I’ve only been working on Lean for 8 years, which makes me essentially a novice in the eyes of true Lean practitioners. Yet while I’ve learned a few things, explaining Lean to people who are unfamiliar with this amazing way to make things better in just about any setting remains a challenge.
Here’s my current “elevator pitch” to people. (Notice I say “my” elevator pitch, not THE elevator pitch).
“Lean is a systematic approach to producing more (goods, services) with higher quality by engaging the hands and minds of the people doing the work in a disciplined and commonly understood method of problem-solving. This scientific approach uses the shared creation of standard work as a way to agree on the best way to get work done in the most purposeful way; and it enables people to identify problems as 'gaps' between how the work is being done and how it should be done—which allows a blame-free exploration into why best practices are not happening to occur—and to create a culture where continuous improvement is a mindful and structured mindset that is always present.”
Having just offered a definition, I must now share misgivings about any rigid definition (Tracey Richardson makes a compelling case that perhaps lean should NOT be labeled at all) and express concern that branding this rigorous practice dilutes some of the dynamic qualities that enabled it to become the powerful approach it is today (not to mention make it the protected, i.e. static, intellectual property of high-brow hucksters).
That said… does this sound vaguely like the Lean you are practicing? How do you describe Lean to people? What’s your elevator pitch?