5 Core Sales Concepts of Lean Thinking

When introducing Lean Thinking many of us would start with the five core concepts of Lean depicted in the classic books, The Machine that Changed the World and Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones. The basic thought process goes something like this: As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced. And we begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.

5 Core Concepts of Lean Thinking:

  1. Identify Value
  2. Map Value Stream
  3. Create Flow
  4. Establish Pull
  5. Seek Perfection

As a sales guy, I have a hard problem identifying with these concepts. When I am thinking of value…I am thinking of what Theodore Levitt said 50 years ago…he would argue that people don’t want to buy a drill; people want a hole in the wall. When sales guys look at value, they look at how a customer uses the product or the service..the job that needs to be done. When sales people look at value streams we are looking at how a customer arrives at their point of use, their decision process.  When we think of Flow…we are thinking about how easy it is for the customer to buy, get a proposal and the reliability of my company to meet market windows. Pull…..is about agility and being adaptive…is that not the promise of Lean Operations to sales…less WIP, more agile, more flexible? Continuous Learning….the company that can learn from their customer at a faster rate than the competition is the winner today…perfection is constantly delivering value faster than your buddies down the street.

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5 Sales Concepts of Lean Thinking

  1. Identify Value = Job To Be Done
  2. Map Value Stream = Customer Journey thru Use
  3. Create Flow = Rhythm
  4. Establish Pull = Adaptive, Agility
  5. Seek Perfection = Continuous Learning

The value of course depends on context. But if Lean has delivered in your organization… it has created a strategic, competitive advantage, not from the idea of Better, Faster, Cheaper. Instead, Lean should allow us to speculate, experiment, measure and iterate forward. It is a method of learning and adapting faster than your competition.

Many wonder how to put this in practice and for a template I use the five phases of Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith. I adapted his description to a marketing tone.

Envision. Speculate. Explore. Adapt. Close.

  1. Envision: Determine your marketing vision and objectives and constraints, your community, and how your team will work together.
  2. Speculate: develop the capability and/or feature based launch to deliver on the vision.
  3. Explore: plan and deliver running tested stories in the short iteration, constantly seeking to reduce risk and uncertainty.
  4. Adapt: review the delivered results, the current situation, and the team’s performance, and adapt as necessary.
  5. Close: conclude the launch, pass along key learning, and celebrate.

Even more important, is this key point; we’re not concentrating on the flow, we are concentrating on the cycle, the rhythm. Continuous short iterations are constantly happening to improve the value of the offering. No longer can we wait for the perfect scenario. We build the scenario as an ongoing process. Customer relationships need to be as collaborative as possible. Customers then can define the capabilities needed to provide value. When that scenario can no longer be adapted or improved upon, the life of that marketing cycle is over or exhausted. This effort enables customers to view the value they need and give the opportunity for both to adapt and iterate forward. Your sales and marketing team must always be in contact with the customer and continuously asking: Is what we are doing providing value in our customer decision making or efforts to complete the job they need done?

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