Lean ROI is More Than Money

Lean ROI is much greater than money to the bottom line.  Some organizations get caught in the never-ending exercise of having to quantify the money they are “saving” from their Lean innovation activities.

I believe you should undertake a Lean innovation because it is the right thing to do.  I’ve seen companies spend more time inventing cost savings than working on getting better.  While it is important to understand the Lean ROI your activities are having on the business KPI’s, there are benefits often overlooked because they fall into the category of “soft benefits.”


1.  Process and business knowledge.

Before an event occurs, the first step should be to Value Stream Map (VSM) the process.  Often employees involved in the mapping learn the rest of the processes involved in the business.

I’ve had long-time employees and first-time VSM participants that were not aware of the other processes involved in delivering a product to the customer.  Having a better understanding of the overall business allows employees to make better decisions within their area of expertise. They have increased awareness of the impact their decisions have on the rest of the value stream.

2.  Metrics and visual displays.

As you engage employees in Lean innovation, it is important to have them decide how they want to display their performance metrics.  Understanding how their performance metrics impact the overall business metrics and displaying those metrics visually increases employee engagement.  I suggest letting them use a scoreboard display that reflects their favorite sports to make it meaningful and fun.

3.  Being a part of a team.

I have led Rapid Improvement Events in organizations where the RIE is the first activity the employees have undergone where they have had to work as part of a team.  Work today is collaborative, yet when asked to produce the product, people operate as individual units of production.  Gathering as a group, learning team dynamics, and participating are all aspects that pay huge benefits to the organization.  To have true employee engagement everyone will have to be a part of the team.

4.  Problem-solving skills.

As your Lean journey matures, you will move from a fire fighting, reactive mode to problem-solving.  These skills aren’t ingrained in us from day one.  They are a learned skill set.  It isn’t everyone’s first inclination to ask why five times or to develop a fishbone diagram when they encounter a problem.  These are learned skills that help the organization improve.

5.  Facilitation skills.

As you begin your Lean innovation, have experienced coaches guide you.  If they are true Lean coaches, they should have an exit time frame.  They should focus on training your internal resources to become Lean facilitators and coordinators.

Facilitation skills are key in making or breaking your Lean innovation.  These skills should be a cornerstone for your Lean coordinators, Subject Matter Experts, and trainers.  Patience, empathy, active listening, and consensus-building are all skills that your successful facilitators will need to learn and deploy.  Those skills will deliver a payback greater than any dollar amount that can be calculated or captured.

Please give these five benefits some thought as you lead the Lean Innovation within your organization.  They are just as important as defined dollar savings.  The Lean ROI of growing your employees will provide more to the organization than cost savings ever will!

As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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