If you ask 100 people what they think Lean Thinking / Lean Manufacturing is about, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. So, let me share what I think Lean is about.
In a nutshell, it’s an over-arching approach to pursuing your goals (usually business goals) in the simplest, most cost effective manner, for the long-term, not just the short term. It embodies a range of practices and principles that interact as a system.
At the heart of it is people engagement – engaging people in continually improving processes. In this way it applies to all business types…‘a process is a process is a process’.
Unfortunately, many people think of Lean as just a set of tools that are applied in manufacturing production areas. As far as we’re concerned, the tools are necessary, but comprise only 10% of what is necessary for Lean to work and produce sustainable results.
The remaining 90% is about Leading and Managing Change and people engagement.
You can’t become a Lean expert by reading a book, no more than you can learn to drive a car that way. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, you can’t effectively implement Lean ‘one tool at a time’ as many think and try. It’s like driving a car, there are a number of things that interact with each other, and similarly, businesses are systems, not class-rooms.
If you really want to learn what Lean is, then you need to experience it. A great way to do that is in one of our inter-active workshops, where you get to do it, hands-on, not just talk about it.
You’ll find that to be implemented effectively, Lean must be lead from the top, because it’s very much about culture change and people engagement…all of the people, not just those in the operations areas. Business leaders play a critical role in setting the tone of the initiative and removing roadblocks (of which there are many) to continuous improvement.
So is Lean easy to implement? It’s often much more difficult than people think. Not because the principles and practices are difficult…they’re not!…
…But too often people think it’s about the tools, and don’t understand that it’s about the people and about the thinking. Until business leaders understand that, then many more businesses will ‘try lean’, may even get some short term success, but will find that the initiative fails in the end.
There are several reasons that a lean initiative can fail, all of which are avoidable…if you really know what you’re doing.
I invite you to check out various pages on our website and be sure to look at some of the testimonials. You’ll find that many of them are from business leaders who understand their critical importance of leading the initiative from the top, and understand the importance of ‘Impression Management’. There are also testimonials from others at all levels of the organisations, since implementing Lean properly, is a team sport.
May your business be…as you make it.