The 21st Century – The Principles of the Lean Business System: #7 Planet
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The 21st Century – The Principles of the Lean Business System: #7 Planet

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As you may have read in my previous blogs, Lean is rapidly evolving. It is moving past the traditional tools and one off events stage. People are also challenging whether the original concepts we learned about in the last century are really right. One of these is the lack of focus on being a corporate citizen and our wider responsibility to society and the environment. In today’s business environment this area can no longer be ignored.

For those of you not familiar with the series and the idea of the Principles behind the Lean Business System, I will just summarise for you:

THE 8PS OF LEAN THINKINGI believe it is a more holistic or systems based approach balancing traditional hard methods within multiple processes as well as a range of enabling mechanisms within the strategy deployment, leadership and engagement areas of work. In other words the secret lies in thinking about Lean less in simple cost reduction terms and more as a way of thinking, behaving and improving, impacting on every aspect of work inside a business. I call this a Lean Business System.

So how do you go about developing this modern lean approach? Those of you that read my previous blogs will know that I believe the starting place is not copying some exemplar such as Toyota who almost certainly is in a different industry, faced with different circumstances and at a different stage of its evolution. What is needed is to start from a simple set of Lean Principles that can be applied to any industry and using this to guide your journey. Having learned from 25 years of application of lean I have defined 8 such principles: the 8Ps of the Lean Business System.

This framework helps companies in any industry, and at any stage of Lean maturity, to reflect on how they are deploying Lean in their business. It helps to take the focus away from point-kaizen activity towards a more contingent approach, a more aligned approach, a more human approach and ultimately, a more sustainable approach. Indeed it is part of a move to Lean becoming a cultural journey towards everyone in the organisation actively working towards a fully aligned ‘tomorrow better than today’ system.

It was just after the turn of the millennium that Jim Womack wrote:

“Lean thinking must be “green” because it reduces the amount of energy and wasted by-products required to produce a given product…Indeed, examples are often cited of reducing human effort, space, and scrap by 50 percent or more, per product produced, through applying lean principles in an organisation….this means that…lean’s role is to be green’s critical enabler as the massive waste in our current practices is reduce.”

graphic showing three respect areasOne of the first to put the green agenda on the map was the then Norwegian Prime Minister, Dr Gro Harlem Bruntland when she introduced the concept of sustainable development, describing it as being made up of three areas: economic, social and environmental sustainability.

For a company we might translate this as a focus on a ‘respect for profit’ (economic), ‘respect for people’ (social) and ‘respect for environment’ (environmental). To think in very simple terms:

  • A traditional Lean approach might be described as understanding customer’s needs and values and then reviewing the system and processes that produces them so that the traditional eight wastes can be minimised
  • Green might be described as understanding society’s needs and values and then reviewing the system and processes that delivers them so that the eight environmental wastes can be minimised

 

collage of 2 images showing woman picking item off shelf

So what is the difference? Well apart from the fact that individual customers are multiplied to become society and the environmental wastes have a slightly different character than the traditional lean wastes, not a lot.

What is necessary is to include a set of diagnostic mapping tools and implementation tools that addresses the wider Planet issues and the Voice of Society. In other words, an extra Environmental pillar has been added to the traditional Lean House.

business improvement graphic

For further information about this blog series or the accompanying webinar series please contact Dr Donna Samuel, donna.samuel@sapartners.uk the series manager.

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