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Why Lean doesn’t have to be Mean

Does streamlining of resources threaten quality in an environment where the customer is king?

Critics of the application of lean management techniques to the delivery of services often say that focussing on efficient processes goes against the concept of delivering the most value to the customer.

But the lean concept of reducing waste is as relevant to firms providing a service to customers as it is to those manufacturing “hard” products.  Better management increases both value to the customer and efficiency at the firm level.

Our most recent report Management Delivers the Difference looks at whether firms in services such as IT, financial services and catering as well as those in trade sectors are adopting the practices that can boost performance and improve customer experience.

Managers in services and trade firms report being hit hard by the financial recession cutting costs, changing the product mix, reducing employment levels and service capacity levels and cutting prices significantly more than their counterparts in other sectors.

Given this environment of reduced resources managers should be looking to better management to increase efficiency but key management practices are still weak.   This is in part explained by the finding that while managers believe they have adequate access to good consulting and information on best practice they are poor at identifying weakness in their own firms – overestimating the standard of management in the firm by 20%.

In looking to improve services, firms must first take a serious look at where practices and processes are failing in their organisations to identify the management improvements that will make the difference to the productivity of their operations and most importantly to their customers.


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