The first of the five traditional lean principles probably remains the most elusive. Many companies, who are deeply embroiled in lean and continuous improvement, fail to put sufficient effort into understanding value in the eyes of their customers. Why is this? Is it because they believe they know the answer already? Is it that they feel their customers would not take kindly to being asked? It is a missed opportunity. There is often dramatic insight to be gained by direct collaboration and inquiry with customers. It can lead to the unearthing of false assumptions and a shift in prevailing mind-sets.
I recall, during my PhD research, interviewing Professor Dan Jones, co-author of three seminal books on lean: The Machine That Changed the World published in 1992, Lean Thinking in 1996 and Lean Solutions in 2005. During the interview I asked him, rather provocatively, why he thought Lean Solutions had not sold as well as Lean Thinking. He responded that ‘the world was not ready’ for Lean Solutions. At the time I thought this a bit of a ‘cop out’ but now I think he may have been right! It seems that the world is finally waking up to the power of collaborating with customers to improve the customer experience. For evidence I point to this recent blog posted by Andrew Spanyi published by the Cutter Consortium.
Womack J. and Jones D. and Roos, D., 1990, The Machine That Changed The World. Rawson Associates, NY.
Womack J. and Jones D. 1996., Lean Thinking, Simon and Schuster, NY.
Womack J. and Jones D., 2005, Lean Solutions, Free Press, NY.