Lean thinking…lean programs… lean operations… everywhere everyone is talking about lean: how to do it, why to do it, where to do it, and so on and so on.

We thought it was worth stopping the steamrolling lean train for a few blog articles that talk simply about lean. For starters, what exactly does “lean” mean?

Back to Basics
The term found footing in the late twentieth century as manufacturers worldwide studied their Japanese counterparts’ success. Lean focuses on the systematic method of minimizing and/or removing waste and non-value activities within a process, whether that be in design, manufacturing, end solutions, etc.

What started out as a methodology in the manufacturing sector now has applications in a wide variety of industries from health care to retail to distribution.

Lean thinking defines “waste” as any activity that incorporates time and/or resources but creates nothing of value to your end customer, such as:

• Mistakes
• Superfluous work steps
• Backlogs, call queues, or inventories
• Slow and/or stopped workflow
• Delays or poor decisions due to bureaucracy
• Mindless tasks
• Backlogs
• Customer and/or staff dissatisfaction

When incorporated, lean methodology provides:

• Quality improvement
• Increased productivity
• Process streamlining
• Innovation
• Process, inventory, and/or backlog reduction
• Overall decreased costs
• Staff empowerment
• Customer and staff satisfaction

The simple takeaway? Via lean thinking, any enterprise can significantly improve their operations. The key is to focus on end value and for every department and every person to strive together to improve their work individually and collectively.

Six Sigma’s Role
Introduced around the same time as lean, Six Sigma has had a profound impact on business-management methodology. Yet, amazingly, the majority of corporate Six Sigma initiatives—60%—fail to yield the desired results.

Fusing lean methodology with Six Sigma principals ensures an enterprise is poised to tackle and profit from the labyrinth of the twenty-first-century business environment. Some argue that lean and Six Sigma are two sides of the same coin. But Argon & Co believes they’re often the same coin, or at least aimed at many common principles.

Lean methodology focuses on what an individual/department/enterprise shouldn’t be doing, i.e., get rid of it. Six Sigma focuses on what an individual/department/enterprise should be doing, i.e., make it better or standardized it. The key? Employee involvement throughout the initiative.

Lean Is In Our DNA
Great ideas come from within, so early employee involvement of a lean/Six Sigma application is integral to the journey. This foundation of continuous improvement not only accelerates worker buy-in, but manages the much-needed change more easily. And with it, your dependence is lessened on management and central engineering to always be the catalyst for progress.

Over the years, TPG has learned that our behavior-focused approach makes enterprise-wide change happen and ensures that it’s sustainable and repeatable. By working closely with employees to align attitudes and behaviors with the system and process changes and the overall direction of the company, we help workers modify the way they feel and think about their jobs.

Thinking lean means working lean. And working lean means success!

NextLean Operations: Taking It Further.

As of September 8, 2020, Crimson & Co (formerly The Progress Group/TPG) has rebranded as Argon & Co following the successful merger with Argon Consulting in April 2018. 

Bruce Strahan

[email protected]

More Articles