Lean is all about process improvement
Lean is a long-term approach that seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes to impact speed, efficiency and quality. It focuses on eliminating ‘waste’ - tasks that absorb time and resources but add no value to the customer or business.
Lean was first pioneered by Ford in the early 1900’s, but more famously it can be attributed to Taiichi Ohno’s articulation of the Toyota Production System (TPS), where he first identified the seven types of waste (‘muda’ in Japanese). Taiichi Ohno’s mantra was “Waste is worth than theft”. He made the connection between spending time and money on wasteful activities, and the business. If we know about waste and we carry on with no actions to reduce the waste, you could argue that we are stealing company or customer time and money.
Improvement approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma grow out of a long tradition of quality and process improvement efforts in manufacturing. For example, Frederick Winslow Taylor’s scientific management and Frank Gilbreth’s “time and motion” studies were among the earliest prescriptions for improving the quality and efficiency of production processes.
Current thinking about process improvement draws heavily on the ideas of W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran and other statisticians whose data analysis tools and management philosophies were initially adopted by Japanese manufacturers, and have come to be known as Total Quality Management (TQM) or Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI).