While project management tends to be associated, first and foremost, with software development methods and practices, it would do a great disservice to limit the various available project methodologies to this particular field, especially when other domains can greatly benefit from them. Lean processes are a great example here. The techniques and principles of Lean methodology have, however, taken a quite long time to enter such industries as human resources, customer service, or even health care, and this is mainly because in the service industries, some of the main concepts, such as waste and inefficiency, may not be easy to detect.
Lean methods and principles were first designed for manufacturing, and there are undoubtedly great differences in the management of a manufacturing enterprise and a company offering services. American-German economist Theodore Levitt summed up these differences: While manufacturing looks for solutions inside the very tasks to be done, service looks for solutions in the performer of the task.
The role of the performer is the key distinction between service and manufacturing. Also, when focusing on cutting costs, no physical inventory is present to consider. In this case, the Lean methods have to be adjusted. Instead of the physical inventory, there is labour and customer satisfaction to tackle.
It has already been stated that waste may not be easy to detect when it comes to services. In their study named Lean Toolbox, Bicheno & Holweg came up with an adapted version of waste categories that service industries can relate to. These include delays on the part of customers waiting for service, lack of quality in service processes, unclear communication leading to clarification, duplication and re-entering data, and a failure to establish rapport with the customers.
Besides the question of waste and its elimination, the service-oriented industries may also struggle with the standardisation of their white-collar workers' work. And as for the standardization of the work process, its performance can increase overall responsiveness, lower error rates, and eventually lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Since applying principles made primarily for the environment of manufacturing may be a challenge when it comes to managing work productivity and analysis of the work process efficiency, here are the six factors that can serve as a guide for reaching the goal: