Lean Management advocates continuous improvement of procedures to improve business productivity. Because a company is primarily made up of individuals, Lean Management aims to put people at the centre of management. This is a concern that is more relevant than ever when the current environment is changing work organizations.
Although inspired by the production system deployed by Toyota plants, the Lean Management concept was forged in the United States. The Americans James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos, professors at MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology) were the first to present a thought-provoking study through their best-selling book The System That Will Change the World, published in the early 1990s.
Lean Management, performance and health crisis
Lean Management has three main objectives:
Strengthen the company’s profitability.
Improve the quality of its products or services.
Optimize manufacturing times.
These objectives ultimately address productivity issues and aim to reduce organizations to make them more efficient, with a view to continuously improving quality. Between the new health protocols related to the work in the company and the continuation of the telework of a part of the workforce, lean Management is therefore at the heart of the new challenges of companies.
Performance also means measuring and controlling performance. Therefore, any Lean approach requires precise and quantifiable indicators, capable of identifying areas for improvement. For example, it may be a good idea to accurately measure the time it takes to put a new product on the market. But also to measure the possible increase in productivity promoted by telework, or to determine how remote work leads to new ways of working together.
Lean Management for Occupational Health and Safety
However, it would be very risky to allow these indicators, however indispensable, to be the sole barometer of the Lean approach. The risk is to lead to standardized and standardized organizations, which are likely to become at the slightest risk. While the consideration of performance indicators is essential, it must not be used to save the intangible approach to productivity. If you focus too much on productivity gains, the risk is to end up pressurizing the teams and ultimately achieving results that are contrary to those expected.
The risk is also to create a rigid and stressful work environment, leaving little room for autonomy and innovation. Regardless of the work environment, in offices, warehouses, or at home, an overly rigoristic approach can promote the emergence of psychosocial risks or the progression of MSDs, these famous Musculoskeletal Disorders, which weigh heavily on occupational health and safety. In this regard, Lean management cannot be conceived without a particular attention paid to ergonomics and the layout of workstations, but also to the autonomy of teams, whether in the premises of companies or at home.
Lean Management and collective intelligence
Indeed, the democratization of telework clearly raises the question of the autonomy of employees. With it, there is also the question of responsiveness and speed of execution. In the event of an unforeseen event, teams whose members work remotely from each other must be able to react quickly. This requires a constant effort to adapt and an ability to learn from their previous mistakes. In this sense, creativity, flexibility and agility are at the heart of the Lean approach, which has everything to gain from taking advantage of collective intelligence. In this regard, the challenge for remote teams is to make the most of the collaborative tools available to them. Involvement and commitment are at the heart of the matter. The good news is that all studies agree that employee engagement and productivity tend to increase with telework.
Lean management and human management
Regardless of the work environment, remotely or on the company’s premises, the challenge of Lean Management is to put people at the centre of organizations. Not to perceive it as an adjustable resource, but as an immaterial wealth that is difficult to quantify. To achieve this, the managerial approach is obviously decisive. It may be based on the following principles:
Focus on the global approach
Reducing the company to its simple issues of profitability and productivity is not enough. On the contrary, all its components must be taken into account, be they economic, human, environmental, social or societal.
Making sense of action
For each of us, the meaning we give to our daily actions is one of the main motivators. It is therefore essential that everyone, at his level, be clear about the objectives assigned to him, as well as the means available to him to achieve them. This approach to clarity is essential to the success of collective action.
Creating the conditions for trust and dialogue
The value of employees, the recognition of their work is another essential source of motivation. Excessive control, prefer listening, dialogue and trust.
In the end, Lean Management aims to be a human approach, inseparable from the notion of well-being at work. This approach considers that it is up to the work environment to adapt to the human, rather than the other way around. At a time when organizations are facing major upheavals, this principle finds its relevance.
Also, read our article: “Telework and ergonomics: prevention is better than cure”