To help leaders and managers begin their lean journey, LEI founder Jim Womack explains the fundamentals of lean thinking and practice and offers practical advice in this animated video. Find a transcript below.
“Where do you start? Lean is not a grand theory; it’s a set of standard practices developed for your organization based on experiments. So, start with a value-creating process — what we call a value stream or a model line — to learn what works best for you.
An A3 is the best way to create your hypothesis about how to make things better. [In the A3 process], you determine the current state and identify the business problem — the opportunity — and its root cause. Then, you measure the performance gap and inventory the potential countermeasures. Then, you select the most promising countermeasure, and conduct PDCA — plan, do, check, act. That’s science. That’s management by science.
Now, with regard to where to start, everyone wants to start with the CEO, [saying], “If my CEO would just do this, everything would be great.” That’s great — if they will. And many want to start with education in lean thinking and/or benchmarking. But you’re probably not the CEO, and education and benchmarking produce no benefit without action, which is to say: without experiments.
Number one, start where you are, whether you’re the CEO, the COO, the CFO, the CIO, a business unit head, a department head, a facility manager, an area leader within the facility, product-line manager. Start where you are. Note that I’ve not listed the leaders of the operational excellence or continuous improvement programs.
We’ve learned that lean transformation must be led by line managers. So the job of the continuous improvement or Op-Ex department is to coach line managers on how to run experiments and provide technical assistance as necessary.
Point two — point one, start where you are — point two, start with experiments. They can provide more value for customers by eliminating waste and creating success. Start with something important.
To sum up, whoever you are, and wherever you start, pick a value-creating process, not just spread all over the place, but pick a value stream. Create an A3. Run experiments. Reflect on what you’ve learned. Then, share your findings with the rest of your organization. We call that yokoten — the horizontal or vertical spread of good ideas — and keep experimenting.
Lean is not a program; it is not time-limited; it has no end.”
Take a Deeper Dive into Lean Thinking and Practice
To get a concise definition and learn about the Lean Transformation Framework, including the five fundamental questions that should guide your journey, go to What is Lean?
Editor’s Note: This Lean Post is an updated version of an article published on July 26, 2018.
Key Concepts of Lean Management Remotely
Join us for a seven-session learning experience where a veteran coach will guide you through learning and practicing the essential lean management concepts as you apply them to address your business challenges.