Trends Reshaping The Lean Landscape

In this Blog we look at the trends that we believe, define the Lean landscape.

Trend 1: Lean adapts to meet the challenge of rapid change

The Lean system evolved in a manufacturing environment(developed by Toyota in Japan initially) to maximize customer value and efficiently use resources.

At the time the industrial economies used top-down management structures to address the opportunities in the marketplace with “push”business approaches (where companies typically push or market their products out to consumers). Lean began in this environment to address the comparatively small and predictable challenges that manufacturing faced at the time.

As we know, the world changes and savvy consumers make increasing demands on all business sectors to provide products and services that meet consumer needs. This creates “pull” pressures that impose new or different demands on businesses if they are to survive.

The emergence of the consumer-led “pull” economy brings with it the need for increasingly complex manufacturing and business systems. Businesses survival means that they must respond by ensuring the supply of the challenging array of components and services that form the complex, dynamic and rapidly changing business response.

Lean is adapting to the trend by assisting with systems and processes that make it possible for companies to embrace business transformation with the means to predict address and adapt to the “pull” pressures impacting on their business model.

Trend 2: Lean touches every industry

An important focus of Lean’s adaptation is to expand its footprint and methodologies to cover nearly every industry out there.

We see Lean increasingly playing a key role in a variety of industries (beyond manufacturing) that are now faced with adapting to the quickly evolving technologies and markets of the Internet age and increasingly sophisticated consumer demand.

Wherever you look now, for example, in healthcare, banking, retail, IT and government, as well as the traditional areas of manufacturing and supply chain – you find Lean making an impact.

Trend 3: Lean addresses changes delivered by the digital economy

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 it’s business systems and processes 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 takes 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.

Trend 4: Lean is already impacting on your business

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 competitors take 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.

Trend 5: Lean engages Employees for improved outcomes

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, 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.

Trend 6: Lean is an emerging management system

Although Lean was initially established as a 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 programmes 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.

to sum up…

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.