What is Lean Methodology?
The Lean methodology originated in Japan with the Toyota Production System in the 1990s has made its way to modern businesses and workforces. As Jim Benson of Modus Cooperandi said, “Lean is both a philosophy and a discipline which, at its core, increases access to information to ensure responsible decision making in the service of creating customer value.”
The difference between Lean and Agile is a topic of debate for several businesses and industries. Still, Lean has proven a substantial uniqueness and admiration for its core values in its working methodology.
It promotes the value additions to consumers through two essential elements- Respecting people and Continuous improvement. Without these two primary ethics, lean doesn’t come into existence.
Respect for People
Lean practitioners believe that the best ideas come from the teams and the people who are working in the project lifecycle. Lean doesn’t believe in hierarchy and provides equal opportunity to put down ideas to both the team leaders and the team members.
To achieve mutual understanding and knowledge sharing, lean managers often go to workplaces themselves. This provides a deeper insight into work conditions and process activities firsthand. Team members who are directly involved share their challenges and insights to ensure a smooth working and evolving environment.
The other way to demonstrate respect for people is by strengthening their abilities to achieve higher work value. This includes training them and providing the tools that will enable them to efficiency and productivity. Product managers also ensure that all team members receive the training, tools, and learnings that can be implemented on the ground.
Lean believes in a constant learning curve and considers the working functionalities are always prone to enhancement. The team leaders and the team members are also responsible for ensuring Continuous Improvement. The continuous improvement structure is exercised with a DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) or a PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) plan.
Though the much-talked-about aspect of lean management is eliminating waste, the entire definition also speaks of other aspects. It primarily emphasizes continuous improvement which becomes an umbrella term for other for other five core principles as well-
Fundamentals of Lean Methodology
Value – Lean starts with understanding what “value” the consumer seeks from the offered product/service. It takes the consumer as the principle decider for defining the value and not the business. Further, the team focuses on achieving that value with minimal waste secretion.
Value Stream – The value stream ensures the product lifecycle from the design to production through the consumer’s use case. It works to maximize value generation and eliminate waste through the entire process. Every step is carefully inspected to evaluate its value addition to the whole process. Any features or functions that prolong the process and don’t add value are removed.
Flow – A smooth flow is vital for smooth value streaming. The flow synchronizes every step with each other without interruption or delay. This is a mandatory condition for on-time production.
Pull – It ensures that every process is based on its consumer requirement. In Lean, Nothing is made until the internal and external consumers ask for it. This increases the flexibility of teams and shorter delivery cycles.
Perfection – The team leaders and members dig deeper to evaluate problems and solutions to extract perfection. They understand the root cause problems, involve in regular measurements, and make gradual modifications more effectively.
Significant Waste of Lean Management
Motion– Lean perceives repetitive movements as a waste of time and resources that don’t add value. It can be about the redundant movement of people, machines, or materials that complicate fast delivery.
Inventory management– Excessive inventory or products use too much space, time, and overproduction costs. Any product or materials that the consumer doesn’t require immediately or have asked for is a waste. That inventory is a loss of real-time management and storage.
Human Potential- The waste of human potential is when a person’s capabilities or ideas are not used due to poor team structure and employee management.
Lack of morale and productivity results in productivity waste, which is the most damaging yet the most difficult one to recognize.
Defects- These are the most understandable waste to deal with. Errors and bugs are significant wastes for businesses to handle. It also costs and delays people’s time, efforts, resources, and organizational costs.
Waiting– Improper workflows and missing out on syncs create a wastage of waiting. Idle equipment and waitings on people slow down the efficiency. For lean organizations, waiting becomes a very expensive beneficiary.
OverProduction – It’s about manufacturing products of more than what is required. Its adds up to the unnecessary processes or steps, which is an insidious waste. It wastes transportation and inventory, which often leads to the unavailability of resources when required.
Transportation: This is similar to motion, but it covers more considerable distances and acquires more tools, people, inventory, and products than necessary. Lean businesses consider these transportations a waste that doesn’t add value for the customer.
What Makes the Lean Methodology Unique?
You might consider efficiency maximizing to be a general essential value for businesses. But the real unique point of Lean is its customer-centric work approach since the beginning.
Instead of focussing on the general work value, lean focuses on producing quality work that pleases the consumer on point. It considers anything which is provided more than asked for as waste and less than asked for as a substantial production loophole.
Lean equally values employee satisfaction at par with customer value at every step of the process, making it exceptional for team productivity.
Any process that burns out its team productivity leads to human exhaustion or creates disharmony is strictly taken care of. That’s why Lean is chosen to ensure both consumer and employee welfare.
Lean makes its leaders and team members responsible for knowledge sharing and holistic efficiency, unlike many other methodologies.
However, in changing market and consumer requirements, Lean constantly adapts to ever-changing business and product standards.
Bottom Line- Should you consider Lean Management for your business?
Lean is quick and ensures a productive learning curve for team members working with it. However, the core principles of Lean, which define its uniqueness, can go south way without proper engagement with its tools and techniques.
The ideal answer for using it depends on your project requirements and business type. The final decision should consider how flexible your business is with its core principle and values.