Lean as a management tool is based on a simple to say, more difficult to do set of four principles;
- Create nothing but value adding processes (eliminate waste)
- Centre design around the people who add the value
- Flow value creation around demand (delay resource commitment)
- Optimise across organisational boundaries, structures, etc
Lean is about looking at the whole system of production, but it still has valid applications to service businesses. Any organisation who has asked customers to complete on-line orders connected to their order management system has been thinking Lean. Lean obsesses about the identification, removal or reclassification of waste. If anything is checked there is a waste process and waste labour involved. The same if anything is done twice. There is always time to put things right but never enough to do them right to begin with. Every time a phone call is transferred, waste is present, doing things right first time is the objective of Lean.
What is also interesting is that Lean organisations have a particular approach to how they organise their people. Lean People – the ones that (can) add value by being at the centre of:
- Information flows
- Resource allocation decisions
- Process design authority
- Decision making authority
What we have found is that a relatively small number of people, often managers but not always, are responsible for what we call the Organisational Energy, the people who make change happen. Undeveloped they usually number less than 15% of the workforce which creates bottlenecks and large areas of poor practice. If this figure can be moved above 25% we find a kind of tipping point is reached and organisational change in general, and new approaches like Lean in particular, can become sustainably activated and permanently embedded.