“Lean” methodology emerged as a term used to describe Toyota Motor Corporation’s effective and streamlined business practices during the late 1980’s. The methodology is the use of project management concepts that maximize value while minimizing waste. In other words, it helps business leaders extract to most value from initiatives while using fewer resources.

Lean organizations are customer focused and engineer their core business processes to continually improve buyer satisfaction. Ideally, the methodology allows enterprise leaders to deliver perfect value with zero waste. Lean methodologies are a departure from the goal of optimizing technology, assets and business units. Instead, the practice focuses more on the optimal flow of products and services by creating value streams within the organizational structure.

When practicing lean methodologies, the goal is to eliminate waste along the entire value stream, rather than solely at isolated and disparate pain points. As a result, enterprises need fewer human resources, space, capital and time to deliver goods and services when using the practice. The resulting products and services are delivered at significant cost savings and with fewer defects compared to those produced using standard business systems. Additionally, firms are able to quickly react to changing customer needs, and information management is simpler and more accurate using the methodology.

Lean methodology, while commonly associated with the manufacturing industry, is effective for all kinds of businesses. The concept can be used for every enterprise and process and is a holistic organizational practice.

Your Company Can Become More Efficient and Effective

To compete in today’s marketplace, executives must innovate while developing new strategies that deliver value to clients and society. At the same time, they must minimize the use of resources and create a better corporate culture. The lean methodology focuses on fixing processes and developing better systems, rather than identifying accountability. Diversity is also important for the successful implementation of this effective practice, as well as communication and ethics.

Asking questions can help improve corporate culture and help stakeholders understand the company mission and each other. Questioning is frequently used for counseling and makes good sense in business settings. The practice allows businesses to make continuous changes in steer leadership toward improvement.

Stay Competitive by Streamlining Operations

From nonprofit organizations to government agencies to retailers, all kinds of businesses implement lean methodologies. These organizations strive to develop a culture of ongoing improvement. They continually evaluate operational processes and search for opportunities for development. Healthcare providers, for instance, use patient satisfaction surveys that are linked to government funding, while government agencies might be required to meet specific objectives to deem their missions successful. While outcomes are typically tied to funding for these kinds of organizations, many other kinds of enterprises use the lean methodology simply to streamline operations.

Before enterprise leaders can fix a problem, they must identify issues. Resultantly, executives implement systems to monitor how lean initiatives perform. This is a primary step toward initiating a culture of improvement, followed by the utilization of the best tools and techniques that can help firms achieve their objectives. Using lean practices, healthcare organizations – for instance – break away from the status quo, streamline operations and successfully compete in a competitive marketplace.

Add Value for Your Business, Employees and Customers

Innovative tools such as cloud computing and DevOps automation helps business leaders build lean digital infrastructures while keeping a cap on costs. Lean methodology is a strong foundation for continual technological advancement and cost savings. It helps business leaders incorporate new systems while exposing their firms to minimal risk and promoting stable growth. It also creates a culture that is accepting of frequent changes and improvements.

It can be difficult to create a culture of continuous change. However, the lean methodology can help create a work environment where staff members intuitively embrace new concepts. The practice helps business leaders maximize the potential of all enterprise resources and highlights staff members’ strengths while creating better leadership.

Create a Positive Culture Within Your Business First

Over time, an environment of continuous change improves organizational operations. Lean methodology creates a culture of problem-solving and a commitment to resolving issues. Making improvements, correcting problems and operating more efficiently and effectively becomes spontaneous, rather than reactive. The practice helps organizations meet mission-critical objectives and requires the full dedication of all stakeholders from top executives to front-line employees.

To succeed in lean initiatives, the methodology must be embedded in the organizational culture. To do this, company heads ensure that all staff members are on board to participate in a lean culture of ongoing change. As this effort is constant, the continual review of project and practice outcomes is required to ensure that lean initiatives are executed successfully.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the primary objective of lean practices is to provide customer value. By using the lean methodology to improve operations, business leaders across the continuum of industries can lead their organizations toward success.

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.