By Mike Loughrin, CEO of Transformance Advisors

Make No Mistake

Don’t let anyone mislead you, lean is the #1 improvement program in the world.

The only real competition for popularity comes from inaction or weak attempts that rely upon naive trial and error.

In terms of comprehensive programs, the runner up methodology is six sigma, a great program, but far less popular.

Let’s look closer at lean in terms of foundation, approach, vision, and applicability across various organizations.

lean boulder colorado

A. Foundation

definition lean boulder colorado


The systematic elimination of waste.

The first key word is systematic – we are not interested in a chaotic scramble.

The second key word is waste – we are not going for a cost cutting frenzy.

It takes a systematic approach to find and eliminate the root causes that lead to the waste found in all organizations. Anyone can cut costs (and revenue) to zero.


There are 5 principles of lean.

These 5 principles where first articulated in the bestselling book “lean thinking” by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones.

These 5 principles are:

  1. Specify Value
  2. Identify Value Streams
  3. Create Flow
  4. Leverage Pull
  5. Seek Perfection

If you are serious about a lean transformation, then you should be leveraging these principles – these fundamental truths. If you are not serious, then ignore these principles at your own peril.

5 principles of lean

B. Approach

7 types of waste

7 Types of Waste

Lean is focused upon eliminating the 7 types of waste.

These 7 types of waste are:

  1. Over Production
  2. Movement
  3. Inventory
  4. Poor Process
  5. Waiting
  6. Defects
  7. Motion

Tools for all Challenges

There are a large number of problem solving tools that are used to systematically eliminate the 7 types of waste.

Some of the commonly used tools include:

  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Pareto Analysis
  • Cause and Effect Diagram
  • The 5 Whys
  • Control Charts
  • The 5S System
  • Changeover Reduction

Many of these tools will be used by employees working in teams during Kaizen Blitz events. Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement and Blitz is German for lightning fast. Kaizen Blitz is lightning fast continuous improvement. The best approach is to leverage Kaizen Blitz events whereby teams work on well defined and targeted improvements.

lean toolbox

C. Vision

Cultural Transformation

lean transformation

A key part of the vision is to make a cultural transformation where everyone is empowered to participate in continuous improvement.

Our lean transformation assessment is an ideal tool for organizations to use to track their progress. It quantifies how the culture is changing as an organization journeys through a transformation by measuring progress in terms of:

  • Leadership
  • Knowledge
  • Teamwork
  • Alignment
  • Results

Sustainable Organizations

The ultimate objective with lean transformation programs is to create a sustainable organization.

This requires:

  1. Creating a culture in your organization where all functional areas are completely committed
  2. Integrating with your customers and suppliers using proven best practices in relationship management
  3. Maintaining new product development and supply chain management as core competencies

Two key responsibilities for a leadership team are to:

  1. Create the vision of a sustainable organization
  2. Define a lean transformation program as a strategic initiative
sustainable organization

D. Applicability

Transformation for Everyone

lean for all organizations

Lean is an all inclusive improvement methodology and is growing rapidly in all types of organizations.

You can find success stories in terms of:

  • Healthcare
  • Government
  • Retail
  • Finance
  • Services
  • Military
  • Distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • And Many Others…

Lean and Green

We define lean and green as the systematic elimination of unsustainable practices.

The tools for lean and the tools for green are being blended to provide a powerful toolkit for lean and green. The most exciting aspect of this merger is how organizations are creating a competitive advantage, while at the same time, having a positive impact on our environment.

Searching out the 7 types of waste is being expanded to environmental waste which is defined as an unnecessary or excessive use of resources or a substance released to the air, water, or land that could harm human health or the environment.

lean and green


lean is #1

Lean has earned the crown as the #1 improvement methodology.

But don’t be fooled by chaotic cost cutters claiming to be experts. Success comes to those that take a systematic approach to the elimination of waste.

Look for key components such as 5 principles, 7 types of waste, kaizen blitz events, cultural transformation, and the focus on creating a sustainable organization.

Want More?

Read about real lean vs. faux lean.

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