Lean Subject Areas


A broad list of Lean subject areas:

  • Planning
  • Five S Approach
  • Standard Work
  • Involvement
  • Total Productive Maintenance
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Human Flow Automation (Jidoka)
  • Just-In-Time

These subject areas do not stand alone. Each subject interweaves with the others, and successful implementation should consider that relationship. For example, The Five S approach is needed before Work Standardization can begin, and both require a strong dose of employee involvement and team management to succeed. Value Stream Mapping relies on Work Standardization, and Total Productive Maintenance is a needed precursor to Just-in-Time.

Cautionary note: In our experience, trying to implement Lean and leaving out any of the key parts results in failure to gain the full benefits. Indeed, you may fail to gain any benefits leaving your cost, quality, and/or service worse than before you started.


Two helpful teaching approaches include inserting Lean into interrelated courses so participants more easily understand Lean subject relationships; and manager overview training for more effective oversight of Lean implementation.

Lean involves many levels of management

Lean is far more than an operations issue. Quite often, it supports individuals at different levels and in varying support areas.

General managers are often challenged with reducing cost while increasing capacity, capability and agility. They also work to improve customer satisfaction, increase team motivation, improve product/service quality permanently, as well as reduce costly supplier issues. This is a tall order, but one that Lean assists with greatly.

Functional managers have a slightly different series of challenges. They need to make tactical improvements that smooth workflow. Success requires them to eliminate bottlenecks in production, decrease work cycle time, reduce rework, scrap, and service issues, and reduce good employee turnover. Again, Lean done right will help with all these issues.

Quality managers may also see Lean as a solution. Lean reduces massive defects (and the need for sampling plans) due to its key tactic in requiring employees to check their own work. The quality department must be the center of excellence for the various Lean tools and approaches and their influence may actually expand with Lean implementation.

Lean also affects many support areas. For example, HR should have an understanding of the skill needs and conflicts that could arise from Lean implementation. There is often dislocation when one area reduces labor while other areas increase labor to handle rising or changing demand and HR must be prepared.

Lean is not an acronym for “Less Employees Are Needed.” That philosophy will put you on the fast track to the proverbial “crash and burn.” Although some firms have had large layoffs combined with Lean, the Lean implementation followed the layoffs, and was not the cause of them. These firms were in deep trouble, and their Lean journey was the way to growth in employment, not more layoffs.