Learning from Lean, Part 2

By Andrew Parris and Don Pope, reprinted from Christian Business ReviewCitations have been omitted.

Part two of a series.

We propose seven principles of Lean that make it more understandable and applicable to a wider variety of organizations, along the lines of those cited above who studied the origins of Lean…

1. We Exist to Provide Value to Our Customers

Every organization exists because it provides valuable products and services to its customers. This is true not just for for-profit companies, but also for non-profits, churches, parachurch organizations, schools and even governmental entities. An organization asks and finds out from its customers what they need, what they want, and how they use the organization’s products and services. The organization then develops processes to design, produce and sell (or freely provide) products and services that customers want. Profits and growth are not reasons to exist, but are indications that an organization is providing superior customer value.

2. Waste Is the Greatest Hindrance to Achieving Our Goals

Organizations operate mostly through processes – repeated sequences of steps that transform inputs into outputs and create a valuable result for a customer. Processes may be for internal customers, such as a hiring process that delivers a qualified new employee to a hiring manager, or for external customers, such as the development and delivery of a training course for an external customer.

Toyota found that the greatest performance improve-ments could be found not by creating new and better ways of adding value, but by identifying and eliminating waste in their processes. They identified three types of waste: Mura (unevenness – significant fluctuations in the amount of process output required over time), Muri (overburden – excessive demands/loads placed on people or machines), and Muda (waste – any time or use of resources beyond the minimum required to add value.) Taiichi Ohno identified seven types of muda waste: waiting, defects, inventory, over-processing, motion, overproduction and transportation. Many add an eighth type of waste: underutilized people – when people’s creativity and full energy are not engaged.

Spear and Bowen noted that Toyota and other Lean organizations are “ruthless and relentless” about eliminating waste from their processes. They don’t accept waste in their processes. Instead, they prevent or detect it and make it visible, so they can get rid of it.

3. A Good Root Produces Good Fruit

Lean organizations know that a good process gets good results, and that a bad process will get bad results. Therefore, they do not pursue excellence by using inspectors to find poor quality work, and then fixing or scrapping them. Instead, they develop reliable processes that safely produce good products and services every time. They build into their processes the means to automatically prevent or detect poor quality. And when there is a problem, they do not blame people, but find and address the root causes of poor quality.

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