How to apply Lean Management in your organisation

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
Lean is more than a method of managing an organization to increase overall organizational productivity and process efficiency, reduce lead time and costs, or improve the quality of its products or services.
Lean is a commitment to achieve a totally waste-free operation that’s focused on value as perceived by the customer. A Lean Enterprise develops by simplifying and continuously improving all processes and partnerships in a transparent environment of trust, respect and full employee involvement.

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If Lean is the application of common sense, the challenge is in the sustainable implementation. Although Lean can be deceptively simple, becoming Lean in any form is a complex undertaking. It’s not a matter of changing one or two things or moving one or two pieces of equipment. A successful Lean initiative involves changing the mindset of an organization – the way value in an organization is created and the way people think about value and their role in its creation.

Lean can be counter-intuitive
The basic principles and practices of Lean appear to be in conflict with many traditional business methodologies. For example, operating without inventory and producing to order rather than for minimum stock levels may appear to increase certain operational risks, moreover full utilization of machine capacity may lead to over-production.
Being Lean results in only producing what the customer demands in small batches, however, this may result in an overall lower utilization of resources. Because many aspects of Lean are counter-intuitive to conventional manufacturing practices, adopting Lean does require a willingness to change the way a company thinks.

People support what they help create
Successful Lean initiatives are about creating a push / pull dynamic. The employees push and implement the right ideas and management pulls or enables and encourages them to do the right things.
Lean requires commitment, endurance and above all patience. The way people think and view what they do must first change. An organization’s formal and informal cultural leaders, those who are looked too for guidance in various professional, technical and emotional ways, play a key role in Lean. These people can help find process solutions and motivate coworkers to join in the change, rather than blocking improvements.

Real commitments, support, and involvement from everyone
Optimal improvement happens when there’s substantial employee involvement. The principle of employee involvement is based on two premises:

  • Employees know the job best and if given an opportunity will contribute great ideas for improvement
  • Employees involved in developing change recommendations will support, not resist, their implementation.

Process change can be difficult. If your organization is new to process improvement, Four Principles will first emphasize quick wins and rapid implementation. If you want to start an organization-wide process improvement initiative, your first process improvement efforts must succeed and become a lighthouse to people in your organization. By building upon a series of successes, you create a base of support for process improvement.

Lean is not just for manufacturing processes
Lean methodologies are traditionally used in manufacturing, but Lean is a philosophy and as such is just as valid in other business areas. The tools we use is the only difference.

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Lean involves eliminating waste throughout the entire organization – across the value chain, from purchasing, manufacturing, research & development, sales and into administration and leadership processes. When a Lean effort is successful, it has a significant impact on the whole organization’s performance and bottom-line.

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