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July 20th, 2022

Applying Lean to your Business Improvement Projects is a proven way in which your business can achieve operational improvement.  Lean approaches are proven to streamline processes and eliminate wasteful activity, improve efficiency and cut operational costs.  Also, Lean will equip your people with techniques for continuous improvement that will improve overall business performance.

Business improvement projects come in various forms and sizes, for example:

  1. Large Scale – these are improvement interventions focused on significant Cross – Business Processes
  2. Small Scale – these are interventions or Rapid Improvement Events focused on specific divisional or departmental processes
  3. Organisational Development – programs that focus on people and culture to embed a continuous improvement

However, no matter what the size or form of the improvement project, there is a common theme… they all utilise Lean tools and methodologies to achieve success – example tools like:

  • PDCA
  • Rapid Improvement Events
  • Kaizen Blitzes
  • Ease Benefit Matrix
  • 5S
  • 3C
So, considering all this, why is it that some improvement projects still fail to meet expectations?

While you may achieve improvements in the performance of a specific process, where you have focused on the Lean Project, this sometimes fails to translate into more relevant business performance improvement, for instance an overall business objective to cut operational costs.

So, what goes wrong?

There will be many reasons why a business improvement project fails such as the way projects are identified and selected in the first place. It’s important to understand what the problem is.  Examples of problems are:

problems why Lean projects fail

Additionally, there will be other barriers to overcome – such as:

Business Processes are complicated and become more so when you start to factor in Customers; Customers and their Customers; Suppliers and Suppliers Suppliers etc.

Our Lean Projects are usually focused on only one part of our business and the inevitable conclusion is that we will only get significant (and relevant) improvement if we are lucky.

So, what should you do?

You should make sure that you understand the overall end-to-end value chain sufficiently enough to enable the focus to be placed on improvement efforts that concentrate energy on the specific areas that are holding back the business.

  1. Start by identifying the key Value Chain amongst the other processes/activities
  2. Understand the way work flows through the specific value chain – make it visible!
  3. Collect and analyse data – where are the constraints/bottlenecks that inhibit the performance of the value chain
  4. Deploy Lean – focus a Lean business improvement project on the specific problem/bottleneck(s)/constraint(s) identified

Taking all the points into consideration, to ensure your Lean Improvement Projects not only improve process performance but also positively impact overall business performance and operational objectives, you need to make sure you choose them correctly.

To further support this process here are some top tips:

Want to keep up to date with best practices about Lean and Leadership and hear from others in similar continuous improvement and leadership roles about their success stories? Sign up here to be part of our Lean and Leaders community.

Bourton Group LLP the award-winning Operational Improvement Consultancy – read more about our award-winning project here.

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