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Using Lean in My Own Business

My perception from personal observation, feedback from you, and copious amount of reading is that Lean is perceived as a tool to be used in larger companies. Sure, it is put in place for small processes within those businesses, but there is little information specifically geared to using Lean in small business, down to sole proprietorships.

People in these types of organizations hear about documenting processes, and think, “Who am I documenting this for? I work alone.” Or they hear about 5S and think, “Why mark where things go? There’s never anybody else who could put it away in the wrong spot.”

Despite running a small business, I am constantly finding that I am using Lean to keep things going smoothly. In fact, just this weekend, I did a software upgrade to my website. I’ve been putting it off—it takes a lot of effort, and pulls me away from the parts of my job that I find more fun.

So anyway, if you were on my site on Monday, you would have noticed that none of the pictures were displaying properly. I worked until the wee hours of Tuesday morning trying to get things all patched up. In the end, it turns out it was a simple fix. I just spent a lot of time trying to figure out what that simple fix was.

So there I was, dead tired from burning the midnight oil, and had to get my newsletter out. That’s where using Lean really paid off. Every month, I pull out a checklist to publish my newsletter. I make on-the-spot tweaks to it whenever I find a better, more effective way to do something. So, by now, the checklist is rather well defined and easy to follow.

Using Lean over the years really bailed me out yesterday. I was punchy from lack of sleep. Fortunately, I had already written the content for the newsletter (workload management), but still had to get it sent off. Had I not been using Lean efforts regularly, I wouldn’t have had my publishing process documented (checklist and standardization), or I would not have been able to find it on my computer (5S), or I would not have had it streamlined and easy to follow (kaizen and daily improvement).

I’d love to hear about your experiences of using Lean in small businesses. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t worked? What have you tailored to suit your needs?


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5S/Visual Controls Lego Exercise

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