About Lean Certification
Any product and service company that falls within the scope of the Lean Audit can be measured and certified in Lean. Becoming “Lean Certified” involves passing a physical certification audit by a certifying agency such as Leanmap. But why would any company want to be certified? Lean standards offer the strategic tools and guidelines companies need to tackle some of the most demanding challenges of modern business. Lean standards ensure that businesses operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. They increase productivity and help companies capture new customers and access new markets using strategies and techniques such as end-to-end flow and just-in-time delivery performance.
Benefits of Certification
Certified companies at Silver level and above have the structures and processes in place to ensure work is done right first time every time, thus enabling a more efficient operation in a more effective configuration. Those companies understand that delivering quality products and services at the pace of demand increases customer satisfaction and makes customers desire more. Companies use their lean certification as a marketing tool to promote a customer-centric mode of operation to end-users, and their value-driven management philosophy to investors. This makes it more likely that third parties will engage a lean-certified company than one lacking certification. Inside the organization, across all levels and functions, becoming certified to lean standards raises awareness among employees and motivates them to apply the principles in the areas they are responsible for, building the foundational skills that enable systematic, continual improvement. And, of course, one of the most compelling benefits of adopting lean strategies as a consequence of the Lean Audit is that reducing waste and increasing productivity leads to greater profits for certified companies.
Certification requires at least two measurements to confirm that the audited organization has truly achieved the level of maturity as assessed by the Lean Audit score. The certification process is an extension of the auditing process, which provides both the baseline and subsequent progress measurements.
How does this work in practice?
Suppose an organization measures 2.7 on the first assessment. This initial measurement does not warrant a certificate; rather, it establishes the baseline for a certificate. Several months later, the audit is repeated to determine progress relative to the baseline. For example, the team was able to “move the needle” post-audit by +0.4 to 3.1 on the maturity scale, which justifies awarding a Silver certificate.
Step 1-4: Assessment
The first four steps are identical to the auditing process (for details see Benchmarking), which does nothing more than establishes the baseline of maturity, balance, and agility. Once progress is confirmed and a new level of maturity has been achieved, the company is ready for the next step.
Step 5: Certification
After the progress measurement is established, the team compares it against the goal they have defined during the previous audit. Two things must occur for certification: (1) the target maturity has been attained at (2) an advancement rate of +0.15 per year or higher. When certification occurs, the event should be formally communicated and celebrated in the same (or similar) fashion that a company celebrates when they meet a significant financial goal or capture a new valued client. Why celebrate? Because more mature companies do better than less mature ones, so an improving score in the Lean Audit—along with certification—suggest better operating results in the near future. Tracking maturity is like tracking atmospheric pressure with a barometer: it provides a clear indication of improving weather. Maturity gain, as established by the 20 Keys, is therefore a leading indicator that complements financial reports in an ideal way because they are comprised solely of lagging indicators. What does this mean? If a company makes fundamental changes to its setup or structure affecting capability, it will quickly be reflected in the maturity score, but it may take months or years for it to affect financial reports. The 20 Keys are therefore a kind of weather forecast for future operating performance.
So, what can you do with this certification?
You can use your lean-certified status in your marketing. The fact that you measure your performance shows that you care about quality and customer service. This alone will differentiate you from many competitors, and will reflect your image in a positive fashion. Your capabilities, your management system, and its processes have been certified to the standard of Lean Manufacturing or Lean Service. You can also use the certificate as an acknowledgment of what has been achieved to date. Like a compass, it guides you to the next phase of the journey. It motivates people to continue building the capabilities (the 20 Keys) that move you closer to world-class.
What can’t you do?
You can’t use or modify the Leanmap logo (sigma), as it is the Leanmap brand and intellectual property. You can’t say “Lean certified”; you must spell out the level and scope, e.g. “Lean Manufacturing, Level 3.0 (Silver) for Bronsfield Industries Inc, Dorado location”. Make sure that your description properly depicts your certified activities and geographic location. The stamp of “Lean” certifies a level of maturity relative to established benchmarks; it can’t be listed on your products or used in literature to imply product certification, as it certifies a level of maturity that does not warrant a certain outcome for customers. It’s like the multiple choice test at a driving school attests a level of proficiency; it does not indicate how well someone can drive a car.
When to Issue a Certificate
In the Olympics, only the top three levels—Bronze, Silver, and Gold—are acknowledged. And if your organization were like most others, starting at 2.5 and leveling off around 3.5 in maturity, you’d only have one chance in your company’s life cycle to celebrate—the Silver certification at level 3.0. Acknowledging only full levels (2.0, 3.0, and 4.0) would be too infrequent to keep people interested in the journey. What works better is celebrating smaller steps, so we use every quarter-point. If your company has great ambitions but is also limited in capability or is constrained in resources, the advancement rate will be less than world-class, for example 50% of the benchmark rate or +0.25 points per year. Getting a new, updated certificate for every quarter-point gained would mean that your company receives a formal evaluation with positive feedback once a year—moving from Silver* (3.25) to Silver** (3.50) for example. Such positive feedback keeps people engaged and motivated, which in turn prompts them to expend a little more effort, moving the company forward by a small step, every single day.
If you have taken the time to read this article, you are obviously concerned about improving performance. To learn more about improving operations, attend one of our latest Lean Seminars. For readers like you we have compiled the key success factors that differentiate leading organizations from average performers in the bookLean Audit, some of which go beyond basic business. The next step is simple: contact us. Allow us to guide you on your journey to World Class. We look forward to speaking with you. If you want to start this process on your own, we have made the tools and templates available. Take the audit online or download the tools and look them over at your leisure. Or drop us a line. We are glad to hear from you.