What is Lean?
Rooted in Purpose, Process and respect for People, Lean is about creating the most value for the customer while minimising resources, time, energy and effort.
The Definition of Lean
A Lean approach to work is about understanding what's really going on at the gemba (the place where value is created), improving the processes by which products are created and delivered and empowering people through problem solving and coaching. Lean thinking and practice helps organisations become both innovative and competitive, which in turns allows them to become more sustainable.
Today Lean has become a new, more effective approach to doing and organising work. It is a superior business system. In a Lean organisation problems are opportunities for meaningful learning rather than errors to be swept under the carpet. Managers act as coaches, helping others get comfortable identifying problems and practicing daily continuous improvement. Leadership means creating a management system to support a new kind of engagement with the real work at hand, the way the work is being done now, not the way you and your team hope to be doing work sometime in the future.
In 1997 James P. Womack established the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) in the United States. In 2003 Daniel T. Jones established the Lean Enterprise Academy in the UK. There are now 17 Lean Enterprise Institutes around the world with the mission to:
- Improve the competitiveness and raise living standards of their country.
- Enable growth while minimising resource use and environmental impact.
- Provide more fulfilling work and continuing personal development for everyone.
- Enabling consumers to create more value in their increasingly busy lives.
The Lean Enterprise Academy (LEA) grew out of the MIT research team that was responsible for coining the term "Lean" to describe the revolutionary production and management system they identified at Toyota. This was described in the landmark book "The Machine That Changed The World" by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos in 1990. Since that time there has been enormous demand for greater knowledge about Lean thinking. It has spread across the globe and beyond other manufacturers to sectors such as construction, healthcare, FMCG, the public sector, services and supply chain.
Read Daniel Jones' article What Lean Really Is