I’ve heard dozens of excuses as to why Lean “wont work here”. From “this isn’t manufacturing” (the most common) to “there’s something in the water here” (yes, I actually heard that). While it is true that lean has its roots in manufacturing, and I always agree that it is easier to introduce in a manufacturing environment, that doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate & valuable to any business in any industry.
If we focus on the core objectives, rather than the tools & techniques used, then it becomes much easier to apply. Everything we do is a process, each has a certain amount of routine & standardisation and of course a certain amount of variability. Simplifying the process, making it as standard as possible (or at least practical to start) will reap huge rewards.
By doing this we can then make it easier to identify problems within the process, once identified we solve the problem. Share the knowledge gained with others & our leadership should coach & mentor people to do these things as part of their daily routines. Sure, some tools are less appropriate than others when working in an office environment, or a hospital.
Remember though, and this is key, the focus is not (or should not be) about tools. What we are trying to achieve with Lean is a reduction in the time between paying & getting paid. Shortening the lead time, reducing the amount of WIP (think working capital) that is sitting in our business (be it physical or electronic) to enable faster throughput of products & services.
This is not really the end in and of itself either. What we really want is a culture of engaged people who are continually trying to reduce this lead time or improve the quality of our process outputs (both really). So if it is purely about this principle, and not about Kanbans or Quick Changeover or Andons, then it applies anywhere, everywhere.
Don’t be the one who says”it wont work here because…” this applies to new opportunities as much as better ways of working. Be open to new ideas, think about how you can make it work and get the benefits of it. Stop making excuses why things wont work, find ways to make them work!