Before you can start using lean thinking to change your organisation, its principles must be studied and learned. To better understand the process of implementing lean from the ground up, last month members of the LMJ team went back to school. Tim Brown reports.

In mid-July, at the commencement of an actual British summer, LMJ editor Roberto Priolo and I took part in a three-day intensive lean course conducted by consultancy and training provider OEE.

While both Roberto and I are familiar with the lean methodology and have witnessed lean in action, neither of us have ever undertaken lean projects in our own organisation. So, to take a firsthand look at what it means to introduce lean into an organisation, we decided to attend the Cardiff University-accredited OEE three-day lean course.

Proving that the application of lean has moved beyond the manufacturing shop floor, attendees came from a range of sectors including finance, professional services, IT, security, food service and, of course, the media.

Day one began by looking at what people wanted to achieve from the course to look at each person’s real-life lean issues. Trainer David Stenbeck then led the group on a journey looking at the origins of lean from Eli Whitney’s cotton gin to Ford’s mass production model and through to the creation of the Toyota Production System.

Following this, attendees were split into groups and undertook a simple game involving Lego bricks, which highlighted the concepts of flow, lead time, work in progress, labour time and productivity. This was complemented with a number of interesting case studies that further explained the core aspects of lean – to understand customer value and to look after staff. The group then looked at the seven wastes and identified the existence of such wastes in our own organisations.

Day two and three were slightly more hands-on and looked at a range of issues. Measurement was one of the first topics on the agenda and followed on from W. Edwards Deming’s immortal words: “In God we trust. All others bring data.” David explained that not only did measuring simply have its own rewards by demonstrating to staff that they were being critiqued, it is also the only way to achieve prolonged improvement. Process mapping, standard operating procedures and skills matrices were also covered in great detail on the second day.

The third day of training looked at work design, capacity and resource planning as well as the use of 5S. The use of problem solving was demonstrated as a vital skill and the group also looked in more depth at SIPOC (supplier, input, process, output, customer) diagrams.

The course was brought to a close with the completion of an exam, but this is not the end of the accreditation. To qualify for the 1b accreditation, candidates must undertake a simple project requiring five days of individual content applying the knowledge and skills learned on the course. Expect to see the first part report on our progress here at SayOne Media in a subsequent issue of LMJ.

For more information on OEE training courses, contact OEE on +44 016 0881 9340 or visit