What is Lean?
The Toyota Production System (TPS), The Toyota Management System, Just in Time manufacturing (JIT), World-Class Manufacturing Lean Manufacturing, Lean Production, Lean Management System, Lean Enterprise, and sometimes Excellence are all alias of a management concept that is commonly known as Lean or Lean Thinking. The well-known Lean experts Womack and Jones did not invent the concept but they did bring about the renaming and popularisation of Lean in this part of the world with their management books The Machine That Changed the World in 1990 and Lean Thinking in 1996.
There is a lot of misconceptions about what Lean is so before we delve into what Lean is, let’s get what Lean is not, out of the way. Lean is not a new concept. Lean is not a static concept. The principles that inform Lean are not new. Lean is not a quick fix. Lean journeys are not generalisable, that means what worked for a Lean business exemplar may not work for you. Lean transformations are not always successful. The Lean tools cannot be applied carte blanche. Lean is not about layoffs and reducing the workforce. Lean is not about turning people into machines. Lean is not just for manufacturing and can be applied in service organisation too.
The reality is Lean is a complex concept. It is a business philosophy, it is a way of thinking and a way of making things, it is informed by principles, and it is a practice and a set of management tools. The Lean business philosophy is about creating a business vision that centres of delivering value to your customers, driving out waste in its many forms from your business while at the same time making profit for the business. The Lean way of thinking is underlined by principles that encourage continuous development of your people and improvement of your processes with the acceptance that your business can always do better than you are doing right now. The Lean set of management tools and practices is about choosing and using appropriate tools to solve your businesses unique problems and eliminate waste from your business processes. The most important thing to realise is that Lean is not one of these things, Lean is all of them.
It is not simple project for your business to become Lean, there is a lot to know and there is not one correct way. To create a bespoke Lean way for your organisation your people are key because it takes their time, effort, respect and commitment. This means that your business needs to develop leadership at many levels in your organisation. This blog aims to unravel some of the complexity that surrounds the commitment to become a Lean business. The goal is to help small businesses like yours learn more about Lean and how you can implement and disseminate some of the ideas into your businesses.