Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Lean Outside the Factory?

By Pascal Dennis,

I wrote a book about it --The Remedy.

Why did I bother?

Because Lean is about reducing waste & variation -- and most of it is outside the factory.

Factories, and Operations in general, have continued to improve the past few decades.

Though there is still much opportunity, in many industries they are no longer the bottleneck.

When you buy a new car, for example, most of the lead time is outside the factory.

(Autos usually spend a couple of days in the factory, whereas total lead times are typically several months.)

Sales, Marketing, Design, Engineering and so on are the "undiscovered country".

How do we support the good people in these areas?

Here are a few questions to get us started.

For each zone, ask:

1) What is waste?

2) What is value?

3) What are some core mental models?

If we can build on these to define our Purpose clearly, we'll can start to pull in powerful Lean tools to help us achieve that Purpose.

(For more on how to do this, interested readers are referred to the book Getting the Right Things Done)

Best regards,



  1. That book about "missed" point of view in Lean thinking. In my consulting projects was very difficult to use lean tools widely becouse main part of problems was outside factory: in marketing, sales and so on. Lean tools was not part of whole enterprise management system for me.
    I can't say that get all answers from the book, but questions raised are very actual.
    Must read book!

  2. Exactly! Lean is not well understood outside of Manufacturing so as Value Streams expand they will naturally hit this wall.
    We need to begin with the basics and grow from there as they are mastered.
    - Waste & Value
    - Mental Models
    - Problem Solving
    - Visual Management
    These are all good places to start. As we do this we'll begin to build an Enterprise Business System that engages everyone in the organization and so is very powerful



  3. Good comments, all -- thanks.

    In the next decade, my sense is the Lean Enterprise concept will become more and more concrete.

    Lean practitioners around the world need to make it our mission.