The idea of lean management began in the 1940s at Toyota. The goal was to streamline the production process by cutting out steps that wasted time, money, and resources. Today, you can use these same ideas to improve your business. For an effective approach to lean management, consider the strengths and weaknesses of your company as well as its core needs.

There are many tools for lean management. The most powerful is knowledge. Before trying to improve your company, you need a thorough knowledge of it. What is it doing well? Where is it failing? What does each team or employee do that adds value? What do they do that’s wasteful? 

If you’re having trouble figuring any of this out, work backward. Begin with your service or product, and then figure out how each job contributes to its creation or implementation. It might help to write out each step that goes into the end result. Now compare those steps to what workers are actually doing. 

You’ll be able to see which parts of their process you can change or remove to streamline the work. You’ll also be able to see if there are any bottlenecks slowing everything down. Using a kanban board to break down the workflow can help you keep the process moving smoothly. It keeps employees on task, and it also aids in setting up a pull system.

Having a well-oiled pull system is one of the keys to improving lean management in your workplace. In typical companies, managers evaluate what needs to be done before assigning the next task to a worker. This adds an extra step — thus wastes time — and risks overwhelming people with their workload. It has the potential to create a bottleneck since the overwhelmed worker likely can’t get to the new task right away.

In an effective pull system, the worker chooses the next task themselves when they’re free. There’s no danger of overloading anyone with work that they can’t accomplish, and there’s no bottleneck since people are taking tasks as they can do them. 

To make this work, you must set up a clear system that flags priority tasks. That way, workers consistently pull the most important items to complete.