Lean manufacturing is a production philosophy that seeks to deliver maximum value to customers with minimum waste. Companies using it have achieved huge increases in productivity and customer satisfaction.
I contend that you could achieve similar benefits by applying the lean approach to your communications. This article introduces the concept at a high level and subsequent articles will drill deeper into the specific detail.
What are the key concepts of lean and how do they apply to communication?
Value. In lean, value is defined as anything the customer is willing to pay for. By analogy, value in communications is defined as any information that your listener wants or needs to hear. Both approaches require a deep understanding of the end customer.
Waste. Any work or input that does not directly contribute to value. In communication, it may include unnecessary explanation or words, irrelevant details, unclear or ambiguous terminology, and inaccurate data.
Making work visible. Having a clear view of the work process and status helps to expose value creation and waste reduction opportunities. In communication, a clear structure for your message makes your logic easier to follow—for yourself as you think of it, and for your listeners as they hear it.
Pull. Production is driven by the customer’s specific need. For communication, this means two things. First, you prepare by anticipating the listener’s questions and their likely reaction to your message. Second, you don’t just get to the point quickly—you begin with the point and add detail as needed by the listener.
We will look at the specifics of each lean communication concept in individual articles next week