Lean Thinking is Simple, but not Easy

I have worked with many organisations over the last 20 years, implementing business improvements and I must admit that the concept of Lean Thinking is the simplest and most adaptable approach that can be applied to any organisation. I have worked with many large, medium and small organisations in pharma, food, semiconductor, healthcare, education, hospitality, public service, and many more. I have yet to come across an organisation that the concepts of Lean Thinking do not apply. My one criticism of Lean is the need to describe concepts in Japanese, as opposed to plain simple English. Don’t call it Muda, it’s waste. Don’t go to the Gemba, go to the workplace. Definitely, don’t call yourself a Sensai!

The principles of Lean are very simple.

Understand what your customers genuinely want and are willing to pay for, now and in the future.

There is a difference between genuine Value Add and Marketed perceived Value Add (Do you really need that phone upgrade?). There are many out there who say they will do it cheaper, but at what cost?

Next, decide on the best way to make the product or provide the service. This is the Value Stream. Do you do all of it yourself? Or do you get someone else to do parts of it? Connecting all the steps together is really important and is the reason why many businesses are not efficient. Think of the ‘Relay Race’ analogy – the objective is simple, move the baton (value item) around the track as quickly and efficiently as possible. Make it visible and communicate effectively on when and where you want the product/information. The information out of one process should automatically fit into the input of another. It should be impossible to allow errors to enter the process and it should flex up and down to meet the demands of the customer or react to changes in the process. Visibility is essential. Imagine trying to run a relay race without being able to see the finish line or see where others are in the race. Simple measures that show the flow of information or products are very effective. Some of the busiest A&E hospitals in the US are managed using Post-it notes.

The glue that ties all of these concepts together is the culture of the organisation

The soft stuff is the hard stuff! Developing and mentoring people to be curious, supportive, creative are competencies that are essential in every organisation. Over 70% of organisations that travel the Lean Journey never reach their destination, I would suggest this is for cultural reasons mostly.

Lean concepts apply to us on a personal basis just as much on a business basis. What value do we offer to ourselves and other? Do we try to simplify our lives and declutter all the noise and useless information around us? Do we make the things that are really important to use visible and we act on them? – Family, health, etc.
And finally, do we all strive to make things better? Do we look forward as opposed to always look behind us? There is a reason why the front windscreen of a car is much bigger than the rear mirror, we should spend more time looking forward, rather than looking backwards.
Lean principles are simple, but not always easy. Still, no reason to stop trying!
If you would like support with your Lean Journey, give me a call and more than happy to travel that road with you.