Lean Management

The idea of “lean management” can refer to both individual managerial behaviors and, more in general, the set of principles and practices characterizing the adoption of lean thinking in an organization.

In the first case, lean management is closer in meaning to the idea of “lean leadership” and entails the development of behaviors that foster continuous improvement at the front line, such as respect for people, asking questions (rather than providing answers), going to see to really understand the work and the causes of problems, and scientific problem solving. In the second instance, lean management describes the lean philosophy more in general.

In its more general meaning, lean management – or lean thinking, if you prefer – derives from the Toyota Production System and is now recognized as a superior management approach that, through continuous improvement, customer focus, teamwork and relentless people engagement, leads to great results in terms of quality, performance, delivery, and cost. The promise of lean management is to create the most value for customers using the least possible amount of resources. As an approach to running a business, it brings benefits to all parties involved, from customers to employees, suppliers to wider society.

 

The iron law of scale-up

FEATURE – As our social systems grow, we need an effective way to manage them. This makes bureaucracies an inescapable part of life for our society and businesses. But how can we mitigate their negative effects?

Lean is an educational system

FEATURE – In this compelling read, the author discusses lean thinking as a system for learning that challenges our assumptions and tells us why blindly applying “best practices” takes us nowhere.

The synergies you need to succeed

FEATURE – While at Starbucks, the author learned the importance of collaboration among the key functions of Operations, HR and Finance to advance a lean transformation.

Introducing the Toyota Flow System

FEATURE – In the age of complexity and disruption, flowing value to customers as quickly as possible is critical. The new Toyota Flow System strives to address this issue. 

My father is my sensei

FEATURE – In this intimate account, the author reflects on the role of a lean sensei by looking back at what he’s learned from his own… his father.

Defining lean is useful, lean definitions are useless

FEATURE – In this article, the author reflects on how his understanding of lean thinking evolved over time – as did the way he defined it.

Blue-sky thinking

FEATURE – Successfully engaging people and building a solid daily management system is allowing a Velux factory in Poland to fulfill its strategic goals.  

Lean as a two-step engine

FEATURE – One of the things making lean thinking so hard to explain in general terms is its dual nature as both an organizational and managerial approach. The authors explain how to handle this tension.

Using lean problem solving at the Rio Olympics

FEATURE – At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the Japanese Men’s 4x100m relay team went from being the underdogs to winning a silver medal by apply lean problem solving.

From kaizen to innovation

FEATURE – Innovation is a process and lean thinking allows that process to take place, by empowering everyone in the company to think creatively about solving customer problems. 

Rising from the ashes thanks to lean thinking

FEATURE – This Norwegian company has come back from the brink of bankruptcy by rallying its people around a common set of values, by leaning out its processes and by involving its leadership team.

Can you standardize creative work?

FEATURE – The belief that standardization kills creativity can be a severe hindrance in a lean transformation. The author discusses how he convinced his team of architects to give standards a try.

Good Thinking, Good Products

FEATURE – Following a recent visit to Toyota, the authors strive to challenge popular beliefs and shed a light on the underlying philosophy that has made TPS a success for over half a century.

Lean learning happens across sectors too

FEATURE – The power of cross-pollination: learning from a manufacturing company has helped a cancer treatment center in Brazil to thrive in its lean transformation.

Lean thinking for the family business

WOMACK’S YOKOTEN – The author discusses the benefits that the many family businesses making up our economies can harness from embracing lean management.

The depth of lean thinking

FEATURE – To really embrace lean thinking means to ensure the bureaucratic structures in our organizations enable our people to excel, rather than constrain their creativity.

Lean Thinking: ingredients, incubation and diffusion

FEATURE – The author offers an overview of the ingredients that made lean thinking what it is, of the 30 years of incubation it underwent at Toyota, and of its diffusion from 1980 onwards.

What influences our ability to sustain change?

WOMACK’S YOKOTEN – The author visits a company that has sustained lean for a decade. In trying to understand how they did it, he finds how fundamentally the management system has changed.