Lean principles empower the organization to deliver greater value at lower cost. The lean enterprise bridges the gap between thinking about the customer and becoming customer centric. Lean is the most powerful process improvement tool in the world today. Lean is the set of operating principles that turned a nondescript Japanese manufacturing organization, a division of a textile company, into the world’s foremost manufacturing company and largest car maker in the world – The Toyota Motor Corporation?
However, while lean concepts were born out of the manufacturing sector it is now moving into general services, health care, and government sectors of the economy. For example, hospitals and healthcare providers are discovering that applying lean principles to emergency departments, operating rooms, and clinics are increasing patient safety, speeding diagnosis, and lowering cost.
Lean in Washington State Government
Former Governor Christine Gregoire stated: “Lean is all about eliminating anything that doesn’t serve the customer efficiently and effectively, and we are embracing it across state government.”
Current Governor Jay Inslee is making lean a central part of his reform initiative. From his website:
Empower state employees to find efficiencies through greater use of Lean Management. Lean management is an approach that asks those who know best – our frontline employees – to identify strategies to help them serve the people of Washington more quickly and easily. These efficiencies will help us prevent additional cuts to essential services and programs.
So, what are the basics of lean and what happens when an organization embraces lean? Essentially, lean recognizes three types of activities or processes:
- those that add value
- those that do not add value but are required
- those that are neither required nor add value
Therefore, the lean enterprise will seek to eliminate all work that is not required to meet the requirements of the customer. In addition, it will seek to minimize the work that is required but does not add value.