Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.

In 1996, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones popularized the term “lean thinking.” It was their expression for what they observed studying Toyota’s manufacturing operations: an absence of waste. Today, lean concepts have moved beyond the factory floor to become an organizing set of principles and practices applicable to all business operations and activities, including entrepreneurial startups. Every idea in your company can benefit from a lean approach, be it a product, process, service, or strategy. But what does it really mean to be lean?

It’s often easier to describe what lean isn't than what it is. A popular misconception is that lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every business and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization.

Lean isn't about being spartan, skinny, or stingy. It isn't about slash-and-burn cost cutting, reducing head count, or beating up suppliers to get the lowest price. Being lean means taking a subtractive approach and systematically removing anything impeding the free flow of value to the receiving party.

To keep your innovation efforts lean, you have to wage an all-out war on waste. There are several basic varieties:
  1. Overproduction. Anything done without regard to the demand for it counts as overproduction. That includes something as simple as processing an order before it’s actually needed. 
  2. Overprocessing. When there are too many nonvalue-added steps to achieve a given outcome, you’ve got overprocessing. 
  3. Conveyance. The very best you can hope for when transporting goods, material, and information from one place to another is that nothing goes wrong.
  4. Inventory. Any time inventory builds up, it creates unhelpful pressure to reduce or eliminate it. 
  5. Motion. While you might have the leanest process in the market, needless repetition of that process sucks time, productivity, and cost. Even the mighty Amazon, with its enviable 1-Click process, struggles with this: You cannot, for example, buy more than a single Kindle edition at a time.
  6. Defects/Rework. Everyone has experienced a defect of some kind: errors, inaccurate or incomplete information, flawed products. It’s important to reduce the probability that things don’t work the way they should. 
  7. Waiting. Whether it’s an endless, unmoving queue, being stuck in idle while you wait for an approval to proceed, or simply a slow connection speed, we've all experienced waiting, and the accompanying sense of helplessness and lost productivity.

Where is the excess and waste in your business, and what are you doing to eliminate it?

Source: QualityDigest,, Edit Innovation.

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