The Lean Enterprise Institute defines Lean as “creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” Embedded in this simple definition are a couple of important concepts, the first of which is the focus on value creation. A fundamental principle in the application of Lean is the relentless elimination of waste, defined as any task or activity that does not add value, so that value creation is the sole focus of the organization. The second concept embedded in the definition above is that the customer is the one who determines value. The entire organization must be aligned on the customer’s expectation of value and strive to do everything necessary to meet that expectation.
We introduce the above definition to make the larger point that Lean shouldn’t be reduced to a series of tools that are applied in an “ad hoc” manner within the business. The various Lean tools were born out of a customer- and performance-focused culture, not vice versa. Long story made short, it’s important to build the right mindsets and behaviors into the organization.
With that as background, there are numerous Lean tools that can be applied to the benefit of the business and some of these tools will be more applicable depending on the circumstances. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on when to introduce certain Lean tools (we recognize that the list below is not exhaustive...we welcome comments based on your experience):