Lean management, is much more than a fitness treatment to eliminate “fat”, lower costs, or gain productivity points and hopefully improve financial performance. Lean is a state of mind. It’s all the time, everywhere … and with everyone: customers, suppliers, employees, from the ground up. At the beginning it was continuous improvement, today it is also continuous adaptation to an increasingly complex world, in continuous change.
Lean management is a managerial trend that aims to realign the organization of the company on the essential: customer satisfaction and the success of each employee. The end result is obviously the optimization of the company’s profitability, but this is not the direct objective.
Where classic cost-cutting can lead to the anaemia of the company like the bloodletting of yesteryear, lean management tends to make the company more vigorous, more agile and more precise, like a well-managed sports activity.
Concretely, the many methods and tools of the Lean universe seek to concentrate activity as much as possible
– on what brings added value, by reducing unjustified meetings, procedures, reports, gestures, delays…
– to what brings satisfaction to the customer, by reducing the causes of non-quality: from manufacturing and implementation, to delivery, pre- and post-sales relations, the brand universe, and the company’s own functions: accounting, IT, finance, etc.
– to what clarifies and fluidifies the relations within the company and with its partners by simplifying and dismantling the gasworks.
This may seem paradoxical: Lean is supposed to fight complexity, but when you delve into the literature you are quickly overwhelmed by a profusion of tools, methods and recipes: 5P, 5S, Six sigma, Kaizen, Kanban, Poka Yoke, etc.
If we had to retain two principles, it would be just-in-time and automation with a human face (Jidoka). We must be on time, neither early nor late! We automate for the employees, not against them. In fact, it is the employees themselves who decide on the automation of tasks!
In fact, lean management consists of managers accompanying their field teams so that they regularly ask themselves why they do what they do and how their working conditions are arranged. It is a participatory research that aims to optimize processes, but also to make employees grow by allowing them to train, to experiment, to feel part of a community, to take part in decisions and especially to keep in focus the meaning of their actions; a set of ingredients that will allow them to commit and in fact, make the organization agile and efficient.
Michel, the manager of an office building, has been waiting for 15 minutes for workers to come in and work on the renovation of a dozen offices and meeting rooms. He calls the toll-free number provided by the construction company. Sophie, a very friendly operator, keeps him waiting while she tries to reach Jérôme, the account manager. He is in charge of several teams working on the site. He gets on his scooter, goes to the site and finds Amélie, the team leader, who has been driving around for more than half an hour without finding a parking space! Michel hung up long ago and 20 minutes after his first call, his phone rings and Sophie informs him of the situation. Michel informs her in turn that he had blocked two parking spaces in front of the building’s entrance, because he knows that it is very difficult to park in this business district in the center of Paris.
Amélie finally parks! With her team, they unload their equipment. Two liters of paint stripper are missing, as well as protective dust covers to protect the offices next to the offices under construction, where the companies continue to work and receive their clients. Amélie calls Jérôme on Michel’s phone. After a long discussion to make sure that this material is really necessary, Jerome leaves to make the complementary purchases and brings them back to Amélie. In the organization of the company, in order to limit the pilfering, it is the account manager who carries out the supply on the basis of the estimate carried out by the salesman.
In total, Amélie’s team was not able to work for 3 hours, and Michel started to get seriously anxious, because he had new tenants who had to occupy his offices in 2 days!
A few months later, after a lean process, the company offered a smartphone to all the team leaders in intervention. Amélie received her customer’s number a week before. Michel, the customer, also received Amélie’s number. He sends her a notification a few days before to tell her that he will reserve two parking spaces for her. Amélie thanks him and tells him that she only needs one space. She takes the opportunity to visit the premises and quickly fills in a checklist on her cell phone to be sure not to forget anything and to adjust the quantities of what she will need. She does the supply herself the morning of the D-day. The work starts on time in a climate of trust with the client, but also without distrust within the company. The workers are committed to working well and quickly, with a satisfied customer! Sophie and her colleagues from the call center have been able to join other teams depending on their appetite. Jérôme organizes the sharing of best practices within the teams of the region for which he has taken commercial and operational responsibility. The statistics show that there is a little pilferage, but it is negligible compared to the drastic decrease in work delays and the image of quality of service that the company now enjoys and which brings it many new contracts.