What I find so powerful and so valuable about Lean are the core concepts: seek to continuously improve and focus on respecting others throughout your improvement actions. These concepts are not business related strategies that apply in certain settings. They are human values that can be applied in any setting, work or otherwise.
My own path of coaching Lean within the nonprofit sector has allowed me to explore new territories while seeing just how universal Lean principles truly are. The majority of those with whom I have been in contact in the nonprofit sector are completely new to Lean or have only a vague understanding of what it means and how it applies. The continuously incredible part to me is how inherently aligned Lean thinking and nonprofit sector work can be. Nonprofits have empathy ingrained in their missions and a focus on serving others is what often brings nonprofit professionals to work everyday. Nonprofit professionals also often wear many hats, being the grant writer as well as the volunteer coordinator and on the marketing team, for example. So, being able to cut down on waste and streamline operations is critical to help nonprofits thrive. The core concepts of Lean often live in the heart of a nonprofit organization. It is just a matter of introducing the tools and formal methods through language and strategies that fit for the nonprofit environment.
I am fortunate to have learned Lean backwards. I saw the outcome of an incredible personal Lean transformation and used that inspiration to work my way backwards through books, practice, and finally, formal training. That backwards method showed me the powerful difference the Lean can make on a person’s everyday activities, relationships at work and with loved ones, impactful leadership, enjoyment and success at work, as well as the ability to solve any problem. There is an expansive array of Lean tools and resources to help reach a continuous Lean practice. The important point of these tools, however, reaches back to the core concepts. The tools are the how of the concepts, but what matters most is that those concepts are ingrained. In my work with nonprofit organizations, I am constantly thinking about and adjusting the Lean language around the tools in order to help those who I serve understand the core concepts.
Whether you are new to Lean or a well-seasoned expert, there is always more to discover, more to share, more learning to be inspired by. Sometimes even stopping to reflect upon what you have already learned may bring the greatest insight. Or perhaps shifting your mindset to be open to another new idea may make all the difference. Whatever it is, I hope you feel the welcoming and wonder of Lean as I do.
MLC Board Member
President of Rise Consulting, Co.
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