Learning from Lean, Part 3

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

Part three 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…

4. The Greatest Long-Term Gains Are Achieved Incrementally and Continuously

While Lean organizations also develop major innovations that radically alter how they operate and create new ways of adding value for customers, they know that the greatest long-term improvements come from each employee (or volunteer) making small, incremental improvements or innovations every day in how they do their work. Even major innovations need to be refined and optimized over time. Therefore, they set expectations and stretch goals for continuous improvement of processes and performance.

5. Capable and Empowered Employees Will Achieve Great Things

Lean organizations truly believe and act on the fact that their employees are their greatest resource. They know they must have committed, skilled employees who understand their work and how they add value to their customers. They know these employees best understand the challenges they face and are best positioned to identify and solve the problems that cause waste. Because of this, Lean organizations train their people, provide them with resources they need to succeed, coach them, and set ambitious goals with them. They expect and empower their people to make decisions about improvements to their work. This is a significant part of what Toyota calls “respect for humanity.”

6. We Achieve Better Results When We Work Together

Lean organizations depend on the synergy that comes from people creating, working and solving problems together, whether teams of people doing similar work or cross-functional teams that bring together people from very different backgrounds and perspectives. Therefore, Lean organizations promote teamwork and team problem solving.

7. Value Is Created, Learning Happens and Relationships Develop Where the Action Is

Gemba is the Japanese word for “where the action is” and refers to the workplace. Problems occur and are best solved in the Gemba. Because of the importance of the Gemba, leaders (senior leaders, managers and team leaders) go to the factory, offices and other workplaces to see and understand the context of work and what is actually happening. At where people work, leaders get to know their people, and their people get to know them. This allows them to develop meaningful relationships of trust and gain valuable insights.

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