The Scholtes Canvas for Lean Marketing

You don’t have to be a customer to be important. But, from a systemic point of view, each is a supplier, not a customer. The systems do not exist to serve their needs. Their role is to help systems serve the needs of the customers. When suppliers start seeing themselves as customers, the needs of the true customers are likely to be displaced and subordinated.” – Peter Scholtes from The Leader’s Handbook: Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done,

As I mentioned in my blog post, Standardizing Sales by Peter Scholtes, you will find a great deal of guidance and understanding on how to include sales and marketing into continuous improvement. Lean is a model that was developed from manufacturing and uses the Toyota model or the Toyota Production System (TPS) as the basis for much of its theory and development. The world of process methodology; Better Faster, Cheaper as a way of creating demand is rapidly diminishing. This model is not broken but is limited in the sales and marketing arena.

From the ebook, Lean Marketing House: When you first hear the terms Lean and Value Stream most of our minds think about manufacturing processes and waste. Putting the words marketing behind both is hardly creative. Whether marketing meets Lean under this name or another it will be very close to the Lean methodologies develop in software primarily under the Agile connotation. This book is about bridging that gap. It may not bring all the pieces in place, but it is a starting point for creating true iterative marketing cycles based on not only Lean principles but more importantly Customer Value.

Excerpt from the Lean Marketing House

I believe that Lean Agile or Lean Software groups have a better understanding of customer value than the traditional Lean Thinkers who concentrate on waste. Seldom when you read, Dr. Edward Deming, Scholtes and Brian Joiner do they not have the customer at the forefront. The quote above from Scholtes, demonstrates how Lean and TPS may have drifted from the original teachings of Dr. Deming when we think about customers. Lean (Agile) Software groups have developed in what I would call a purer Lean approach, less influenced by Toyota but more so by Dr. Deming.

In recent years, Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur developed the Business Model Generation Canvas. It identifies nine building blocks required for the business model. It is an iterative approach to see what underlying structure is required to institute and develop change for innovation.

In reviewing Scholtes work, I found a similar outline that could be developed into an A3 or a canvas. These are tools that we have been using in the Lean world. However, we have stopped short applying them from a Customer – In perspective as described by Scholtes. This canvas is developed in language that is understood by both Lean Practitioners and Sales & Marketing. The Scholtes Canvas can serve as the natural bridge that is needed between Lean and Sales & Marketing.


An overview of the the Scholtes Canvas:

  1. What is the Purpose of the Organization? Instead of teaching the way to do things, we need to step back and determine the key points that are required, as Simon Sinek says the “Why” while leaving the how alone (Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action). I think you will be surprised how closely the description in The Leader’s Handbook resembles Simon Sinek’s work.
  2. What capabilities do your customers acquire (or improve) as a result of interacting with you? We have a tendency to jump to what we do. It is easy to explain. However, what is important is what it allows our customers to do.
  3. Who are your Competitors? Understanding your competitor’s is important but not only who they are but the different ways/methods that the customer needs may be satisfied.
  4. Customers: List existing and one that should be and other that you may not want to be.
  5. Identify the major products and service that benefit your customers and serve your purpose: I like to think of these as different value streams but do not limit yourself from just thinking from a product/service standpoint. It may be better to organize around customer groups.
  6. Choose a Specific product or service: Scholtes has you choose from item #5, which value stream (group) to use for the remainder of this exercise. I created a separate canvas if someone would like to complete the entire exercise to include items 1 through 5 for a particular value stream.
  7. Examine the chain of customers for that product or service: List the different ways you to market. Who receives it from you? You may have a wholesaler that has numerous intermediate customers, etc. Reread the opening paragraph of this blog post.
  8. Applying the Kano Model: Most of us are familiar with the Kano Model. You may choose another method to display your feedback. The important thing is to display it. Reread the opening paragraph of this blog post.
  9. Identify Customer Feedback Loops: Describe the process you use and/or intend to use. Reactive is service request, complaints, etc. and Proactive is surveys, social media, etc.
  10. Gemba – Mapping the Process: First create a simple SIPOC (Suppliers – Input – Process
    – Output – Customers before proceeding with any other mapping tools such as a Customer Journey Map or even a Value Stream Map. Make sure you know what initiates and ends the journey. I enjoy Scholtes description where the customer is shown at both ends.   Peter Scholtes
  11. Trace a Basic Key Quality Characteristic through Process: This often goes without saying, but I find it interesting and revealing that Scholtes emphasizes taking key characteristics, often times called Critical to Quality (CTQ) issues and highlighting them in a separate mapping process. You can interpret it several ways, but I think he wanted to highlight what was important to the customer, maybe even thinking all the way back to step 2; What have we enabled the customer to do that they were not doing before? Map the key issues, the deciding factors of the process and a few moments of truth where the customers received the value they expected and understanding on how to deliver that key characteristic. Also, note the failure points or weak points along the journey.

About: Peter Scholtes was an internationally known author, lecturer and consultant and the recipient of numerous awards such as the Deming Medal and the Ishikawa AwardFrom 1987 to 1993 Mr. Scholtes shared the platform with W. Edwards Deming, helping to educate corporations about the new philosophy of the Quality movement. He was one of the first to synthesize the principles of the organizational development field with the teachings of Dr. Deming.

5 thoughts on “The Scholtes Canvas for Lean Marketing”

  1. Nice tool and a variation on the existing ones. I take exception to the assertion that “Lean Thinkers” care only about waste however. I haven’t heard any true Lean experts espouse that view. They too put the customer first but a major tool in satisfying the customer’s needs is to identify and eliminate those things in a business that don’t confer value to a customer, i.e. waste.

    I will happily concede the point that many of those who are new to Lean tend to jump to waste before identifying the value as perceived by the customer.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I am not sure that I said “only”. In the manufacturing sector, especially in the process methodology sector of years past, Lean gained its popularity by being a proponent of reducing waste. It certainly has grown from that point but I would be hard to think that many would differ from that thought. Even the latest thinking in the Lean Startup, Eric Ries coined the term base on Lean as a waste reduction vehicle.

    I personally differ from that thought and view Lean as a knowledge building tool. This is why I believe it is applicable to the Sales and Marketing process. But I stand often times alone and chastised by Lean Value Stream Champions because of that view. So we may read about the virtues of Lean but the predominant thinking is still very much aligned in the waste area. Just my thoughts.

    Thanks again.

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