Question: How do I start with Lean?
I think Michael Ballé is right to suggest you begin by asking, “What kind of Lean are we talking about?” Specifically, you might first decide if you want Type I Lean or Type II Lean. That decision will influence the spirit and everything you subsequently do to deploy Lean in your organization.
Type I Lean is associated with increasing the efficiency of already-existing concepts of product, production and service.
Type II Lean is associated with the broader topic of endeavor toward all manner of challenging objectives (which can include increasing efficiency).
An automobile company. Type I Lean means we continually improve the efficiency, productivity, lead time, quality, etc. of how we design, produce, sell and service cars. Type II Lean means we strive to flow mobility to people, which includes but is not limited to cars.
A hospital. Type I Lean means we view our healthcare value stream as beginning when a patient comes to us. Type II Lean means we view our healthcare value stream as beginning when a human is born and continuing on from there.
An organization should be both consistent enough to deliver what it promises, and adaptive enough to keep moving forward. Sooner or later things change, so part of the strategy for an organization that wishes to survive long term is to build throughout the organization a capability for continuously improving, adapting, innovating and evolving. Peter Drucker put it this way in his 1999 book, Management Challenges for 21st Century (New York: Harper Business):
“The center of modern society, economy and community is not technology. It is not information. It is not productivity. It is the managed institution as the organ of society to produce results. And management is the specific tool, the specific function, the specific instrument to make institutions capable of producing results.”
Below is a set of quadrants to help you target the Lean you want. Notice, however, that only in Quadrant D does an organization have a good chance of staving off disruption from outside. Quadrants A-C are often about buying time and trying to hang on to a status quo.
February 23, 2014: Here’s a further development of the 2×2 matrix by Jeff Liker: