Lean Thinking

Lean thinking means lower cost, increased customer loyalty, and improved control of results.

Your business problems may be high unit cost, low employee engagement, poor customer retention, or high product return rate. Whatever the reason for your motivation to improve, lean thinking can guide you toward an effective problem solving method and management system.


With its roots in post World War II manufacturing recovery in Japan, lean is first a set of principles that can guide your approach to business. While PDCA is typically taught as its foundational problem solving approach, to a truly "lean" organization lean thinking is much more.

Generally, the principles are:

  1. Insist that the customer determines what's value-added in every step of your product or service delivery process.
  2. Identify the eight wastes, begin to see them in your processes, and work to remove them.
  3. Design and manage outstanding processes.
  4. Engage and empower your workforce to both do the work and improve the processes.
  5. Adopt a culture of continuous improvement.

Done correctly, with deep and wide committment to this new way of thinking, a business can be transformed from an average competitor to an industry leader.

Done correctly, adoption of lean as the guide for your problem-solving method will put in place a management system that can handle practically any business problem.

How is "it" done? Through wholesale cultural commitment to continuous improvement as a way of doing business.

For example:

  • A typcial business requires managers to drive change and solve problems. A lean organization develops employees to solve problems and leaves managers free to coach, guide, and think strategically.
  • A typical business accepts rework and scrap as a part of doing business. A lean organization believes that the customer is not willing to pay for any additional cost that represents rework or scrap.
  • A typical business believes that performance improvement is a role or a project. A lean organization believes that performance improvement is everyones' job and never ends.

I guess you could say that this way of thinking provides the problem-solving method for the problem-solving method. It gives meaning and structure for PDCA, DMAIC,or whatever else you want to call it. It is relational, not mechanical. And, it has the potential to transform an organization...not just improve an isolated area.

I have a strong opinion about this being an ideal way to go about transforming a business. Lean thinking takes work, but it can be self-sustaining. It can be a hard transformation, but it can provide long-lasting return.

Continue reading the pages in this site for perspectives that reflect lean thought. They are woven through practically every page you'll read.


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