How to Start a Lean Transformation

Looking to embark on a lean program? Don’t fall victim to this common mistake that companies always seem to make: trying to do too much at once.

Not only are these “boil the ocean” initiatives costly, tedious and long, they often stall under the weight of their own ambitions.

Fact of the matter is, faster and smaller is better where lean is concerned. First, you’ll want to make a quick company “health check,” focusing on a few changes to performance and cost. It’s important to choose the proper improvement levers by first quantifying the value they could deliver, weighing the trade-offs, and selecting the top three priorities to handle right away, suggests Harvard Business Review

It may sound pretty simple at the outset, but the thing is, many companies either don’t invest the time for the initiative to truly work, or they don’t possess the analytical skills needed to unearth the underlying cost drivers, determine improvement opportunities and evaluate trade-offs. The big wins will only come to the forefront once companies are able to hone those diagnostic skills.

The Practice of Lean Transformation

This philosophy has been embraced by many businesses globally for years. But what does lean transformation mean exactly?

Quite simply, lean aims to maximize the value of each customer and minimize the waste within an organization. Companies that embrace this thought process wish to offer a high value to customers through a value creation process predicated on zero waste while ensuring a maximum ROI for the company, says LinkedIn.

In order to accomplish these lofty goals, your business has to install a forward-thinking management team that can not only optimize technologies and assets, but create a seamless flow of services and products. One big myth about lean is that it’s only utilized in manufacturing. Not so. It can be beneficial in any type of organization.

Why Leadership is so Important 

Leadership plays a vital role in a company’s efforts to implement lean principles within the daily workflow. As a lean leader, you must ensure that your employees understand the importance of the concept, of course, but you also have to ensure the deployment of lean-related management systems and tools are effectively implemented as well.

This means leaders should be trained in Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) methods for development of best practices.

A fundamental part of lean transformation and strategic deployment is PDCA, a four-phase problem-solving process that continuously cycles to inspire greater improvements. Starting any transformation starts with understanding these principles:

  • Plan: Management must understand the current state it is in and come up with a plan to meet objectives. 
  • Do: Translates those plans into actions at each level. 
  • Check: Study the results.

Act: Take action in order to standardize and improve the process.

The lean transformation requires that leaders have the ability to experiment with various workflows so they can settle on the best option. As such, they are responsible for instituting a new model for the company that fits well within the current corporate culture.

Leaders also must focus on the big picture, always being mindful of the lean transformation objectives without the organization getting bogged down solely with process centricity, for example.

What happens when leadership is lacking? Insufficient leaders during lean transformation can negatively impact the organization by undermining the entire process. Leadership must convey to employees — on a regular and consistent basis — why changes are being made and how they will enhance the day-to-day workflows.

This is why it’s important to evaluate potential candidates early on and often, beginning training as soon as the lean transformation decision is made so you can hit the ground running when it comes to minimizing waste within your organization’s processes.

Lean transformation processes were initially created to foster more effective processes and changes within organizations. In order to make large-scale changes, you need to engage in advanced planning and maintain flexibility. It begins with having the right people in leadership positions. Over the years, lean management has helped many organizations become more effective and team-oriented, while at the same time eliminating waste and boosting return on investment.

Contact Incito Consulting Group

Ready to embark on a lean transformation? Incito Consulting Group has proven measures to help you succeed, through Engaged Culture Development and Lean Leadership Development. To learn why we are an award-winning lean transformation consultancy firm, please contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.

About how Incito can help transform your business and tackle your most important strategic challenges.