What is Lean?

Lean is about a business model that delivers far superior performance for customers, employees, shareholders and society at large. Initially this superior performance is delivering exactly what your customer's want without any problems, delays, hassles, errors and fire-fighting; very quickly it also becomes freeing up the capacity to deliver a third more value from existing resources with few additional costs.

The fundamental insight behind lean is seeing that customer value is created by the actions of lots of different people, across many departments and organisations, then linking these actions together into a seamless end-to-end process, or value stream, for each product family.

Carrying out this process reveals literally hundreds of opportunities to structure lean operations that will allow your organisation to:

  • Streamline flow
  • Eliminate non-value
  • Create steps
  • Align the rate of flow with customer demand

With a lean business model you will be able to, for example, be able to compress the typical supply chain from raw materials to end consumer from 11 months to 30 days, whilst hitting every delivery on time and in full.

Lean applies throughout the organisation, not just on the shop floor. All the support activities in the office can also be redesigned using the same principles and tools. Through learning to be lean, organisations will learn how to see themselves as a collection of horizontal processes, or value streams, as well as the more familiar vertical organisation of functions and departments. Vertical functions are the right way to organise knowledge, but value is created by horizontal value streams. This focus on processes requires a very different form of lean management, turning separately managed activities into end-to-end value streams and managing the process of improving them over time; instead of managing using last months results, organisations will frequently observe the current progress at every point in their value stream, enabling employees to meet the current plan for the hour or the day and to plan further improvements.

The growing independence of each step in every value stream will reveal all the underlying problems and the challenges from a changing marketplace, highlighting the root problems enabling organisations to develop solutions.

The true power of a lean organisation is when every employee can take the initiative to solve problems and improve their job in a way that provides value for customers and prosperity for the organisation.