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A Definition of "Lean" - Part 1

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A proposed definition for the essence of Lean, for discussion.

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A Definition of "Lean" - Part 1

  1. 1. A DEFINITION OF “LEAN” By Mike Rother
  2. 2. 2Mike Rother The word "Lean" was coined in 1990, as a new paradigm of management that led to Toyota’s enduring success. However, there is no agreed upon definition of Lean, and perhaps a consistent definition is not possible. What, then, is the essence of the concept? My goal here is to give one possible answer to that question, to stimulate thought and discussion.
  3. 3. We've often tried to define Lean by listing things like its elements and principles. A different kind of definition is less about "things" associated with Lean and more about describing the mindset of Lean. The following definition, published in the February 2014 issue of Quality Progress, could serve as a description of Lean. A Proposed Definition “Lean is the permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer” 3
  4. 4. Let’s take a closer look at this elevator-speech definition 4Mike Rother
  5. 5. Permanent and better mean never-ending and on-going, because any situation can be further improved. You’ll never, ever be at the ideal state of your distant vision…. and that is the beauty! The permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer 5Mike Rother
  6. 6. Struggle is recognizing that you may learn something from each step. It's about striving for a next target condition through the grey zone of obstacles and uncertainty -- where you are not always right -- and realizing that there will be another target condition after that. You take a step, encounter new information, evaluate it, revise your understanding based on what you learn, and plan the next step accordingly. Notice that without struggle we are only doing what we already know… and what our competitors know. The permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer 6
  7. 7. To flow is not simply to ‘provide.’ For instance, it’s not just holding items in inventory in the hope that you'll have on hand what a customer wants, but rather to create and provide what the customer wants when they want or need it. This ideal of such a pure 1x1 flow may not be entirely reachable, but it gives a perpetual target to those organizations who view this as strategic. The permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer 7Mike Rother
  8. 8. The concept value is defined by deeply understanding customers, and evolves over time. The permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer 8Mike Rother
  9. 9. To each customer means that at the end of your value stream there is a single customer with particular wants or needs. Toyota has a saying: “We make millions of cars, but the customer buys only one.” From our perspective we may think we are supplying many customers, but turn that around to the customer’s perspective and there is only one. The permanent struggle to better flow value to each customer 9Mike Rother
  10. 10. Let’s face it... we are almost always in the unpredictable learning zone Whether reacting to deviations from standards or striving for a new level, the Lean mindset & approach is roughly the same in each case... it involves a scientific process of testing and possibly adjusting as you strive to reach a goal. Why? Because you never know for sure how you are going to get there, until you get there and look back. Predictable Zone Current Knowledge Threshold Next Target Condition Unpredictable / Learning Zone ? We want to be here next ? 10Mike Rother
  11. 11. Striving for efficiency is not enough The Lean community seems to have internalized and operated on the idea that Toyota's growth and prosperity stemmed from eliminating waste for greater efficiency. We've been selling Lean as a cost- reduction tool for so long that most leaders probably think that is its only goal. Today we know that Toyota's success came from striving scientifically to achieve many types of challenging goals, not just cost reduction. 11Mike Rother
  12. 12. What do YOU want to achieve? Focusing on waste elimination and cost reduction alone is no guarantee of business success. The Lean idea of 'value' involves understanding your customer & environment, defining a strategic direction that will set you apart in delivering customer value, and mobilizing the organization in that pursuit. A narrow focus on minimizing waste and cost alone is ultimately not what will help organizations meet the challenges they face and differentiate themselves from competitors. 12Mike Rother
  • samehsz

    May. 13, 2021

A proposed definition for the essence of Lean, for discussion.

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