Is Lean doable if you are a small business?
If you are asking yourself if Lean is doable in your small business. The best advice we can give you is not to write off Lean because you think it’s just for large scale manufacturing. Or that you may have heard that needs expensive machinery or complicated engineering practices. Or that your employees might have heard that it’s another name for staff layoffs or a mechanism to control them. Or that your tried it and it didn’t work, or that people in your business don’t like the idea of it.
You are not wrong if you have these ideas because Lean is often misunderstood. Lean is often labelled as a tool box to be applied religiously to improve processes. It often is stared in businesses but thrown aside because a tool doesn’t work or that people resist change.
The reality is Lean is much more than a tool for improving processes.
Lean does have tools, but it’s not a tool. It’s a way of thinking. The Lean tools are useful to bring the thinking into reality. Want won’t work is the notion that all of the Lean tools are useful for your business, because they are not. Ask yourself are you a large car manufacture called Toyota? Do you have the problems of Toyota? If you answer no to both of these questions you can rest assured that you do not need to apply all of the Lean tools carte blanche. The reason is that you need to understand your business and choose the tools that will help solve your businesses problems. Which are very different to the problems that face Toyota.
Lean is about people. But is not about controlling people and it certainly is not about layoffs. It is about developing your people. Your role is to make the work better so that your people can do their job of delighting your customers. But Lean is more than smoothing the work for your people and creating value for your customers. Lean is concerned with humanity as a whole which includes improvement to your business, the working lives of your employees, value for customers, relationships with suppliers and respecting your community.
Lean is an ideology that accept as true that there is always room for improvement. This belief is equal for your business processes as your people. However how you apply the ideology to your technical and human system is different. It’s about removing mediocrity from your business processes and accommodating different ways your business can help your people do better than they are doing right now.
This continuous improvement ideology is useful because the reality is the world is constantly changing. Your customer’s values change, commodities change, technology changes. We are now seeing demographic and social change and shifts in economic power. Think about what has changed in your business in the past five years alone and you will realise that nothing ever stays the same. Using Lean your business can keep up with the change or even be a catalyst for change.
Lean is doable if you are a small business because Lean can be a tailored methodology. The challenge for you is to design your own Lean business and creating your own Lean story.