“Barely more than a year after the coronavirus caused the steepest economic fall and job losses on record, the speed of the rebound has been so unexpectedly swift that many companies can’t fill jobs or acquire enough supplies to meet a pent-up burst of customer demand.”
Concerned business leaders searching for an answer to this shortfall will be interested in a highly successful management approach. The approach is based on the work of quality guru W. Edwards Deming who repeatedly demonstrated that excellence can be achieved at the least cost through process improvement.
Deming’ s approach, dubbed “Lean Thinking” for its ability to do more with less, focuses on removing steps within these processes that are not necessary and do not add value.
Many organizations in the today’s world have faced a similar do-more-with-less challenge. Interestingly, those who have successfully met it, regardless of industry, share a commonality – the focus on process improvement. This approach to improving performance (doing more) while using the minimum amount of precious resources (with less) is nicknamed “Lean”. Lean Process Improvement does NOT equate to layoffs nor downsizing. Rather, the Lean Approach focuses on doing more with existing resources.
Everything we do, whether in our personal life or work life, is a function of process – making a sandwich, conducting a meeting, preparing a report – they all are processes. Each process is made up of a series of discrete steps that include a defined beginning step, a defined end step, and multiple steps between the two. This series of process steps yields an intended result (product or service) that is desired (valued) by someone (customer.) The important relationship among customer, value, and process distinguishes the Lean philosophy.
Lean is a respect-based improvement program. It respects each worker as a human person. It respects each individual’s knowledge and contribution. It promotes growth in both areas so workers as well as managers learn and improve.
Lean also recognizes the importance of each process and person to the overall success of the organization’s mission. With respect as a core value, Lean improves essential trust relationships at the same time it improves processes – worker to worker, worker to company, and company to worker. The health of these relationships directly shapes the image of the organization, both internal and external.
Lean is a dynamic and authentic continuous improvement process. It promotes a constant state of re-evaluation that asks, can this be done in a better way or with a better outcome? What can be eliminated in the process without reducing value to the customer/end-user? Lean is proactive rather than reactive. It seeks to anticipate and prevent rather than fix and resolve.
A core Lean belief is that all processes can be improved. This belief is supported by research findings that suggest up to 80% of the steps in any process are unnecessary to achieve the desired process output.
That means the time and resources used in those unnecessary steps could be saved and used elsewhere, to accomplish even more.
The Lean Approach seeks to improve processes by streamlining them. This is accomplished by looking at individual process steps from the end-user’s viewpoint to identify, reduce and eventually eliminate anything that does not add value. Anything that does not add value is looked upon as waste. When waste is eliminated, only value remains.
If you want to be competitive in this post pandemic economy, you will have to adopt the Lean model of doing more with less to your operations and begin your process improvement journey.
It takes time to figure out what and how to improve, but we now live in a digital world and the challenges in that world are:
That is why we have devised our Lean Sprint improvement system to accelerate your lean process improvement journey because time is a most precious commodity in all organizations.
Lean Management is not a new concept, but it is a concept that is ripe for the post pandemic economy. There is no question that differences exist between the products of a manufacturing assembly line and those of a service organization. But a huge similarity exists in the delivery systems of these organizations, delivery systems made up of thousands of complex processes. As such, many aspects Lean process improvement methodologies and other Lean tools can help your organization do more with less.
Willie Carter has nearly four decades of continuous improvement experience, which have enabled him to be a good listener, teacher, coach and leader as he helps organizations do more with less to transform creative thought into organizational agility and excellence. In addition to his consulting practice, he is on the adjunct faculty at Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL.