Lean is a philosophy of work, which stems from the application of two fundamentals:

Respect for people: Remembering that staff are our greatest asset. It is, after all, the staff of an organisation who know what works well and what needs to be improved. Ultimately, they are also the ones who have the ability to suggest and make the necessary improvements.

Continuous Improvement: Continuously looking at your work processes and striving to improve them.


Over time, Lean thinking has come to defined by five principles:

Pull: Do what’s needed
The Value Stream: Think of the process
Flow: Make it flow
Value: Add value and remove waste
Perfection: Aim for perfection


One of the central tenants of Lean, as described by the value principle, is identifying and removing the eight wastes from processes. A most famous man, Tim Woods, helps us to remember them:

Transportation: Unnecessary movement of equipment, information, materials, or people
Inventory: Unnecessary files/copies, excess stock, or extra supplies
Motion: Unnecessary walking or searching
Waiting: Idle time that causes the workflow to stop
Over-processing: Unnecessary activity that doesn’t add value (e.g. excessive checking or duplication of work)
Overproduction: Unnecessary production of paperwork or information, or producing it before it is required
Defects: Work that needs to be redone due to errors or because incorrect/incomplete information was provided
Skills: Not using the full potential of staff by wasting knowledge, skills, or experience


For more information about the origins and development of Lean thinking, check out: The machine that changed the world and Lean thinking.