Many of us have heard the term Lean Management, but what exactly does it mean? Based on the term Lean we can assume that it has something to do with low cost or doing with as little as possible. So what exactly is lean management? Lean management is all about customer focus. Value is defined by the customer and so lean management is a type of business theory that strives to create more value for clients by using the fewest resources. This type of management is more a way of thinking rather than a reduction program for cost and expenses. It is a leadership philosophy that drives people to continuously improve the processes that add value to the customer by asking questions and trying things, or encouraging others to try things. Lean management itself is not so much about providing the right answer, but it is very much about asking the right question.
“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions” – Claude Levi-Strauss.
Traditional management places tremendous pressure on individuals to be right. You must have a Solution, must know The Answer. That sounds good enough on the surface. Who wants to be “wrong”? But that attitude starts us down a familiar and dangerous path. Hiding problems is endemic in almost every company I know and is the surest way to absolutely undermine the practice of effective lean management. Exposing problems, developing countermeasures, and learning from them does not just support lean management; it is lean management.
Womack and Jones in Lean thinking recommend that managers and executives embarked on lean transformations think about three fundamental business issues that should guide the transformation of the entire organization:
- Purpose: What customer problems will the enterprise solve to achieve its own purpose of prospering?
- Process: How will the organization assess each major value stream to make sure each step is valuable, capable, available, adequate, flexible, and that all the steps are linked by flow, pull, and leveling?
- People: How can the organization insure that every important process has someone responsible for continually evaluating that value stream in terms of business purpose and lean process? How can everyone touching the value stream be actively engaged in operating it correctly and continually improving it.
Here are a couple of things to consider in encouraging a Lean Management philosophy:
- Lean Management Encourages Communication and Respect
- Lean Management Advocates Learning From Failures, Not Hiding Them
- Lean Management Means Promoting the Right People
- Lean Management Values Responsibility