Introduction to Lean

In this course, you will…

What is lean?

Principles, way of thinking, and tools

Lean is a set of principles

…around the idea that organizations can

  1. maximize customer value
  2. through eliminating waste
  3. with respect for people.

Lean is a way of thinking

…about the flow of work from a customer's perspective, rather than according to the org chart or departmental structure. It is about making things easier, better, and more reliable every step of the way.

Lean is a collection of tools

…that help everybody in an organization work to improve the way work happens whenever they notice errors or when problems arise. 

It's about people

Lean is about people. The people who you serve. The people you work with every day. The people who benefit from the work you do.

Why lean instead of something else?

Lean is a system that addresses all levels of an organization

In a lean organization, everyone—from executive leadership on up—participates in improving work, creating better ways of doing work, and noticing and removing problems as they arise.

Lean is NOT about eliminating jobs or people!

Instead, it's about making sure the knowledge, skills, and wisdom of everyone in an organization is put to its best, fullest use.

Lean has been developed and refined over a long period of time

It draws from a century of hard-won discoveries across a variety of industries—from textiles to automotive, from healthcare to government—and many kinds of work—from manufacturing to direct customer service.

Lean provides a framework for adapting to change

Change always happens, and it always stinks. Lean provides a framework for responding to change that involves everybody who should be involved, and helps avoid many common pitfalls and traps that people encounter when changes are happening.

Before we proceed…

Have you ever encountered lean before? Does the term seem familiar to you? Is it an empty buzzword? Write a sentence or two about your exposure to lean. It's OK to leave this blank.

The principles of lean

Customer value

Lean is maximizing customer value through eliminating waste, with respect for people.

The customer is the person who you're making or doing something for. It's that simple! We acknowledge the term "customer" might not feel like a perfect fit for your work. But here's why we still use it: "customer" encompasses both the external customers and internal customers.

External customers

The people you serve. The people who get the things you make—and who are the reason your organization exists.

Internal customers

Your coworkers, colleagues. …

Eliminating waste

If the customer doesn't value it, and we don't need it… why have it?

It's waste. If we can figure out a way to get rid of it without making anything worse for external or internal customers, and without introducing other problems: we should!

That's why finding and removing waste is an ongoing activity in lean

Later on, we'll share a "waste walk" tool, which is an easy way to get started.

Respect for people

Respect for people does not mean folks sitting around professing only the deepest respect and admiration for one another.

Respect for people does not mean the sort of things people tend to go to when the idea first comes up: things like making sure staff are rewarded well or that the work environment is good.

These are my min specs for how to do respect for people:

  1. Develop their skills. Give them authority
    • Help them notice the skills and authority they have.
    • Help them use the skills and authority they have.
  2. Assume good faith
    • If you can't assume good faith, act as if you could
  3. Create space for them to share their ideas, problems, and wisdom
  4. Show them how their work helps fulfill the organization's purpose

What's the point?

Let's revisit our the basic principles of lean:

Lean is maximizing customer value through eliminating waste, with respect for people.

This is like the foundation of a house. You might not spend a lot of time looking at it, but it's what supports the rest of the building.

Tools are the easiest thing to see

Lean  practice involve a flurry of flipchart paper, sticky notes, maps and diagrams. These events and meetings are important—they're how continuous improvement happens—but they are supported by the basic principles of lean.