Lean Process Improvement Part 1: Working Smart

A lot has been said on Lean programs but if I have to summarize in one sentence why you should really put Lean on top of your priorities now is because more than ever enterprises need to focus resources on value-adding activities and on adapting to the changing digital environment and customer needs.

While five years ago implementing a Lean program was done in a limited number of international companies importing best practices to some areas of their operations in Bulgaria, nowadays Lean has become the keyword for working ‘smart’. Working smart means getting your processes to run quicker and smoother, taking out the delays and bottlenecks, defects, and reworks for a better operation for your staff and improved customer experience.

Working Smart

Realizing that working smart is more beneficial than working hard allows your teams to change their work processes to make it easier for them to deliver faster and with less pain. Delivering better and faster, on the other hand, means that you decrease the time for delivery to your customers and do it with improved quality. In this way, the companies implementing Lean start to address the top customer need – receiving greater quality promptly.

In a fast-changing environment, where time is the greatest resource and customers are bombarded with best-quality offers, previously earned reputation alone is not enough. Customers are constantly looking for whoever is addressing their needs the best and are ready to move on immediately.

Working smart helps companies become the best and stay so. Lean provides the framework for that. It allows you to look into the area that is only in your control – your company’s ‘household’ – and think about how to re-arrange and redesign to get the best out of it.

Signals that you urgently need Lean:

  • Working in a messy environment with an unclear idea who is doing what
  • Not knowing the reason for certain errors
  • Delivering to customers with a delay
  • Having complaints streaming into your reception desk or an angry customer calling you
  • Doing things in a certain way because it had always been like this

What a Lean Program can do

To get started on your Lean journey, be clear what it can do for you: Lean methods can streamline processes, standardize activities to ensure consistency, improve flow and with this – increase speed, save time, decrease costs.

  1. Does it take too long to deliver?
  2. Do you have a clear list of activities and visibility of how one process impacts other areas?
  3. Are you clear about the exact roles and responsibilities in your team?
  4. Do you receive customer returns and complaints?
  5. Are you unhappy with your company’s high costs?

To implement a Lean program, your company can be positioned anywhere in the vast spectrum of industries and operations. Lean principles originated decades back in manufacturing but quickly spread to service industries and are equally successfully applied from call centers, banks, and finance, IT, BPOs to education, military, healthcare. Lean works where we have regular processes in place.

Essentially, a process is any repeated activity that has three main components: ‘input’ (something enters the process – activity, material, goods), inputs go under ‘transformation’ following a specified sequence of steps that are repeated, and result into an ‘output’ that should be ideally always the same.

With Lean, you take an analysis of your process components (inputs, process steps, outputs) with the objective to find out and separate what gives value to you as a company and to your customers, and what does not. Separating value-adding from non-value-adding activities based on key criteria then gives you an idea of the magnitude of the improvement you can make to move from ‘working hard’ to ‘working smart’. Once you take this diagnostic step, you are moving on to actual Lean improvement using a whole range of possibilities for you to affect and sustain this change.

Rayna has extensive experience as process improvement consultant and trainer in quality methodologies. She holds MSc (Master of Science) degree in Strategic Quality Management from the University of Portsmouth, UK and the world recognized process improvement qualification Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
Experienced Lean Six Sigma trainer supporting numerous companies transform the way they work by building capacity in employees and expand their professional expertise. Trained, coached and certified 1500+ professionals.

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