Lean is about creating the most value for the customer while minimizing resources, time, energy and effort. A lean approach to work is about:

  • understanding what’s really going on at the place where value is created – commonly known as the gemba.
  • improving the processes by which products and services are created and delivered.
  • developing and empowering people through problem solving and coaching.
  • developing leaders and an effective management system.

Lean thinking and practice help organizations become both innovative and competitive, which in turn allows them to become sustainable.

Today, lean has become a new, more effective approach to doing work, no matter what the work is, the sector or the size of the organization. In a lean organization, problems are opportunities for meaningful learning rather than errors to be swept under the rug or quickly resolved. Managers act as coaches, helping others get comfortable identifying problems and practicing daily continuous improvement.

Leadership means creating a management system to support a new kind of engagement with the real work at hand, the way the work is being done now, not the way you and your teams hope to be doing work sometime in the future. Planet Lean (and the Lean Global Network) aims to inspire people and organizations around the world to embrace lean principles and practices.

Here’s a few sample stories from our archives, which will show you the far and wide lean has gone… and how many opportunities lie ahead:

What lean is not

  • Headcount reduction (“lean = mean”).
  • A set of tools: 5S, Kaizen events, value stream maps, andon, visual management, metrics, dashboards, A3, etc.
  • A program (efficiency, process improvement, performance management, MBO, cost reduction, 6Sigma, etc.) “done” to the people doing the work (and therefore creating value) by management, outsiders or internal expert staff.
  • Something that only applies to manufacturing or operations.
  • Training for certifications and belts.
  • Regimentation through standard work

What is the Lean Global Network’s definition of Lean Thinking & Practice?

Lean thinking and practice is about embracing the challenge of creating more value for each customer and prosperity for society by:

  • Showing respect by developing people to continuously improve the work through problem solving.
  • Focusing on, and continuously, improving the work.
  • Minimizing/eliminating waste — time, human effort, injuries, inventory, capital, space, defects, rework, etc.
  • Asking what type of management behavior and management system is needed to improve and transform the organization.

To Improve (or Transform), an Organization Must Address

  • Purpose: What value for customers?
  • Process: How to continuously improve?
  • People: How to respect, engage and develop employees?

Aligning purpose, process and people is the central task of management.

What is a Lean Transformation?

  • Enterprise transformation is the process of an organization shifting its business model to a desired future state.
  • Lean transformation requires learning a new way of thinking and acting, characterized not by implementing a series of steps or solutions, but addressing key questions of purpose, process and people.

Here’s a video on the LGN’s Lean Transformation Model, narrated by John Shook.