Continuous Improvement and Lean

Continuous improvement for cavemenDriving continuous improvement throughout our organizations is fundamental to short and long-term business success.

Continuous improvement requires daily improvement in everything that we (and our teams) do…even when we are too busy!

  • Are we better today than we were yesterday?
  • Will we be better tomorrow than we are today?

In the last few years, the concept of lean has begun to penetrate all aspects and types of business as a way to be more effective and profitable… to do more with less.

But, continuous improvement is fundamental to lean:

  • How can we find ways (small and big) to improve (and eliminate waste) each and every day.

The following anecdote from the book, This is Lean, drives home this point:

A company had been on a lean journey for many years.  So, they invited a lean expert from Toyota to visit their operations to assess if they were lean.  The lean expert toured the operations, listened to staff, and then spoke with his hosts at the end of the tour.  The CEO of the company asked:

“We have now shown you our whole operation and told you about all of our work on lean, of which we are very proud.  We are wondering now if you consider this to be world – class lean?”

The lean expert from Toyota replied:

“It is impossible for me to say.  I was not here yesterday.”

Musing from a lean thinkerAs we strive to improve our companies and to make them lean, we need to focus on the improvements that we (as managers) can make each and every day to help our employees, our teams, and our companies to improve each and every day.

  • Improving how we live the values and culture of our companies
  • Improving communication to make objectives even clearer
  • Improving meetings
  • Improving work habits and use of time
  • Improving pre-planning and thinking ahead
  • Improving follow up and holding the team accountable
  • Improving evaluating and vetting the team to ensure that only the best work for us
  • Improving teaching, coaching and mentoring of the team
  • Simplifying and standardizing wherever we can

If we can focus ourselves on these improvements every day, then we will clearly lead by example in helping our teams continually improve and making our companies world – class lean.



About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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