Lean Management vs Lean Production
With all the talk about lean methodologies lately, there have been some major discussions on the topic, including some debates over the true meaning of lean management, and its relation to other aspects of lean, like production. And while it can be hard for a beginner to define the exact boundaries of the different components of lean, understanding them in depth is important for those who want to implement these methodologies into their own companies.
Contrary to popular belief, lean management and lean production are actually two separate fields with unique characteristics and goals, and it’s important to realize where the main differences are.
Lean management and lean production are directly linked on a fundamental level. One drives the other, although they can also be present within an organization in a separated state. The important point is that the people in charge of the organization are aware of those differences and know how to identify the separate components of lean methodologies in their own work.
It’s also important to note that both lean management as well as lean production are constantly going through changes that improve them in various ways, and some of the older elements established in those philosophies are no longer valid after some iterations.
What Is Lean Management?
Lean management is the general idea of driving an organization forward towards constant improvement and pushing its boundaries in different aspects. The main point of lean management is to ensure that the organization is constantly moving towards progress and that there are no regressions in any of its departments. It requires a constant overview of the entire organization, and a good ability to spot patterns and identify important data points.
An important thing to note about lean management is that it’s typically focused on making smaller changes which can stack up better over time. Some management principles attempt to make wide, sweeping changes in every iteration that end up altering the state of the company significantly. But lean is a completely different idea.
What Is Lean Production?
Lean production, on the other hand, is mainly focused on reducing waste within the production process, and ensuring that all resources are utilized to their full potential. This might seem redundant in the context of typical management principles, but it’s actually quite unique in certain aspects. Lean production has various established methods for identifying waste and removing it over time. However, they take time to master, and some of them keep evolving as well.
There are several types of waste primarily identified in lean production and they all require different approaches to resolve. A good lean manager must have a solid, fundamental understanding of the principles behind lean manufacturing, and know how to identify the different types of waste whenever they arise in their production facilities.
Applying Principles Correctly
This brings us to another important point. Understanding the core principles of lean production and lean management is one thing, but having the right mindset to apply them properly is a completely different story. This is in fact what sets apart true leaders from the rest, and it’s a point that’s very important to consider. Some managers only have a theoretical understanding of lean principles. And that’s not bad by itself but it does become a problem when those same leaders attempt to implement these same principles without properly understanding how they function in practice.
This requires years of experience, and there’s a good reason why lean specialists are so highly sought after, and so well compensated. And if you value the progress of your company in the long run, this is one of the best investments you could make as well.
Understanding the differences between lean management and lean production is a critical point of running a modern organization correctly. Unfortunately, many leaders today have only a superficial understanding of these principles, and even worse, they don’t put any effort into improving themselves in this regard. This is a continuous battle that has to be approached in a determined, persistent manner. You can’t expect to just master those principles once and then call it a day. Continuous improvement starts with the company’s actual leadership, and that’s a concept that many leaders are still struggling to understand properly.