Don’t Let COVID-19 Stop You From Completing Your Lean Journey

·6-min read

Global competition is increasing all over the world in manufacturing and services organizations, forcing companies to improve operational performance and boost business growth. Every company has its own vision, mission, and goal when it comes down to reaching new points of expansion and generating additional income. In this respect, it’s necessary to choose the right model or framework based on the current position of the organization. Over the past couple of decades, management concepts such as lean/continuous improvement journey have been used to promote change and, most importantly, drive business excellence.

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The lean journey: What does it stand for?

If you practice continuous improvement on behalf of your company’s mission, then you’ve embarked on the lean journey. The lean journey involves introducing lean processes, as well as a lean culture, to the organization. The focus is on eliminating waste in all processes, reducing expenditure and shortening cycle times, and, most importantly, getting a grip about what’s important to the customer. It’s important to understand that achieving sustained excellence is a continuous process. The management team needs to keep a close eye on all processes and make sure everything goes according to plan.

If you’re not used to changing the scenery, you might find it hard to complete this apparently exhausting journey. But you have to try. In what follows, we’ll list just some of the benefits that derive from implementing a lean approach:

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  • Enhanced quality and effectiveness

  • Increased productivity and flexibility

  • Complete involvement and participation in the company

  • A better way of using top talent

  • Safer working involvement


Achieving and sustaining excellence happens when the leader takes a stand and says that it’s enough. Change leads to positive aspects such as retaining a competitive edge and staying relevant in the chosen business area. Using lean methodologies assists with evaluating the company as a whole and coming up with time-tested solutions to drive and sustain operations beyond any moment of disruption. Advancing lean thinking throughout the company, implementing lean tools, and convincing suppliers and customers to think lean is only the beginning.

Incito Consulting Group, who has worked with some of the world’s most influential businesses, draws attention to the fact that lean practitioners should visualize critical steps and quantify the time and volume taken at each stage. Being a manager isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to maintain continuous improvement and run quality checks along the process. The experts recommend asking for help when it comes to the most important strategic challenges.

The lean journey in the context of COVID-19 – The journey must keep going

The current pandemic demands new approaches to business with a clear view of critical questions and new answers for business continuity. As you look forward to the post-pandemic world, you start to realize that the new normal is nothing like the old normal. In the COVID-19 era, it’s harder to sustain organizational growth. It may be hard, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Despite the many challenges brought along by the novel coronavirus outbreak, such as information overload and remote work, there’s no better time than now to achieve lean. Even if COVID-19 changed your plans, don’t fret.

It’s paramount to remain committed to advancing your continuous improvement journey. Hard as it may be, you can adapt the lean approach and enjoy consistency without redundancy. Don’t temporarily forget about the rules that you’ve already established. Neither should you rush the lean journey. Attempting to do so will force your company to take shortcuts and abandon the quality management system. The point is that if you neglect where the focus should be – in other words, on the processes, on the customer, on the products/services – you risk destroying the progress that you’ve made.

Keep in mind that value stream mapping is effective only if it synchronizes with the existing sequence and interactions of the quality management system. Break down what you need to do into smaller steps and prioritize based on urgency. Use interactive and virtual tools, practice social distancing, and use personal protective equipment whenever necessary. If you push through, you’ll make it through the first months of 2021. Regardless of the size of your organization, in times of crisis, it’s essential to make decisions and follow-up on needed actions.

No, you shouldn’t stop becoming lean

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a good idea to become less lean and step up your risk management. Many companies rush to re-evaluate their supply chains and make efforts to reduce inventory and costs. They’re more concerned about mitigating risk and end up building on inventory as a way to enhance resilience. Needless to say, you shouldn’t follow in their footsteps. In difficult times, you may be forced to make bad decisions. As a result, you might be tempted to put a stop to your lean journey. It’s the biggest mistake that you can make, just so you know.

The COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t stop your continuous improvement journey. Lean can help you take your organization to the next level in the virtual environment. You can do things better, faster, and cheaper. However, the focus should be on strategic priorities, alignment, and people rather than on daily operations problems. You can use great tools and adopt a great framework, but success ultimately depends on your company’s ability to adapt and change. It’s an arduous journey, but once you get to the end, you’ll be happy you gave your best.

Lean success takes hard work and patience

More than half of those who attempt lean fail. The question now is: Why? Well, they don’t have a supportive management team or intelligent approaches to engaging employees and eliminating waste when it comes down to non-value processes. Lean success takes time, so you’re just going to have to wait. Continuous development isn’t a short-term solution to an existing crisis. Far from it. It’s a long-term solution for business growth. Therefore, continue to pursue your vision of creating a functional culture of continuous improvement. Lean is a career-long commitment that you’re ultimately responsible for. Don’t you care about the future of your company?

Good for you if you’re continuing your lean journey. It’s important to react immediately to any outside abnormality. Transformation must continue even if the world is still struggling to contain the novel coronavirus. It matters for organizations and customers alike. All in all, don’t even think about stopping the lean transformation during the global pandemic. It’s not in your best interest to do so.