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The 5 Lean steps

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The 5 Lean steps towards better results


Lifting your organization to a higher level is the most important thing there is. Lean can help improve your company. The 5 Lean Steps form, together with the 6 Lean Principles, the basis of every organization.


The 5 Lean Steps are:

  1. Clarify the customer value
  2. Streamline the processes
  3. Make sure there’s a continues flow
  4. Work on a demand basis
  5. Improve constantly

1. Clarify the customer value


_4611033006There’s a big chance that your colleagues aren’t in touch with customers on a daily basis. So they have a big risk of losing sight on what customers value about your service or product.

One customer would like to pay for having his or her car picked up when in need for a repair. Other customers prefer having all necessary repairs and replacements done without being bothered during meetings. And other customers prefer getting called immediately if there are any extra costs.

You see, it’s really important to think about what customers really value and what they don’t want to spend their money on. You might notice you lost oversight on this. These actions lead to the clarification of different demands of several customer groups. The second of the 5 lean steps is next.

2. Streamline the processes


When you know what demands and wishes your customers have and which customer groups need to be outlined, you can decide:

  • How this valuestream should look (the process the customer goes through);
  • Which steps would be a waste (in the eyes of the customer).

And now you can define and streamline processes.

So: what is the valuestream and where are the wastes? In the second step of the 5 Lean steps you define what the vlauestream is and you map all the wastes.

Let’s take an airline organization as an example.

Customervalue: You can make a difference between business and private travelers here. Within the group of private travelers, you also have those who need more care than others aboard the airplane.

Valuestream: It becomes clear which activities don’t give value to the customer. Take for example the queue at a counter, during check-in at the airport, baggage control etc. The spaces people need for waiting at the airport because you need to be there two hours ahead of flight time. These are wastes we can usually diminish.

Some wastes are unavoidable with the current state of technology. For example, big airplanes for large distances, instead of little planes for customers who want to fly short distances. We could eliminate them after a longer period of time. These wastes aren’t necessarily adding value to the process.

Can you imagine what’s possible if you think in such a fundamental way?

With a small group of employees, start thinking about the process that the customer goes through.

What is the customer going through every time he orders a new service? Step outside your comfort zone. Take in the curiosity of a child and walk through the entire process.

The 5 Lean Steps - _6001603070Is it clear what the steps are? At what times does the customer need to feel in forms? When does he need to be told something? Is it once, or more often? And how long and how often does the customer have to wait? And what is he waiting for?

Customers are more than willing to pay for activities that add value to the product or service they are buying. The organization is permanently busy eliminating wasteful steps and becomes the winner in the long term. But be careful: you need to focus on the wastes for the customers! Don’t fall into the trap that supposedly waste is decided by the people who create the vision of the company. The customer decides what is waste and what is not. What does the customer see?

The permanent focus should be on customer value and this should become the most important thing in the organization.

3. Make sure there’s a continues flow


What’s the first thing you think of when hearing the word ‘company’? That’s right: positions, departments, activities and batches.

In the third step of the 5 Lean steps we’ll go over flow. When something is in the making, and the departments are busy working, the customer is waiting. Taiichi Ono (the holy father of Lean Manufacturing) discovered that when you work in batches, you have more waste than when you would continuously work on a product or service. So when you have an order to process and hand it over to another colleague, he or she continues with it. Or better yet: when you and your colleague do the same activities, we can combine the activities to become more flexible and to be able to work even faster!

Just look at the next video about the difference between batch and 1-piece flow.

You can see there’s 3 processes and with every step there’s a new activity going on. You can see 3 product situations, 1 with a large batch of 10, 1 with a batch of 5 and 1 where after every item there’s a new item being produced.


We can conclude that doing 1 thing at a time is much faster than doing batches. It’s done in 29 seconds, in comparison to 1 minute of the large batch.

Switching quickly from one activity to another provides the basis for continues flow, especially in the service providers world. It’s time for thinking in processes and activities and stopping with thinking about departments and positions.


4. Work on a demand basis (Pull instead of Push)


When you can focus your organization on continues flow, you realize what an enormous profit this will give you in terms of runtime and delivery times. The order that used to take days to process, is now completed within hours. The production time of physical products can be brought back from months or weeks to days or minutes. A decrease in runtime of 70% to 90% is not an exception when using Lean techniques. Lean does it all!

Not only can you save 10% or more in runtime within a Lean project, you can also react much faster to customer demands, which are continuously changing.

With customer demand as a beacon, you’ll start going toward the frontlines and pass your competitors on the field.

Just think about a publisher for a second: Before Lean, he’d produce about 50% more than he could sell. Now, with the rising of e-books, he can deliver whenever the demand rises. He directs his attention to customer demands. Lean calls this the Pull principle.

5. Improve constantly


We’re now at the last step of the 5 Lean steps. You’ve seen how the enthusiasm of your colleagues can lead to an increase in customer value. You’ve decided to focus your processes on this, and have succeeded in the continues flow of your processes. You provide service or a product according to customer demand. You’ve made it a standard.

Then you arrive at a point at which it becomes easy to strive for perfection. Using the new process flow, wastes are detected early and easier. When you work while thinking about customer demand, the obstacles for continues flow are quickly visible.

This process is extremely motivating to the employees in your organization. Because the steps in this process, and therefor also the value, become so easy. For customers, for suppliers and even for the organization itself.


Results using the 5 Lean steps


Applying the Lean principles can lead to dramatic increase in results.

_1643334440It’s possible to:

  • Double the productivity of employees;
  • Reduce runtime with 70% to 90%;
  • Cut the deviations of quality in half;
  • Introduce new services within half the time;
  • Provide a bigger assortment of products for much less costs;

After having started with Lean, most organizations achieve a doubling of their productivity and continue to improve their processes. It’s never finished. Toyota started this principle 50 years ago and has since become the world’s most profitable car producers. Employees working at Toyota still improve every day.

The enthusiasm, willingness and quality of your employees is of utmost importance in this process. People want to be part of a successful team.

By working with the 5 Lean Steps they experience being important and notice that they make a difference in the quality toward the customer. This is what makes saving a process of improving with a totally different feel to it.

An experience that will inspire you to do more good within your company. You’ll become invincible!

Discover more about Lean!


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