What are some different principles of management

What is Lean Management? Definition and methods

Less is more

Is it possible to get the same result with less work - without losing quality? Lean management should make this possible. The concept of “lean management” follows a simple belief: there is always a way to get a job done better and faster. Why? Because none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes - that's human.

Lean management sees mistakes as an opportunity for improvement. “Hidden potentials” can be found everywhere in the processes of employees, teams, executives and companies. Instead of hitting each other on the fingers, it's time to learn from problems. The lean management approach consists of principles, methods and, above all, a rethink in the company that we can use to clean up our processes. Less input, but more sophisticated.

Table of Contents

What is Lean Management? A definition

Lean Management is a management philosophy with principles and methods to organize processes more efficiently. Efficient means that we achieve a goal with as little effort as possible. Lean management relies on the Minimizing wastein order to reduce costs, shorten processes in the value chain and avoid errors - while at the same time striving for the best possible quality.

As a process-oriented approach, lean management begins with taking a close look at business processes and looking for opportunities for improvement in one's own work. But who actually decides what is improvement and what is waste? Not just the company itself, but the customer. The continuous improvement process in lean management is fundamental customer oriented. That is why the basic principles and methods of lean management always begin and end with the customer.

Do you also have an "efficiency-effective weakness"? Here is a donkey bridge:

“Efficient” and “effective” are synonyms for “effective” and describe how well we get to a goal. But the standard is different. By efficient, we mean that the input needed to achieve a goal is as minimal as possible. The less energy we have to put into it to achieve the result, the more efficient our work is. On the other hand, everything is effective as long as it achieves a desired goal. The way is not important for effectiveness, only that we get to our goal.


  • 10 minutes of subway ride is more efficient than 45 minutes of walking.
  • If a medicine makes me healthy, it is effective.

Success through lean management

Lean management means focusing on the essentials. A lean organization can have many positive effects:

  • Reduction of superfluous operational bureaucracy
  • Breaking up “encrusted” corporate structures
  • Improvement of product and service quality
  • Reduction of errors in process flows
  • Increase in customer and tenant satisfaction
  • Reduction of stocks in the area of ​​logistics and production

Avoid waste - from the perspective of the customer and the company

A central aspect of Lean thinking is to avoid any kind of waste. Waste is anything that makes no contribution to the value of the product or service. By value we simply mean: "What is the customer willing to pay money for?" Value and waste of value can be found everywhere: in employees, technology, our methods, working hours, our work equipment, the workplace, etc.

Examples of waste in the company

  • Overproduction: In production, products are manufactured "in stock" for which no orders have yet been placed. Apparently good preparatory work can result in unnecessary costs.

  • Waiting times: The customer waits too long for his offer and chooses the competition that reacted faster. An applicant waits too long for feedback from the company. The employee waits for the manager's decision to continue working.

  • Defect in the product: The delivered product requires post-processing due to defects? Waste of resources and costs that do not give the customer any benefit.

  • Unused creativity of employees: Employees are directly involved in processes and thus closer to the customer. However, they are often not heard when making business decisions. Companies can rely much more on the know-how and skills of their employees. Every employee can surprise when given the chance.

Principles in Lean Management - On the way to a lean organization

How do we manage to minimize waste in our work? Every problem solving in the sense of the Lean philosophy begins with the determination of numbers, data and facts. There is no place for opinions, assumptions and unfounded statements. The analysis based on objective facts shows e.g. B. on where there is a jam in the process flow. Where does a bottleneck arise that "interrupts the flow"? This is valuable information for optimizing the process chain.

The following basic principles of lean management can be distinguished:

  • Describe precisely the value of the product from the customer's point of view.
  • Identify the entire value stream (what happens where and for how long?) Of the product.
  • Create a flow of value without interruption.
  • Customers pull the value. Production takes place when the demand is there.
  • Strive for perfection. The lean management process never stops.

Methods in Lean Management

Lean management is pragmatic and uses everything that supports the goals and is useful in eliminating waste or solving problems. Anyone who reduces lean management to methods and tools is committing a cardinal error.

Practical book Lean Management: The way to operational excellence by Pawel Gorecki, Peter R. Pautsch

For many people, methods are practical instructions that seem to present “the one solution” to a problem. However, each method should be viewed as a tool that can prove itself in different situations. There is a “tool box” in lean management from which we can draw. However, there isn't one tool for all problems. We have shown this in our article "Hybrid project management: definition and methods from traditional to agile to hybrid". Here are some examples of lean management:

Value stream mapping (VSM)

The value stream analysis is used to visualize material and information flows in an organization. It serves as a “work map” to make value-adding and non-value-adding processes visible. This analysis can be seen as the basis of lean management. If you want to improve processes, you have to know what you are dealing with. A process map allows us to get an overview, to identify errors and to draw initial conclusions. The graphic shows a simplified representation. A value stream analysis uses different symbols and can be much more complex. Today there are professional tools to help with the creation of a process map.

The PDCA cycle

The PDCA cycle or Deming circle describes a management principle that each of us consciously or unconsciously follows in everyday life. If we want to create something, we intuitively follow the phases: "Plan - Do - Check - Act". When shopping, we plan with a shopping list, we walk to the supermarket and check our purchases at home. If we have forgotten to buy bread, do we have to act: start again or fix our "mistake" tomorrow? Many management systems follow this “recipe”. The PDCA cycle is “lean” because each time we go through it, we learn something new in order to refine our processes. In a company or a work area, we can define new, improved standards with each run and initiate a continuous improvement process.


5S method

Who does not know the problem? A messy workplace creates clutter in the head and hinders us at work. According to the 5S method, a clean, tidy, well-organized and standardized work area ensures better results. The 5S method creates lean business processes in five steps: 1. Sort, 2. Systematize, 3. Clean, 4. Standardize and 5. Self-discipline. It is suitable for gaining focus on the essentials, improving personal time management and can be used excellently in preparation for the PDCA cycle.


Hansei is an important term in Japanese culture that means “self-reflection” in German. The Hansei philosophy regards self-reflection as necessary in order to recognize one's own wrongdoing and to improve. True to the motto “Insight is the first step towards improvement.” In practice, Hansei z. B. to recognize the problem, to accept the personal responsibility, the emotional sense of obligation (not to blame the mistake on others) and a "promise" for improvement. Hansei serves less as a process method and more as a soft skill for better self-management. The best sense of achievement can be expected from executives who follow Hansei, set an example for their employees and thus positively influence the corporate culture.


Kanban is a popular example of agile working. The method has its origins like lean management at the Japanese company Toyota. Kanban means “card” or “board” - and in fact we don't need any more to use the method. All tasks - whether personal or those of a team - are divided into individual cards in at least 3 columns: “What needs to be done?”, “What is currently being worked on?” And “What is finished?”. The next step in Kanban is the pull principle: Employees can decide for themselves which tasks they want to do and independently pull them off the Kanban board. If a task backlog arises somewhere, this becomes immediately visible and employees can help each other. Kanban helps to visualize and improve processes. A method that is easy to get started with, but with which a lot is also possible.


Poka-Yoke is another Japanese Lean method that literally means “avoiding unfortunate mistakes”. The goal of Poka-Yoke is to avoid errors in the finished product by eliminating human errors in advance - through technology. A simple example from everyday life is the child safety device on a socket. We also know the “technical stop sign” from other areas. When filling out an online form, an error message pops up if important information from the user is missing - the automatic error message prevents the customer order from being unnecessarily drawn out because the information has to be questioned afterwards. With Poka-Yoke, creative ideas are also possible that go beyond the manufacturing industry and can prove themselves in the field of services, IT and marketing. Ask yourself: Where are unwanted customer errors hindering the workflow?

Further methods and instruments in the area of ​​lean management

  • Kaizen / CIP
  • Muda, Mura, Muri (Toyota 3M model)
  • Jidoka
  • Hoshin Kanri
  • Gemba
  • Six Sigma (Lean Six Sigma)
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
  • A3 report
  • 8D report

Where can lean management be used?

The origin of the “Lean philosophy” lies in the area of ​​logistics and production management. In the late 1940s, Toyota used lean production to eliminate processes that had no value for the end product. The Japanese names of many lean management methods can also be explained with the historical background.

Since then, lean thinking has spread to other countries and industries. Many methods are common in project management and in process and quality management. Why not be lean in the office? There are countless time wasters in office work that we fall into every day. Lean management is successful because it can in principle be used anywhere in companies.

Lean processes. Big successes. Fit for lean management

The introduction of a lean organization in a company can be exciting in practice, but also challenging. In our seminars we impart knowledge for a practical introduction to lean management. In doing so, you lay the foundation for tackling the processes in your company. It is crucial that there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for every company. It's about thinking about and getting to know lean management in order to use the methods that fit your own company, team and personal style in the next step. To do this, we work with trainers who convey their expert knowledge in lean thinking to those who are hungry for learning in face-to-face seminars - from practice to practice.

Seminars in lean management

  • Seminar Lean Management: Would you like to apply Lean Management in practice? Our seminar provides a compact introduction and overview from A to Z.

  • Lean project management: Lean management can unlock new ways of improvement and customer orientation in project management. Our seminar shows you which lean skills count in project management.

  • Process management seminar: Anyone interested in lean management needs the basics of process management. Our seminar is aimed at specialists and managers who are looking for a practice-oriented introduction to the topic.

  • Seminar TQM - Total Quality Management: How does a company set up a comprehensive quality management system? Total Quality Management is an in-depth lean management method with which you can dedicate your processes to one thing: the continuous improvement of quality.

  • Seminar Six Sigma - Yellow Belt: Six Sigma is a method of quality management that is "lean" at heart. Process improvements are achieved here through a statistical approach.

Further training in lean management for private individuals

  • Lean Management and Six Sigma Green Belt / TÜV: The combination of the Lean philosophy with Six Sigma is an innovative and future-proof training for people who want to develop further in the area of ​​process management and quality management.

  • Certified process manager DGP: Have you found a taste for getting the best out of processes? In cooperation with the "German Society for Process Management", we train interested parties to become process managers.

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