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, but a set of standard practices, developed for your organization, based on experiments. Start somewhere, with a value-creating process—what we call a value stream; what is also called 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 which you determine the current state. You identify the business problem, or the opportunity, and the root cause. You measure the performance gap. You inventory the potential countermeasures. You select the most promising countermeasure, and you conduct PDCA—plan, do, check, act. That’s science. That’s management by science.
With regard to where to start, each other wants to start with the CEO. “If my CEO would just do this, everything would be great.” That’s great, if they will. Many want to start with education, and 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, department head, facility manager, an area leader within the facility, product-line manager. Start where you are. Note that I’ve not listed the heads of the operational excellence, or continuous improvement programs.
We’ve learned that Lean transformation must be led by line managers. The job of continuous improvement, Op-Ex, is to coach line managers on how to run experiments, and to 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. Share your findings with the rest of your organization. We call that yokoten—the horizontal, or vertical spread of good ideas—and keep on 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?
Intro to Lean Thinking & Practice
This online course serves as an introduction to the key concepts, philosophies, and tools associated with lean thinking and practice.