Lean Thinking | The Way Ahead

Lean thinking is not about someone who is on a diet! It is the real buzz slogan of the 21st Century. It is a relatively new theory on how to run a successful business. It is centered on process flow and looks to expose those activities that are non value adding to a business. It has been developed by many organisations to look at improving productivity, boost efficiency and increase the quality of services or products being offered.

Think “Lean”....

Lean thinking has often been linked with the theories and practices of Six Sigma. When you look at successful “Lean” organisations, they have excellent process flow and flow-charting of their operations. Lean thinking tends to use visualisation to create success. The final outcome is for an organisation to have taken out, as much as possible, all the defects and “slowing down” of a process in order to make it slick, competitive and more efficient than its rivals.

It can take out costs such as inventory but it can also affect other cash flow issues within a company i.e. Account receivables. A company that can do this successfully can often speed up their go to market strategy whilst at the same time reduce costs and boost productivity. It is not an easy thing to do but with determination and the right application of resources and support it can be implemented.

One of the fundamental founders of lean thinking was Toyota. They promote the theory and have experts in their organisation that act as mentors. It is said that lean thinking organisations have produced some astonishing business results. If you are thinking of creating a lean thinking process then it would be advisable to train a number of your staff as experts in the theory and get them to promote the concepts to your staff.


Management should embrace the lean thinking methodology. If a new method is suggested to a business process and the teams have proved that it can be successful, then it should at least be put on a trial and not put on the back shelf; even though the current process is proven and has done so for many years. Lean thinking should encourage business operations progress.


In Japan, the idea is to reduce “muda” or what we in the English speaking world would call “waste”. This is a fundamental practice. Once the process has been “value streamed” then the Six Sigma experts look to eliminate waste and mistakes as much as possible. In my experience there is always room for improvement, however, to achieve Six Sigma (3.4 defects per million) is a remarkable feat whichever business you may come from.


So if you are looking to introduce these techniques into your business then look at this theory in more detail. You may find the rewards could be fantastic!

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