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The Case for Lean Thinking in Retail and Service Organizations

by Josh Howell
February 3, 2015

The Case for Lean Thinking in Retail and Service Organizations

by Josh Howell
February 3, 2015 | Comments (3)

Senior coach at LEI Josh Howell recently joined Ron Pereira for a Gemba Academy podcast on coaching, lean thinking for retail and service organizations, and what respect for people really means. Listen to the full conversation here or read excerpts below.

On coaching: 

“I’m always interested in coaching practice in various fields. And John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. It’s the little things that make the big things happen,”… I try to keep that in mind. Start with what is the work to be done, how do to improve that work in really a detailed way… on the frontlines with those who are trying to create value. I just find time and time again if you try to dig into that detail, that detail really does do big things, deliver big results.”

On why the retail sector is interested in lean:

“Retail businesses are interested in how to create more value and do that at the same time as they require less cost… [Retail businesses] are often also just big companies. A lot of people to either be engaged in helping to create success for the business or not of course. On the value side, the retail sector is facing competition from Amazon on the one hand and the craft movement [on the other]… I suppose with lean thinking, there’s not a better way to [address] all of these things."

On the lean concept of “respect for people”:

"In my own practice, it begins with starting from “what is the work that that frontline value creator is doing.” I think that’s what really matters to them. There’s a lot of things that we as employers might do to try to engage and support them… but what day in and day out… what they’re doing is work... So as soon as we can engage with them around THAT, the work to be done, and support them in simplifying it and removing obstacles, the better off we’ll be. It’s my belief that in doing that we demonstrate respect for people."

On his own personal productivity habit:

"I think when I’m at my best, when I’m most productive, in advance of any activity (coaching visit or anything else) – I take the time to write down a plan. A general plan that shows what I’m going to do, what I’m going to accomplish... And then post that activity and exhibit the discipline to reflect on that plan. What actually happened, what was different than what I planned, why did that happen, what were the results, what are the next steps… For me to take the time to write that down and make that visible to my coach, my manager, that certainly helps me get better."

 

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  coaching,  customer focus,  learning
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Tim Dixson February 03, 2015
2 People AGREE with this comment

I love this: "I think when I’m at my best, when I’m most productive, in advance of any activity (coaching visit or anything else) – I take the time to write down a plan. A general plan that shows what I’m going to do, what I’m going to accomplish... And then post that activity and exhibit the discipline to reflect on that plan."

 

So often, we fail to plan anything at all, jumping right into PDCA and trying to fail fast to find out what works and what doesn't, and we lose sight of what we're really trying to accomplish.  Taking the time to step back, breathe deeply, and reflect on a plan is a simple thing that we often forget as we are wading through the chaos.

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Mark Graban November 01, 2016

On this topic, you might be interested in my podcast with Karyn Ross, who recently co-authored a book on the Toyota Way for service companies, with Jeff Liker:

http://leanblog.org/266

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Joshua Brown November 24, 2017

This is interesting. I am retailer and i haven’t found much information on pure retail lean, examples would be ordering from vendors, arriving, stowing, picking, packing and shipping and from the brick and mortar side, deliveries, merchandising, store side storage etc. A lot of the information still seems to have a "manufacturing" twist which is understandable.  I would be interested in doing some research and future publications on true “retail” lean at some point especially in the time of big box companies closing and rise of “sales all the time”/ erosion of margin, and on-line shopping. I think there is a lot that can be said and researched.  Please reach out if anyone is interested in lean retail.

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