7 Steps for Launching Your Lean Routine in 2019

By Chad Heggestad, LSSBB

The “newness” that comes with this time of year can be exhilarating. You've survived the holiday stress, reflected on the past year, and started planning for the year ahead. Perhaps you've asked yourself: What will be different for our organization in 2019? What will we change? What will we improve upon?

Here's something else to think about: Will 2019 be the year you implement a Lean routine? 

What is Lean?

Lean is a business methodology that gained traction in the early 1990s primarily within the automotive industry. Today, its principles are widely followed by organizations of all types. Generally speaking, Lean provides a framework for organizations to continually increase the value they provide to customers while eliminating waste. Although there are several different subsets of Lean, most interpretations of it revolve around two core tenets: 1) continuous improvement and 2) respect for the people. 

If your goal is to add value to your products or services and improve efficiency in 2019, Lean could help you make it happen. Here are seven steps for launching your Lean routine today:

1. Listen to the voice of the customer

Understand value by listening to the way that your customers define it. Try to identify what's truly valuable to your customers, and what they're willing to pay for. Where is the waste (e.g., non-valuable, non-value added) in the goods and services you're providing, and how can you remove it? Is there variation (i.e., lack of consistency) in what you're providing? If so, where can it be minimized?

2. Listen to the voice of the process

Have a keen ear for what your processes are revealing. Whether you're manufacturing a widget or providing a service, three items are involved: inputs, processes, and outputs. We often have a tendency to emphasize and measure the outputs, but the real magic happens when we focus on the inputs. New and improved outputs can only come from new and improved inputs.

3. Visualize the process

After you've spent some quality time listening, shift from the ears to the eyes and look for opportunities to improve the flow in your processes. A wise person once stated, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” What pictures do your processes paint? If you were to map out your key processes, how much flow would you see? Where would you see barriers, disconnects, constraints and delays?  

4. Visualize your team's score

Sometimes it can be challenging to know if your team is on track. Are you winning, or not yet winning? Do you know what defines a successful day for your team? If your team's progress isn't readily apparent, what aspects of visual management can be introduced to help your team know the score of the game?

5. Nurture your team

You've listened. You've seen. Now it’s time to use your hands and heart. As I mentioned earlier, Lean is all about respect for the people; it should never be thought of as an acronym for Less Employees Are Needed. The team is the source of creativity and innovation. Promoting their growth and development can lead to further improvements, allowing the organization as a whole to maneuver through change and sustain the flow of its processes. 

6. Exercise your continuous improvement muscle

The right daily habits are critical to the success of any routine. When implementing a Lean routine, consistently practicing the disciplines mentioned above can help your team shift its focus from reactive firefighting to proactive problem solving.   

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
- Aristotle

7. Take the first step today

Every new routine has to start somewhere. My advice: Have the courage to start now. Begin with a small, bite-sized approach and build momentum from there. Lean has a lot to do with cycles of learning and applying. Why not "try-storm" with an experiment? You never know, it could lead to a snowball of success.
And as you look to set your Lean routine in 2019, we would be delighted to partner with you and rally around the following seven words: Collaborate and create a better flowing future. Give us a call today to get started. 
 

Chad Heggestad has over 15 years of experience as a Learning Lean Practitioner. He is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSSBB) with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Augsburg University. He has Continuous Improvement Leadership experience in multiple industries such as printing industry, optical industry, and electrical sensor industry (regulated) which includes medical and aerospace. Contact Chad at  952.449.6241 or chad.heggestad@aemcpas.com to learn more about improving your efficiencies!