Why Lean is Critical to Sustainable Growth

There is a growing number of corporate leaders who recognize the importance of sustainability as a long-term business imperative, yet major challenges persist in merging strategy and actual performance. Closing this gap will require leaders to focus on embedding sustainability both broadly and deeply into the DNA of their business. This is where lean thinking and tools can help.

The teachings of W. Edwards Deming (often regarded as one of the fathers of the modern quality movement) are helpful as a philosophical foundation.  However, Deming’s 14 Points do little to help someone implement his philosophy which could be summarized as “management leadership to create a system where all workers can contribute to continuous improvement in an environment of trust and respect.”  Deming’s cornerstone was using the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) as cornerstone for improvement. Toyotaand other Japanese companies who studied Deming created tools and systems that came to be known as “lean.”

Lean can either be an enabler or a weapon.  If you use 5S (five repeatable steps to make the workplace neat, clean and organized) as a weapon to maintain a “clean desk” under threat of management reprisal, you have missed the entire point of lean.  When 5S is used to help people learn how to identify and eliminate the seven forms of operational waste, teamwork, consensus and how to standardize non-standard work, you are beginning a sustainable lean journey on the right path.

Lean tools and thinking is the “engine” that can power your organization on a journey of sustainable growth.  As with any journey, it’s important to know the destination.  In this case, it is always about providing increased value to the customer.  You must the know business you are in, who your customers are and where you want to be in ten and twenty years.  In and of itself, that is a challenge….  However, the bigger challenge is figuring out how you can engage the hearts and minds of workers to daily engage in work that  contributes to the urgent and immediate as well as the long-term.

Sustainable Lean offers no – cost thinking that does not rely on technology or capital expenditure to improve operational performance.  Teams learn to “act their way to a new way of thinking.”

It’s simple…. But it’s not easy.  Let the co-founders of Sustainable Lean guide you on your journey….

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