An Introduction to Lean Methodology
March 16, 2023
Lean Transformation

An Introduction to Lean Methodology

Who wants to talk about waste? Likely not many of you. Whatever the context, it’s generally not an enticing subject. But understanding the concept certainly isn’t a waste of your time. Waste increases the time and money spent on a process, which is clearly detrimental to businesses. The aim, therefore, is to reduce or eliminate it. That is where Lean methodology masterfully comes in!  

Lean can be described as a set of management practices concerned with waste. It defines waste as anything that does not add value for the customer. Lean originated in Japan with the Toyota Production system where the focus became working to reduce the number of steps and time in a process in order to improve it and increase customer satisfaction. 

While many organisations deploy Lean very well, there are still those who haven’t yet adopted it. Others have, but are in need of refreshing the basics. This is especially the case as both costs and customer expectations continue to rise.   

There are 5 principles of Lean Methodology 

  1. Value
    Value is determined by what the customer considers to be important within a product or service, rather than what the individuals developing or delivering the product or service consider important.  
  2. Value Stream
    The steps involved in creating and delivering products and services to the customer; the connection of the steps together, rather than each in isolation. This avoids a lot of pain including complaints and rework. 
  3. Flow
    The smooth, uninterrupted flow of activities that adds value to the customer, and how well the work flows from one end of the organisation to another. Waste and inefficiency impede the flow. Observing processes end to end is essential here. 
  4. Pull
    The degree to which the value stream is only processing products and services for which there is a customer demand, rather than creating something and hoping someone wants it. Building to the customer’s needs. 
  5. Perfection
    The continuous assessment of value stream performance to identify and improve the value created and delivered to the customer, rather than resisting changes that improve the process of creating and delivering customer value. Aim for continuous improvement through your people. 

Within the Toyota Model Respect for People is central. This includes: 

  • building strong and positive supplier relationships,  
  • empowering staff to make decisions and changes,  
  • taking ownership and collaborating across functions.  

Change isn’t done ‘to’ people, but rather ‘with’ them. So, any pre-conceived notions of Lean management simply being about streamlining from the top down in a calculated manner, is wrong. MiM are often invited in to offer assistance after this kind of top-down approach has been attempted and has failed. Leaders do go first, this is a key principle. But it’s how they go first that matters. Listening to those closest to the customers, and working in the existing environment, is the best starting point to successful Lean transformation. It is progressive and empowering to every company that implements it effectively. Most large successful organisations adopt Lean methodology to ensure they perform at the top of their game. Examples include Amazon, Sky and Ryanair. 

If you have any questions about this methodology, then please ‘lean on us’ (pardon the pun!) Our experienced consultants and facilitators here at MiM are always happy to advise.  

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