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A Section from "The Continuous Improvement Development Guide"

Volume 1: Introduction & Exploration >

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Lean Overview Summary

Basic Section Information

We have a complete Lean Overview module in Volume 2, but it is hard to make a decision to move forward without at least a cursory introduction to the specifics of Lean.

This section is a summary of our Lean overview, and is intended to provide you with some information so you know what you are getting yourself into.

We’ve put a lot of terms (with links) into the discussion below. Don’t spend too much time following them, though. As you progress through later sections of this practical guide, you’ll be introduced to them at the appropriate time. They are just included here so you can look deeper into the terms that might have you on the fence about whether to commit to continuous improvement or not.



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Detailed Section Information

Velaction’s ‘official’ definition of Lean is that it is the relentless pursuit of waste reduction to focus resources on creating customer value. Now that explains what is supposed to do, but it is fairly vague on how it goes about doing that.

Before moving on, we’d like to point out that we use the term Lean and continuous improvement interchangeably, though purists might feel that is not really correct. Lean is just one form of CI. But Lean is (1) the most widely known discipline, so it is what people look for and embrace, and (2) Lean is flexible and incorporates what works, so there is really nothing contrary to tailoring it into your own ‘production system.’ In fact, while Toyota embraces Lean, they actually refer to what they do as the Toyota Production System.

That said, in a nutshell, Lean combines two things. First, it is centered on a philosophy to engage the organization in creating a culture of continuous improvement that supports creating value efficiently and effectively. Second, it contains a collection of tools to solve common problems that occur when doing so. Many people focus on the second without addressing the first.

So what does Lean look like?…

The rest of this section is only available in our extended (member/free) and premium products. Click the links under “Section Options” at the top of the page for more information.

  • Don’t focus on just the philosophy or just the tools of Lean. Becoming a Lean company requires that you use both effectively.
  • Becoming a Lean company doesn’t mean you have to use every tool. It is about adopting a culture that focuses on problem solving with a purpose. It is about becoming goal oriented, with precise improvement targets driving change. It is about focusing on processes. Don’t let one aspect of Lean that you don’t like negate all the positive things that you can do.

The rest of this section is only available in our extended (member/free) and premium products. Click the links under “Section Options” at the top of the page for more information.

  • You have to learn about Lean and continuous improvement to make an informed decision.
  • Lean is a combination of philosophy and tools. Focusing on one or the other is a recipe for problems.
  • You’ll have to take a leap of faith to get started. You’ll likely never feel like you know everything you want to know or are as prepared as you want to be.

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