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Frequently Asked Questions About Lean and Lean Software

Posted by Jeff Roussel

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Dec 16, 2021 12:29:25 PM

Business person looking at road with question mark sign conceptThe Lean management methodology, also called Lean Production or Lean Manufacturing, was first developed based mainly on the management techniques of Toyota and other Japanese automakers; it was primarily used in manufacturing. Today, the approach has been embraced by almost every industry. Along the way, improvement management software has been developed to support the strategy. When we chat with people about 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 structured problem solving along with the will to make smart investments to ensure that each participant has the tools they need to implement, spread, and sustain positive change.

[Watch Now] How to Leverage Lean for Long-Term Success

What are the principles of Lean production?

There are five core principles of the Lean manufacturing approach. They are:

Value: What a customer is willing to pay for a product is determined by the perceived value as defined by the customer. Lean practitioners focus on removing processes, materials, or features that do not provide value to the customer. 

Value Streams: A value stream is the combination of processes, activities, and materials needed to deliver the product to the customer. Lean thinking organizations define and control every aspect of their value streams. 

Flow: Lean leaders believe that the value chain should flow freely from beginning to end. Anything that halts the flow of value contributes to waste and decreases customer value.

Pull - Lean is based on the idea that nothing is produced or stored until it is needed because a customer (internal or external) has ordered it. Production is not based on a forecast or a schedule, but rather it is based on near real-time customer needs.

Perfection: The underpinning of Lean is the constant pursuit of perfection. Lean leaders implement measurements, technology, and processes that constantly look for ways to improve speed and reduce waste across each value stream. When problems arise, the root cause is determined, and corrective action is applied.

What is Lean waste?

Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, defined the original seven Lean wastes. Today, many organizations include an 8th waste, unutilized human potential. 

Defects: Errors in production or service delivery.

Overproduction: Producing more of a product than is demanded by the customer.

Waiting: Time spent waiting for the next step in a process to occur.

Transportation: Unnecessary movement of raw materials or finished products.

Motion: Unnecessary movement of people.

Inventory: Products or raw materials that are stored before customer demand.

Over Processing: Features or process steps that don’t add value to the customer. 

Human Potential: Talent that is underutilized.

Who in the organization practices Lean?

This is an important question because people often assume that only resources dedicated to improvement or quality assurance specialists practice Lean. That’s not the case at all. The Lean philosophy posits that improvement is the responsibility of every person in the organization. The people on the front lines are more likely to recognize waste and have ideas about fixing it. That’s why the Lean software solution works best if everyone can access it and document opportunities for improvement. Then, 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. Lean software provides the platform for this work, so it should be adopted widely.

What are the biggest mistakes when implementing Lean?

Organizations often make two big mistakes when implementing the Lean methodology.

1. Viewing lean as a cost-cutting measure.

Implementing Lean often reduces cost, but the point of Lean is process improvement and creating a workspace in which employees can do their best work. Too much focus on cost-cutting undermines this idea and can cause employees to see Lean as a harmful, potentially job-threatening management method.

2. Underestimating the culture change necessary to achieve Lean.

Lean isn’t a thing you do; it’s a way of thinking and behaving that needs to be established at every level of the organization. Old assumptions must be challenged, and people must be encouraged to engage in a new and often uncomfortable way. This kind of change is hard but absolutely worth it.

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 of whether 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 essential but getting it out is even more crucial. Ensure 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:

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 proves to everyone that the efforts have 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 ingrained in the corporate culture. Investing in Lean software signals to every employee that Lean is how business gets done. It creates a common language based on improvement and a platform for employee performance reviews.

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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.

Topics: Lean

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