Definition of Lean in 15 words

One day after posting “Difficult definition of Lean” I came across Alessandro Di Fiore’s HBR article “The Art of Crafting a 15-Word Strategy Statement“.

The similarities between a concise strategy statement and a concise Lean definition struck me immediately. As a Lean definition may serve as a strategy statement and if a compelling strategy statement can be crafted with only 15 words, then a Lean definition can be expressed the same way!

This came as a sign just one day after posting my complaint about the difficulty to define Lean without oversimplifying it.

Picking up the challenge

I took a sheet of paper, a pen and drew a 3×5 table and assigned myself the requirements. The 15 boxes must hold the words:

  • Giving a concise yet accurate definition of Lean
  • That could serve as a strategy statement, or at least a True North statement
  • That is also a motto or reminder for people involved in a Lean transformation
  • Holding Jim Womack’s 3Ps: Purpose, Process, People

The result is:

Constantly achieving higher performance benefiting
customers and stakeholders using just
needed resources and everyone’s contribution

The definition reads: (Lean is) constantly achieving higher performance benefiting customers and stakeholders using just needed resources and everyone’s contribution.

Robustness test

In order to check the definition compliance to requirements, I asked myself following questions:

  • Does it focus? Yes. Anybody unaware about Lean can grasp the idea. It states what Lean strives for/has to offer, who will benefit and the carries the idea of frugality regarding costs (resources) and involvement of everyone.

I did not keep the difference or contrasting requirement as Alessandro Di Fiore recommends, even I am fan of neuromarketing approach. I assume that a good definition caries the implicit definition of what Lean is not and what makes Lean different.

This definition can be used as an elevator pitch with a CEO who will probably take particular notice of constancy, higher performance, customers and just needed resources. It can be proposed to personnel and labor union members, who will probably take particular notice of benefiting stakeholders and everyone’s contribution.

  • Can it serve as a strategy statement, or at least a True North statement?

I did believe so. To check it further, I asked myself can it be used as an upper objective (organization’s purpose) of a Goal Tree and can I derive the three to five Critical Success Factors (CSF) by asking “in order to constantly achieving higher performance benefiting customers and stakeholders using just needed resources and everyone’s contribution, I need…” and under each of these CSF a set of Necessary Conditions? Here the response is no about purpose. No organization would be created to fulfill such a generic fuzzy purpose, but the definition suits well as a CSF. The definition does not answer the question WHAT, but rather the HOW.

  • Can the definition be used as a motto or reminder for people involved in a Lean transformation? I do believe so. Every term is important and can be unfolded for more detailed explanation or to show how some behaviors or practices drift away, thus adjust them.
  • Does it convey Jim Womack’s 3Ps: Purpose, Process, People principle? Well yes, with a peculiar highlight of the purpose, not that much about process and the idea of people involvement.

For the time being I will keep it as is. I invite any reader to submit alternate 15-words definitions or post remarks about my reasoning.


Bandeau_CH36if you liked this post, share it!

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

Advertisements

One thought on “Definition of Lean in 15 words

  1. Thank you Christian for this interesting exercise.
    A consultant in organization and change management specialized in conflict resolution, I share your strive for defining what makes organizations both more effective and efficient. On the Purpose part of the 3Ps, it seems people recurrently take it for granted and focus instead all energy on process and people. But much tension and resistance to change might actually be alleviated if we help people define a meaningful purpose.
    That meaningful purpose won’t be “higher performance benefitting” all stakeholders, we hear it and see it all too often. My proposal would therefore be to replace these words with “performance satisfying essential needs of” – or “interests of”.
    Thanks,
    Sam

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s