In today's busy and competitive business environment, every organisation seeks to optimise its operations and deliver value to its customers faster. To achieve these goals, many organisations are turning to lean principles and practices to streamline their processes and eliminate waste. A lean practitioner is a certified professional who specialises in applying lean methodologies to enhance operational efficiency and deliver measurable value to customers.
What is Lean?
Lean is a management philosophy that originated in the manufacturing industry but has since spread to other sectors, including healthcare, construction, and services. The goal of lean is to eliminate waste, which is defined as any activity that does not add value to the customer. By doing so, lean helps organisations reduce costs, improve quality, and enhance customer satisfaction and delivery.
The origins of lean can be traced back to the Toyota Production System (TPS), which was developed by Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1950s. TPS is based on two key principles: just-in-time (JIT) production and jidoka (autonomation). With user-focused similarities to AgilePM, JIT production involves producing only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount that is needed. Jidoka refers to the ability of machines to detect and prevent defects, thereby reducing the need for inspection and rework time.
Since its creation, lean has evolved into a comprehensive management system that includes a variety of tools and techniques for business process improvement. Some of the most commonly used lean tools include value stream mapping, kaizen (continuous improvement), 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardise, sustain), and visual management.
What is a Lean Practitioner?
A lean practitioner is a professional who specialises in applying lean principles and practices to improve operational efficiency and deliver value to customers. Lean practitioners can come from a variety of backgrounds and may have experience in manufacturing, engineering, quality assurance, or operations management. However, regardless of their background, all lean practitioners share a common goal: to help organisations reduce waste, and become more efficient, effective, and customer-focused.
A lean practitioner's job is to identify and eliminate waste in all its forms, including defects, overproduction, delays, non-utilised talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excess processing times. This requires an in-depth understanding of the organisation's processes and the ability to work collaboratively with all key stakeholders to identify opportunities for business improvement.
A lean practitioner typically works with a cross-functional team that includes representatives from various departments, such as operations, quality, engineering, and finance. The team works together to identify areas of waste and develop solutions to eliminate it. The lean practitioner is responsible for coordinating the team's work and ensuring that progress is made toward the goals of the project.
Skills of a Lean Practitioner
To be an effective lean practitioner, one must possess a variety of skills. Some of the most important include:
1. Problem-solving skills
Lean practitioners must be able to identify the root cause of problems and develop effective solutions to eliminate them.
2. Communication skills
Lean practitioners must be able to communicate effectively with all stakeholders, including senior management, front-line employees, and suppliers.
3. In-depth knowledge of lean principles and practices
Lean practitioners must have a thorough understanding of lean tools and techniques and how to apply them in different contexts.
4. Project management skills
Lean practitioners must be able to manage projects from start to finish, including defining goals, developing project plans, and monitoring progress.
5. Continuous learning mindset
Lean practitioners must be committed to continuous learning and improvement, staying up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in lean management.
6. Change management skills
Lean practitioners must be able to navigate resistance to change and effectively manage the implementation of new processes and systems. The Change Management Foundation certification is an excellent accompanying certification for professionals looking to further their change application knowledge.
Benefits of Working with a Lean Practitioner
Organisations that work with a lean practitioner can expect to see a variety of benefits, including:
1. Increased efficiency
By eliminating unnecessary waste and streamlining processes, organisations can achieve valuable improvements in efficiency, reducing lead times, and increasing throughput.
2. Improved quality
Lean practices emphasise the importance of defect prevention and continuous improvement, which can lead to higher-quality products and services to the end user.
3. Enhanced customer satisfaction
By focusing on value creation and customer needs, lean organisations are better equipped to deliver products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations.
4. Reduced costs
By eliminating waste, lean organisations can reduce costs associated with excess inventory, overproduction, and other non-value-added activities.
5. Improved employee engagement
Lean practices emphasise the importance of employee involvement and empowerment, which can lead to higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction.
6. Sustainable improvement
Lean is not a one-time project, but should rather be a continuous improvement process. By working with a lean practitioner, organisations will adopt a culture of continuous improvement that drives sustained business success.
Lean Six Sigma Certification
Lean Six Sigma is a well-recognised methodology that combines two powerful process improvement approaches: Lean and Six Sigma (Originated from Motorola in the United States in 1986). Both Lean and Six Sigma are focused on enhancing operational efficiency, reducing waste, and improving quality, but they have different areas of emphasis. Lean focuses on the elimination of waste and non-value-added activities, while Six Sigma focuses on reducing variability and defects in processes.
The combination of these two methodologies creates a powerful approach to process improvement that can drive significant benefits for organisations. As such, there are several online courses or certifications available for individuals who want to become experts in Lean Six Sigma methodologies. For anyone considering a lean practitioner career, we'll explain the necessary Lean Six Sigma certifications below.
Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt
The Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification is the introductory level certification in the Lean Six Sigma series. It provides an overview of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and the tools and techniques used in process improvement. Yellow Belt holders are typically members of improvement teams and support the implementation of Lean Six Sigma projects.
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification is the next level of certification in Lean Six Sigma and requires no previous knowledge or experience. Green Belt holders have a more in-depth understanding of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and can lead small to medium-sized projects. They are responsible for identifying areas of waste and non-value-added activities, as well as leading improvement projects to eliminate them.
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification is the highest level of certification in Lean Six Sigma. Black Belt holders are experts in the methodology and can lead large-scale improvement projects that involve multiple departments and stakeholders. They are responsible for identifying areas of waste and non-value-added activities, as well as developing and implementing improvement strategies.
Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt
The Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification is the highest level of certification in Lean Six Sigma. Master Black Belt holders are experts in the methodology and are responsible for training and mentoring Green and Black Belt holders. They provide guidance on the use of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques and help organisations develop and implement improvement strategies.
Lean Six Sigma Champion
The Lean Six Sigma Champion certification is designed for senior executives who are responsible for driving the implementation of Lean Six Sigma throughout the organisation. Champions are responsible for promoting the methodology, identifying improvement opportunities, and providing the necessary resources and support to ensure the success of Lean Six Sigma projects.
The Lean Practitioner certification is designed for individuals who are responsible for implementing Lean Six Sigma projects within their organisation. Practitioners are responsible for identifying improvement opportunities, analysing data, and implementing improvement strategies. They work closely with Green and Black Belt holders to ensure the success of improvement projects.
In today's competitive business environment, organisations must find ways to optimise their operations and deliver value to customers. Lean principles and practices provide a powerful framework for achieving these goals, and a lean practitioner is a key player in making it happen.
By working with a lean practitioner, organisations can identify and eliminate waste, streamline processes, and improve customer satisfaction. The lean practitioner brings a range of skills and qualifications to the table, including problem-solving, project management, and change management, all of which are critical to the success of lean initiatives.
Ultimately, working with a lean practitioner can help organisations achieve sustainable improvement, driving efficiency, quality, and value for years to come.