It may now seem that “Lean” is old fashioned and outdated, especially as we are in the world of Agile and Scrum. However, and as always, any approach should be viewed in context, especially as the world is changing fast and we are truly in an evolving environment. The nature of business is changing with the digitally driven economy and AI, and leadership positions are rotating quickly with little time to embed a consistent performance-based culture.
How you and your company view “Lean” is critical to its outright success. My view is that it is an approach and, more importantly, a mindset rather than a “bag of tools”. If you view it as a suite of tools, then the true large opportunities will be lost and you will only ever have transactional results, as opposed to transformational results where you will have totally engaged work forces who have the bandwidth to solve all your challenges and create new opportunities. Leaders must move away from thinking that they can do everything or solve all the problems. Some organisations have this totally sorted out.
However, for a greater number of organisations than one might imagine, this “Mindset” is not in place or potentially worse the management is “talking the talk”, rather than “walking the walk”. This is worse because it consumes energy which could be deployed elsewhere, and furthermore creates unnecessary hand-offs and waste.
The above approach will support incremental change which will ensure a sustainable shift. I have seen at first hand in both large organisations and small ones the power of incremental changes. I recall participating in a site visit when my previous consulting organisation was pitching to a large potential petrochemical client. The client team asked the Plant Manager a fair question. “How do you account for the financial benefit for each Kaizen or Continuous Improvement event?” He came back with a very simple and practical answer. “I don’t care, all I know is that I have oversight of 5000 continuous improvement events over the last 3 years, and we have saved $7million fixed cost”.