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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.