When people think about Lean, or Lean Six Sigma, lets be honest, they are imagining intellectual geeks or crazy mathematicians or anorak wearing experts. Well, at least I do and I have been working in the field for over 10 years now. Check out the book shelves in your local book store and it does not do much to encourage career changes or even to challenge the status quo. Take a glance over to the general business section or the sexy self-enrichment section and there are thousands of books that look far more interesting – all talking about increasing your organisation’s capability, innovation or just your own performance.
But what is frustrating is that lean thinking is fundamentally about exactly this – a way of optimising value in everything we do. It’s a philosophy and it is a way to run businesses, a way to create new ventures and also a way to live every area of your life. It’s about creating more of what we and our customers value in the best way possible.
‘To be the best in any field, its necessary to create more customer value faster and quicker – Lean thinking gives us a way to do this.”
The central point of Lean Thinking is about striving to create value. It is about delivering greater and greater value creation for a particular customer. So what do we mean by value? Well traditionally within LSS we look at a definition of value as whatever process step the customer is willing to pay for but we need to move beyond a pure physical product bias and extend this to value created in physical and psychological realms.
The creation of customer value begins even before a customer knows about your product or is searching to make a purchase.
Customer value is at the heart of Lean Thinking. Understanding who the customer is, what problem they want solved and how to deliver that solution is pivotal to all successful businesses, including startup’s.
When Lean Thinking expanded out of the typical manufacturing/service sectors and moved into the end to end customer journey design, the concept of value stays true. Designing customer journey’s takes the value creation process into the psychological level as well as the physical. Designing emotionally engaging products, apps – experiences are now central to processes and product development. We have moved away from the practical and expect more from all we engage with.
From a value perspective, lets not stop there – we are also customers – customer of our own actions, behaviours and the choices we make. What do we value, what makes us produce great work that we are proud of and what ties us in knots and succeeds to ruin great moments? Lean Thinking is personal.
The other side of the lean thinking coin is continuously striving to improve the value creation process. To improve it, we must identify and remove everything that does not add value. In Japanese, waste is identified as Muda (無駄) a word meaning “futility; uselessness; wastefulness”. By identifying and removing the Muda, waste, we get continuous improvement – nothing more than the constant identification of non value added elements within any process.
As consumers, we have little patience. We have access to anything we want 24/7 from almost anywhere. We have notifications hitting us all day and our attention is continually being fought over. So any activity which does not add value to consumers at a physical and/or emotional level is quickly shifted to the side and forgotten about. The goal is designing or improving services, developing physical and virtual products that continually enrich the user experience and drive value creation.
And at a personal level, the same is true – reducing the non the value add activities from our daily routines is essential. Increasingly we are aware that its not about quantity of elements in our own life but about quality. Its how we choose to spend our time thats key.
Summary of Lean Thinking
Lean Thinking, for me, is firstly the identification, search and validation of what value means to individual or group of customers. Remembering that you could be a customer.
Secondly, its the identification and removal of everything which limits or impedes the creation of value for that customer. Its the removal of Muda.