Lean management – in 3 minutes


The basics

Lean is a business model and collection of methods that aim to achieve customer value through helping to eliminate waste while delivering quality products on time and at least cost; lean management embodies these principles.

Target audience

Process owners and teams involved in process improvement


Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production  System (TPS) The principles of lean have been widely disseminated in the international best-seller book called The Machine That Changed the World, co-authored by Womack,  Jones, and Roos, which was published in 1990. There  is no formal methodology; lean knowledge-sharing is enabled by the Lean Enterprise Institute and Lean Global Network, not-for- profit organizations whose aim is to accelerate the diffusion of lean knowledge.

Lean focuses on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. It 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.

To accomplish  this, lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through  entire value streams that flow horizontally  across technologies, assets, and departments to customers.

Lean IT is the extension  of lean manufacturing and lean services principles to the development and management of information technology  (IT) products and services. Its central  concern, applied in the context of IT, is the elimination of waste, where waste is work that adds no value to a product or service.

Lean management is very much about asking the right questions rather than providing the right answers.

A five-step thought process guides the implementation of lean thinking.

Lean management

  • Specify value from the standpoint  of the end customer by product family.
  • Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating  whenever  possible those steps that do not create value.
  • Make the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.
  • As flow is introduced, let customers  pull value from the next upstream activity.
  • As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed,  and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.

Scope and constraints

The scope of lean management is the creation of customer value through  eliminating  wasteful steps in a process; it must exceed a single function and should ideally be across a whole supply chain to obtain maximum benefit. Lean is very successful in the elimination  of waste; it has a proven track record in significant process improvement.


One of the hardest challenges a lean team will face is the degree to which individual lean successes will invariably uncover new problems and greater challenges.

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