The Lean Landscape Is Changing! Here Are Nine Trends For 2018


No doubt your business or organisation is impacted by on-going change such as the constant evolution of markets or organisation priorities, the impact of the digital economy and shifting customer or client preferences, needs, demographics, culture and diversity.

So your challenge for Lean is to provide effective project change systems and processes that are realistic in these existing and emerging circumstances.

Lean typically focuses on the measures and processes needed to directly address business and customer requirements such as:

  • Process and product quality
  • Process/product lifecycle
  • Costs of poor quality and/or of the poor life cycle.

The emerging Lean approach may narrow the scope of the project to focus on:

  • Obtaining the highest return on investment
  • Feasibility of each process change in relation to producing the required outcomes within the constraints of time, budget and resources.

Lean now is adapting to the world in which:

  • Life cycles of products and processes are often shorter than the expected process change project duration. Things can move too quickly for the traditional approach.
  • It maybe difficult to find a time period long enough for analysis of the process’s current performance, when the process is stable. Shorter time frames need a rethink of the project process.
  • Added complexity for your project occurs because rapid changes are also occurring in suppliers’ and customers’ organisations, and are almost inevitable during the project life cycle. Long project stages limit the outcomes and may not be viable. Shorter stages within the overall project framework area is a means of addressing this.

Sound familiar?

It all means that Lean must provide the responsive systems and processes for your project so your business can adapt to the moving targets and changing process environments and constraints that apply. This is the emerging challenge and the exciting opportunity.


What does this mean for your Lean project?

Expect future Lean projects to adopt process management methodologies based on the principle of frequent iteration within the project lifecycle. It could use a process of “Small improvement then test, then another small improvement and another test.” Or it may involve constant evolutions of the project plan/stages to incorporate and respond to supplier, customer or market force on your business.

In this way the scope and lifecycle of the project remains the same but the implementation makes the process responsive to rapidly changing customer and supplier circumstances.

And speaking of implementation your operational strategy may require your business case to be developed, implemented monitored and adjusted with a much greater level of detail than previously.

This provides new windows into your business such as market, social and cultural trends, and technology forecasts, when defining and evaluating your business case.

In doing this, Lean is replacing its traditional project definitions, metrics, processes and tools with dynamic variations- especially during the business case and project definition phases.

Using Lean to address efficient use of resources is a trend that addresses a major problem for many businesses given the tendency to purchase products and only use a small portion of their features and functions. Also the efficient and effective hiring, employment and capability development of staff is addressed.

Leaner operations result where the processes producing the most waste are identified and addressed. You can then implement plans to eliminate this waste so that your overheads are reduced – in turn boosting your profit margins and making it possible to pass additional savings down to the consumer and keep your prices competitive.

The emerging Lean also confronts empowerment of managers and the associated processes for effectively embracing change.

So Lean is evolving to open up a number of new windows into your operations for a more effectively integrated change process.


• Whatever your industry, there is a Lean implementation for you. It doesn’t stop on the warehouse floor. There are many other applications for the process, all of which involve various aspects and elements of business.

• It is at a point where there are many instances of service, retailing, financial, health care , hospitality and other industries benefiting from Lean projects – well beyond the initial manufacturing sector focus.

• The trend is also for Lean implementations to increasingly focus on narrow targets within industries – such as patient care in health care, customer service, employment systems and process… there are few stones left unturned as Lean penetrates deeply into the operations of companies away from the factory floor.


The next big challenge is for Lean to provide relevant implementations for small to medium level enterprises.
This is an era where Lean is yet to make a significant impact.
SMEs have may have the resources to implement such programs, but are often wary of the process details, its resource (personnel) requirements and its application to small businesses.
It is a failure of the marketing of Lean that most SMEs do not yet realise that Lean delivers the same benefits to small business enterprises as it does to large operations.
Look for lean to make an increasing impact with the growing awareness in small and medium enterprises about the potential benefits that can be derived from implementing these programs.


How your company embraces the digital economy has emerged as a key driver of business success – as consumer “pull” replaces industry “push” as a driver for business.

Unless your business is embracing the new technologies available to it, and adapting its business systems and process to suit, you are already being left behind. A few leading, cutting-edge companies can keep up, but the vast majority are trailing behind.

In association with digital technologies and trends, Lean is helping businesses to move forward when “working harder” means spinning their wheels… and “working smarter” means significant adjustments across all areas of business – strategy, systems and processes, employee capability customer requirements and financial management.

Perhaps you have already discovered that new technology is generally a poor fit with your old business models? So success in the ever-changing, confusing, digitally influenced economy is most likely going to require your business to undertake an integrated adaptation of all its key systems and processes.

Think Lean!

Adapting to market realities stakes you into a business transformation – and you will increasingly see Lean principles being applied to the management of existing companies as well as challenging and innovative startups.

Lean systems not only impact on company systems and information flow, but also on employee engagement and capability, customer service models and management capability to drive and sustain change.


As lean interventions evolve and expand in scope and focus, no business will be immune from the impacts. In some cases you will manage the impacts through your own Lean implementation – in others, the impacts will be managed for you as your competitor stake advantage of the opportunities.

One of the impacts that most businesses will look for from a Lean transformation, is an improved return on investment (ROI).

The IT industry is an example of how this can be achieved. If IT is a guide then you can expect rapid results via a fast return on investment from a successful transformation. This outcome suggests business improvement outcomes for the “Haves” and uncertainty for the“Have Nots” of Lean transformations.


Lean’s business impact doesn’t stop with ROI considerations… Other impacts are being felt… for example, the company change management landscape is littered with failed partial or full business change initiatives that fell over because employees were left behind.

While some traditional companies are concerned about bottom-up change, companies harnessing employee energy, experience and engagement are experiencing game-changing opportunities.

So the trend is for employees to have a seat on the company bus as the Lean transformation process gets underway. In other words, companies considering a Lean transformation must engage with, and empower and enable their employees to be partners in the process.

This is a form of a “pull” process from staff and can be captured through Lean processes that truly capture, respect and engage with the experience, ideas and contributions of employees.


Training of employees in Lean methodologies and developing implementation capabilities is another opportunity for you organisation to benefit from Lean to build productivity and efficiency across the company.
Some of the many benefits of employee participation in Lean include:

Before any methodology is implemented, brainstorming sessions with various team leaders should take place in order to focus on discussing what is to be achieved through offering this type of value added program, and who the training should be provided to.

It is important that the individuals who are to receive the training understand that their attendance would be beneficial for their own careers as well as the company as a whole.

The goal is to help individuals perform better in their job, and as a result, enhance the overall running of the business.

The training should be focused on reducing waste across all processes so as to increase productivity and profit.

Developing problem solving and improved teamwork as well as encouraging communication is exactly what the Lean process aims for.

Improved business partnerships may emerge including improved customer-supplier relationships which are advantageous for all involved.

The trend is to use employee Lean training as a catalyst for positive change, as well as a vehicle to develop necessary skills.


Although Lean was initially established as a process and collection of systems’ improvement tools, it is increasingly evolving as a comprehensive management system.

Lean implementation and management requirements impose a new model of business leadership and management for successful implementation.

The capabilities of managers needed to lead the process in your company are quite different to traditional top-down management behaviours.

For example, Lean implementations need specific capabilities in areas such as: high level communication skills including collaborative, consultative, problem solving, team development, and conflict management processes. They also need high level people management, performance management and project management skills…

• Traditional top-down management is usually not a strong developer of these capabilities so companies may need to implement manager development programs as part of an implementation.

• Defining these capabilities and the associated management systems is a work in progress – but the need for effective Lean management is a significant driver for this development to occur.


Lean has evolved so that almost any company that wants to stand apart from its competitors can do so by using Lean principles and processes to respond to the customer ”pull” with tailored customer responses or by increasing competitiveness with lower prices – to develop and deliver the right products and services.

State Street Bank
Aer Lingus
Kingston Hospital NHS
ASC Global Recruitment
International Financial Data Services