How a Lean Business Mentality Can Improve Your Business


How a Lean Business Mentality Can Improve Your Business

What makes a company, an organization, a university or a sandwich shop GREAT?

Pose this question and you will likely compile different answers depending on the perspective from owners, management teams, employees, shareholders and customers. Shouldn’t they all be the same? It would seem so, but variability in definitions is far more common than collective alignment. Even more elusive is the methodology to achieve this fuzzy label of “great.”

A great company when viewed through the lens of Lean is striving to accomplish one mission (the “What”), with two fundamental, tactical ingredients (the “How”). This is an agreed condition from CEOs to every employee. In a Lean environment, the mission is a relentless objective to increase the frequency of positive customer experiences (based on their requirements, not the provider’s) in the most efficient manner possible. The cornerstone elements to achieve this are a mentality of Continuous Improvement coupled with Respect for People. Seems intuitive and relatively straightforward but, in practice, the behavior is exceedingly difficult without a roadmap to navigate it properly.

Lean is perhaps the most dramatically misunderstood, misapplied and underutilized business mentality known to mankind.

Most companies rock along with a wish-and-hope model or an ambiguous approach employees could not articulate if randomly polled. If in doubt, survey your workforce and see if they can explain the company mission and approach to achieve it. Stop a few people in the hallways and informally ask them. If complete alignment is not present, you have a performance gap to address. Everyone is not on the same page of music and the cacophony is impacting your ability to achieve greatness.

Lean is perhaps the most dramatically misunderstood, misapplied and underutilized business mentality known to mankind. People think it’s a set of tools developed by the Japanese and applicable only to manufacturing, not service processes. They may have heard the word in a presentation or briefly encountered it in an article or book, but grasping what it can do for a company has eluded their serious implementation considerations.

Explaining it completely in a brief article is impossible, but suffice it to say you will achieve the following conditions when Lean is practiced properly across an enterprise:

  • Traditional managers (in command/control mode) have been redeveloped into Lean leaders (in supplier mode) laser focused on setting employees up for success by providing everything they need to meet customer requirements in an increasingly easier manner.  
  • When defects and delays are encountered, flawed processes are blamed instead of the employees in them.
  • Widespread, fearless challenging of process conditions by employees motivated to improve the outcome, rebelling on things making it more difficult to provide positive customer experiences, autonomously experimenting with incremental improvements, then simplifying things again.
  • Real-time awareness of how processes are performing against specific customer requirements allowing immediate prioritization of needed improvements.  
  • Highly engaged employees excited about working for a company genuinely respecting their input regardless of rank or position.
  • Customer satisfaction levels baffling your non-Lean and fake-Lean competitors.

If you think these conditions are unattainable and only represent ideals to dream about, consider exploring the power of the Lean business system. Capabilities exist in your workforce you are completely unaware of. Let the Lean Institute at the University of Oklahoma show you how your company can achieve greatness. Every journey, regardless of length, begins with the first step.

Upcoming courses are filling up fast! Register with the Lean Institute today and start making a difference for your business.

Brian deFonteny

Brian  deFonteny  is an instructor with the Lean Institute at the University of Oklahoma.