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Lean IT: What is it?

Lately, the interest in Lean IT has been growing rapidly. More and more CIOs are beginning to take notice of the strengths and benefits that Lean IT can bring to their organizations. Some are just beginning while others have deployed it for quite some years already. But what exactly is Lean IT?

It is actually, quite a large subject. I will endeavour to describe what Lean IT is all about in several articles over the next few months. I will begin by referring to the many tools & techniques of Lean. In Lean (whether Lean IT or Lean used in other functions/industries) there are many tools and techniques. Broadly these tools & technqiues can be categorized into 5 main groups, for:

a. Problem Solving – includes tools to help one (1) define a problem clearly, (2) find the root-cause(s) of the problem, (3) develop the counter-measures to resolve the problem, (4) build an implementation plan to deploy the counter-measures and (5) sustain the improvement in performance that was achieved

b. Improving Process Flow – these tools are often used as Counter-Measures to resolve wastes found in the process that’s being worked on. Examples of these are work load balancing, mistake-proofing, planned flexing, co-location and many others

c. Direction Management – this is to remove the waste of misalignment across teams/depts and to focus on the top priorities for the year. This is business planning Lean style, and is known as Hoshin or Direction Management. It is a top-down bottom-up approach that ensures engagement of all stakeholders up and down the organization in developing plans and aligning the organization

d. Daily Management – in particular tools like visual boards, huddles, standard work, leaders standard work etc are deployed to increase discipline and precision of daily work being done. This supports a strong forward looking, action oriented outlook for all the teams.

e. Building Continuous Improvement Culture – people cannot be ‘talked’ into changing the ways that they work. Before organizational culture can change, the behaviours and routines of leaders at all levels of the organization need to change. Changes in their working styles are necessary, and in Lean we help them to do this though personal 1-on-1 coaching and this helps teams and managers improve the way they work and the way work is done in the organization.

All these categories of lean tools & techniques apply to Lean IT. In what way you may ask? Well we will cover that in future articles…

Robert Oh is Lean Coach, Consultant and Trainer from Eagles Wings Consulting Pte Ltd. Website: He is the co-author of the Lean IT book entitled: Strategic Lean Service: A case study of how a global IT service delivery organization used Lean to drive organizational transformation and achieve customer satisfaction. Besides the usual hardcopy form is it now available on Kindle at a promotional price.

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