Lean Six Sigma (3/3): Service vs. industry

Peter Matthijssen
Posted by Peter Matthijssen on Oct 10, 2011

Lean Management

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Off course organizations that practice Lean Six Sigma optimize their processes in the workplace. In an industrial environment they use ‘tricks’ like hanging drilling machines at the correct height on a string, for easy access. Also inventories are limited by the use of smart systems like Single piece flow, Just in Time and Kanban.

A growing number of non-industrial organizations also apply these Lean ‘tricks’, many times leading improvements. But is this all that Lean stands for: applying standard (best practice) solutions to standard problems?

No. It would be wrong to portray Lean as just a collection of ‘tricks’. For real successful Lean organizations the method is part of their culture.

Proud of the product

In many lean production environments, we see employees being proud of the product they make, and the process and lean techniques behind it. Employees are encouraged to participate in optimizing the processes. Good ideas, also for small improvements, are taken seriously and many times implemented. Also making mistakes is not a bad thing, as long as we learn from it. Job rotation and constant training is part of the job. All together workers are treated with a lot of respect by the company. Workers respond with loyalty and proud.

Misuse of Lean

In service-oriented organizations we overall find less pride. The ‘product’, the process and the customer are too much out of sight for pride to arise. Also many times we see a lack of motivation among employees doing routine tasks. Lean is often misused in these organizations. Cost will be cut by twenty percent, let’s introduce Lean… No wonder many service organizations are faced with resistance in Lean projects.

The Lean culture

Lean, as it is meant to be, is all about changing and improving WITH the people in the organization. People from management to the workplace are involved. True, by applying Lean techniques we create more transparency in the processes, which not everybody will like. In any organization there are people who experience Lean as a threat. But for those who are willing to change and take the challenge, it might feel as liberation. “Finally there is room for a change.” “Finally people are willing to hear my ideas for improvement.”

By involving people, Lean projects will eventually have a profound effect on the company culture. This will evoke more pride and permanent better results.

Good luck with working with LSS in your organization!

Forrester Wave Enterprise Architecture 2017


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