Lean and Agile, what does it mean to you? Lean management is NOT doing it on the cheap. Customer focused outcomes should drive your business no matter what you call it. Lean is putting a focus on which resources you apply efficiently I would like you to think about Lean and Agile in terms of letting go to grow.
Be ruthless in letting go. Create a letting go review process from the start through corporate yoga. A check and balance to every new customer focused process you put in place. If the customer is demanding shorter delivery windows, you want to install the correct tools and process controls delivering on that promise. If you need a new staging area and letting go of the old tables and cabinets, then do it. It might mean moving staff to be more central to the process. You may have just completed an employee move and you see that was waste, you have to let go of that assumption and evaluate all aspects of the customer focused request. Notice what happened here:
- Customer focused need
- Realignment of company to meet the need/promise
- A “letting go” process for checking the entire corporate alignment you have
We trap ourselves as leaders. We create cultures with simple and sometimes offhanded statement.
- “We are lean – so don’t spend a dime”
- “Evaluate new software or tools now? We don’t have time for that. Execute”
- “We just finished moving everyone, we can’t disrupt the office now, thats a waste”
Lean management has to be flexible and responsive to keep resources low and effective in the pursuit of customer satisfaction. Notice the words from the Lean Institue:
“The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.”
There are some gems in this very simple summary that everyone should agree with. It’s why we buy the logic. Make the customer happy with minimal investment by driving your corporate waste to zero. I suggest this has a fundamental problem. We all know the 80/20 rule. How can you balance perfect value creation with zero waist all the time? Nothing is perfect and zero waste is impossible to achieve when your customer is changing all the time. Markets are not assembly lines. That is the new reality. Customers and the market are agile. Your company needs to be agile. Lean is a goal that works for manufacturing but is stretched to it’s limits in the softer arts of management.
“Agility is a business-wide capability that embraces organisational structures, information systems, logistics processes and, in particular, mindsets. A key characteristic of an agile organisation is flexibility” – Martin Christopher – Cranfield School of Management, UK
Build a corporate culture from the start. Look in the mirror and train yourself to be responsive and lean to your customers demands. Remember, as the leader you have two customers. Outside and inside. Your employees are your customers too and you serve them to scale your vision and skills in addressing customer demands. This means you need to create a culture that is flexible, lean and agile. Sound like yoga? It is exactly what corporate yoga suggests. Be flexible and setup a good cultural balance responding to the customer while creating value at the lowest possible drain on resources. Do you know how to apply agile methods AND lean methods? In any case, you will have to let go at the inflection points to grow.