One of the most amazing virtues of Lean is that it allows companies to combine the three most important pay-offs for the long term continuation of their ventures: faster delivery, higher quality and lower cost. Combined. This is also true for Lean and Agile Project Management –and contrary to many people’s intuition or experience-. We often hear:
You want something really good? Accept to pay a premium price, good simply costs more.
You want it cheap? Accept a lower quality, lousy service or long waiting lines.
You want it fast? Accept to pay some more to get you in front of the line and by-the-way, we won’t guarantee the same quality!
Assertions like these are easily taken for granted. They seem to make perfect sense. So much so, that we hardly ever question them. We’re used to pay more for higher quality. We’re used to pay more for getting served first.
Yet Lean has shown that this makes no sense at all. Why?
Because, to make something really good, we have no choice but to master how to do it. We must deeply understand the process, which inputs are needed, what operations lead to what results, how to avoid common mistakes. No matter if we manufacture something, or if we invent something from scratch, such as a plan or a product. The best professionals know what they’re doing. They know which steps to take. They know what operation leads to which results. They also know which steps they’d better avoid. And they’re able to help others in their teams to repeat their successful way of doing things. That’s what makes a professional.
And the bonus to it all: A detailed knowing of how to make or accomplish something, leads inevitably to lower costs. Because she who knows how to make something, can also tell you the order the steps should be taken. Which leads to less waiting, chasing and expediting. It means one knows how to avoid rework, how to get it right the first time, how to avoid adding stuff that nobody really cares for and to get only what the customer really wants. It helps to avoid making expenses for the superfluous. Which then obviously leads to a way lower cost of the product – and to faster delivery too-.
If we turn this thinking around, we clearly see that trying to deliver fast, forces all suppliers to get good at what they’re doing –and thus to lower the cost of the end product-. Every supplier who tells you otherwise, is actually saying that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. He may occasionally hit the hot spot, but won’t know how to repeat that trick. And that’s good to remember when we have to deal with them.