What is lean management - Differences with Lean Thinking and Lean manufacturing

Lean management
Lean management remains a concept frequently mentioned in the professional world. This management philosophy aims to maximize value for the customer while minimizing waste. Lean involves a culture of continuous improvement that encourages the commitment of all employees to deliver the highest possible quality by eliminating non-value added activities.

Notable differences: Lean thinking, Lean management, Lean manufacturing

In the professional world, the expressions "Lean management", "Lean thinking" and "Lean manufacturing" are commonly used. Despite an often interchangeable interpretation, it is crucial to discern the nuances between these terms.

Lean thinking: philosophical foundation

Lean thinking is the underlying philosophy of Lean. It establishes an organizational culture that values the creation of value for the customer, respect for individuals, the elimination of waste and a continuous approach to the improvement of operational processes. The main objective remains to provide added value corresponding to customer expectations.

Lean management: pragmatic application

Lean management is the practice of lean thinking. It extends to all types of businesses and sectors of activity. The objective is to minimize waste in operational processes, whether related to the production of goods or the provision of services.

Lean manufacturing: industrial specificity

Lean manufacturing mainly applies to the manufacturing industry. The objective is to reduce waste throughout the production process by eliminating activities that do not contribute to the value of the final product.

Lean management principles and tools

Lean management is based on several essential principles for its effective implementation.

The five principles of Lean management

There are five key principles in Lean management: defining value from the customer's perspective, identifying the value stream, implementing the stream, establishing customer-driven output, and the constant quest for perfection. We can also add respect for individuals. See our point of view on the true principles of Lean.

Lean management tools

Lean management mobilizes various tools such as kaizen, just in time, jidoka, kanban, 5S, among others. You can see a detail of the top 20 Lean tools or methods here.

Why Adopt Lean Management? Potential Benefits

Lean management offers several benefits. From improving quality to increasing customer and employee satisfaction, Lean can have a significant impact on an organization.

Quality improvement

Lean management aims to eliminate waste, which can lead to a noticeable improvement in quality. By eliminating non-value-added activities, companies can focus more on those that create them.

Reduced costs and increased efficiency

Lean management can help reduce costs. By minimizing waiting times and unnecessary movements, companies can increase their efficiency.

Increased customer and employee satisfaction

Lean management emphasizes customer value, which can improve customer satisfaction. Furthermore, by involving employees in the continuous improvement process, Lean can also increase employee satisfaction.

Improved profitability

By improving quality, reducing costs, increasing customer and employee satisfaction, Lean management can positively influence the profitability of the company.

Criticisms and challenges of Lean management

Like any management methodology, Lean is not free from criticism. Some stem from misunderstandings, while others highlight real challenges associated with the Lean approach.

Excessive focus on cost reduction

A frequent criticism of Lean management is its excessive focus on cost reduction, to the detriment of employees. This can create a stressful work environment and reduce employee satisfaction.

Complexity of implementation and maintenance

Lean management is often seen as difficult to implement and maintain, especially in large organizations where communication and coordination can be complex.

Risks of inappropriate application

Risks are associated with a misinterpretation or application of Lean. For example, some companies may use Lean as an excuse to reduce their staff, which is in contradiction with Lean principles.

How to avoid these challenges and implement "good" Lean management?

For an effective implementation of Lean management, it is important to clearly understand its principles and to have a strong commitment from the management.


Focus on People

Lean is not just about cutting costs. It is a philosophy that values continuous improvement and respect for people. To practice “good” Lean, it is essential to focus on people and involve them in the improvement process.


Adaptation of Lean to the organiazation

Lean management is not a universal solution. It must be adapted to the specific needs of each organization. This requires a good understanding of the organization's culture, its processes and its customers.


Training and education

Successful Lean implementation requires employee training and education. This includes not only training on Lean tools and techniques, but also education on Lean principles and philosophy.



Lean management is a powerful management philosophy that has the potential to transform organizations. To be effective, it must be well understood, well applied and supported by management. By focusing on continuous improvement and valuing the contribution of all employees, a company can realize the many benefits of Lean.


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Monday, 15 July 2024