Are we lean thinking without even noticing?

Chris HOHMANN

Chris HOHMANN – Author

Lean thinking starts with customer focused value creation. It brings up questions like:

  • What is the customer ready to pay for?
  • What is the ratio utility/cost?
  • What is the ratio perceived value / cost?

Lean engineered products and/or services are consistently structured in order to maximize these kinds of ratio and enhance attractiveness of offers.

In our daily life we are alternately part of a value stream (supplier) and beneficiary of a value stream (customer).

In this latter role, most of us are pretty selective when it comes to choose among offers:

  • What is the best quality/price rate?
  • What is the best quantity/price rate?
  • Which offer maximizes the solution in terms of price, delay, reliability, attractiveness?

This is common for purchasing a large range of things like appliances, holidays packages, travel, cars, cell phones…

We evaluate « naturally » the rate between “effort” to pay and what we’ll get; energy spent, waiting time, distance to travel, etc.

This reasoning is “normal” if not natural and is Lean in essence. We all try to get the most, the best, for the least effort and/or cost. We try to maximize what we get from a process compared to what we have to « pay » (time, money, effort…).

This posture isn’t always unbalanced in favor of the customers we are, as it happens that we accept:

  • to wait in order to get what we really want rather than to pick what is immediately available
  • to pay more for something fitting better our needs or desires
  • to pay more to get faster what we are longing for, rather than waiting standard delay
  • etc.

What is not acceptable for most of us is to:

  • pay a premium to compensate supplier’s mistakes or flaws
  • pay for something that doesn’t work or not correctly
  • wait more than forecasted / contracted
  • send back non-compliant merchandise and wait for replacement
  • etc.

We are, as customers, aligned with Lean principles. Lean is neither a plating of artificial and foreign practices nor something intrinsically bad. The best proof is we are all behaving lean in some extend and don’t feel bad about it, do we?

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