I love lean/systems thinking, call it what you will (that sort of sloppiness usually gets a protagonist or two protesting they’re different).

It’s a great way, I’d say the way, to organise work.  I’ve alluded to some of its characteristics in other posts – meeting the needs of the customer, work flowing through a system, the idea of processes, how you improve work…and a lot more I’ve not touched on.

Like lots of things it’s bedevilled by jargon, sometimes helpful as shorthand between those who know, but putting other people off when they’re confronted by it (usually from some “expert” explaining they’ll be using it at work).

A plea from someone on a forum I belong to (IDeA’s lean thinking community of practice) to decode some jargon had me thinking of how we could do this for some of the more common systems thinking phrases that bemuse.  Here was the list I came up with:

  • process = how we do our work
  • process improvement = making our work better
  • methodology = this is how we’ll do it
  • value stream = everything we do from beginning to end to deliver a service
  • a large proportion of the activities in any service are non-value added =  a large part of what we do does not add value
  • designing a new value stream so that those actions that create value, flow = improving the way we work so that every step adds value and flows smoothly
  • customer demand should pull work through the system = we should only do the work customers want and we should do it when they want

It may seem simple but the jargon really does dis-credit a lot of good stuff.  I’d love to copyright my plain language versions but ‘twould be a lost cause. Feel free to use (but let me know if you do…) and add a comment with your own jargon-free versions.