Then the Lean management methodology was first developed, based largely on the management techniques of Toyota and other Japanese automakers, it was mostly used in manufacturing. Today, the approach has been embraced by almost every industry. Along the way, software has been developed to support the approach. When we chat with people about the details of these Lean management systems, we are often asked some standard questions. Here are the answers.
Which types of organizations use a lean management system?
As we mentioned, the Lean business approach, and therefore the need for Lean management technology has spread well beyond manufacturing. These days, you can find Lean in almost every sector including healthcare, construction, software, logistics, consulting, retail, financial services, and even higher education. What these organizations have in common is a desire to practice continuous improvement and the will to make smart investments to ensure that each participant has the tools they need to implement, spread, and sustain positive change.
Who in the organization uses the technology?
This is an important question because people often assume that only company or department leaders need access to the Lean management system. That’s not the case at all. The Lean philosophy posits that improvement is the responsibility of every person in the organization. In fact, the people on the front lines are more likely to recognize waste and have ideas about how to fix it. That’s why the Lean software solution works best if everyone can access it and document opportunities for improvement. When a project is selected for implementation, the people involved in doing the impacted process are best positioned to work through a PSDA or DMAIC cycle and get the change accomplished. The Lean management system provides the platform for this work, so it should be adopted widely.
What are the key features of a Lean Management System?
We’ve written about this in more detail here, but the key features to look for are:
Opportunity capture – It should be easy for anyone to submit an opportunity for waste reduction or other improvements. They should be able to do it anytime regardless if they are in the office at a computer or elsewhere on a mobile device.
Visual management – The concept of visual control is vital in the Lean approach. Therefore, look for software that supports executive dashboards, huddle boards, Kanban boards, and rotating display boards.
Smart notifications – The right people should receive event-based notifications when new opportunities are submitted, tasks are due, and when projects slip behind schedule.
Reporting – Getting data into the system is important but getting it out is even more crucial. Make sure the solution supports reporting on improvement impact, engagement, and activity.
Search – The data in your Lean management system will become incredibly valuable, and hopefully quite vast, so make sure that it is easy to search for completed, pending, and active improvement projects.
What are the benefits?
The Lean business methodology can be used with or without technology to support it, but there are many compelling reasons to implement a Lean management system. Including:
More completed improvements – Companies that implement a tool to support Lean find that they capture more opportunities for improvement and get more projects over the finish line quickly.
Better impact measurement - Employee and executive engagement with Lean are dependent on achieving measurable results. Lean software helps calculate the impact of improvement and prove to everyone that the efforts are having a lasting effect on key business metrics.
Alignment – The best Lean solutions help align improvement work with the overall company goals. This is particularly important for organizations that use the Hoshin Kanri approach to strategic planning.
Smarter future decisions – The Lean solution becomes a repository of knowledge. It can be a treasure trove of best practices and lessons learned, leading to better decision making in the future.
A stronger Lean culture – The Lean approach works best when it becomes ingrained in the corporate culture. Investing in Lean software signals to every employee that Lean is simply how business gets done. It creates a common language based on improvement and a platform for employee performance reviews.
What are the best practices for a successful implementation?
The Lean management system should not be deployed in a vacuum. It should be part of the larger adoption o the Lean philosophy. People need training on the software, Lean, and the other techniques such as Kanban, the 5 Whys, and 5s that may be used to achieve waste reduction. Be sure to select a solution that is easy to use and doesn’t add barriers to adoption such as device limitations. Integrate the solution into annual reviews and use it to structure meetings.
Implementing a Lean management system will go a long way toward making the approach a part of daily life in your organization. It will also help you calculate the impact of success and ensure that positive changes take hold over the long run. If you have additional questions, drop us a note, we’ll be happy to answer them.