Lean is a management philosophy, derived from the Toyota Production System, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, maximizing value and minimizing waste by focusing on a flow of high value-added activities or processes.
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The key concept of Lean is the elimination ‘waste’. Waste can be defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the customer. An activity or process is only ‘value-added’ when 3 conditions are met: the activity must transform the product or service, the customer must be willing to pay for it, and it must be done correctly the first time.
Lean is a culture of teamwork and continuous improvement, teaching people to identify and eliminate waste. This creates a more efficient process, in turn, adding value.
An important aspect of Lean is ‘respect for people’. This is a part of Lean Leadership. Lean leaders motivate and coach people, helping them grow professionally and personally, and involve them in the improvement of the business. A good example of this is Kaizen, a practice which concentrates on continuous improvement.
Lean is also sometimes seen as a set of tools or methods such as Value Stream Mapping, the 5 S’s and the Ishikawa Diagram.