Lean principle #5: Seek perfection

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Lean looks for the perfect process: perfect value with no waste. That’s why “seek perfection” is one of the lean principles defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute (learn more here). Perfection means providing customers with a safe product (Health), of high value (Quality), on time and in the right quantity (Delivery) and affordable (Cost). Additionally, the process must develop problem solvers who improve the product and increase value (People) and take care of the community and the environment (Morale)

Some might say that aiming for perfection but thinking that improvement is a never-ending journey is a contradiction. Is it possible to believe in the Lean Principle #4: Improvement is a cycle (the “PDCA” principle) and pursuing perfection at the same time? Yes!

There are 2 reasons why perfection and trial-and-error philosophies are compatible:

  1. Perfection is a never ending journey: The perfect use of resources is theoretically impossible (link). We can get better and better but reducing waste to zero would need an immense amount of resources (which is waste itself). Using math terms, improvement tends asymptotically to perfection.
  2. Customer needs change over time: In other words, customers raise the bar constantly and request new features and products. Even if the perfect process was possible, we need to change direction and adapt constantly to the new definition of good.

In summary, Lean is about adapting processes to customer needs, all the time, no matter how quick they change. The better one company adapts to customers and the environment, the more successful it will be.

Picture by: http://joyreactor.com/post/405771

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