The Lean Transformation Model: Structure Your Business Needs

Even good things can become bad in excess. Structurization demonstrates this principle beautifully. A business that lacks structure falls prey to disorganization, which results in avoidable losses. Conversely, over-structurization stifles the unconventional thinking required for meaningful innovation.

Between these two extremes lies the lean transformation model. It sounds a lot like the name of a trendy diet, but rest assured. We wouldn’t dream of endorsing anything that restricts your afternoon snack attacks. So grab me a bowl of chips and pull up a chair. Let’s explore the meaning and applicability of lean transformation.

What is Lean Transformation?

The term “lean transformation” refers to the process of adopting lean business practices. But what exactly does it mean to be lean? According to the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), lean is a mindset. Lean thinking isn’t too far off from the typical business perspective—it aims to create value. However, this creation of value must be achieved through conservation efforts. 

The lean transformation model is sometimes referred to as the “lean framework” due to its foundational nature. It focuses on the conservation of resources and elimination (not reduction) of asset waste. I know what you’re thinking, “sounds great, but that’s incredibly vague.” Impatient readers, please direct your attention below. You’ll find five core elements that demystify the lean transformation model.   

The Lean Transformation Model

Situational Approach 

First and foremost, innovation managers need to identify the why. The situational approach pauses to ask, “What problem are we trying to solve?” The answer should encompass two things: the problem (or potential problem) that is being solved and the value that drives its solution. 

Process Improvement

Look to your business processes for areas of potential improvement—but don’t lose sight of the goal. Approach improvements that serve the bigger picture rather than the processes themselves. Prioritize actions that create quantifiable value for the customer or the company. 

Capability Development 

Every employee at your company has a clear overview of the business and becomes an active and internal part of it, even outside their defined core responsibilities. They have the closest relationship to clients, the most profound understanding of business processes, and the power to shift company culture. 

In this specific framework, capability development refers to the facilitation of innovation culture through employee engagement. Each person should have the opportunity and guidance to partake in intrapreneurship or corporate entrepreneurship. 

Pro tip: There’s a big difference between intrapreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship.

Management System 

Lean transformation cannot be successful without the right kind of leadership. It’s important to note that it is a key-aspect in supporting process improvement and capability development. Poor leadership is responsible for countless business transformation failures. Leadership needs to be reflective, adaptable, and aligned with the needs of the people it oversees. 

An important goal of leadership should be to create independence and self-guidance among those who are being led. Under these conditions, both intrapreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship flourish. If micromanagement is on one end of the spectrum, run full speed towards the other. 

Take a deeper dive into 7 Characteristics of Innovative Leaders, to learn about the most important traits a leader should have. 

Basic Thinking, Mindset, Assumptions 

Company culture permeates nearly every component of the lean transformation model. Basic thinking, mindset, and assumptions are the pillars that uphold culture. A lean transformation doesn’t happen automatically. It is a continuous process that must be maintained by everyone involved. 

This comprehensiveness calls for a consistent, collaborative effort that transcends company-wide emails or governance policies. It is often said that the best place to start is the beginning. In this case, the beginning is an honest and open assessment of your current workplace culture. 

Not scratching that specificity itch? Check out this Siemens Energy case study for a real-world example of intrapreneurship in action.

How to Lead a Lean Transformation

As the framework suggests, the lean transformation model relies heavily on employee engagement. As mentioned above, the first step in leading a lean transformation is the assessment of company culture. The following two questions help innovation leaders preemptively identify pain points in their organizations:

  • Is our current company culture inspiring? This question requires you to be candid. If you answered yes, pinpoint a specific instance that demonstrates your company’s ability to inspire intrapreneurship. For example, a time that an employee shared an idea that could create value for the business. If you answered no, think about the conditions that might encourage lean thinking. 
  • Does our company’s leadership foster innovative practices? Suppose your business already has lean thinking down. Employees are beating down the door to offer insight into process improvement and consumer demands. Great! The next step is to ensure those employees have the coaching and lean technology to guide them through the innovation process. 

Implementing the Lean Transformation Model

The lean transformation model serves as an excellent framework. However, it’s up to those tasked with innovation management to build the remainder of the house. No two companies are the same, and the lean transformation model will manifest itself differently from industry to industry. 

Universally speaking, implementation requires a cultural shift, the addition of innovation-centric technology, and a methodology for approaching process improvement. Taking on each of these tasks separately can understandably be overwhelming. rready created the KICKBOX as an all-inclusive means to address all three issues with one neatly packaged solution.  

rready’s Approach to Lean Transformation

We alleviate the manual integration needed to align your existing processes with lean principles. In other words, we tackle methodology, culture, and technology in one fell swoop. Lean thinking focuses on working smarter, not harder. We believe it’s possible to follow this same line of thinking throughout implementation too. 

We are invested in our clients getting the most out of our services, working hands-on to help structure, refine, and perfect the innovation and implementation process with the greatest possible chance of success.

rready provides businesses with the blueprints needed to build upon the lean transformation model. Contact us when you’re rready to green-light construction on those metaphorical walls.

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