The term lean was coined to describe Toyota’s business during the late 1980s by Jim Womack and his research team at MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program. While lean sparked from the manufacturing industry’s practices, it applies to just about every type of business. Even though it originally referred to maximizing production while minimizing waste, now it is all about creating as much value as possible with fewer resources.
While the concept of going lean is embraced by just about every industry, actually applying it can be more complex than it looks. Business owners can start by reducing employee turnover. The Center for American Progress reviewed economic case studies and found that for all positions, except executives and physicians, the typical cost to replace employees was 21 percent of an employee’s salary.
But it’s not enough to just keep employees. It’s also necessary to engage and make the most use of their skills and talent. Going lean means getting rid of systems and practices that waste your team’s time, revenue and resources.
Optimize Your Workforce
Review your current staff, their responsibilities and their productivity. Staffing your departments appropriately gives your employees the opportunity to focus on being their most effective on specific tasks instead of trying to do a little of everything to compensate for gaps. However, thorough training should also involve some crossover to other responsibilities to create a safety net for busy seasons or unexpected staffing issues.
Empower your employees to work quickly and stay mobile, whether they are working in the field, telecommuting or bouncing around to client meetings. For example, without the right equipment, employees waste time taking notes on one device, translating them to another and creating presentations. Instead, invest in a tablet or smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S7, so your team can see notifications without ever stopping to unlock their phone. An oversized Super AMOLED display also makes it easy to capture and replay videos from meetings and any issues with products out in the field.
Create a Lean Culture
A lean culture takes time to cultivate and requires some testing, trial and error. There are core techniques you can use to streamline the process toward success. Change starts with your leadership team shedding inherited systems and policies that just aren’t working anymore. Offer additional education and training from the top down and focus on opening channels of communication within the company. If you want your employees to use detailed, verbal feedback in meetings, then lay out those expectations and lead by example. If you’re looking for a detailed round-up from the week, recruit your executive team to do the same.
Recognize and Reward Your Employees
Employees might enjoy when you provide free lunches and offer a day off on their birthday, but they also want more than just surface recognition. Instead, reward your employees with detailed feedback and praise for their contribution to a project. Recognize their hard work publicly and create a reward system that works. Consider designing a robust commission structure for top-earners, or allow employees to choose their projects based on performance. Remember, employees want to feel valued and like they’re making a contribution to the company. The more you empower them to succeed, the more likely they are to rise to the occasion and surpass your expectations.
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