Lean Predictions For 2017 And Beyond

We polish our crystal ball and give you our insights into the future.

Prediction 1: It’s How You Implement It That Counts!

At least two Lean implementation forks in the road exist right now. One has some companies looking for the next big thing after a foray into Lean.

On the second path, companies in diverse industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, IT and aviation have achieved the planned outcomes that a sustained, successful Lean implementation brings. They are able to point to the specific rewards and improvements in parts, or across the whole, of their business.

For the first path, a lesson to emerge is that the journey can be a challenge and that even those with years of experience in performance improvement using Lean methodologies may have further to go to achieve the outcomes they are looking for, or, they may have to restructure their process. The challenge that a Lean implementation presents is for the many pathways to be explored and carefully implemented.

So….. we predict that companies will learn from these lessons and aim for a Lean implementation that is carefully planned. In this way companies avoid the frustration of having to look for the next new management tool as a result of an unhappy experience.

Prediction 2: It’s All About Your People!

• The Lean journey for some companies may be a case of history repeating itself. Project management evolved in the second half of the 20th century from an emphasis on “process” to an understanding that process is only part of the solution and the importance of fully engaged and empowered and enabled employees cannot be overlooked.

The Lean journey may have some parallels.

Lean emerged from the Toyota experience with an important message to emerge being“We do not just build cars, we build people”.

So we predict that companies implementing a Lean transformation will increasingly find ways to really engage employees and to develop employees’ Lean implementation capability and to meaningfully support them through the implementation.

As an element of this focus, we expect to see greater emphasis on the creation of cultural change as an essential component of a successful Lean implementation. In other words we predict that companies will incorporate an understanding of the importance for the business of really addressing “The way we do things here” as part of the Lean implementation.

Prediction 3: Let’s Not Forget Effective Management

If companies are to engage employees with the responsibility for continuous improvement via a Lean transformation, then they must ensure that managers can step-up to provide management processes and behaviors that not only lead the process change, but also generate employee engagement and commitment.

This requires managers understanding and explaining the need for, and the purpose of, the transformation. We see this as an essential beginning of the process.

Then managers need the capabilities to bring employees with them as the process unfolds. A well developed understanding of the Lean processes and principles is an essential start.

We predict further involvement by managers in implementing more generic management trends (that relate to a Lean transformation) to build on the capability-development trend. We can add improved understanding of culture change and development in companies, as well as greater knowledge of learning organizations and performance management in projects and teams.

Prediction 4: 2017 Will Be a Big Year

We guess that you have been paying attention recently and like us, expect the unexpected during 2017, as the changes in the USA political landscape ripple through to business.

We predict that the inevitable changes will create new opportunities and that winners will, to some extent, be those companies agile enough to look at process changes, technology advances and customer buying/interaction patterns that impact on the customer experience and the way they do business.

Emerging technology trends and changes in federal regulation in the USA (and elsewhere as the world catches up) will encourage companies to seek process and business change solutions as a matter of urgency.

Lean will play its part and may begin a new age of adaptive change.

More rapid evolution of the Lean process is, in our opinion, inevitable’s businesses look for short and longer term solutions to the opportunities and challenges emerging during 2017.

Prediction 5: Lean Will Increasingly Address a Range of Workplace Challenges

We expect Lean systems to be asked to do more to address the pace of change. We are not talking replacing evolution with revolution but rather looking for adaptive responses to emerging issues across industries.

This may mean that process and solution sharing responses will become more important, especially where there is common ground across industries. What works in IT for example may be adapted for use in health. Creative minds and adaptable systems will converge around this challenge and opportunity.

As a starting point, this convergence could include areas such as employee engagement, manager capability and processes and systems for managing the processes. IT will also play an important part in supporting and speeding the process.

One challenging prediction is that, while Lean is primarily focused as a solution for information flow problems,it may also emerge as a system for improving human health in organizations.

We look forward to Lean transformations emerging as systems capable of evolving from its constraints and improving human health in companies.

For example, eliminating information flow problems greatly reduces the myriad of workplace stressors facing managers and employees, not to forget customers and suppliers.

And isn’t this what we use Lean for? The creation of a productive, efficient and effective workplace finely tuned to the needs and opportunities of the marketplace and staffed by engaged and healthy employees.