Lean principles is the name given to a group of production techniques developed by Japanese manufacturing companies around the 1970s-1980s to maximize customer value while reducing wasteful resource. Lean production methods have also been described as aiming “to combine the flexibility and quality of craftsmanship with the low costs of mass production.” Such methods include quality control of the processes involved in production; just-in-time production to reduce the costs associated with excess inventory; and continuous improvement involving everyone in the organization in the quest for new, easy to implement ideas.
More recently, lean principles have been playing a key role in a variety of industries beyond manufacturing which must now adapt to the fast changing technologies and markets of the Internet age. Lean software development, for example, can be viewed as the agile reaction to the highly structured, heavyweight waterfall-based software methods of the past. In Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit published in 2003, Mary and Tom Poppendiek translated the principles of lean production into 7 key lean software development principles: eliminate waste, amplify learning, decide as late as possible, deliver as fast as possible, empower the team, build integrity in, and see the whole.
As companies transition from the industrial to the digital economy, lean philosophies are influencing just about every aspect of their operations, strategy, organization and culture. Lean’s core idea, - maximize customer value while minimizing waste, - feels particularly applicable to our times, as organizations must better understand what customers truly value; organize their work activities to efficiently develop and deliver the appropriate products and services; and continuously improve customer value and efficiency based on real marketplace feedback. Such a pull approach to business is quite different from the push approaches of the past.