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The Lean Startup: The First Leg of the Lean Journey – Part Two

The Lean Startup: The First Leg of the Lean Journey – Part Two

In the first part of  this post, I discussed what it means to be Lean and how continuing with the Lean path is truly fundamental to continuing true company success, though many Lean Startups may not carry this philosophy forward as they grow. In this post, I’ll discuss why and how startups can continue their Lean journey.

The Lean philosophy emphasizes an endless journey of organizational learning. My advice, as a Lean practitioner and entrepreneur, is that any entrepreneur can learn about the following ideas and tools as soon as his company starts to grow, and adapt them to its specific situation.

Here are some of the tools that can help a Lean Startup become a Lean organization once that are embraced and implemented,:

Value Stream Mapping:  This is a method that creates a big picture of all processes occurring during the various steps of a company’s relationship with its customers. The goal is to map material and information flow through the process and measure both waste and value-added timing. It’s a fundamental tool for identifying bottlenecks and sources of waste.

The 5 S’s: A set of very simple workspace organizational principles that, unfortunately, many companies tend to ignore. They focus on promoting visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization, and include:

Sort: The first step in making a workspace clean and organized

Set in Order: Organize, identify and arrange everything in a work area

Shine: Regular cleaning and maintenance

Standardize: Make it easy to maintain; simplify and standardize

Sustain: Continue what has been accomplished

Visual Displays & Controls: The use of visual displays for quick recognition of the information being communicated within the organization in order to increase efficiency and clarity. They include:

Andons: Signboards with embedded alerts, crucial to quality control systems.

Kanbans: A visual and physical signaling system that ties together the JIT (just-in-time) production.

Continuous Improvement and Planning: Fundamental processes and rituals are crucial to a Lean organization as they allow the company to create consensus among all stakeholders about optimization needs, solutions and goals. They include:

PDCA (plan-do-check-act): An iterative four-step management method used to control and optimize a process. PDCAs are a great way to formalize the “build-measure-learn” iterations of a Lean Startup.

Kaizen: Practices and rituals designed to involve stakeholders in the discussion of issues, to find solutions and to create changes in the processes to ensure the issues do not occur again.

A3 Management: A simple-to-understand mechanism for fostering deep thinking, thorough analysis, a problem-solving attitude and follow-up action. A3 eases consensus-building and paves the way for the quick and easy implementation of changes. It’s applicable to all areas of the business, including HR, finance, IT, help-desk, production and others.

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Hoshin Kanri: A method that helps the organization to focus on a shared goal to communicate the goal to its leaders and involves leaders in planning to achieve the goal and to hold participants accountable for achieving their part of the plan.

Seem daunting? This is just the beginning. There are a host of other processes and tools in the Lean toolkit. But remember – the path to Lean is a journey, not a quick fix. The principles outlined above and others that comprise the Lean arsenal should be implemented methodically in a way that makes sense for each individual company. Take it from someone who’s been there.  Once you start implementing Lean principles in your own company and begin reaping the rewards, you’ll want to continue down the path toward becoming a fully Lean organization.

Make Lean Your Philosophy

The Lean Startup approach is great, but it’s also relatively new as a concept and therefore lacks data to support its effectiveness. For this reason, it has yet to produce a true juggernaut of a success story. As more and more startups using the Lean Startup approach become successful companies, the question of which organizational process is best to employ will become increasingly important. Eric Reis points the way toward embracing additional principles in “The Lean Startup”.

“As a successful startup makes the transition to an established company, it will be well poised to develop the kind of culture of disciplined execution that characterizes the world’s best firms, such as Toyota.”

The word “culture” is key here. Above all, Lean is a philosophy wrapped around a big set of processes and tools. It’s not just a set of guidelines to optimize a company’s operation but a way of thinking that needs to be woven into every aspect of the organization.

By embracing Lean principles and introducing the processes and techniques I’ve listed here, startups can ensure that they continue to deliver value and eliminate waste as they scale into viable, successful companies.

About Marcio Cyrillo

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