Content By Robert A. Brown

Robert A. Brown’s picture

By: Robert A. Brown

Lean thinking has taken its rightful place in the effort to improve efficiency in manufacturing. However, it isn’t fulfilling its potential in many areas, most notably with knowledge workers. This is due to a fundamental flaw in how lean is presented and utilized. With a better constructed approach, lean can be of value in nonproduction environments, including improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how people interact—a true boon to every business. For lean thinking, one size does not fit all.

Robert A. Brown’s picture

By: Robert A. Brown

Chances are you are not fully satisfied with the results of your lean initiatives. It’s also likely that lean thinking is not used to improve your employees’ skills in working together. That’s because you are using only half, probably less, of the power of lean thinking.

In 2001, Toyota declared that its success rested on two pillars: continuous improvement and respect for people. However, people in association with waste have been essentially ignored.

It’s easy to observe an assembly worker’s operational processes. What about someone daydreaming during a meeting? Is daydreaming in a meeting a waste to eliminate?

Nonproduction activities use a different kind of lean component. One objective of production is to pass a defect-free output to the next process in the value stream. What is a defect-free output for knowledge work and interacting with other people? That output is not so clear.

By better understanding and employing the neglected half of lean, organizations can have more robust continuous improvement, enhanced lean sustainability, and more efficient employee interactions with clear communication.