Lean approach to process improvement: Beyond the Canvas

When one speaks of the lean approach to process improvement, many immediately think of the Canvas Business Model, also called the Canvas Model, and associate the methodology with Alexander Osterwalder.

Yes, the systematization of the Canvas Model has helped many companies create business plans in an agile and fast way. But it’s important to remember that the lean approach to process improvement is not just about this and, in fact, its origin is much earlier, as we will show in this post.

See one canvas business model created by Osterwalder:

Lean approach to process improvement

Source: https://assets.strategyzer.com/assets/resources/the-business-model-canvas.pdfKnow

Learn more: Lean Project Management: Get back to basics to avoid waste

The origin of the lean approach to process improvement

It was in the 1980s in Japan that producers began using the term Lean Manufacturing. The goal was to make the production of vehicles in that country more efficient.

But it was only 10 years later, with the release of the book “The Machine That Changed the World”, from James Womack, that the term became popular and the lean approach to process improvement was considered fundamental for the Japanese automotive industry, especially for Toyota.

Lean Startup BookMore recently, in 2011, another best seller, this time by Eric Ries, called “Lean Startup”, revisited the lean approach to process improvement, adapting it to those interested not only in the creation of startups in an agile and assertive way, but also that it could be used in large companies from the most varied industries.

So, as you have seen, the origin of the lean approach to process improvement is much older than some imagine. We can summarize its essence as the rational use of resources, without waste, so that you only employ the things you really need in the realization of a project or process.

In this post from our blog, you can find out more details about this methodology: Lean Tools: The 7 “forgotten” techniques


5 steps to using the lean approach to process improvement in process management

One of the precepts of the lean approach to process improvement is the use of agile methods. These methods use two important assumptions:

The first is the concept of iteration, which is closely related to the term “quick win”, that is, small improvements in processes that can be achieved quickly, but which bring visible results in the short term. This encourages the team to move forward with each new “small victory”.

The second is the effective participation of customers and end users during process modeling and improvement, which brings important feedback and input so that the final results match the interests of those who will really benefit from the process (or product development).

For this, we suggest 5 steps:

1- Give due importance to the process improvement project

Before starting the project, you must take the same steps to make any type of process work. Define the objectives, project scope, who the team members are and their responsibilities, the resources, deadlines, and timelines.

In other words, plan ahead.

2- Engage the participants in the search for effective changes

Not all people are comfortable with changes in organizations. Even when working with inefficient processes, many are afraid to leave their comfort zone and face something new.

It’s very important to involve everyone in believing in the need for change and in the benefits that the new process will bring in the execution of tasks and in achieving results.

3- Ensure support from company leaders

Resources, be they financial, equipment, space, personnel and, mainly, the time the project team allocates, are fundamental.

Without the support of the company’s leaders, at a strategic level, it will be impossible to achieve the desired results.

4- Start with simple processes

One of the foundations of the lean approach to process improvement is the small advances. The continuous and cumulative iterations that will turn into a greater final result.

Avoid the temptation to start with the most inefficient and urgent processes. Choose something simple, then solve it. Motivate the team with these results and use the experience to focus on the great improvement challenges.


5- Determine a specific physical space for project meetings

It’s essential to have an exclusive area for process improvement meetings. A large board on the wall, where you can draw process diagrams which helps a lot.

Additionally, if there’s a specific place to focus on processes it shows people that this is serious and important.

Also see: Lean Performance Improvement: A Guide

A BPM process automation tool can be a great help in the use of the lean approach to process improvement. With HEFLO it’s possible to share your diagrams online to ask for and give suggestions for improvement in a collaborative way.

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