How LEAN Manufacturing principles might apply to web strategy
Updated on November 5th, 2014
I went to a seminar recently (The Growth Summit in Sydney) and had the fortune of listening to and meeting Guy Parsons from the LEAN Enterprise Institute in the US. He’s a guru on LEAN enterprise thinking which is all about continuous improvement by removing waste from business processes. The Lean philosophy was founded on Jim Womack’s research into Toyota’s operating principles.
Here’s Guy to explain the concept for you and how it might apply to your business:
Guy Parsons talks with Bluewire Media about how to improve business results:
So the name of my company is Value Stream Solutions. And we’re a small specialty consultancy in the US, focusing on helping non-factory businesses apply the ideas that Toyota originally invented into the global market.
What is the Lean Philosophy?
Well, in a simple way, it’s just looking at your work and understanding the difference between value and waste and constantly looking to pull the waste out of your business instead of trying to speed up the value add of your business. Because what we’ve learned is in an overall time line, there’s mere moments of value, exciting stuff happening and there’s hours and weeks of time when nothing’s happening or things are going backwards. So, Toyota looks at work and says, “What a second. Let’s pull the waste out and let the value flourish instead of trying to speed up value added processes.” Or in other words, thinking faster. Vending level faster. What a second. Why did it sit three weeks in the warehouse? So that’s kind of the core idea. To constantly eliminate waste using the creative talents of the people who do the work. And so instead of having experts come in and tell you what to do, what we do is we say, “Let’s get the people who do the work to help us figure out how they can have a better work environment and deliver better value to their customers.” And so that’s kind of in a nutshell what it is.
What is one thing a business owner or manager could do to start implementing those ideas?
Probably the most important thing they can do is to get a little bit more involved in the details of the work by walking around and asking a simple question, which is: ‘Why?’ If you walk around to your people, you talk to them and you say, “Look. I know this isn’t going as well as we’d hoped. Why isn’t it? And what can I do to help you make that work go better?” You’ll start to discover the waste and you’ll get the ideas from the people instead of walking around saying, “Do this, do that, don’t do that. And if you kind of look at the overall work system from beginning to end, follow the flow, walk your order, and just follow along and say, “Gee, where’s it getting hung up? Why’s it sitting here? What could we do differently so that that value can continue to flow?”… If you just sequence those things together and ask your folks the best ways to make it get better, that’s the initial place to get started. Real simple. There’s nothing fancy about it at all. Stop doing stupid stuff, and just get people to help you help your business, and they’re going to do it.
Where can people go to find more information?
So, we’ve got a non-profit institute that works around the world. It’s called Lean.org and is the starting place, the home base. And then there are many country-specific Lean Enterprise Institutes or Lean academies, depending on your structures. So, I think there’s one in the UK. There’s one here in Australia. There’s one in Italy. They’re all over the place. So, lean.org is sort of the home base. It’s there I work with Jim Womack who founded that. It’s my home nest, if you will, and then I’ve got my specialty consulting on the side.
Key message: your effort might be better spent reducing waste rather than adding value.
To find the waste (especially time – both your and your customers’/prospects’) in your web strategy, start asking some of these questions:
- Data – Where in your business do you double handle data?
- Customer service – Who answers the same questions day in day out? What are those questions? Can they be put online for your customers to self serve in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list?
- Qualifying leads – How long are the forms on your website? Do you need/use all of the information? Are the mandatory fields wasting your prospects’ time? (Guilty. We had feedback from a prospect on this particular issue last week and we’re in the process of resolving it now)
- Website content – What is your most popular content? What is not visited at all? How much of your copy is adding value? Are the key words bolded or made easier to read?
- Ecommerce – How simple is your shopping process? Are there steps that could be removed? Do you make it easy for people to come back and purchase again?
- Email marketing – Do you know what information your audience enjoys? Which articles are most frequently read and clicked through? Which ones are of no interest at all?
The key principle of LEAN is that you’ll get more return for your time and effort by focussing on reducing the 99% of your time that is wasted, rather than trying to increase the 1% of value add.
With this philosophy in mind, go back to your web strategy and start looking at the areas of waste to reduce as much as you look at the areas to multiply.
Managed web strategy: If you think you’re not wasting any effort in your web strategy, then please call us and let us know what you’re doing! If you think there might be ways we can help to streamline what you’re doing though, then try us on 1300 258 394.