Lean thinking is a framework that aims to provide a new way to think about how to organize human activities to deliver more benefits to society and value to individuals while eliminating waste. The term “lean thinking” was coined by mechanical engineer and MIT graduate student John Krafcik in 1988, who subsequently went on to run Google's autonomous driving unit for many years. Lean thinking is a way of thinking about an activity and seeing the waste inadvertently generated by the way the process is organized. It uses the concepts of:
- Value streams
The aim of lean thinking is to create a lean culture, one that sustains growth by aligning customer satisfaction with employee satisfaction, and that offers innovative products or services profitably while minimizing unnecessary over-costs to customers, suppliers and the environment. The basic insight of lean thinking is that if you train every person to identify wasted time and effort in their own job and to better work together to improve processes by eliminating such waste, the resulting culture (basic thinking, mindset & assumptions) will deliver more value at less expense while developing every employee's confidence, competence and ability to work with others.
The idea of lean thinking gained popularity in the business world and has evolved in three different directions:
- Lean thinking converts who keep seeking to understand how to seek dynamic gains rather than static efficiencies. For this group of thinkers, lean thinking continuously evolves as they seek to better understand the possibilities of the way opened up by Toyota and have grasped the fact that the aim of continuous improvement is continuous improvement. Lean thinking as such is a movement of practitioners and writers who experiment and learn in different industries and conditions, to lean think any new activity.
- Lean production adepts who have interpreted the term “lean” as a form of operational excellence and have turned to company programs aimed at taking costs out of processes. Lean activities are used to improve processes without ever challenging the underlying thinking, with powerful low-hanging fruit results but little hope of transforming the enterprise as a whole. This “corporate lean” approach is fundamentally opposed to the ideals of lean thinking, but has been taken up by a great number of large businesses seeking to cut their costs without challenging their fundamental management assumptions.
- Lean Services, as an extent area of application to all the learnings gathered from the industry and adapted to a whole new set of scenarios, such as HR, Accounting, Retail, Health, Education, Product Development, Startup/ Entrepreneurship, Digital... among so many other areas. Lean basic principles can be applied basically to all scopes of action, disregarding its geography and culture.