Accelerate September 2015

Time for a lean fix?

open this image in new window: Lean Fix

Signs that your business needs a lean fix.

“If your teams spend their days asking for permission before executing, taking hours to complete admin reports, fill in their timesheets or expense claims, answering irrelevant emails, counting stock or attending irrelevant meetings, you have a problem and in need of a Lean fix,” says Elizabeth McInnes, Programme Manager at Callaghan Innovation.

Other signs that your business needs a Lean fix are:

  • Frustrations with processes
  • Confusion on what needs doing and who is doing it
  • It is hard to find documents easily
  • Reworking papers and documents over and over again
  • Not clear of the status on a piece of work in a project
  • Delays between sign-off and actions
  • No one reads the papers and reports that is being produced
  • The workload moves from ‘feast to famine’
  • Saving of documents when it is not needed
  • Errors in work

“At our ‘Better by Lean’ workshops a business’ entire operational system, from development processes to workflows to supply chains, production lines, distribution channels and customer touchpoints are reviewed to find better ways of operating,” says McInnes.

She goes on to say that processes are supposed to help organisations scale up and improve efficiency for employees but they can quickly get out of control and result in significant waste. “Lean helps businesses identify those areas where there is a waste of time, waste of productivity and of course, a waste of profit. Lean workshops help businesses to pinpoint these areas and find solutions that will grow the company profits and employees’ wellbeing.’

When used correctly, processes should standardise and simplify necessary tasks that keep business running smoothly. They should enable organisations not constrain them.
McInnes says that there are four ways that a process can kill production:

  1. Empowering with permission—but without clear actions. If people are unsure on what to do next or lack the confidence to take the necessary actions to complete a task, your process slows down your business.
  2. Leaders focused on process instead of people. Any process is only as good as its people. If it is perfect on paper but no one is using it, it is not working and adds no value to your business.
  3. Overdependence on meetings - if your business processes have all the elements of a good Dilbert cartoon, you can be assured that you are not doing it right. Meetings should have a clear purpose and give everyone a clear direction of who has to do what next.
  4. Lack of (clear) vision - if you don’t know where you are going and what you want to achieve, your processes are going to reflect this. Take the time to map out your future direction and then review if your processes are enabling or hindering you towards your goal.

McInnes sums the essence of Lean thinking up as follows: “If you train each person in your business to identify when they are wasting time and effort in their own jobs and how to better cooperate to improve processes, then it results in a business that will deliver more value at less cost while developing its employees’ confidence, competence and ability to work with others.”

Find out more about the Better by Lean programme.

In the last two weeks, we’ve been focused on simplifying our design. We were lucky enough to attend a Lean start-up workshop with Nick Churchouse of Creative HQ, which came at a really important time for us. His message about producing exactly what is required by your customers, and nothing more, gave us an important reality check! 

Ben MacLaren, VorTech team member, C-Prize finalist

You can read more about VorTech's Lean journey on the Callaghan Innovation blog

Read other stories from Accelerate September 2015

Updated: 22 November 2015