Published on March 12, 2014
PROPOSAL FOR A DEFINITION OF “LEAN” By Mike Rother February 2014
Jeff Fuchs Christian Hohmann Jeff Liker Mark Rosenthal Todd Weston THANK YOU to the following persons for their input to this Slideshare 2
Many definitions try to define Lean by listing its components and principles. However, a different kind of definition moves away from "things" associated with Lean and more toward describing the mindset of a Lean practitioner. For instance, the following definition of Lean was reported in the February 2014 issue of Quality Progress: Defining LEAN a Different Way “Lean is the permanent struggle to flow value to one customer” 3
Let’s take a closer look at this elevator pitch 4
Permanent means on-going, never-ending, because every improved situation can be further improved. You’re never quite at the ideal state of your vision, which is a vision of perfection. The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer 5
Struggle is the motivation to keep striving for the next improved target condition through the grey zone of uncertainty, where you are not always right. You take a step, encounter new information, evaluate it, revise your understanding based on what you learn, and plan the next step toward the target condition accordingly. The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer 6
To flow is not simply to ‘provide.’ For instance, it’s not just hold items in inventory (or set up disparate points of service) to hopefully have on hand what a customer wants, but rather to create and convey a product or service to the customer when they want or need it. This ideal of 1x1 flow may not be entirely reachable, but it gives us something to aim and strive for. The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer 7
Value is defined by customers and can change over time. The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer 8
To one customer means that at the end of a value stream there’s a single customer with particular wants or needs. Toyota has a saying: “We make millions of cars, but the customer buys only one.” From our perspective we may think we are supplying many customers, but turn that around to the customer’s perspective and there is only one. The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer 9
For Your Consideration Why might a definition of Lean like this one be more useful than those that describe Lean components and principles? If you want to utilize the capability of everyone in an organization, its leaders should articulate endeavors that create passion and enthusiasm in people. Saying Lean is about things like “developing people,” “continuously improving,” and “efficiency” may be viewed more as an uninspiring add-on program. 10
The permanent struggle to flow value to one customer Notice how this definition requires continuously improving + developing people’s improvement capability. That is, developing capability isn’t what comes first, it’s pulled by what we’re trying to do. Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse 11
On Next Page Although a definition of Lean is not necessarily a ‘mission statement,’ the following video by Dan Heath about mission statements gets at a point being made here. 12
At the risk of wordsmithing... I think the permanent struggle is to learn how to flow value to one customer. This puts some emphasis on developing the people and aligns with what organizations are trying to do with the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. • Not even Toyota has figured out how to "flow value to one customer." They’re trying to figure out how to do it. • It positions “Lean" as a state of being rather than a destination. • It requires the entire organization to be in the struggle. • It requires the organization to be focused on developing skill and advancing knowledge. 13 Comment by Mark Rosenthal
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