10 Lean-Agile Principles That Transform Your Business

For companies, the LEAN and Agile methods are at the core of the continuous improvement process. The principles underpinning them are designed to help organizations and teams evolve quickly, deliver better value, and be responsive to change.

These principles can be applied to companies of any size, in any industry. They aren’t rules or practices that must be followed—rather, they’re a set of guidelines that can help you understand how your team or organization works so you can improve its performance.

Before we present the 10 principles, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the LEAN and Agile methods.

The LEAN and Agile methods at a glance

The LEAN method is a set of concepts and techniques designed to maximize a company’s efficiency by eliminating waste, meaning anything that doesn’t create value for the customer. It focuses on reducing unnecessary costs, optimizing production processes, and ensuring customer satisfaction.

As for the Agile method, it’s a collection of practices designed to improve team flexibility and responsiveness. Instead of meticulously planning an entire project in advance, the method fosters adaptability by working in short increments. It also encourages regular collaboration and communication. In doing so, it aims to meet changing customer needs more effectively and deliver swift improvements.

Although LEAN and Agile use different techniques and tools, they are guided by the same philosophy of continuous improvement. When combined, they create a more productive and responsive work environment.

Now, let’s take a look at the 10 principles common to both methods, using an example from the restaurant business.

1. Take an economic view

This principle is about considering the financial impacts in both the short and long term when making decisions. It involves analyzing the costs and benefits in order to invest resources wisely.

So, before buying a new pizza oven, a restaurateur should reflect on whether this investment will help them better satisfy their customers and attract new ones. They’ll also need to determine whether it’s the most advantageous option for the company in terms of cost, efficiency, and available space.

2. Optimize the entire process

LEAN and Agile methods aim to improve the whole process, not just one aspect of it.

In a restaurant, the experience begins when you reserve a table and ends when you leave the restaurant and fill out the satisfaction survey. Therefore, it’s important to optimize every step of the process: reservation, restaurant accessibility, welcome, ordering, service, payment…

3. Offer multiple options

A focus on customer needs helps ensure that there are enough choices on offer to satisfy them completely.

No pizzeria offers nothing but all-dressed pizza. It offers variety to suit customers’ tastes, preferences, and requirements: meat, seafood, vegetarian, gluten-free…

4. Keep your finger on the pulse of the market

Having consumers test a new product or service before marketing it reduces risk. You can maximize your chances of success by listening to their feedback and making improvements that will fully meet their needs.

So, before officially announcing their new cheese-stuffed pizza crust, our restaurateur has their customers taste it several times until the results are perfected.

5. Measure the results

Satisfying customers is essential, but there are other steps to take to make sure a new product or service is viable.

Is the cheese used to stuff the crust melting too slowly? Does the new pizza take twice as long to prepare and bake as pizza with a standard crust? Does the cost of producing it reduce the profit margin too much? A solution will need to be found for each of these problems.

6. Limit work in progress

This principle is about finishing one task or project before starting another.

That’s why in a pizzeria, the cook makes the pizza, then moves on to the side salad once it’s in the oven.

7. Synchronize the work sequence with the slowest activity

The best way to avoid overloading or blocking the workflow is to synchronize all steps with the one that takes the longest.

For example, there’s no point in starting eight pizzas at once if there’s only room for four in the oven.

Let’s say the restaurateur receives complaints about the slow service or is forced to turn customers away—at that point, they can assess options to reduce the bottleneck. Should they buy a second oven that’s identical to the current one, a bigger oven, or a more efficient oven?

8. Leverage team creativity

One of the biggest wastes in business is lost creativity. Your employees are best placed to improve your methods and processes, since they experience them on a daily basis.

Have several customers complained about receiving lukewarm pizza? Waiters and cooks can discuss the best way to solve the problem.

9. Decentralize decision-making

The employees involved in a process are the experts in that process. Decentralizing power not only fosters your team’s creativity, but also eliminates delays and increases the flow of ideas.

In the fifth principle, our restaurateur encountered challenges when developing the new cheese-stuffed crust. Well, let’s let the cooks figure it out.

10. Focus on added value for the customer

Every step, every effort, should be geared towards meeting customer needs. Always. That’s the ultimate goal.l.

A warm welcome, multiple choices of crusts and toppings, healthy sides (or not), quick payment, sufficient parking space… Every step of the process should be optimized for customer satisfaction.

The Bernard Lean Management Consulting team has a vast and varied knowledge pool, making them ideal experts. We specialize in business administration, information systems, management, and authentic transformational leadership.

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