Over the last decade something big has been happening in Oman. It has been quietly growing in size and importance, in reputation and significance.
It travelled from Japan to the US and back again. It resides in every country around the world in one form or another. It is highly desirable, sought after by many a business and enterprise regardless of their service or industry.
The problem is that many still don’t know exactly what it is.
To some it is a philosophy, to others a continuous improvement methodology. To the inexperienced it is often viewed as just a toolbox of problem-solving techniques.
For many it is associated with cost-cutting and headcount reduction. To the wise, it is about growth and opportunity.
So what exactly is ‘it’?
A simple definition of it, it being Lean, is “do more with less”, to find the least wasteful way of doing things. However, Lean is much more than this simple definition.
Lean is a way of thinking, a way of solving problems, a way of leading, and a way of planning and measuring the long-term success of an organisation, focused on improving quality, delivery, cost, and safety. In short, Lean creates sustainable business success through a change of cultural proportions.
Lean will be seen as many as a recent innovation but in reality, many aspects of Lean have been around for millennia and successfully applied through the ages. It can be argued that 2000 years ago the Roman Empire expanded with the rigorous application of standards in their military and by their engineers.
Lean has five principles. The starting point is to specify value from the customer perspective. Lean thinkers insist on understanding exactly what drives customer value, including understanding what problem they are trying to solve. Great focus is placed on what the customer will pay for specific products, features, and service offerings. Once this is determined, the producer is responsible for determining how cost can be minimised and waste eliminated so that the product can be delivered profitably at the price the customer is willing to pay.
The next principle is identifying the value stream. This is the sequence of processes from procuring the raw material all the way through to delivery to the final customer, or from product concept to market launch. A value stream includes all the processes, steps, and materials necessary to place the product (or service) in the hands of the customer. Think economies of time rather than economies of scale and measure performance of the value stream end to end, not departmentally.
The third principle is flow. Make the value creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product or document will flow smoothly toward the customer.
The fourth principles in the Lean philosophy is pull. It is based on the assumption that one should only produce what is asked for by the customer and not over produce.
The final principle is the relentless pursuit of perfection. Lean thinkers implement systems and measurements that continuously seek opportunities to improve quality, speed up, and reduce the cost of each step of the value stream. When problems that impact quality arise, Lean thinkers don’t apply sticky plasters, instead they seek and address root causes.
Over the last three decades Lean has evolved. While Lean may have its roots in manufacturing, if you don’t think the principles apply to your industry then you are surely missing the point. Beyond manufacturing, Lean management has become the desired standard management across various sectors including government, healthcare, finance, logistics, retail, hospitality, IT, mining, and oil and gas.
In Oman today there is a growing nucleus of home-grown Lean talent as the coachee becomes the coach.
Primarily residing in the oil and gas sector and further enhanced with the adoption of the principle of respect for people it is a fair conclusion to say that Lean has successfully landed in Oman.
The great thing about Lean is that it is not about buying the latest piece of kit or having state of the art facilities: It’s about developing a different mental approach to work. It’s therefore not expensive to get started and is suitable for businesses large and small.
To learn more about Lean and how it can help you grow into profitability visit theleancoach.com.
A Lean Coach with over 20 years of Lean experience in automotive, aerospace, FMCG, and most recently oil and gas in Oman. He is a specialist in process improvement and coaching others, developing critical thinking skills, and building capability to deliver the road map.