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The 5 fundamental principles for the implementation of Lean

Prepare your team for change

Even if the implementation of Lean management is based on the 5 principles of lean, before applying them, you must prepare your team, your department, and even your entire organization, for change.

Set clear goals

First, you need to know your end goal and communicate it to everyone on your team. What are you trying to achieve by applying the lean method in your company?

Is it optimization of your workflow, to speed up the delivery of a product? Are you trying to increase the overall profitability of your business? Or maybe you just want to ensure your business survives by making it more sustainable in the long run?

Whatever the objective, it must be clearly defined. You will be able to share the trajectory to follow, persuade other people to follow you. And accompany them by eliminating all the obstacles that appear on your path towards the perfect process.

Establish a lean mindset

Once you know the desired outcome, you need to instill an implementation of a Lean mindset within your team.

Taking the human factor into account and convincing everyone can be a major challenge. Therefore, to begin with, you must explain to your team members what lean is and make sure that they understand its advantages, from an organizational and personal point of view.

The lean methodology aims to deliver greater value to the customer through the elimination of waste, but also to foster a shared leadership environment in which your team members are given more responsibility and that pushes them to constantly improve. Once your colleagues understand this, they will be more likely to buy into the change.

It is essential that your role is to lead the change, not to manage it.

Start small and find a change agent

A good practice is to start with one team, then spread lean to all departments and transform your entire company into a lean organization.

If you are working at the corporate level, you should form a temporary pilot group made up of members of different teams who are likely to become agents of change when they return to their original team.

For example, if you have a large research and development department consisting of several teams working independently, you should ask for volunteers for each team.

Establish the principles of lean management

Once your team is ready for change, you need to take specific actions (“lean activities”) to apply each of the 5 principles of lean.

However, it is your responsibility to inform your team and help them understand why each principle is important, to eventually adopt the lean culture.

Identification of value

After preparing your team for change, as a lean leader, you need to determine the value of the team’s work. You must differentiate between value-added activities and waste.

Everyone must be on the same page, so it should be a collective activity.

To understand the value, look at the product of your efforts and what your customers get out of it. Value is what your customer pays you for.

However, some teams do not produce direct value for a company’s customers but enhance the overall value delivered by the organization (e.g., quality assurance teams).

In this case, the customer is your company. For example, the value produced by a QA team is the number of bugs discovered and therefore ensuring that the whole company will deliver a product of value to the end-user.

Lean identifies 7 types of waste. Wastes can be classified according to their purity and usefulness.

The main difference is that some wastes are necessary for value-adding activities, while others just hurt your process.

In software development, quality assurance is the best example of a necessary waste. It does not generate any direct value for the end customer but ensures that the value added by the development process is not lost.

Value Stream Mapping

Once the value produced by your team has been identified, it is essential to visualize its journey to the customer. In lean strategy, this is usually done using Kanban boards.

The Kanban board is a tool to map each step of your process and therefore visualize your team’s value stream.

Developed as part of the Toyota Production System, which laid the foundation for lean management, the basic Kanban board is a flat vertical surface divided into columns for the three main states of any task:

  • Required • In progress • Completed

While visualizing your workflow this way is a good start, you should consider mapping your process more precisely, including the steps that make up each stage.

For example, a task at the “Required” stage may have two stages: received and ready to perform. Generally, the “In Progress” stage is made up of the largest number of steps.

In the context of software development, you will normally have stages like technology design, development, testing, and at least some review phases.

When you first map your value stream, you should focus on the steps that add value. Be sure to correct it occasionally as your process evolves.

Creating a flow

In lean expertise, flow is a key concept. Any form of waiting is wasteful, when declaring a value stream your goal is to ensure proper delivery from the second you receive an order to the moment you deliver it to the customer.

Bottlenecks are a major obstacle to creating a smooth flow in your process. As a manager, you need to stay alert to the progress of tasks as you go through your workflow. Pay particular attention to the spots where stains get stuck and understand why this is happening.

Bottlenecks can result from a lack of capacity at a certain stage, waiting due to external actors, etc.

Reducing bottlenecks in your process is crucial to creating a smooth flow. If you can’t do this, at least make sure to prevent existing bottlenecks from clogging.

A simple way to do this is to limit the amount of work in progress assigned to your team at once. You should have a discussion with your team about this. And agree on acceptable thresholds for acceptable work in progress to allow them to achieve maximum efficiency.

Make sure the team understands how detrimental multitasking can be to their productivity. And test multiple thresholds until you achieve a smooth flow of tasks.

Establish a method of regulation

Once your workflow is created, you should set up a throttling method. The idea is simple, only launch new work if there is effective demand for it and your team has the capacity available to complete it. Your goal should be to produce value that your customer base needs and to avoid overproduction.

To visualize this clearly, let’s look at how tasks are handled with a regulation method and the traditional model (push model).

With a throttling method, the tasks to be processed are stored in a queue. A developer who is currently not working on anything will open the queue and select the task with the highest priority he is able to complete. The individuals doing the work take the tasks and start processing their implementation of Lean.

As a lean organization, your goal is to deliver value to your customers in the most efficient way. One way to ensure this is to focus on two key indicators for each task:

  • Cycle time • Production rate

The cycle time of your tasks is the time your team is actively working on completing them, while the production throughput is the number of tasks completed within a predefined time frame.

As a leader applying implementation of Lean management. You should be looking for shorter cycle times resulting in increased throughput of your team.

Seek continuous improvement

This principle of lean is closely linked to the concept of continuous improvement, which is an integral part of M&A advisory.

Your goal is to constantly improve each of your team’s processes by focusing on strengthening the activities that generate the most value for your customers while eliminating as much waste as possible.

Or “Plan – Do – Check – Act”, but it is more of a state of improvement. The spirit that you need to create within your team.

To help your team continually improve, you should study how you lead it.

If you are one of the traditional leaders who prefer to be in control of every activity on your team. And are unable to delegate even small tasks. You may need to change your style and implement a shared leadership model.

Continuous improvement is only possible if each member of your team takes responsibility for their tasks. It can be quite difficult if they can’t even handle the smaller issues on their own implementation of Lean.

Trust more in their expertise and gradually increase their independence based on their performance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should leave your team unsupervised. And there are many ways to hold them accountable like setting up a daily meeting.

Everyone explains what he did the day before, what he plans to do today. And if there are any obstacles in his way implementation of Lean.

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