What is Lean Implementation?

Transforming your workplace through Lean implementation leads to better outputs for customers through more efficient workflow. First, we examine how to prepare for the transition to a Lean mindset for your business, and then we look at real world examples of successful Lean implementation.

Consider the big picture and then go backward

Looking at the big picture and potential benefits of Lean implementation is essential for team leaders. Start by researching case studies of teams who have dramatically increased their ROI or created fast product delivery. Look at how Lean implementation is affecting industries beyond engineering, IT, and manufacturing like insurance and financial services. How can Lean implementation benefit your customers and your team? What key areas to you hope to improve?  

Once you have established your big goals, embracing the transformation of Lean implementation can be incremental. Identify an outcome with high value for your customer and trace the process your team follows to that outcome. Draw a map of each step of the process and identify the person or team responsible for each step. Where do inefficiencies lie? As you evaluate the time, tools, and capabilities necessary to complete each step, consider the benefits and drawbacks of each. Where do you see room for improvement?

Study the Lean principles and tools

Understanding the Lean principles (Optimize the Whole, Eliminate Waste, Build Quality In, Deliver Fast, Create Knowledge, Defer Commitment, and Respect People) and how they can potentially affect your business will allow you to articulate the goals you hope to achieve with Lean implementation. This will help your team members understand why you are changing your team’s standard processes.

Successful Lean implementation relies on not one but several tools, each specific to your need. Most teams adopt a visual board or Kanban board method of the work process so that each player knows where each project stands. Some teams adopt a Just in Time pull method, so that work is not completed until its necessary step, allowing team members to focus on the most crucial projects as they are needed.

Examine your team culture

Some teams may be primed and ready for change, seeing the bigger picture and potential benefits of Lean implementation. Meanwhile, many of your team members may be wondering, ‘What is Lean implementation?’ and ‘Why is it relevant to my work?’. Successful Lean implementation depends on every player’s buy-in as evaluating the efficiency and inefficiencies of every process step can be best completed by those who actually complete the work. Making the change to Lean implementation is typically a managerial decision, but really getting into the nitty gritty of what changes might produce the most positive change is often discovered by the people who know the work are responsible for its execution on a daily basis.

This free webinar explains how examining these three components (leadership, tools, and culture) is essential to successfully embracing Lean implementation.

Consider a staged approach to minimize risk

In 2013, Antony Pierce and Dirk Pons published  “Implementing Lean Practices: Managing Transformation Risks”. Through a case study, they argue that managers should concentrate on small successes while building team engagement before embracing full Lean implementation and specific tools that are dramatically different from the organization’s current processes

Introduce the Lean mindset

Once you have fully analyzed the outcomes you hope to see through Lean implementation, your team’s current process and culture, and the risks of establishing new procedures, it is time to get your team on board. This is a hands-on process that can involve your entire organization depending on size, or you can concentrate on one team or subsection of team leaders.  It’s important to lay the groundwork of why you want to change and what you stand to gain. Focusing on positive customer outcomes and improved client success will allow your team avoid resistance to the changes you propose.

Then get started: Two examples of the first steps of Lean implementation

Case Study 1: Improved clarity and transparency

One 14 person team in a 900+ employee company with offices around the world adopted Lean methods with tremendous success. “We decided to adopt agile and Lean practices in late 2010. We started by holding daily standup meetings and visualizing our work on a physical card wall. This helped with articulating and understanding the business value of the work so that we could prioritize it more effectively,” explains Damian Fasciani, Technology Services Manager.

Their successful Lean implementation resulted in more clarity and transparency as well as a heightened sense of accountability for their entire team. They have been able to expand on this growth to effectively manage large projects with other teams around the world. To learn more, read the REA Group Case Study.  

Case Study 2: Improved efficiency and growth

This team of 10 piloted a tool for Lean implementation and found that they so dramatically improved their efficiency, they were able to maintain their turnaround time even after losing a team member. Since full Lean implementation they have “seen more than a 50% improvement in turnaround time. Our turnaround time used to be seven to 10 days. Now it’s about three days for high priority items and five to 10 days for normal priority items.”

To get started, Debbie, an IT Manager, says, “It was a team effort. We made sure everyone was involved in mapping our process on the board…. The team has since streamlined our processes so that we work together more effectively. The key is to just get started with something that everyone agrees with and then evolve it over time.” You can learn more about their transition by reading this case study of a leading U.S. healthcare provider.

Case Study 2: Improved efficiency and growth

This team of 10 piloted a tool for Lean implementation and found that they so dramatically improved their efficiency, they were able to maintain their turnaround time even after losing a team member. Since full Lean implementation they have “seen more than a 50% improvement in turnaround time. Our turnaround time used to be seven to 10 days. Now it’s about three days for high priority items and five to 10 days for normal priority items.”

To get started, Debbie, an IT Manager, says, “It was a team effort. We made sure everyone was involved in mapping our process on the board…. The team has since streamlined our processes so that we work together more effectively. The key is to just get started with something that everyone agrees with and then evolve it over time.” You can learn more about their transition by reading this case study of a leading U.S. healthcare provider.

Moving forward to full Lean implementation

As your team begins Lean implementation, note that focusing on the workflow and how individual teammates contribute will keep the proposed changes and improvements customer- and output-orientated. As your team builds on their successes, it is essential to embrace the Lean mindset of continuous improvement. Constantly evaluating ‘waste’ of time, talent, and/or resources allows the team to work more cohesively and every team member able to contribute his or her best efforts.

Try LeanKit Free!

You're in good company.

Our customers are the best. Read their stories.

Learn More about LeanKit