Defining Lean thinking (and practice).
Of this definition, what I like foremost is that it puts people's development, their growth and learning first, even before continuous improvement. As also recalled by the values of the Toyota Way, there can be no kaizen without respect for people. This needs to be reminded because, even in some of the best applications of lean practices, companies tend to focus more on continuous improvement than on people development and consider the development of people as a “nice-to-have” by-product of continuous improvement or an unfortunately unavoidable cost to make continuous improvement happen.
Second, it emphasizes the creation of value for the customer and the centrality of the customer in its definition. There is no value creation unless defined and perceived by the customer. Everything else is waste. Third, this definition clarifies that the value created for customers can’t be captured only by the company (and therefore the shareholders). Other stakeholders, especially employees, also have a say in that value. Employees, partners (suppliers and customers), local communities and other bodies, institutions and associations: all are entitled to share the benefits coming from continuous improvement, waste and variability elimination and innovative problem solving.
Lean thinking and practice can exist only if coupled with sustainability because, in the absence of this balanced, multi-stakeholder approach, what does not seem wasteful for the shareholder can be wasteful for employees, partners, the environment, or Society as a whole.
Fourth, this definition calls for the need to consume as few resources as possible. A principle of essentiality and thriftiness which is good not only for the companies’ financial statements but also for the environment, and the future of Humankind.