How lean man­age­ment can help you

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - By Aine Lo­gan, Man­ager, Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Busi­ness Con­sult­ing @grant­thorn­tonni

IN busi­ness, we are con­stantly re­minded of the im­por­tance of im­prov­ing how we do things on a day-to-day ba­sis. Save money. Im­prove ef­fi­ciency. In­crease mar­gins. Im­prove cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.

Busi­ness lead­ers are faced with the dif­fi­cult chal­lenge of cre­at­ing a stream­lined, ef­fec­tive busi­ness model that won’t break the bank while pro­vid­ing a best-in-class cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

On ini­tial re­flec­tion, this presents a com­plex bal­anc­ing act with many var­ied and con­flict­ing goals, and the idea of do­ing less with more sounds like an al­most im­pos­si­ble task.

How­ever, the core philosophy be­hind ‘ lean man­age­ment’ would suggest that the bal­anc­ing act is pos­si­ble: that an or­gan­i­sa­tion can use fewer re­sources while im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency and re­duc­ing waste to de­liver an op­ti­mum cus­tomer ser­vice.

In th­ese un­cer­tain times, with Brexit on the hori­zon and a fluc­tu­at­ing econ­omy, busi­nesses need to be in­no­va­tive to find ways to gen­er­ate a profit, cater to cus­tomers and re­main fi­nan­cially sound. Nat­u­rally, this is no small feat.

How­ever a lean man­age­ment philosophy can help pro­vide the an­swer — hav­ing an ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able busi­ness model cater­ing for flex­i­bil­ity and adapt­able cus­tomer prac­tices will pro­mote suc­cess. Sup­port­ers of lean man­age­ment would suggest that it has the po­ten­tial to help po­si­tion all busi­nesses for longterm suc­cess, and busi­nesses adopt­ing lean man­age­ment prin­ci­ples have re­ported sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings in op­er­at­ing costs across short time­frames.

The lean man­age­ment philosophy is about re­mov­ing waste from the process, es­sen­tially elim­i­nat­ing all ac­tiv­ity that doesn’t pro­vide value to the cus­tomer. While this im­proves ef­fi­ciency, there are other ar­eas worth con­sid­er­ing when em­ploy­ing a lean ap­proach. The cus­tomer: Know­ing your cus­tomer is the first step of ‘ lean man­age­ment’. By un­der­stand­ing who they are, their lo­ca­tion and their val­ues, man­agers can eas­ily iden­tify waste­ful prac­tices that don’t pro­vide di­rect ben­e­fit. Per­for­mance: It is im­por­tant to as­sess both busi­ness and staff per­for­mance. Es­tab­lish­ing re­port­ing sys­tems that make re­sults easy to iden­tify, and host­ing reg­u­lar meet­ings to dis­cuss prob­lem-solv­ing, will im­prove the ac­count­abil­ity within an or­gan­i­sa­tion. Top-per- form­ing em­ploy­ees will be more ef­fi­cient and thus leaner, and should lead by ex­am­ple. Busi­ness func­tions: Busi­ness own­ers will need to un­der­stand what their com­pany can do. A busi­ness with more ca­pa­bil­ity will tend to be leaner, as it is more likely to be op­er­at­ing at peak ca­pac­ity, pro­duc­ing more with a lim­ited re­source. At­ti­tudes: Lean man­age­ment must also involve em­ploy­ees, and ev­ery­one will need to be brought on the jour­ney to achieve the busi­ness’s strate­gies. A fo­cus on train­ing for staff, per­sonal devel­op­ment and im­prov­ing sys­tem knowl­edge are fac­tors that will pro­vide value add to the cus­tomer. The cus­tomer at the fore: Peo­ple in­stantly think lean man­age­ment is solely about cut­ting costs. Lead­ers can al­ways find ways to save money by sub­trac­tion, how­ever it is un­likely to suc­ceed if it dis­re­gards what is best for the cus­tomer. Busi­ness lead­ers will know that sim­ply de­creas­ing ex­penses doesn’t al­ways save money. Busi­nesses to­day should con­sider em­ploy­ing a lean philosophy to con­vert waste­ful prac­tices into those that ben­e­fit the con­sumer, while main­tain­ing a cus­tomer cen­tric fo­cus and de­vel­op­ing their peo­ple.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion or ad­vice, Aine Lo­gan can be con­tacted at aine. lo­gan@ie.gt.com. Grant Thorn­ton (NI) LLP spe­cialises in au­dit, tax and ad­vi­sory ser­vices

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