Introducing the Lean methodology
Waste not want not is the key message behind lean methodology, which aims to move the junk out of your workflows.
While the term was not coined until the 1990s, Toyota led the way with the concept from 1918 when it began transforming its manufacturing processes.
Lean project management breaks a project into smaller pieces of work that can be completed individually.
A workflow is defined for each task. For instance, cooking a meal might need a preparation and cooking step, while a writing workflow might need an editing and fact-checking step.
Business transformation expert Andrew Christofides, from Think Perform, a company that trains people in Lean project management, says the methodology is an excellent system for making sure each part of your project is done well.
“Lean is all about continuous improvement and respect for people in your business,” he says.
Christofides explains business can take the Lean journey by either assigning a program internally or working with an external provider.
The five principles of Lean are:
1. Specify Value
Define value from the perspective of the final customer. Express value in terms of a specific product, which meets the customer’s needs at a specific price and time.
Identify the value stream, the set of all specific actions required to bring a product through the three critical management tasks of any business including:
- information management
- physical transformation.
Also create a map of the current state and the future state of the value stream. Find and categorise waste and eliminate it.
List the remaining steps in the value stream flow. Eliminate practical barriers to develop a product-focused organisation that dramatically improves lead-time.
Let the customer ‘pull’, or order products as needed, eliminating the need for a sales forecast and stockpiles of bulk stock.
Always look at how to reduce effort, time, space, cost and mistakes. Return to the first step and begin the next Lean transformation, offering a product which is closer to what the customer wants.
Christofides says that no matter how Lean is implemented, a business should be able to identify its needs and understand its challenges.
“Then you can work out what will Lean be able to deliver, linking back to the strategic goals of the organisation. With Lean, we start by talking about how it changes culture – it’s behavioral change,” he says.
A popular approach over the last few years has been for businesses to mentor other organisations in Lean methodology, which provides a change management platform.
“The goal is educating people in the different forms of work by engaging them in the process of either task identification and eliminating unnecessary steps of procedures, associated with that task. In other words, you reduce the waste out of the whole business,” he says.
But he warns that every part of a business does not necessarily need the same level of oversight or the same steps for completion, even though Lean treats everything the same.
Lean also doesn’t have any process to make sure the final project is completed, making it easy to let your projects drag on forever.
“It’s again something communication can clear up, but it is worth keeping in mind,” Christofides says.