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Lean Practices for Business Applications

The implementation of lean can be initiated from any corner of an organization, but it must have the full support of the top management. Full support does not mean just sanctioning the required budget but wholehearted participation. In a large organisation any one division may initiate it to make it an initial project. However, there are instances where it has been initiated in a division within the local office and within the local budget, and after successful implementation, this was brought to the notice of the corporate office. For SMBs and SOHO (Small Office Home Office)operators, it has to start at the top and percolate down. It calls for change throughout the organisation.

Talking about change, I recall what Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said while talking about change. He said: “Willingness to change is strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while." Such an attitude is relevant in any business including SMBs, SOHO operators, commercial organisations, service industries and NGOs, as well as “not for profit” organisations anywhere in the world.

If you decide to implement lean practices, you can use it not only for business applications but even in your day-to-day life. I have just been talking about the effective use of office systems and training people on the use of technology tools. With lean you start seeing the wastage of space, material and time. If you use technology coupled with lean, you can work wonders in your commercial world and attain peace of mind and less stress in your personal life, arriving at fast paced commercial life styles.

Do I appear to be a philosopher? May be, but look at it this way.

Lean is basically to reduce waste and add value. The process of adding value can be boiled down to how you spend your time – call it 24x7 for 365 days in management parlance in a global environment. Getting up early or staying up late till midnight to answer a call from the boss/client or attend a meeting on audio/video conferencing is stressful even when you are in your twenties. Burnout is faster due to stressful job requirements where things don’t happen the way you expect them to be. One solution is management of time. For ages we have been taught that time management is crucial in business as well as in one's personal life. However, you know it is not as simple as it sounds, and involves much more than "simply" practicing effective time management. Otherwise, you would not have been swearing under your breath that you will keep full records of your time in the last week of December each year - every year. This is where lean practices will help you.

Here I would like to quote Kevin MacManus from his article Avoiding Extinction:

“Adding value is much more of a mental process than a physical one. It is not as much about how you spend your time as it is about how you decide what you spend your time on, how you act and think as you spend it, and how disciplined you are in adhering to the goals and plans that support your efforts.”

Burnout can occur due to overwork or effort put in to achieve something without sharpening the saw. But when every one has a sharpened saw something more is required. In my opinion lean is that “something else” which can make the difference. No doubt lean manufacturing or a lean office are essential and must be practiced as directed by your sensei (equivalent to guru in Japanese). You must remember that in your organisation or in personal life lean (office or manufacturing) is not a series of projects, but a way of life.

You may use any tool that suits you, but make sure that it is a way of life - to enrich your life.

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