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Lean is a process improvement model that has been around in some form for a long, long time. Some tie it’s start to the development of Toyota’s Production System that led to Toyota’s meteoric rise in the automotive word. Others say that Henry Ford started Lean with his automated assembly lines. Some go back centuries, but the idea is that, like lean meat, you must “trim the fat” from work processes.

The element of simplicity is very central to Lean, as is the idea that you are not just using a bag of Lean tools and tricks to get to that simplicity. You are:

  • Treating workers with respect
  • Trusting them to know what’s wrong with processes and how to fix them

The idea is that Lean efforts align with the vision and mission of the organization, focus on delivering value to the customer and they do all this by removing waste from the system. These efforts build the problem-solving “muscles” of all employees and result in an interactive Lean culture where every level of the organization is engaged. And that’s what is so great about Lean!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.