The small business landscape has witnessed some big changes during the last decade. The focus right now is on a lean approach, which prioritizes agility and efficiency. Small businesses are going the extra mile with embracing these management initiatives because they help them do more with less. The mindset has a host of benefits, from saving time to eliminating waste, enhancing productivity, improving the quality of products and services, and reducing operating costs and downtime.
While the lean management philosophy sounds attractive, embracing it may be an uphill task for your small business. It involves an in-depth analysis of the existing processes to identify the wastes and gaps and eliminate them completely. The entire exercise may sound daunting for any small business owner. Fortunately, implementing the approach is much easier than you imagine. Here are the steps that can help you achieve the objective.
Define a clear strategy
Even before you take the lean approach, you must have a strategy for its adoption. The biggest challenge for small organizations is that your people will not even know what lean is all about. Moreover, you may have the misconception that following your big competitors will get you on the right track. But it is the last thing you must do. You need to create a lean transformation strategy that matches your goals, challenges, and expectations. Small companies often go wrong here as they neglect strategy deployment. It is best to sit with your top managers, assess your current strengths and weaknesses, and create a plan of action before going ahead.
Segregate essential and non-essential
The first step you need to follow for going lean is to segregate the essential and non-essential activities. Start by evaluating the core processes from the customer’s perspective and pick the areas you can improve to maximize customer value. Take the opportunity to identify the redundant policies and procedures and tie the loose ends. It is the right time to eliminate all ineffective practices that produce no worthy results for your business. Pick the ones that may be siphoning out money and resources and build plans to plug the non-essential wastes.
Eliminate waste from every corner
Once you segregate the essential from the non-essential, you can easily eliminate waste from all corners of the business. Inventory management should be your top priority because keeping larger than necessary inventory ties up capital uselessly. Similarly, you need to go the extra mile to address wastage of time. Better training, scheduling, and time-tracking for employees set your company in the right direction. Long and unnecessary meetings are another area where wastage happens. It is easy to address this area by having guidelines for short yet effective meetings. Eliminating hidden energy wastes is another tangible measure for going lean.
Make the mindset an organization-wide practice
The adoption of a lean mindset requires company-wide participation, so encourage ideas from everyone on board. Involve your team in the initiative. Ask them to share shortcuts that save time without compromising the quality and efficiency of tasks. Consider providing a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Course as a part of employee training. The course will empower your team with lean skills that serve as long-term assets for any organization. It can be the smartest investment for your small business because qualified employees will help your organization embrace the right approach in the long run. You spend a bit today and reap the extensive benefits of the initiative for years to come.
Embrace automation where possible
Automation sounds like a big word, but it is as doable for small organizations as for large enterprises. There is an app for automating everything, from scheduling to communication, time tracking, and workflow management. If you want to opt for lean management, look for apps to automate processes. It cuts down the workload of employees by freeing them from repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the critical ones. While you may have to spend a bit for implementing automation solutions, the investment delivers excellent returns in terms of time-saving and greater efficiency.
Clean up and declutter
When it comes to adopting the lean management approach, cleaning up your physical and digital space is equally vital. The best way to start is by decluttering your office space physically. Discard everything you seldom use, whether it is furniture, workstation, or old files you no longer need. Fix items that are broken or eliminate what cannot be fixed. Ensure that the employees keep their workstations clean and uncluttered because it will boost productivity. Cleaning up your virtual environment should also be a part of your lean checklist. Consider clearing your inbox, deleting unnecessary apps and programs, and decluttering your desktop periodically. Organize the files so that they are easy to access whenever needed. Make it a rule for every employee in the organization.
Build a culture that prioritizes continuous improvement
A lean approach applies to the workplace culture rather than only the processes and day-to-day operations. Like large enterprises, small businesses also need to prioritize continuous improvement in their culture. Do not treat lean management as a one-time task, but it should be something you do every day. Schedule time each month to identify areas for improvement and create strategies for addressing them effectively. It will help you pick opportunities quickly and steer your business in the right direction throughout its lifespan. Perform periodic health checks of the processes and have new strategies for ones that do not match your expectations.
Embracing lean initiatives is easy for small businesses, and the benefits they can serve are extensive. You end up optimizing the daily tasks and processes and saving time and money in the long haul. But the best part is that there are other benefits you may not be able to quantify readily, yet they can make a huge difference. A lean approach increases the well-being of your employees. It enhances the quality of life in the work environment and promotes an overall work-life balance. So lean management definitely deserves consideration, no matter how big or small your company is.
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