Previous posts covered the basics of lean methodology as well as TPG’s view on the correct mindset for approaching reducing waste and non-value activities within your enterprise. What’s next? Ready… set… lean!

Successful lean operations can’t happen in a vacuum. Discovering, developing and implementing lean operational opportunities is a collaborative effort, involving not only the people who do the work, but others within the organization with institutional and history, knowledge, and experience. Outsiders (customers, vendors, consultants, etc.) can also contribute fresh perspectives.

Start with the end in mind, keeping these five principals at the forefront as you step through mapping business processes and seeing things through the eyes of your end customer:

• Identify value… What does your end customer (both downstream internal and externals ones) really want? What is he prepared to pay for? Go beyond just pricing. Think service requirements, product-specific items, ideal lead times, delivery methods, etc.

• Determine value streams… What are the specific steps needed to create the recognized value? Get serious and dig deep. Think reality SOP not how it reads in the ISO manual. (Here’s where having every team member on board and involved pays off.)

• Streamline workflow… How can you ensure a continuous stream of product, service, and/or information through your supply chain? Think proactive steps to reduce backlogs, delays, rework, stock, and write-offs.

Pace work as per your customer… How can you do only what your customer wants when he needs you to? Think a simple, transparent, continuous process (à la just-in-time techniques).

Pursue perfection… What kinds of systems can you put in place to continuously improve every aspect of your lean operations implementation? Think individual process steps as well as department, division, and corporate ones.

Most governance on lean operations is formal and intimidating. “Black Belts” and “Yellow Belts” are “awarded” to reflect the level of lean knowledge or experience one has. In fact, there’s a whole industry set up around the process improvement “fad.”

Don’t get caught up in all the hoopla. The simplicity of lean methodology can be deceiving. But don’t make a big deal about it. Start with something simple like documenting a single process. Ask a few people to sit in a room and look it, make some changes, and evaluate if those changes are realistically possible and would add value to the end customer. Use what you learn to tackle another process. Then another. Then another.

TPG suggests that when it comes to lean operations, you not wait to “make the leap” as much as simply “take a step” and try it out. Numerous benefits materialize simply by exploring the process, having suppliers and customers of each step present and comment on why things are currently done a certain way, and then just employing common sense.

Tell the Black Belts to come back down to earth and approach the journey slowly, cautiously, and realistically. Certification doesn’t get the job done. Hard work does.


Our first post in this series… LEAN OPERATIONS: A PRIMER

Our second post in this series… LEAN 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. 

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