Lean and Mean: 4 Lean Management Techniques That Win

The year was 1913 when Henry Ford developed a fully functioning moving assembly line. Using interchangeable parts, specialized machinery, and diligent hands, Ford was able to reduce the time to produce a car by 10 hours. What Ford lacked, however, was variety.

This is where Toyota, one of the largest adopters of lean principles, steps in. Toyota wanted to produce cars in conjunction with demand without sacrificing quality or variety.

Toyota introduced self-monitoring machines that would notify the previous machine of its material needs. These innovations allowed Toyota to produce on demand at a low cost with high variety and quality.

The principles Toyota implemented following World War II resonated with manufacturers around the world and have been found effective for office teams as well.

Here are 4 lean management techniques that foster a culture of constant improvement within teams:

1. Team Huddles

Having short, regular meetings with your coworkers ensures everyone is in the loop.

Using a huddle board is an effective way to monitor everyone’s projects. A huddle board often displays projects in sorted into columns.

Huddle boards can be digital, like Trello or Asana, or physical like a white board.

An example of a digital huddle board.

Use a decision chart like the one shown below when determining task priorities.

Projects and tasks that are high urgency and require low effort should be completed first while projects that fall in other quadrants can be completed later.

A task decision chart.

If a particular problem arises during a huddle, end the huddle and launch a problem solve.

2. Problem Solve with a Five-Why

Problem solving sessions are held as needed. Toyota utilizes problem solves to address issues with car production as soon as they occur.

One common lean management strategy used in problem solving sessions is called a “five-why”.

A five-why follows the assumption that most problems can be addressed within five “whys” as the name suggests. The following is an example of a five-why:

Using a five-why allows for the root of problems to uncovered quickly.

3. Feedback Surveys

Effective managers should be gathering feedback from their team on a regular basis.

Asking your team members to answer questions such as “Are all of your needs met?” and “Was your work life balance sustainable?” help managers understand the needs of their team.

One good way to collect survey responses is through a Google Form that employees submit weekly. If the form is connected to a Google Sheet, it is simple for managers to gather and analyze employee feedback.

4. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

For startups and established enterprises alike, focusing on developing a minimum viable product is key. Rather than develop a complete prototype and release it to the public, release incremental updates and gather market feedback along the way.

This ensures that all development of new services and products is in line with public demand.

Keep It Lean

Implementing these lean principles within your projects can provide increased productivity and reduced waste. Lean management can be applied to a variety of disciplines to make work-life better.