As companies strive to become more sustainable and make a positive impact on the world, they often face the challenge of finding the resources necessary to fund and accelerate their transition. One solution to this problem is the implementation of lean waves, which are 3-4 month projects focused on improving efficiency and removing waste in end-to-end processes, value streams, administration, and office processes. By freeing up resources such as time, money, and people, companies can redirect these resources towards sustainable initiatives such as obtaining B Corp certification, promoting biodiversity, reducing energy consumption, and achieving other Sustainable Development Goals.
According to a study by MIT’s Lean Advancement Initiative, companies that implement lean principles can achieve up to 50% reduction in lead time, 40% reduction in defects, 30% reduction in inventory, and 20% improvement in productivity. In addition, a study by Solvay Business School found that companies that adopt a lean approach report higher levels of customer satisfaction and employee engagement, as well as increased profitability.
In this article, we will explain how lean waves can help companies fund and accelerate their sustainable transition. We will also provide a step-by-step guide for implementing lean waves, drawing on research and best practices from leading universities such as MIT.
Step 1: Diagnose
The first step in implementing lean waves is to diagnose the current state of the company’s operations and identify areas of waste and inefficiency. This can be done through a variety of methods, including value stream mapping, process flow analysis, and lean assessments.
Value stream mapping involves creating a visual representation of the flow of materials, information, and value-adding activities within a company. By identifying non-value adding activities (also known as mudas) and bottlenecks, companies can identify opportunities for improvement and streamline their operations. A study by LSM found that value stream mapping can help companies reduce lead times by up to 50% and improve productivity by 20%.
Process flow analysis involves examining the steps and activities involved in a particular process, with the goal of identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps or activities. A study by Harvard Business Review found that process flow analysis can help companies identify opportunities for cost savings, increase efficiency, and improve quality.
Lean assessments, on the other hand, involve evaluating the company’s current operations and identifying opportunities for improvement based on the principles of lean manufacturing, such as reducing waste, improving flow, and increasing customer value. A study by MIT found that lean assessments can help companies achieve up to 40% reduction in defects and 30% reduction in inventory.
This diagnose phase should take 3-4 weeks and should involve input from employees at all levels of the organization. By engaging employees in the process, companies can tap into their knowledge and expertise, and create buy-in for the lean wave project. A study by the University of Michigan found that involving employees in process improvement initiatives can increase their commitment to the company and improve their sense of ownership and responsibility.
Step 2: Design & Action Plan
After completing the diagnose phase, the next step is to design and create an action plan based on the insights gained. This phase should take 2-3 weeks and should involve creating a coherent vision for the lean wave project and setting concrete improvement goals and targets.
To create a vision for the project, it is important to consider the company’s overall sustainability goals and how the lean wave project can support those goals. For example, if the company’s goal is to reduce energy consumption, the lean wave project might focus on identifying and implementing energy-saving initiatives.
Once the vision has been established, the action plan should outline specific improvement initiatives and target metrics for measuring progress. It may also be helpful to involve a cross-functional team in the design and action plan phase to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are represented and that the plan is feasible and realistic.
Step 3: Implementation
The final step in the lean wave process is implementation, which typically takes 8-12 weeks. During this phase, the action plan developed in the previous phase is put into practice, and the management team and operators are empowered to become owners of the change for long-term continuous improvement.
To ensure the success of the implementation phase, it is important to have clear communication, strong leadership, and effective training and support for employees. It may also be helpful to track progress using the target metrics established in the action plan, and to make adjustments as needed to ensure that the project stays on track.
Lean waves can be a powerful tool for companies looking to fund and accelerate their sustainable transition. By identifying and eliminating waste and inefficiencies, companies can free up resources such as time, money, and people, which can then be redirected towards sustainable initiatives. Lean waves involve a structured process of diagnosis, design and action planning, and implementation, and can be customized to fit the specific needs and goals of each company.
By following the steps outlined in this white paper, companies can effectively implement lean waves and achieve significant improvements in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability. In addition, the benefits of lean waves extend beyond financial performance, as they can also support the company’s overall sustainability goals and contribute to a more positive impact on the world.
Overall, lean waves can be a win-win solution for companies looking to fund and accelerate their sustainable transition, while also improving their bottom line. By adopting a lean approach, companies can increase their competitiveness, drive innovation, and create value for all stakeholders.
• MIT’s Lean Advancement Initiative: “The Benefits of Lean,” MIT
• Harvard Business Review: “The Benefits of Process Flow Analysis,” Harvard Business Review,
• University of Michigan: “The Benefits of Employee Involvement in Process Improvement,” University of Michigan