What Comes First The Project or The Change?

Or Perhaps They Are The Same Thing With Different Names?

Lean Sigma Approach To Streamline Process Efficiencies

Lean mindset companies define their work as driving value to customers. They implement cultures and thinking that embraces continuous improvement and the pursuit of perfection while stimulating problem solving and asking people to use their minds, not just their hands, to improve value to customers. Work in Lean environments is pulled through using visual cues based on customer demand, with a driving principle to smooth out throughput volumes and reduce lead times.

Lean Six Sigma can help companies standardise an effective change approach to improve processes and become more customer-centric. It is based on generating process efficiencies by removing unnecessary process activities, those that do not add value to the customers’ experience of a product or, service.

Creating a leaner organisation makes change easier to manage, so enterprise transformation can actually make change management easier, not harder. An effective change program IT or, the business transformation includes an assessment of the business processes. It is an opportunity for a business to step back and ask “why do we do it that way and is there a way to improve it?”. Another benefit is that user adoption can be better when the underlying processes are streamlined. Users who can see that the entire process has improved beyond a mere software change are more likely to invest in the changes.

For Those New To Lean (The origins of Lean and Waste)

The fundamental concept of “waste” in production goes back way into the twentieth century (and earlier) with the likes of Henry Ford using the idea of “continuous flow” on the assembly line for his Model T car. It was then Toyota who brought together a number of existing working practices to develop the Toyota Production System, which evolved into what we now know as lean six sigma.

Since then a host of service organisations like insurance, banks etc. have applied structured lean-based business improvement programmes across their organisations to achieve a fast rate of improvement in cost, quality and customer satisfaction. These have tended to focus on reducing waste by streamlining (service) operations and reducing defects (products or, services not delivered on-time or within budget). These operational improvement program efforts rely on a collaborative team effort to improve and sustain performance.

Lean is still growing in popularity and recognition but, the main challenge removing waste from enduring processes is that many organisations still maintain organisational groupings of employees, resources, and assets that respect functional lines to manage tasks.  The movement of goods and services from one functional department to the next and the resulting coordination, management and planning handoffs are often the root cause of significant delays and other forms of waste. Taking a lean approach aims to align functions and departments along the lines of the customer value stream. This means that specific working groups and resources are dedicated to performing certain tasks, contributing value to the customer must take a cross-functional view.  In some cases, it may be necessary to redesign the business architecture to align with this new thinking and change the cultural mindset.

Some key lessons learned when implementing lean operation change?

Knowing where to look

It can be hard to fully understand waste in a service business as many of the activities can be hard to define and categorise. The use of techniques such as SIPOC, value stream mapping can help to bring out the tacit waste in a process, enabling clearer judgment of the case for change, how these changes should be prioritised that will lead to enduring process improvement.

Assuming one-size fits all

There are a number of subtly different approaches to applying Lean – whether you use Kanban, Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen, or, Lean Startup approaches. Clearly, there are many different standards and these need to be tailored to a clients specific business situation and the change goals to be achieved.

Change Program need to be broken into chunks

Big change projects can require a lot of energy and take time to get off the ground. It is worth taking a leaf from the lean startup methodology and focus on running smaller Lean experiments and breaking bigger problems into chunks. This will ensure that teams see more immediate benefit and if the original improvements can’t be met it’s better to have failed fast and pivoted than to have spent months getting to a failed solution. Small problems are important and are often critical points where a customer-facing process breaks down. In field operations, for example, a lack of flexibility in forecasting and accommodating varying levels of demand can generate processing backlogs that impact work execution, effective prioritisation and generate issues in managing customer expectations along the process.


Getting the right management support

As with any change programme the full support of top management and critical stakeholders will be vital to success. Management will need time to understand a Lean-based approach, be sold on its benefits and accept Lean as part of their overall operations and business strategies. Even when quick wins are being achieved it is important to sell the longer term roadmap so they won’t be tempted to pull the plug before sustainable results are achieved.

Line managers need to come on the journey

Organisations that are just setting out on a transformation programme can lack the strength and depth of capability required to drive efficiencies. The right training and development will be needed to ensure that line managers understand and play an active role in delivery. Individuals in these roles will need to be willing to accept culture change and act as change agents to measure, analyse and drive benefits. It’s important that improvement activity is facilitated by a range of individuals rather than a handful of subject matter experts who may move on to other projects.

Broadening the focus of Lean

Historically companies have used lean-based methodologies primarily for operational improvement – improving existing processes to reduce costs, improve operational performance and ensure better customer value. Whilst all of these are really important, we feel there’s a missed opportunity if operational improvement programmes only look at improving processes.


Organisations who need to improve or, innovate their operations, products and services, business models and strategies can benefit from using lean as a governance model for managing transformative business change. The lean sigma framework is very well suited to a much broader programme of business transformation  and optimisation.  One that will help the company redesign the right physical process to position the business to look to leverage technology and automation to further realise cost savings and service excellence.

Lean on us

We have worked implementing lean to transform how companies work and view their customers. Done right process improvement breaks down traditional silo’s so a company can focus on value for the customer and work smarter. It is no accident that lean projects fit so well with the service-oriented business industry as it provides common standard practices that promote customer-centric thinking, methods and tools to eliminate waste and save costs.

What do you think? Is this helpful? Happy to discuss any of these points with you to see what is really relevant.


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