With the business environment across all industries becoming increasingly competitive, successful companies must find new and innovative ways to improve processes and boost productivity. In the process, they may bolster profitability while also providing better service or higher-quality products to consumers.
Lean methodology is a hot buzzword in business today, and it is more than a passing trend.
Technological innovations are improving the way Lean principles are applied in various scenarios. When you understand what Lean methodology is and how it applies to your business, you will be able to dramatically advance operations in significant ways.
Understanding What Lean Methodology Is
Lean methodology originally was designed to improve manufacturing processes. Over the years, it grew and expanded and today, Lean is a philosophy as well as a practice or a discipline.
The purpose of Lean is to identify ways for companies to streamline and improve processes.
The goal may be to conserve resources and save money while also improving team productivity and promote overall team growth and development. While this methodology is rooted in manufacturing processes, the latest technological innovations made its seven principles applicable to all business models across all industries.
Reviewing the Seven Lean Principles
Lean methodology is based on seven guiding principles, and no principle is more important than the others. Understanding these principles helps you better determine how to apply the Lean methodology to your unique business model and processes.
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These seven principles stipulate that you are lean if you:
- Eliminate Waste: Identify any processes, materials or other factors that do not add value, and remove them.
- Improve Quality: Enhance the quality of products and services without incorporating unnecessary waste.
- Enhance Knowledge: Base optimization and improvements in the knowledge that is continuously gathered and analyzed.
- Explore Options Openly: Avoid limiting your improvement and optimization possibilities unnecessarily, and be open to trying new and innovative things.
- Focus on Fast Delivery: Improve the speed of processes and delivery by simplifying processes rather than by making them overly complex.
- Develop Team Respect: Focus on fostering excellent communication, healthy conflict resolution practices and overall understanding within the workplace.
- Optimize the Entire Process: Rather than searching for ways to optimize sub-processes and tasks, focus your attention on the optimization of the whole.
Exploring the Origins of Lean
Initially, the concept of operating with Lean principles was developed out of necessity. After World War II, companies in Japan had access to limited resources, and they were forced to look for new and creative ways to maximize all aspects of their processes while still turning out quality products.
Toyota began sharing its impressive management system to its suppliers in the 90s, and it later provided its Lean principles to charitable organizations, governments, and other companies.
The Toyota Production System is one of the most significant precursors to today’s modern Lean principles that revolutionized the organization of car manufacturing and assembly. While the concept originated in 1948, it has evolved over the years.
Specifically, the Toyota Way is based on these core values:
- Continuous improvement
- Respect for people
- Focus on long-term goals
- Trust that the right processes produce desired results
- Employee development adds future value to the company
- Focus on solving root problems for the long-term benefit
These basic concepts have been revised over the years to be the most functional and applicable to any industry, and technological advancements have enhanced the way these principles are applied in different situations.
Applying Lean to IT
Lean may have particular benefits for IT environments. For example, in an IT environment, the Lean methodology may be an effective way to reduce or eliminate redundancies and duplication while spurring beneficial innovation.
Leans makes daily work processes of staff more meaningful and effective by ensuring that rote, repetitive tasks that can lead to discontentment and frustration are minimized or eliminated.
For example, analytical data can be obtained to identify weaknesses in operations, and technological applications may be applied in various ways to improve the processes. These benefits of Lean applications are effective for a general IT department in any business as well as to software design firms, IT development firms and more.
Using Lean Principles in Project Management
Likewise, Lean applications are particularly beneficial to project management. Project management is goal-oriented, and it usually brings together teams of skilled professionals to accomplish a specific task. Projects may be completed through a range of sub-processes, and the efficiency of each process and worker must be optimized in order for the team to produce the best output possible in minimal time and at minimal cost.
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For example, technological applications can be used to improve group communication, file sharing and other aspects critical to project management. Through Lean processes, you may be more likely to complete the project on time and meet the expectations of customers or clients.
Rather than improve the entire process at one time, efforts are usually gradual so that effort incrementally produces more optimized results.
The applications of Lean methodology to IT environments and project management are only a few of the widescale applications in businesses today.
As you prepare to apply Lean concepts to your operations, examine how modern technology may be used effectively to bring positive change through all departments, processes and other aspects of your operations.