You can embrace lean in different ways. You can make use of Lean tools, you can attend lean courses and you can embrace Lean values (Toyota production system “TPS” to be correct).
But how do you know you are a Lean organisation?
- You define value from the eyes of the end customer
- You have a value stream/process to deliver this
- Management is continuously decreasing the Lead time across that value stream
1. You define the value from the end customer
Take a look at your products and ask yourself, are they adding value to your end customers life. If not, why? We can go to great lenghts to build products, but it is not until we get inside the customers head, understanding their problems and challenges, and keep these as our guiding light all across the value stream, we truly create great products.
2. You have a defined process to deliver that
You cannot improve what you don’t understand. So knowing what our process looks like is first step. A value stream map or a kanban board can be tools to learn this. The critical key is to understand that any change along this value stream is easier if all people affected by it can see it’s value. Including giving up functional goals for the better of the value stream.
3. Management is continuously working to decrease the lead time across that value stream
There are several subtle pieces here.
- First, Management involvement. By understanding how work is done, it is possible to improve it. Less time needs to be spent around arguing about the state of the organisation in meetings and more time can be spent on improving it.
- Second: Value. What is the value added work of management? If they are improving the flow of value they are decreasing our time to market and design inventory depreciation.
- Third: Trust. If management is involved in improving the state of the organization they are bringing something to the table which build trust to the workers.
- Fourth: Sustainability. People come and go. How do we make sure improvements don’t stop just because one great persons quits? To counter this we need to maintain the skills needed to improve our value stream. Keeping it in management level and making this a natural part of management training is one way to do so.
- Lastly: Perfection. How many times haven’t I seen organisations stop improving once they reached the top position? An IT department ignoring further improvement because now is “good enough”? Maintaining #1 is the hardest thing to do. If we constantly remove setup time, continue to cross train we remove the need for big batches to flow. And we can truly give what the customer wants, when he wants it.