Overcoming the Challenges of Lean Service

Lean is no longer a manufacturing "thing"-it is a strategy for improving all business processes. It represents significant potential for achieving speed, quality, cost improvements and positioning an organization well above its competition.

By analyzing and improving its processes the service industry can reduce work in progress delays, unanswered phone calls, and incomplete reports. All of which result in lower customer satisfaction rates.

To enhance their competitiveness, service firms need to embrace systems such as Lean, Six Sigma and practical problem solving, within their organizations to ensure continuous process improvement. These systems can provide individual providers with the opportunity to meet and then surpass the challenge of competitors. A philosophy of continuous process improvement enables a service firm to cultivate a process-oriented way of thinking and developing strategies that assure continuous improvement involving people at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. Such a system requires a new organizational culture that considers change, rather than complacency, the norm.

A widespread dissatisfaction with the current way in which the organization functions can be the impetus for implementing lean in a service business. In the case of profit-making service organizations, dissatisfaction is heightened by red ink or lost market share. However, with respect to non-profit service organizations such as government, and public education, these kinds of competitive pressures are largely absent. Therefore, organizational dissatisfaction must be created from within by the leadership team.

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