Lean Services

While lean government and lean healthcare technically fall under this category, we consider lean service organizations to be those operating in areas like call centers, retail, hotels, restaurants, offices, banking, and so on. In such environments, there is a direct interaction with the customer, which should be seen as an opportunity to get real-time feedback on our service rather than a nuisance we have to deal with (if you have ever spoken with a customer care representative, you know what this means).

A common problem that practitioners trying to bring lean to services encounter is the difficulty to identify “the work” – whereas in manufacturing the product is in front of everyone’s eyes, in service organizations it is often hidden behind paperwork or a computer screen. Once the work is clearly visible, however, the opportunities for improvement are plentiful. To date, we have seen thousands of organizations striving to lean out the service they provide customers: from restaurants chains in the United States and China to a group of bakeries in Barcelona, from call centers to hotels, the application of lean services ideas can have an extraordinary impact on our economies. Especially if we consider that the service industry accounts for more than three-fifths of the global GDP and employs more than one-third of the global workforce.

Lean thinking is naturally a fit for the service industry, because of its focus on constantly delighting customers and on providing them with value-adding products.

Re-start with a clean slate

CASE STUDY – From client and supplier to partners-in-lean: how solving a problem together transformed the relationship between a Dutch hospital and the laundry supplying clean garments to it.

When lean takes off

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – The author visits the Parisian airport of Orly to learn about a pilot project (pun intended) that aims to tackle the late departure of flights using lean thinking.

Moving forward

INTERVIEW – This moving company in Singapore has taken its first steps down the lean road, reminding us that translating your strategy into small, actionable improvements people can make at the gemba is the way to a transformation.

Lean logistics for better customer service

CASE STUDY – Logistics can be the key to achieving success and creating a competitive advantage in a company. This case study tells the story of a port terminal in Brazil that has used lean to achieve significant gains in managing its road flow.

Leading large-scale lean change

INTERVIEW – Rose Keanly discusses the role of lean in a strategic business transformation in the financial services sector and the dos and don’ts of bringing lean to a large organization. 

Determination pays

CASE STUDY – This Dutch company awards social benefits to the unemployed. Thanks to lean thinking, they were able to radically transform the service they offer them.

The Sunday-night barista

FEATURE – The author looks back at her time at Starbucks Coffee Company and reflects on the role of leadership in facilitating the spread of lean thinking across the organization.

Banking on hoshin

FEATURE – What a Brazilian bank has learned from its first few steps in adopting hoshin kanri through structured problem solving and people development.

Paying our dues

CASE STUDY – This Polish debt collection company is refocusing its work around true customer needs and increasing problem visibility by implementing hoshin kanri.

Supporting the Australian service industry

INTERVIEW – What skills do coaches need to successfully support lean transformations in the service sector? Our colleagues from Australia tells us about their experience.

How I learned to treat people like individuals

FEATURE – In this intimate, moving account, the author shares her journey of personal transformation that caused her mindset and her attitude towards employees to dramatically change.

Pioneering lean thinking in hotels

FEATURE – Dreamplace Hotels in Tenerife have been on an improvement journey for several years, but only recently did they find a way to truly become a learning organization: lean thinking.

Lean delivery

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – After re-insourcing its bike repair workshop, a distribution center of France's La Poste has begun to recover long-lost knowledge about the work of mailmen and using it to innovate.

Cooking up lean change

PROFILE – In an industry dominated by star chefs and big egos, meeting a humble leader who has made people development his battle cry is a breath of fresh air. PL interviews Legal Sea Food’s Richard Vellante.

The lean veterinarian

INTERVIEW – A 22-people veterinarian hospital in Barcelona has recently turned to lean thinking. We caught up with the owner to learn how things have changed six months into the journey. 

Dramatic lean improvement

FEATURE – How an amusement park in Norway is using lean visual management to support actors during their busy schedule and to give visitors an experience they will never forget. 

A bold lean experiment in one of our kitchens

FEATURE – The lean mindset Legal Sea Foods has developed is allowing the company to run bold, aggressive experiments that might some day reinvent the way their restaurant kitchens work.

A lean improvement lab in Turkey

FEATURE – A laboratory testing services firm in Istanbul has turned to lean management to reduce complexity, shorten lead-times, and make its growth sustainable.