Lean thinking has become a prominent topic of discussion since the popularisation of the Toyota Way as a form of operations management. The two have become increasingly synonymous where organisations speak of adopting a more efficient system of creating value in an organisation by removing unnecessary non- value adding activities.
“…companies can dramatically improve their performance by embracing the “lean production” approach pioneered by Toyota. By Eliminating unnecessary steps, aligning all steps in an activity in a continuous flow, recombining labour into cross-functional teams dedicated to that activity, and continually striving for improvement, companies can develop, produce, and distribute products with half or less of the human effort, space, tools, time, and overall expense. They can also become vastly more flexible and responsive to customer desires.”- The machine that changed the world.
You may now be asking yourself, how does lean thinking and production translate into practical operations management for young entrepreneurs who have just started their business? Below are a set of 5 lean thinking principles that young entrepreneurs can adopt in their business that will ensure that their businesses are operating at their maximum.
This is the starting point for all lean thinking activities. It is important that entrepreneurs understand and are able to identify what their customer’s value. It is important for them to be able to satisfy their customer’s need within their business. If you are able to meet customers’ needs then you are not creating any waste because the customer will always demand what you are offering.
Identify the value stream
The next step within the lean thinking process is identifying the value stream. For an entrepreneur this would mean that you ensure that you address the end-to-end process in which you offer your product or your service. Understanding this whole process as a CEO, operations manager or top executive means that you ensure that everything runs smoothly and you can make, manage, measure and improve the value stream.
Let customers pull value from your products/ services
Ensure that every step within the production or services process is in line with the customer’s wants and needs so that there is no wastage and there are lower costs. The flow of work in this instance is designed to meet real demands. This step also allows young entrepreneurs or businesses to rethink the traditional production processes that they are used to and ensure that their processes are centred on their specific customers.
Empower employees within your organisation
At the heart of lean thinking and production is putting people first before systems. This allows employees to take ownership of their decisions and learn through mistakes to improve the process. Empowering employees also includes training everybody in the organisation on how to identify root causes and problem solve. This combined with aligning everyone to the customer’s value will ensure that employees are motivated and customer’s needs are met.
Seek perfection with the process
The four steps above should be repeated and iterated until every process within the organisation creates value. Lean thinking is also about beginning the steps again and again until you are able to find perfection. Small and systematic improvements lead to innovation and great organisational leaps.
Even as an entrepreneur, the right process will produce the right results!