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Article Lean Thinking

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What is Lean Thinking?

Lean thinking is a management philosophy that aims to maximize values to customers while reducing waste. Lean thinking is not just about applying tools and processes. It is about adjusting our mindset to constantly improve processes. It originated from the manufacturing industry, more specifically from the Toyota Production System. Today, lean thinking is applied across various industries and organizations, including healthcare, finance, and software development.


Principles of Lean Thinking

The principles of lean thinking are based on the idea that any process can be improved by eliminating waste and adding value to the customer. This is done by understanding and optimizing the entire value stream, from the moment a product or service is conceptualized to the moment it is delivered to the customer. The goal is to create a continuous flow of value, without interruptions, delays, or defects.

There are five key principles of lean thinking:

  1. Value - Identify what is valuable to customers and focus on delivering it.
  2. Value Stream - Map out the value stream and identify all the processes and steps involved in creating and delivering the product or service.
  3. Flow - Ensure that value flows smoothly and continuously through the value stream, without interruptions, delays, or defects.
  4. Pull - Create a pull system that allows the customer to pull value from the value stream as needed, rather than pushing products or services onto them.
  5. Continuous Improvement - Continuously improve the value stream by identifying and eliminating waste, increasing efficiency, and optimizing the entire process.


Tools and Techniques to Support Lean Thinking

To assist in implementing lean thinking, organizations often use various tools and techniques such as value stream mapping, just-in-time (JIT) production, kanban systems, and kaizen events. These tools help identify waste, improve efficiency, and promote continuous improvement.


Benefits of Lean Thinking

  • Increased customer satisfaction - Focus on delivering value to the customer so that organizations can improve the quality of their products and services and better meet the needs of their customers. 
  • Improved efficiency and reduced cost - Eliminate waste and optimize the value stream so that organizations can reduce the time and resources required to deliver products and services. 
  • Builds a culture of continuous improvement and self-empowerment - This can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, as employees feel empowered to make a difference and contribute to the success of the organization.



Lean thinking is a powerful management philosophy that can help organizations improve efficiency, reduce waste, and increase customer satisfaction. By focusing on delivering value to the customer and continuously improving the value stream, organizations can create a culture of innovation and achieve long-term success.

In AI Singapore, a different Agile-based framework is being adopted where the Agile concepts being applied are similar to that of lean thinking. Identification of what is valuable to the customer is achieved by use of product backlog which is a list of prioritized product features. Value identification is constantly revised with the customer to ensure the values are kept current via product backlog refinement. Sprint reviews are conducted regularly from the onset, where the team presents product increments and solicits early feedback from the customer, to avoid costly rework needed. Continuous improvements are done through retrospection of the sprints, optimizing the tools and techniques used, etc. to streamline the work processes and increase efficiency and productivity of the team.

Will lean thinking help to improve your business processes and how would you go about adopting it? 

Kim Hock reacted