement happened in only a decade, and all without buying any new animals. From this intense work MDA was born: pioneering application of lean thinking to farm business.

The classic management concepts are applicable to any business, but the theory is based on models and examples related to large companies and industries. By developing the MDA model, we seek to bring these concepts closer to agriculture, through tools that are easily understood by people in different functions, interests and levels of education
— Paulo Machado

More than 20 years later, and after training about 2000 people, the MDA model has been successfully applied to hundreds of Brazilian farms. After dairy farming, it also has been applied in swine, agriculture and horticulture, affirming itself as a robust and strong method.


The MDA management model, presented in the diagram below, states that everything begins with the farmer’s culture. He or she needs to develop a new way of thinking, becoming the primary person responsible for his or her own business. Being the advocate the farmer acts as a trainer, so that every employee becomes a master of his job. Everyone needs to have a clear purpose and focus on the internal and external clients. After truly understanding his/her business, it is time to organize and define how the work must be done - and done well: zero defects, fluid, uninterrupted and agile. This can only happen if a culture of continuous improvement with total participation to reach better results is created. Finally, the farmer must look forward to innovate, having the business’ purpose as true north. As a result, applying the MDA model will bring success to everyone on the farm, every day.


Over the years, after following the application of this philosophy on countless farms and
with the help of many farm managers, we created the MDA Journey: a very practical guide that presents a step by step implementation process, as shown in the following figure. By following this guide and practicing lean’s concepts and principles the manager becomes a master, ready to transform his or her own business, life and the
lives of all those involved in the farm.