Lean Management: In Search of Optimization

Lean Management: In Search of Optimization 09.07.2018 - Knowledge and the application of lean management are required in many projects - and this form of management is a subject that is highly discussed in the professional world. But what does lean management actually mean? The term and the idea behind it had its origin in the automobile industry in Japan - and already in the 1950s. There, the principle of continuous improvement and the reduction of divisional thinking were called for. The implementation of a so-called "lean production" was generally important. These principles of streamlining were then applied to planning processes, plans, administration, procedures and management in general.

Lean management means streamlining
Lean Management, which began under the term "Lean Production", is always about improving the entire system. Through lean management, both the administration of a group and its value chain should function more efficiently, faster, leaner and thus more economically. As a result, the principles of lean management were quickly transferred from the manufacturing industry to other sectors of the economy. After all, optimizable bureaucracy and inefficient structures are things that can be found to a greater or lesser extent in most companies. Lean Management wants to achieve a streamlining. Productivity is to be increased by avoiding waste, unnecessary procedures and work, and intelligent planning. What today sounds like a basic requirement for economic work was a groundbreaking concept in the 1950s that companies wanted to understand and implement quickly. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to apply the principles of lean management in practice. That is why Lean Management is still being discussed, applied, rethought and constantly revolutionized.

The core of Lean Management: continuous improvement
One of the principles of lean management is the continuous improvement of procedures. Lean Management or Lean Production is nothing you can simply introduce and then use like new software. Rather, it is a continuous process of constant questioning and improvement. In Japan this core principle is called kaizen. Kai means change and Zen as much as "for the better". The continuous improvement process can be intimidating because it never ends. If success is achieved, lean management is directly oriented towards further optimization requirements. Of course, new technologies that always open up new possibilities also help. Lean Management also means continuously observing and evaluating existing structures and processes and looking for opportunities for improvement. A person who works according to lean management will never find a project or a production that works without errors. That is in the nature of things. In Lean Management there is always "air upwards". However, this need for optimization is not viewed negatively, the focus is on improvement.

Improvement always and everywhere
It is not so much a matter of pointing out mistakes to employees and showing them what works suboptimally. The aim is to ensure that employees constantly question their own actions and discover mistakes in the process themselves. This does not mean concrete errors, e.g. of individual employees, but system-inherent errors, i.e. processes that do not function optimally. Steps towards improvement can then be defined. Under no circumstances should employees get the feeling that they are never doing something good enough, because mistakes and opportunities for improvement are always sought. They should be much more involved in the process of continuous search for improvement and feel good about being a part of progress.

Interdisciplinary thinking is required
Process orientation is an important pillar of lean management. The so-called „Silodenken“ is to be abolished. Lean Management cannot take place in a single department of a company, it must be used across the board in order to be successful. Lean Management does not require specialists with concentrated specific knowledge, but managers who can think and work across disciplines. The understanding of large interrelationships, interdisciplinary orientation and flexible thinking are essential for continuous improvement. Of course, the Lean Manager should not dissolve the departments or soften the boundaries between them. He only has to recognize the connections between them and the interdependencies of the processes in order to recognize weak points in communication and processes.

Customer orientation and focus on people
In Lean Management, customer orientation is the focus of our efforts. No distinction is made between external and internal customers. Every order should be processed with the same high degree of quality and care. This may seem self-evident at first, but in practice this claim to quality is often not consistently implemented - for understandable reasons such as time pressure, priorities etc. Lean Management wants to raise awareness of this demand for equal quality requirements.
In addition to the focus on customers, the focus on people is anchored as the most important resource in lean management. Every single employee should be considered equally. To a certain extent, this requires the removal of hierarchical obstacles. This does not necessarily mean a reduction of hierarchies. Lean Leadership is based on respect and appreciation of all employees and their further training, which in turn corresponds to the principle of continuous improvement. Managers should be coaches of their employees rather than commanders. This enables them to drive forward the improvement process in a targeted manner and to be better integrated into the process of improving each individual.

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