Think. Act. Fast. The back door into lean businesses

More and more everyday, technologies are enabling businesses. Often it seems, they are also disrupting larger corporations. Lucky are the startups and small organisations since their “lean”, low overhead allows for a quick turn around. Behemoths on the other hand, take longer..

Running a lean business, division or team, doesn’t mean buying organic office furniture or 500% recycled products. It’s all is in the smart art of not encouraging waste.

So let’s look at waste in all areas of a business.

Lean spending – Consumption, on-demand

Think of it this way. In one of my first job, I remember the assistant walking around all desks, and filling in an order form to be faxed, and the order was delivered in the following fortnight. Today any staff can jump online and have their order in the same day, or in the worst case, tomorrow!

Stationary is the greatest example. Why would most buy two instead of one? “Just in case!” I hear you say. Perhaps to avoid placing an order next week? Decades ago the manufacturing sector has adapted to Just-in-Time (JIT), and today all businesses have access to “next day delivery” when it comes to stationary.

With most things in the office, the key is to purchase what you need, when you need it, not one week or month ahead. And clearly for this to happen you have to be able to place an order any day.

With technology. Simply use an online spreadsheet shared with everyone, so that each can write down what they need, and a single order can be placed and delivered tomorrow.

Lean strategy – Faster, “roughly right” decisions

Think of it this way. It used to be that quarterly reporting was the only way decision makers get the sufficient information to do their job, and make decisions. In the land of big data and 24/7 availability of systems, managers get almost instant access to live, highly accurate data.

So the next logical step is the “lean decision making process”. If it takes 24 hours for a stationary order to be placed and delivered, why would it take a month for a business decision to be made? Data is now available only one click away from any screen.

Technologies are moving fast and allow for markets to evolve and change, just as fast. A mere 8 weeks can make for a very different scenery, so hats off if you can accurately predict the future. Otherwise consider this: any decision made today, as long as it serves one or many business values positively, is better than no actions for the coming 8 weeks, “just to make sure”.

There’s obviously a very thin line between roughly right and wrong, but like stationery orders, decisions can be changed everyday, so just stick to your guns as long as your data supports the decision.

With technology. Make sure you have the proper analytics tools for your products, business and marketing efforts in place.

Lean initiatives – Most Viable Product

Think of it this way. Launching a product used to take months, and often years. Market research, focus groups, development and user testing were all essential steps. Today, thanks to technology, a product can be released within 24 hours, and thanks to customer feedback, improved continuously, on a daily basis.

Continuous improvement
The recipe to running lean businesses, developing lean products, and providing lean services

Now given the markets change continuously, so do your customers. They have access to the same technologies and can make or change their decision just as fast as anybody else.

Obsessed with perfection

Human beings slow businesses down. This obsession with perfection which most seem to have, will slow any business down and allow the next competitor to get ahead.

The “Lean Startup” movement over the last decade or so has taught us many things, one of them being that there is no better way to create a product than having your customers to dictate their own needs. No matter how well you know your customers, they know themselves better. Given markets change every 8 weeks, the product is only as valuable as how quickly you can get it out, and test it out.

With technology. Any business can benefit an online “feature list”, or the ability for your customers to vote up and down based on how much they would value the feature or improvement to your services.

Lean environment, lean everything

Think of it this way. Keep in mind that technologies are enabling businesses today in ways that would have been inconceivable 20 years back. I bought and paid for a pair of jeans at 5:15am this morning and it will be on my doorstep in a few hours. Was this even thinkable in October 1993?

The special sauce in applying all of the above is how to run your business and indirectly the message you send to your staff and your teams.

Plan months ahead and face the slim chance of being right. Change every month and be guaranteed of the ability to adapt to anything, at any time.

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Written by

Managing Director of EmpireOne Group in Sydney, Sebastien has made a life of understanding both sides of the fence. Born in Canada and educated as a self-started business software engineer, not a single day passes without finding Seb tweaking a process, system or piece of code.