At Keller Schroeder, we often compare the concept of lean to weight loss. Specifically, it is simply true that no one loses 25 lbs. overnight.
Lean is a continuous improvement approach to streamline business processes to increase value to the customer of your product or service. In health terms, someone in great shape is said to be lean (no body fat) and are eating clean (no garbage potato chips). Lean, as a process discipline, is very much the same.
The objective? Eliminate waste, streamline the process so it flows smoothly, and doesn’t get clogged up in the middle. End result? Your product is delivered, at a good cost, with good quality, same or better than competitors, and meets the customer’s expectations.
If you have never assessed your processes for waste, and you are writing or buying software to enable your process, did you just automate waste? Yes, you did. If you have automated waste, and have never assessed your process doing a “value stream”, won’t you naturally just improve it over time? No, not unless some outside force challenges the way things get done. Why? Because it was a big investment to build the software, and, you have many other priorities and other processes you want to automate.
Additionally, in your organization, no one may be really measuring the process performance and you might not hear anyone complaining. That is a part of your culture, and companies tend to just “live with” these types of unseen challenges. In an unfortunate way, software automation contributed to the creation of bloated processes, siloed functions, and additional waste. What used to happen naturally, when the company was smaller, and when everyone all sat near each other, was that the staff were all dialed into the customer and the progress of each new sale. Now, employees sit at a computer to “feed the beast”, and, their “beast” doesn’t talk to their colleague’s “beast”.
The shame of it the entire situation? The best user interface doesn’t ensure the data you collect is consistent or complete so you can learn from it later. Won’t this hurt our business over the long term? It’s very likely. So, what do we do? While not a comprehensive answer, at a high level, prioritize your most critical processes, conduct a Value Stream Mapping of it, identify and eliminate waste first, then assess how automation can integrate all the systems and processes that create your product or service. Think about the data you will want to study later and design for that now.
Can we do that fast? Let’s go back to our weight loss analogy, and ask can you lose 25 lbs by morning? It is important to remember, just like dropping pounds, the key is to just get started and stick with it. You’ll feel better and live longer. If you would like guidance on how to get started, reach out to our Data Strategy Group and leverage their experience on all things “Lean”
Vice President, Data Strategy Group