Japan is the country where Lean originated, its direct antecedent being the Toyota Production Method. Lean is first and foremost a philosophy whose body of knowledge encompasses robust principles, methods, tools and a unique practical vocabulary all its own.
Arguably, the TPM could itself be said to be the offspring of acquired, learned and perfected Japanese management methods, whose hallmarks are the measurement and quantification of customer value, the conversion of customer value expectations to new and improved product specifications, a bias for quality-by-design, cross-functional collaboration and the merciless elimination of waste and defects. First and foremost, in private sector organizations, Lean is viewed as a profit strategy.
Expertly practiced by qualified practitioners, Lean has been successfully employed, at least at a rudimentary level, in every imaginable industry sector from air traffic control, to commercial insurance underwriting, to investment asset management.
If there is one thing that Lean professionals grow (indeed are trained!) to loathe, it’s waste, or Muda in Japanese. Lean defines eight types of waste. One of them is underutilization or misapplication of skills. Lean therefore is not about reducing waste by eliminating people; on the contrary, it emphasizes the expert deployment of skills, optimized to deliver superior value relative to defined customer expectations. Another waste in the Lean lexicon is re-work. Yet another is waiting, which is viewed as non-value added time.
The expression “you can run, but you can’t hide” is an apt descriptor for the Lean analytical, diagnostic and corrective tools that have been devised to root out and eliminate waste. “We have always done it that way” -
rationalizations of wasteful practices wither under Lean’s relentless re-channelling of efforts to better ways of doing things.
Current state value stream mapping (CSVSM) session(s) are typically conducted as a method of illustrating end-to-end processes and establishing baselines (e.g. value added vs. non-value-added process time), utilizing current data if it exists, or if it does not, achieving consensus on a preliminary basis to establish preliminary initial targets for improvements in financial and non-financial terms. In other words, key metrics are added to the CSVS map to help quantify and prioritize where to focus improvement activities. The CSVSM is then checked for accuracy and completeness before conducting future state value stream mapping (FSVSM) session(s) during which the desired, improved future state process is constructed and agreed to by the VSM team.
After brainstorming solutions, a list of potential improvement activities to achieve the desired future state is drafted. Each potential activity is reviewed for suitability and ideas are grouped together logically (i.e. by process step or department) and prioritized and categorized (as ‘Just Do-its’, 5S, Kaizen events or spin-off projects) based on the impact versus effort, and barriers to success required to implement. A deployment plan is then drafted with agreed responsibilities and timelines by the team determined. Once reviewed and approved, the action plan (inclusive of its agreed upon, realistic action items) will then be ready for the next phases and their tasks.
Lean’s close cousin is Six Sigma, which was first codified by Motorola in the mid 1980s and popularized by GE under Jack Welch. It’s focus on defect elimination in production processes, backed by rigorous statistical diagnostic, measurement and control methods, is not only powerful, it helps to explain the exceedingly low defect rates of countless “mission critical” products and services, such as aircraft engines and elective surgery. Click here for an overview of Six Sigma
The best of Lean and Sigma has been hybridized as Lean Six Sigma. Click here for an overview of Lean Six
Lean and Six Sigma professionals who have the requisite training and project experience are highly valued by organizations having strong quality and execution missions. EZSigma Group offers a full suite of Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma courses and certification options for both initiates and advanced professionals.
Remember,certification standards matter to employers, so the coursework can be intense; but at the end of it you will know that your EZSigma Group certificate designates you as a Lean or Six Sigma resource that is equipped to deliver immediate value.