Lean thinking is moving out of the factory -- downstream into sales, logistics and order fulfillment, and upstream into finance, marketing and New Product Development (NPD).
We're often asked, how do you apply the fundamentals in these areas?
For example, how might you apply visual management in NPD?
A good first step is to decide, What do we need to know to run our business?
a) What's the project loading at each point (P0, P1, P2) in our development pipeline?
b) What are min/max levels and our status at each point?
c) What are the biggest obstacles in each project?
d) Do we have countermeasure plans? What's their status?
e) What are broader system issues? Do we have countermeasure plans? Status?
Now we're ready to engage our teams in developing visual tools that will make the invisible, visible.
In our consulting work we've used funnels, race tracks, football fields, as well as, team boards and the like.
Visual management is also invaluable in NPD physical plants (e.g. Test Labs), and is similar to what you might find in a factory.
a) What's this week's work?
b) Are we ahead or behind?
c) What are our biggest obstacles? Countermeasure plans & status?
d) How versatile are our people?
e) What's the loading on our machines? Constraints?
The key, again, is to make the invisible, visible.
For more on Lean thinking outside the factory, please check out The Remedy.