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In a recession companies pull back from their markets, lay people off, and put aside business process improvement. Lean Thinking offers an alternative path. Lean Thinking does not mean cutting heads to cut costs. Lean thinking means eliminating waste and non-value-added activity, and respecting people. An activity is value-added if, and only if, the customer is willing to pay for the activity, it changes the product or service to be closer to the end product a customer is will ing to pay for, and it is done right the first time. To acheive this, leadership becomes more about enabling and empowering people to grow professionally and take responsibility and pride in their work. Lean Thinking encourages collaboration between customers, suppliers, employees and management in a positive approch to efficiency that spans the value chain.
The following chart shows Coherence Group's approach to implementation of Lean Thinking. It involves specifying value from the customer's point of view, changing the culture of an organization to embrace lean principles, teaching poeple to problem solve in new ways and encourages sharing problem solving experience using knowledge management techniques.
By combining Knowledge Management with Lean Thinking companies can retain their problem solving experience, share best practices and drive operational excellence over the long term.
My colleagues and I have pioneered a way of accelerating the implementation of Lean Thinking by using "Improvement Labs". In the context of Lean, these techniques encourage management and employees to pick specific improvement projects. Once you have a portfolio of projects, we design and facilitate an accelerated problem solving sessions in which participants create a solution concept, prototype new processes, and create an implementation work plan. The "Improvement Labs" solve critically important business problems while modeling lean thinking and behaviors. The projects are sponsored by management, accelerate Lean learning and are designed to achieve fast tangible results. By documenting the work accomplished in the "Improvement Labs" we create a knowledge base of solutions and problem solving techniques that can be replicated throughout a company.
For example, you could apply this approach to supplier relationship management (SRM).An Improvement Lab could focus on how to minimize transactions across the supply chain, how to select the best supplier, or how to collaborate with suppliers to eliminate waste. Suppliers could, in fact, be included in the problem solving exercise. Highly focused Improvement Labs demonstrate how to apply Lean Thinking while solving a real work problem.