If you’ve been around organisations for a while, you will probably have come across the “Lean” philosophy. It’s an approach to managing processes that has a very long history - particularly in manufacturing, but is now also seen across software development and service sectors.
Lean is basically about getting the right things to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities, while minimising waste and being flexible and open to change.
Lean thinking is based on a handful of core principles:
Womack, J.P. & Jones, D.T. (2003) "Lean Thinking", Simon & Schuster
Together they become a philosophy, “the way things are done“.
Lean Learning is about taking these principles and applying them to the context of learning…
Let’s assume your customers are the learners themselves.
From the learner’s perspective, what are they getting from your service? Is it a qualification? The ability to do a particular job? Help to perform a task?
If the learners aren’t your customers, then who are? Is it the end-customer? Senior management?
Your journey will probably start with the point of first contact with the learner. It could be a website, a prospectus, an advert.
From that point, list out everything that happens. Consider each stage of administration, content production, teaching, content delivery, assessment, certification, support.
Draw that list in a process map, known as a value chain, showing how you provide your service to the customer.
There are a number of different types of waste that you can find listed on Lean websites. They include:
When waste is eliminated, then you end up with a smooth flow of work, all adding value to the customer.
In learning circles, that is often known as “just in time” rather than “just in case”.
Matching the needs of the learner (at the time that need becomes real) is the primary objective.
Continuous improvement is closely linked to the concept of the Learning Organisation:
Learning organizations are characterized by total employee involvement in a process of collaboratively conducted, collectively accountable change directed towards shared values or principles.
(Watkins and Marsick 1992: 118)
Many organisations have implemented a “Kaizen” approach to continuous improvement. This has characteristics such as:
How this gets implemented in your organisation will be unique to you.
If you want to explore more, then join my Lean Learning Masterclass (see below to buy tickets directly).
Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (1992) ‘Building the learning organization: a new role for human resource developers’, Studies in Continuing Education 14(2): 115-29.
Posted: 13 April 2016