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15 July 2020
Process Improvement

GET LEAN AFTER LOCKDOWN – Lean Principles for SME’s


Are your manual processes a barrier towards greater productivity?  Do you engage and empower your teams to strip away waste & inefficiency?

My 5 blog series for business owners and leaders, will focus your efforts to emerge renewed and reenergized after lockdown


As UK companies of all industries are striving to emerge from the last 4 months of havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 lockdown, many business owners and leaders are recognising the opportunity to move their operations to the next level.  For those businesses who don’t fall in the category of front line services employing key workers, you are undoubtedly striving to stabilize your finances as a priority over coming months.  

LEAN is perceived to only be applicable in a manufacturing environment, but the fundamentals boil down to common sense reduction of waste – not just in materials, but time, energy, movement, duplication and quality control. These can all be improved towards a leaner working environment.  Improvements in any or all of these, will add value to your product or service, improve productivity, and boost your profits.

Using Lean is to take an aggressive stance on productivity barriers, and instill the philosophy of continually seeking ways to produce/serve more, with less.  In Lean thinking, any activity or outlay that doesn’t contribute directly to customer value is a waste and a target for elimination.  However, being tough on waste, doesn’t translate into a witch hunt, or about blaming people.  It’s about engaging everyone in the business to identify and contribute to fixing faulty processes, as the norm, not on a one off basis.

Applying Lean will only be successful if the culture in the organisation develops: 

Lean Champions

Employee Involvement

Employee Empowerment

My last blog series tackled the top 5 challenges business owners face during lockdown.  I provided insight in how to nurture employee engagement whilst working from home. 

If you’re team are working remotely, or a hybrid between home and office working, it’s worth reading that series before you start this one. 

The five LEAN Principles can be summarised as follow: 

VALUE STREAM – Define the value in your product or service, from the customers’ perspective, and determine which activities customers are willing to pay for.

ELIMINATE WASTE – Identify and map the selected value stream and eliminate waste.

PULL SYSTEM – Develop a ‘pull’ system to move work through the value stream according to client demand

QUALITY TO ZERO REWORK – Involve and empower employees towards a culture of continuous improvement

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT – Sustain the lean initiatives to pursue perfection


Well no, there’s a bit of explanation behind each of these five principles.  If you’re prepared to embrace a few simple techniques, Lean can offer a comprehensive, straightforward methodology.  Productivity, and your profitability, can be optimized, with a long term commitment for a companywide continuous improvement.  

I’ll explore and expand on the first principle, the Lean Value Stream, in my next blog.