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The LCS Framework

Lean Qualifications for the Workplace

LERC logoThe LCS is an industry recognised a lean qualification framework for developing lean thinking, knowledge and practical skills in the workplace. It was originally developed by the Lean Enterprise Research Centre at Cardiff University.

It has seven Levels of Competency, grouped into three categories.

Your organisation’s lean training system can become accredited, enabling it to issue LCS Certificates of Lean Competency to those who successfully complete lean training programmes.

Click on the tabs above to learn more about the seven level framework, descriptors of each level, an introduction to accreditation, the benefits of accreditation and University endorsement.

See Frequently Asked Questions for answers to typical questions that organisations and practitioners have asked.

Accreditation Philosophy

“The Accreditation Disruptor”: The LCS approach differs significantly from traditional accreditation approaches in several ways.

Its interpretation and definition of Lean Thinking, based on that developed and refined at the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, 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 some 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 use 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 job 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.


The Seven Levels of Competency

The LCS framework has seven levels of competency covering the entire spectrum of lean knowledge and application. They are grouped into three categories 1) Fundamental, 2) Technical and 3) Strategic.

Competency has two dimensions: knowledge and application, both of which have to be demonstrated in LCS Assessments.

LCS levels table 151115 v2

Level Focus

1a: On the underlying principles of lean, its development and antecedents

1b: On the tools and techniques required to understand and analyse the current state and solve problems.

1c: On the tools and techniques required to apply and sustain lean in the workplace.

2a: On the advanced lean knowledge and leadership competencies required for lean management. Ability to design and implement programmes, play a leading role in managing departmental or cross functional teams, with some support and guidance.

2b: On the advanced lean knowledge and leadership competencies required for lean management. Ability to design and implement programmes, play a leading role in managing inter-business, departmental or cross functional teams, with high levels of responsibility and requiring minimal support and guidance

3a: On advanced lean knowledge and the strategic and leadership competencies required for lean leadership at a senior level. Those with LCS 3a should be able to design lean strategies for an organisation (or a significant business unit) and demonstrate appropriate lean leadership qualities and practices.

3b: On advanced lean knowledge and the strategic and leadership competencies required for lean leadership at the highest level. Those with LCS 3b should be able to design and lead lean strategies for an organisation and demonstrate mature lean leadership qualities and practices.

Click on the Descriptors tab for details on each level.

Level Descriptors

The level descriptors are central to the LCS framework, since they state what knowledge and practical capability an individual should possess.

A course aligned to a level should therefore closely reference its description, with its learning outcomes and topic coverage clearly aligned.

The descriptors are Principle and Outcome based. This means that the descriptor is not prescriptive in demanding that a particular set of tools or techniques should be included in a course aligned to the level.

Key features of the descriptors include:

  • Both lean knowledge and practical aspects are included
  • They are principles based, not focused on specific tools
  • They state the outcomes expected as a result of a course of lean learning – expressed as what an individual should be able to know, understand, apply, describe, analyse, etc
  • They note the prerequisites expected
  • They provide guidance on the indicative contents of a course aligned to the level

linkSee all Level Descriptors

Comparison with and use of Belts

Coloured belts are often used as descriptors for the different levels in some continuous improvement qualification systems, such as in Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma.

The LCS does not use coloured belt terminology in its official level naming, though does permit accredited organisations to add descriptive words after the official LCS qualification designation on personal certificates. This, for example, can be belt related or descriptors like Expert, Champion, Bronze, Silver, etc.

While there is no universal standard definition for each of the belts, accredited organisations must adhere to the guidance in the table to the right if they want to include a belt colour after the LCS level number on thier LCS personal certificates::

  • LCS 1a: White, Yellow
  • LCS 1b: Green
  • LCS 1c: Green, Orange
  • LCS 2a: Blue, Brown, Black
  • LCS 2b: Mlack, Master Black
  • LCS 3a: n/a
  • LCS 3b: n/a

What is Involved in Accreditation?

Accrediting an organisation’s lean training system or programme involves a detailed review of all its interconnected components, covering:

  • Course alignment with the LCS
  • Syllabus/topics covered, course materials
  • Assessment strategy: demonstration of attainment of learning outcomes & evidence of practical capability
  • Delivery resources, teaching capability
  • Assessment methods
  • Quality assurance
  • Management and administration.
training system small

The Lean Training System

Note that there are two forms of accreditation – Standard and SME.

linkVisit the standard accreditation page

linkVisit the SME accreditation page

dowbload iconDownload a presentation on accreditation benefits

What are the benefits of accreditation for organisations?

  • Helps engage employees in CI activities
  • Raises workforce lean capability
  • Creates a standard across geographical and organisational boundaries
  • Provides a conduit to link training with application
  • Provides independent endorsement of lean training

What are the benefits of certification for individuals?

  • Provides a qualification with has high perceived value and external credibility
  • Offers a route map for continuous development and knowledge growth
  • Provides access to community of practitioners for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration
  • Rewards participation in CI activity

The Only University Linked Lean Qualification for the Workplace

universitylogoThe LCS was created in 2005 by the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff University, as a mechanism to promote and develop lean understanding and application in organisations.

In 2014 a new business was launched to hold the Cardiff University LCS licence and exploit the potential of the system. In 2018 the LCS took over responsibility managing and developing LERC as part of its licence agreement with the University.

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Lean Competency System © 2021.
The LCS is a licenced service of Cardiff University