Let’s make Lean Simple Again

I was taught Lean is simple: Find a problem, Solve a problem.

It really is that simple to get started. Using my interpretation of Lean thinking, we start by:

  1. Capture what you are doing (CAP-Do)
  2. Create your Standard Practice (SDCA)
  3. Take one of those practices improve on it (PDCA)
  4. Try something new explore (EDCA)

The percentage of each depends on your present business model and maturity. The biggest hurdles to get over are the first two. You may not have a standard, or your standard was created without any feedback from customers. That is the reason you start with CAP-Do, or as I call it the Reflection Cycle. It makes more sense when you think about what Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

I base my Lean Thinking on these 3 principles. Standardization, Improvement, and Exploration. PDCA is the glue. Without that mindset- it is difficult to traverse between the 3, and I think all successful companies have a mixture of all three. Some may be more innovative, some may be more standard, but having a process in place for each, even the innovation side is what makes Lean successful.

Lean Enterprise

One of the biggest obstacles to effective performance is the lack of a clear vision of the responsibilities within the team. Understanding how the team operates helps clarifies the individual team member roles to each other and more importantly externally and specifically to management. That is why at the beginning it as important to scope the team as it is the project, maybe even more so. Understanding how the team operates helps clarifies the individual team member roles to each other and more importantly externally and specifically to management. The SALES acronym is what I use to develop the outline. Each Team can be working on multiple projects, and each person can be on multiple teams. It is not limiting.


Lean Cards

Many have argued Lean is about incremental improvement. It does not allow for breakthrough thinking. I agree that SDCA and PDCA and even the continuous mindset may not deliver breakthrough by themselves. However, like most things you start one step at a time. The culture of Innovation starts with the culture of continuous improvement. To start with breakthrough thinking is very difficult and typically not successful.  You cannot just turn it on. So starting with PDCA and a continuous improvement can be a successful way, to create the little “i” culture. Ramping it up and truly doing breakthrough innovation, the big ‘I” is when you must engage and understand your customer/market extremely well.

When taking a Product Development focus, maybe even Lean 3P, Lean Startup, or a chapter from IDEO. I will break-down processes, products/services, and frame them with CAP-Do. Then what we think we can use from what we already know I will encapsulate in SDCA. Then use EDCA as the exploration, that Design Thinking style for innovation.

The cycle of EDCA is basically similar to a Lean Startup, and that is where your resources are until you prove product/market fit. PDCA, as I said before is the glue it is what everything passes through. We don’t jump between SDCA and EDCA; there is always a systematic PDCA cycle that we go through to standardize. It is purposeful experimentation.   It is the culture of Lean.

Lean StartupJoin the conversation on LinkedIn: