Do you know what Amazon, Toyota and Nike have in common? Apart from dominating their markets, they approach management the same way—they are all Lean!
Despite sounding like a complicated word, Lean management is actually an approach that supports practices that add value to the company and reduction of waste, while promoting continuous improvement.
The Lean Transformation is a Collaborative Process
Lean is more than a method or a system, it’s a philosophy that needs to run in the company’s veins in order to be effective. It must be taken into account as a permanent transformation that impacts everyone’s routine—meaning that it can’t be a top-down decision. Everyone must be on board.
Involving your team members in strategic improvement decisions is key since they’re the ones actually using the processes you wish to improve. This is a participative rather than detached management approach: it humbly observes, challenges, encourages and learns, rather than arrogantly bossing employees around. It’s the ultimate “practice what you preach” philosophy.
As it is a process of constant learning and improving, Lean Management can’t be defined as a fixed concept. Looking at this from a business perspective, you can’t just copy what other companies are doing because some strategies work for them, and that’s mainly because different companies and their processes have specific particularities. That’s why Lean is better defined as a philosophy.
The Three Principles of Lean Management
To Add Value
Based strictly on the customer’s point of view, value is what they actually want to pay for. In other words, value is anything that will stimulate the purchase of your product, or even more directly, make the customer want to pay you for what you offer.
In order to properly optimize your processes, you’ll first need to map their value stream, identifying all the steps necessary to deliver value—from the beginning to the end—so you’ll be able to cut off what is generating cost without adding any value and to optimize the remaining steps.
The main Lean tool used to map processes is the Value Stream Map (VSM), which can be implemented in seven steps. You can check out our step-by-step guide here
To Eliminate Waste
If your main goal is to add value to the customer, waste is everything that does the exact opposite, so another Lean goal is to eliminate all the sources of waste in the company.
Situations such as:
- Doing manual work that could be done automatically.
- Holding unnecessary meetings or meetings without agendas.
- Overburdening part or the whole team.
- Several others.
There are three common types of waste experienced in teams from different areas and different levels of maturity.
In Lean, waste is also known as the 3M:
Mura, Muri and Muda
The 3Ms of Lean stand for Mura, Muri and Muda and they classify conditions and situations that enable the waste generation.
Mura – Unevenness, variation, irregularity
Muri – Overburden
Muda – Uselessness, wastefulness, futility
Your goal here is to understand waste, identify it and cease it as soon as possible—always aiming for a process of continuous improvement. When you get past this phase, it’s important to create a pull system in order to maintain it in a cyclical fashion. Which leads us to the next concept:
In Lean, the Pull System is directly connected to the production line. It preaches the practice of only getting products manufactured according to the customer’s demand. The same can be applied to non-industrial environments.
This practice is used to reduce waste in any predictive or excessive planning situation in which value won’t be added. Thinking of an office, for example, a Pull System can be applied to the distribution of activities according to the actual demand.
Some Lean tools and practices can be a little overwhelming at first, but don’t panic! In order to help you understand everything clearly—including the Pull System—we developed a beginner’s guide. You can check it here.
This Lean tool is one of many used to continuously improve processes, which brings us to the third principle of Lean management:
To Continuously Improve
The culture of continuous improvement should be practiced daily by every employee, every team, at every level of the organization. Lean’s philosophy encompasses a lot more than just processes, it’s about respect for people—the customer’s, the employees and who actually get the job done.
It’s important for you to keep in mind that these principles are cyclical and should be continuously repeated in the search of better processes.
Remember: Your customer’s perception of value is not static and you shouldn’t be, either.. If you don’t want to be left behind, you have to evolve with them.
Organization is another key to continuous improvement. It’s a great way to identify, eliminate and prevent waste repeatedly. For that, in Lean there is Kanban.
Kanban is a visual tool that helps you organize, delegate and keep track of all activities steps through phases and visual signs that inform instructions.
It can be built physically or digitally—just like Pipefy is—in a simple and easy way (learn more here). But more than using tools, Continuous Improvement is about culture, and that’s purely Kaizen.
Change for the Better aka Kaizen
Ultimately, Lean is all about achieving the best version of yourself, your team and your company by continuously improving processes. Kaizen, one of Lean’s foundations, is the exact translation of that—“Change for the Better.”
More than a practice of continuous improvement, Kaizen is a culture that believes in improving the business by improving people’s lives, which means adopting the Lean transformation means always finding room for improvement. It’s not a one-time practice, it’s goal is to seek perfection.
Now that You Know the Basics…
Don’t be afraid of embracing the Lean transformation. It’s a fulfilling and even a bonding process. The people in your company will feel empowered and excited to join this challenging movement of daily improvements.
Ready, Set, Go!
- If you want to know more about Lean and how you can improve your business through this enriching philosophy, read our Beginner’s Guide for Future Lean Experts.
- And whenever you’re ready, check out our Hands-on Guide for Lean Implementation!
Now it’s time to fly—encourage your team and apply Lean to your company!