About the LCS: Lean Thinking

Lean Thinking

The LCS definition and interpretation of lean thinking, developed in the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, is one that promotes a holistic, systems approach to continuous improvement, acknowledging that lean is much more than simply improving processes through the application of tools and prescriptive principles.

Successful lean organisations employ lean strategies, lean leadership and understand the need for an engaged, empowered workforce.

The graphic shows the six key components of lean. A short definition of lean thinking is delivering appropriate customer and stakeholder value with the minimum of resources.

For the LCS, Lean thinking is used as the umbrella term for a continuous improvement philosophy that encompasses a variety of approaches, that include tools and techniques from the Toyota Production System, Six Sigma, Agile, the Theory of Constraints and systems thinking. Other commonly used ‘improvement’ terms include business improvement, service improvement, process excellence, operational excellence, enterprise excellence, operational effectiveness, systems thinking, business excellence and lean six sigma.

The LCS accepts that there are many different continuous improvement methodologies and maintains that different organisations require their own, bespoke implementation solutions for sustained, cultural change – thus adopting a contingent approach.

Accreditation Philosophy

“The Accreditation Disruptor”: the LCS approach differs significantly from traditional accreditation approaches in several ways and its interpretation and definition of Lean Thinking is core to this difference.

  • It has an open source perspective to lean, which characterises it as dynamic and constantly evolving, driven by the market and practitioners. There is no single ‘book of knowledge’ that defines lean thinking, but a broad, ever changing body of knowledge.
  • There are generic, high level principles underlying lean thinking, but many different methods, tools, techniques and models available to be used, all of which can align to these core principles.
  • Organisations should adopt a contingent approach to lean implementation: in other words, the method developed will depend on their specific context and the circumstances they face. This means there is no right or wrong way to design a system or deliver training.

The LCS accreditation model is outcomes based, which means the task of the training programme is to deliver a specific capability for an individual. The LCS is non-prescriptive and does not specify how the outcome should be achieved, nor the specific syllabus to be used. This also means that the LCS devolves responsibility for defining quality to the accredited organisation and empowers it to take responsibility for managing it and continually improving.

This approach allows the LCS to offer a flexible and adaptable model that can be applied in all types of organisations, regardless of sector or scale. It also accommodates the Learning Organisation – one that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.

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The LCS is a licenced service of Cardiff University