Rethinking Lean

Beyond the Shop Floor

Once the domain of manufacturing, lean has migrated far beyond the shop floor, transforming service organizations and innovation efforts. The principles of waste elimination, worker involvement, and continuous improvement haven’t changed, though, and the results are still impressive. In this special report, experts from Wharton and BCG look at how lean is transforming health care, R&D, and finance.

The health care industry’s growing problems are creating a sense of urgency and a strong mandate for change. Lean’s focus on cutting costs, increasing efficiency, streamlining processes, and improving patient outcomes may be just the prescription for this ailing sector. Similarly, as more banks discover the benefits of lean operations—such as lower costs, fewer errors, faster cycle times and far greater efficiency—wide-scale adoption by the financial services industry is just a matter of time.

However, the question remains, does the lean structure and discipline snuff out the creative spark that underlies the birth and development of great ideas? In fact, lean brings structure and predictability to innovation, and sharpens the distinction between idea generation and the development process.