Lean Management“Lean” is a set of management principles based on the Toyota Production System (TPS), coined by a group of MIT researchers who wrote, “The Machine that Changed the World.”

It’s been applied to manufacturing (factories, product design, administrative functions) and service industries (healthcare, finance, telecommunications) and the United States Army has had an active lean program in place since 2006.

How Do We Define “Lean?”

As a production principle, the core idea of lean principles is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste—more value with fewer resources. A lean organization understands and focuses its key processes to continually increase customer value.

If your business wants to become more lean and agile, Womack and Jones (two of the co-authors) recommend you look at the 3Ps to guide the transformation across the entire organization.

  • Purpose. What customer problems are you trying to solve to build a more successful and profitable business?
  • Process. How will your business assess and identify value streams to make sure each step is valuable, flexible, and available?
  • People. How will your business make sure that every important process has someone evaluating for efficiency and usefulness in delivering maximum customer value? How can everyone be actively engaged in continually improving?

Womack says:

Just as a carpenter needs a vision of what to build to get the full benefit of the hammer, lean thinkers need a vision before picking up our lean tools. Thinking deeply about purpose, process, and people is the key to doing this.

How to Apply Lean Principles

To apply lean principles and create the ideal business environment, implement the following steps:

  • Design a simple system. For businesses providing a service, the system is the process you use to deliver value to clients. A simple system eliminates waste and unnecessary steps and policies.
  • Recognize there is always room for improvement. Lean business is inherently self-reflective. Everyone in the organization—top to bottom—has input and authority towards implementing process and product revisions.
  • Continuously improve lean principles design. Design, product, and processes can always be improved. Improvement equals iteration, plus increments.

The power of lean principles lies in its simplicity to deliver the maximum value possible for your customers and empower employees to fully invest themselves in their work for the benefit of all. Happy employees always equal productive employees.

How can you incorporate lean principles into your own business?