Lean x Fit: Which management system is better?

Posted by Giulia Tonon
at Thursday October 19th, 2017.

“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” – Shigeo Shingo. In the words of one of the geniuses of engineering at Toyota in the mid-twentieth century, we have the basis of the management system that would come to be widely adopted by the so-called Lean companies.

Hence the question, what has changed since then? Is the Lean strategy still the most appropriate to ensure the continued growth of a company? In light of this, we have the concept of Fit company. After failed experiments of applicating the lean methodology, it was noticed the need to adapt the model. In today’s post, we will explore these two types of companies, to understand the best choice for each scenario.

empresas lean

Lean Enterprise

Lean Manufacturing, developed by Toyota engineers in the 1950s and still currently adopted in the most diverse sectors, aims to achieve the perfect creation process to deliver great customer. Therefore, reducing or eliminating various kinds of wastes in the production line is one of the main guides in the attempt of a productive process without failures. Among the tools used in the lean process, we have the TPM, for example.

To eliminate all the losses and waste, the lean implementation process requires a lot of discipline from the company as a whole, from managers to the operational base. You should specify the value generated by your product, sequence the production chain in the most efficient way and avoid interruptions in the production process. All of this, in order to generate more value by applying fewer resources.

This management model has been very successful, mainly to reduce costs and to conceive, within the companies, the continuous improvement culture. However, many others will find it difficult to apply it, in addition to the need of the organizational culture change, the volume of resources required for the whole process is also significant. Then, not all succeeded in copying Toyota’s productive system successfully.

In the search for an ideal method to get productive efficiency, companies forget to look at their own internal processes and understand their real needs, based on a standard methodology as an ideal course. This path can work if your company has Toyota-like features, on the other hand it can be disastrous if your internal resources are not propitious to the changes proposed by lean philosophy.

In this sense, it was necessary to rethink what are the changes indeed required and appropriate in an organization, to increase the productive efficiency and create sustainable growth in the company.

Fit enterprise

To get a better idea of the great difficulty in applying lean methods, let’s make a brief analogy.

Typically, companies that try to copy Toyota’s (lean) production system and fail, are like sedentary individuals who decide overnight that they will swim like Michael Phelps. Then, they begin to follow the heavy training regime of the world champion. Can you see this scenario working? Well, the most probable results of this endeavor will be injuries and frustrations.

empresas lean

This is not much different from what happens when the attempt to deploy the lean management model goes awry. In many cases, companies are so worried in cutting costs and growing rapidly that they forget to make the proper internal adjustments aligned with their real capabilities.

In the effort to avoid this situation, the concept of Fit Company arises. Instead of copying Toyota, companies will learn from it. Thereby, becoming a more dynamic, competitive and customer-focused company, capable of
achieving continuous improvement from its available resources.

The logic here is similar to someone who wants to stay in shape or learn a new skill. First, define a goal and then know what techniques are needed to achieve it. Then, acquire these techniques through constant practice and training. Simultaneously, define which metrics will be used to track your progress.

The fit model allows greater adaptability to adverse scenarios, especially if the company does not have the resources for the full lean implementation. Therefore, excellence is achieved in small steps, focusing on processes that are not working in the desirable way and giving the people involved, freedom to create alternative solutions.

The method is less rigid, but still has a clear and common purpose for everyone. It’s the same point of “being skinny X being healthy”. Sometimes, being skinny is not synonymous of being healthy, the same goes for companies.

So, which management system is the best?

Being a lean or fit company will depend on your availability of internal capabilities and resources. In the end, the key is to understand your problems and then seek the best solution. In this way, it is possible to envisage a plan of action consistent with its reality, to keep up with the evolution of the improvements and become more agile and competitive.

What really matters is investing in efficient management, not only managing processes but also managing people in your organization. People will make the difference. Technology is another essential point, whatever is your type of company. Employees, suppliers and customers are continuously generating useful information to understand and improve existing processes. So investing in a platform that tracks this data is crucial.

Considering these issues is imperative to guide a team that achieves positive results. Often what is missing for the manager to achieve it, is the right supporting tool. In addition to defining whether your management model will be lean or fit, it is crucial to be able to execute a strategic action plan that achieves the desired results.

The answer may be in a good business consulting service that properly directs the profile of your company to a trajectory of success. At Mereo, we have highly trained consultants to analyze the scope of each company and then outline a strategy that delivers the best results. To know more about our consultants click on the image below or contact us.

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