Lean focuses on creating more value for customers with fewer resources. To accomplish this, Lean targets the elimination of „waste“ along value streams. Other than typical optimization approaches, Lean takes a holistic view instead of improving isolated aspects.


To maximize customer value by eliminating overhead in the value creation process.

Detailed description

Lean is a customer centric way of thinking that seeks to continuously improve any process through the elimination of waste in everything being done. While some of its origins date back to Benjamin Franklin, Toyota‘s Taichi Ohno can be credited with combining the relevant elements into a methodical approach – with the term „Lean“ being coined in the 1980s by an MIT research team headed by Jim Womack.

According to Lean Enterprise Institute founders J. Womack & D. Jones, three fundamental issues need to be addressed in the lean transformation of an organisation:

  • Purpose: What customer problems will the enterprise solve to achieve its own purpose of prospering?
  • Process: How will the organization assess each major value stream to make sure each step is valuable, capable, available, adequate, flexible, and that all the steps are linked by flow, pull, and levelling?
  • People: How can the organization ensure that every important process has someone responsible for continually evaluating that value stream in terms of business purpose and lean process? How can everyone touching the value stream be actively engaged in operating it correctly and continually improving it?

Lean principles

The „five lean principles“ are applied to achieve this:

1. Specify the value desired by the customer
2. Identify the value stream for each product providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps currently necessary to provide it
3. Make the product flow continuously through the remaining value-added steps
4. Introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible
5. Manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls

Dos & Dont’s

  • Approach Lean as a philosophy rather than a process
  • Link everything to creating value for your customers, your people, and your organisation;
  • Focus on improving entire value streams not single departments
  • Do not limit the application of Lean to individual departments or items in a complete value chain
  • Don‘t use the tools by themselves without a proper context

Further Reading