Distinguish fake from real Lean Management

Lorenzo Del Marmol

March 8, 2016


How to Distinguish Fake from Real Lean Management ?

Lean Management is a way of running a business organization that involves the concept of continuous improvement by way of systematically seeking to achieve small but incremental changes in the processes with the aim of improving quality and efficiency. Lean management aims to eliminate waste of time, effort, and money by each step in the business process and then revising, even cutting out, steps that do not create value for the client. This management philosophy has its roots in the Toyota Production System (TPS).

The 4 principles of Lean Management

Lean Management, as a management philosophy, follows several guiding principles as follows:

  1. Define value from the end customer standpoint.
  2. Identify every single step in the business process and eliminate steps that are found to be not creating value.
  3. Arrange value-creating steps in tight sequence.
  4. Continuously repeat the first three steps until all waste in terms of time, effort, and money, has been eliminated.

These guiding principles of lean management embody the spirit of learning that creates the unique culture in a business organization. The guiding principles translate to the tangible ways of working and skills that members of the organization can learn, which over a period of time constitutes culture.

Fake lean management

1 – Streamlines without adding value

Streamlining of procedures and resources are hallmarks of lean management. However, these streamlining steps may be abused on the pretext of creating more value but the results may be the exact opposites. Some organizations resort to mass layoff of workers using streamlining of resources as the excuse. Businesses are always affected by world’s political and economic roller coasters and laying off a number of workers is often the knee-jerk reaction to satisfy shareholder value.

2 – Confuses Lean Management with laying off

While lean management advocates for continuous process improvement at all organizational levels, it does not always imply periodic layoffs of workers and even squeezing the supply lines. Some organizations relentlessly and ruthlessly lay off workers and manage by fear in vain efforts to augment shareholder value. What is forgotten here is that real lean management is concerned with every stakeholder in the organization, foremost of which are its workers. Laying off workers just for the sake of saving money is neglecting that major stakeholder in the business process.

Real lean management

1 – Enforces its discipline effectively

The real concept of Lean Management exists when management designs a system that enforces lean management disciplines effectively – ensures that they are followed effectively every single day at every level of the organization – and the disciplines reinforce one another to create what has been envisioned – an organization that generates the most value for all stakeholders.

2 – Focus on the end customer

Real lean management delivers value efficiently to the end customer. The business organization starts by understanding what the end customer values – the where, when, how, and why. The business process must be configured in such a way that it can deliver that value using the fewest resources possible by improving coordination, doing away with all redundancies, and building quality into each step of the process. The cycle of listening to the customers’ needs and responding to the same never ends as a result of the realization that the customers have evolving needs. This evolving customer needs provide new opportunities for management to attack waste, create more efficient methods, and build competitive advantage.

3 – Takes advantage of all the company employees

Real lean management enables people to lead and contribute to the value of the organization, using their fullest potential. When the organization gets the most value from their people, it is incumbent upon that organization to provide them with support mechanism that will enable them to master their work, either at the production floor or at the boardroom. Real lean management allows workers to discover better ways of working, a necessity in an environment where the customers, the competitors, and the bigger social and economic context keep on changing. Identifying problems and providing resolutions to those problems must be part of every worker’s job description, supported by an organizational structure that allows problems to flow to the people who are best equipped with the tools of solving them.

 Learn more about Lean Management or about what is BPM.


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