Lean is a way of thinking about creating needed value with fewer resources and less waste. And lean is a practice consisting of continuous experimentation to achieve perfect value with zero waste. Lean thinking and practice occur together.
Lean thinking always starts with the customer. What does the customer value? Or, stated differently and in a way that invites concrete action, what problem does the customer need to solve?
Lean practice begins with the work–the actions that directly and indirectly create value for the customer–and the people doing that work. Through ongoing experimentation, workers and managers learn by innovating in their work–be it physical or knowledge work–for increasingly better quality and flow, less time and effort, and lower cost. Therefore, an organization characterized by lean practice is highly adaptive to its ever-changing environment when compared to its peers because of the systematic and continuous learning engendered by lean thinking and practice.
A lean enterprise is organized to keep understanding the customer and their context, i.e., specifying value and looking for better ways to provide it:
- through product and process development,
- during fulfillment from order through production to delivery, and
- through the product’s and/or service’s use cycle from delivery through maintenance and upgrades to recycling.
Lean enterprises, both ongoing firms and startups, endlessly address fundamental questions of purpose, process, and people:
- What is the value-driven purpose? Or what is the problem to solve?
- What is the work to be done (to solve the problem)?
- What capabilities are required (to do the work to solve the problem?)
- What management system – operating system and leadership behaviors – is required?
- What basic thinking, including mindsets and assumptions, are required by the organization as a purpose-driven socio-technical system?
Lean thinking has a moral compass: respect for the humanity of customers, employees, suppliers, investors, and our communities with the belief that all can and will be better off through lean practices. Lean is not dogmatic. It’s not a rigid, unchanging set of beliefs and methods. Instead, it progresses in the context of specific situations. There is no endpoint as long as value is imperfectly created, and waste exists. Learn about the brief history of lean thinking and practice.
Let’s elevate the work. Celebrate it. And, with that, let’s treat it—the work—with the deep respect it deserves.– John Shook
How can lean thinking help you?
From executive coaching in strategy development, deployment, and alignment to engaging employees to create a culture of problem-solving and everything in between, see how lean thinking and practice can elevate your organization’s performance.
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