This Is NOT Lean, Is It?

Fifteen years ago I visited Jaguar’s factory in Birmingham and was blown away with what I saw. Until that moment I hadn’t truly realized that every car was assembled to a specific customer order. The constant flow of cars was mesmerizing with one car fitted with rosewood and dark leather interiors and the next one a few minutes later with aluminum and alcantara. Every car going to a specific customer, eagerly awaiting their new car all around the world.

I imagined that 15 years down the line, every service interaction would be as customer specific, customized and made to order. How great would that be? Well, today it’s still not often that I’m mesmerized by the experiences received from the companies I pay for a service every month.

Take this example. I bought a new internet connection service and was promised it to be delivered and working at my house the following Wednesday 5 days from purchasing. Feeling happy and satisfied I started arranging my plans so that I would be available at home for the delivery. On Monday, I got a little anxious because I hadn’t heard anything yet from the provider. Tuesday, I got frustrated and decided to call to make sure everything was as agreed. It wasn’t. My order couldn’t be found in the delivery system, no one was going to come on Wednesday. I was furious, how can this happen?

Sound familiar? This example is just one of many you hear daily from your friends, colleagues etc. I mean how hard can it be? Dysfunctional processes seem to be more common than working ones. Few companies provide delightful customer experiences that increase loyalty and improve the probability of up-sell or cross sell. This is not Lean, is it?

So why not? After working for the past 15 years with several companies and industries as both an external consultant and internal employee a few these things strike me again and again. I’m starting to believe that these are some of the main reasons we are not Lean:

  1. Strategy isn’t reality. Customers and Customer Experience are in the core of almost every companies’ strategy, however many times these don’t translate into practical and scalable solutions. It’s more words and high hopes than every day practice.
  2. Continuous improvement doesn’t happen. I was once told that a business is like a ship with a hundred holes in it. And once you plug one hole a new one will appear. Thus, we need to constantly look for new holes and ways to plug them and not wait for projects or change programs to come along to seal the leaks.
  3. People are not engaged and empowered. The biggest asset of every company is not leveraged to improve work every day. Management can’t fix broken processes by themselves, but the people working daily in the processes surely can.

I’m a strong believer that to become Lean and deliver a great customer experience every time in every encounter you need small practical improvements to happen every day. In my experience, it’s often small details that done right the first time have a great impact on the whole experience. Improvement is fueled with people that are engaged and empowered to act and change things that don’t work. This requires leadership and a culture that nurtures continuous improvement.

Several studies (e.g. Forrester) show that whoever masters the basic customer journeys consistently to the customer’s requirements will be the winners of the future. Start with the basics, they mean the world.

Maybe someday we’ll truly have Lean experiences that are made to order. That would be great. That would be huge. That would be Lean.

Want to learn more on how to make your company’s customer experiences more lean? I’d love to share my learnings and insights.

Ask for more

Jarmo Kortelahti

Managing Consultant

+35850 480 1609

Talent Vectia