Why are Lean Related Jobs Different?

Arranging Work Around Demand & Orientating the Whole System to Demand

'Non-lean practitioners resolve 'inefficiencies', beginner lean practitioners solve problems by removing waste but the experienced lean practitioner improves the whole system'. John Bicheno

Lean practitioners organise processes around actual demand for a product or service, rather than perceived, exaggerated or ‘failure demand’ (for example, where a customer has to call back due to a delivery or quality issue).

A lean practitioner will aim to fulfil customer demand by improving the value stream, which is ‘the cross functional sequence of activities that should be capable of giving the customer what is required, when and where it is required, without hassle’ (John Bicheno).

‘The key to the Toyota Way and what makes Toyota stand out is not any of the individual elements.... But what is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner – not in spurts.’ Taiichi Ohno

Focus on End to End 'Flows' of Data or Material Rather than the Separate Parts

Lean managers aim to reduce or eliminate non value adding processes in an organisation and create processes that flow products and services to customers more quickly with fewer defects. The whole process from order to delivery (and often including a product’s remanufacture or demise) is scrutinised, both at an internal and extended enterprise level.

The focus is on end to end costs and the reduction of wasteful activities, rather than separated activities and data that are divorced from demand, such as arbitrary targets or unit costing. As many organisations are not familiar with this perspective, lean practitioners also have to be able to manage the cultural shift and new working model with engagement and respect.

The People

A lean manager works directly with the people who do the work to create solutions. Solutions are designed with the inputs of the people who actually do the work and all employees are involved in the improvement process. Continuous improvement and relationship building, both internally and externally are key.

Understand the Problem Before Rushing to the Solution

Lean thinking is about the right application in the right place depending on the organisation’s individual circumstances and nature of demand. It is not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution.

'It is not a question of which tool do I use but what problems do I have and do I understand my problems? Taiichi Ohno's favourite word was 'understanding'. To understand problems and thus realise opportunities, we have to learn to study the work and learn how to avoid being misled by many of management's current assumptions about problems and their causes...We should also remember that Ohno did not call his innovation 'lean' - he didn't want it called anything'. He could perhaps see the folly of a label.' John Seddon

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