Join Nizek

Let's talk

What Is Lean Business Design? 7 Principles

read in Strategy

What is lean business design and why should you know all about it? Learn about lean business design with these principles.

Running a streamlined, efficient team is every business owner’s dream. Being able to maximize output and minimize waste is excellent for your company’s bottom line.

Now, you may think that’s just a pipe dream. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s possible. All it takes is a little bit of time, attention, and elbow grease.

Oh, and also some communication.

Lean business design is entirely achievable. You and your team no longer have to sit on the sidelines and say “must be nice to be that profitable”. And if you don’t know where to start, that’s ok too.

That’s what we’re here for. Today, we’re going to talk about the 7 most important principles to operate a lean business. We’re talking about operating a lean business the right way.

So, read along with us. By the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll have tons of golden nuggets to bring back to your team.  You guys will be operating better than ever before.

Let’s get to it!

Lean Business Definition

Most experts define lean business as maximizing profits and minimizing waste. The term “waste” can apply to many different sectors within your organization. It could be “waste” in terms of manhours and resources or it could be physical waste your development process creates.

Why is it important? Well, implementing a lean business plan helps your team to be more nimble, and more sustainable, and helps you to optimize the value you bring to your customers. As a byproduct, once you implement a lean business plan in your organization, you’ll begin to see your team reach their goals in new, creative ways.

Lean business is a concept that originated in the manufacturing industry. However, the principles hold across any industry in the market today. This is because the lean business framework operates off of only 7 principles. 

It doesn’t have a set of rules and regulations that are set in stone like other business structure methods. Let’s get into those principles now.

1. Optimize Your Whole Business Design

All businesses have a workflow process. This is the process that takes your product from step one to the hands of the customer. These activities and processes are vital to your business, and they’re even more vital to starting to run a lean business.

Your job as a lean business is to identify all of those important procedures that add value to your entire process. Some things may fall off, or become unnecessary, but there is a core group of steps or processes that allow your business to do what it does.

Even if certain things in your business are working, they need evaluation to get your business to run as lean as possible. During this step of the process, you and your team are looking at every single aspect of your business and saying “do we need it?” or “how do we do it better?”

2. Eliminate Waste

Again, when we refer to waste here, we’re not just talking about physical waste. And for a software company, it wouldn’t mean that anyway.

When you’re dealing with software product development teams, the waste comes in the form of wasted time, processes, and talent. There may be unnecessary steps in your workflow that have been there forever because “that’s how we’ve always done it”.

Maybe you have a task that’s always done by a team member but could be automated. This is the type of waste we’re talking about when we talk about information products.

Waste can also refer to unnecessary positions, departments, salaries, and people. Now, this is where things can get tricky. That’s why we lead off this article by saying we’re going to discuss lean business the right way.

If some positions and departments need to go, that’s fine. It just needs to be handled properly and communication is key. But, we’ll talk about that more later on.

3. Focus on Quality

A lot of companies end up being way bigger than they need to be because they don’t test quality until the end of their process. The result is that more team members need to be on staff to deal with failures, returns, and customer complaints.

To make your business lean, the product you deliver to the customer has to be as flawless as possible. Now, we realize no one can be perfect. But, making quality your mantra from start to finish will certainly help you.

Institute testing protocols throughout the software development process. There should be several points along the way where the software platform or app you’re working on should undergo testing. More testing during the process means fewer mistakes at the end.

Using this philosophy for mobile application testing translates to more value-added and happy customers.

4. Speed Up Delivery

This plays into the section above on quality. Lean businesses don’t focus on perfection. You’ll want to re-design your process to get your products out to the customer as quickly as possible.

This is why your quality testing is key. Yes, you want to deliver your product fast. But, you don’t want your product to be sloppy and barely usable.

Lean businesses will usually have several deliverables they send to a client throughout the process. That way the customer’s feedback is included in the production workflow from start to finish.

How does this help you? Well, looping the customers into the software development process in this way ensures that your customers are getting exactly what they want. And, since they are constantly being asked to review the product, any tweaks or changes they want to make can be made on the fly.

This only saves you and your team time in the long run.

5. Educate

Lean businesses will often hold workshops, send out educational materials, and hold regular meetings to promote education. You need to make sure your team members are learning all of the new information they need to be as successful and efficient as possible.

It’s your job as a lean business to constantly keep yourself and your team growing. Opportunities for education, training, and revisions to the process, should be shared with your team. Once a new process or method for doing one of the crucial tasks is learned, it must be taught to the whole team.

There are always new methods, new technologies, and new processes available to help your business grow. As the leader of your team, it’s important to stay on top of those opportunities and pass them down to your people.

Lean businesses view learning as a top priority.

6. Defer Commitment

One of the characteristics of the lean business model is delaying the decision-making process until as close to the end as possible. Now, this may seem like it’s lazy or like you’re sticking your head in the sand. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lean businesses need to operate this way. It helps them to maximize their corporate agility. It also helps them to make better decisions.

Waiting until the very end of the process allows lean business teams to make decisions with the most current, relevant information possible. 

Now, it’s important to note that you and your team shouldn’t be waiting until minutes before a customer’s deadline. Deferring commitment in a lean business should be done responsibly. It’s your job to defer your decision until the latest responsible time.

Leaving it to the exact last minute could result in a lot of unhappy customers. We don’t want that.

7. Treat People With Respect

This ties into what we said earlier about running the right type of lean business. Customers and employees need to receive equal respect.

Your job as a lean business is to create value. And to create value quickly. We understand that there can be stress and deadlines, but it’s important to keep a clear head.

Your team is the one that got you there. If things don’t go the right way, there’s no point in taking it out on them.

Part of leadership is ownership. If things aren’t going your way, or something within your system is failing, look in the mirror before pointing the finger. It’s never good business to get a reputation for being “difficult to work with” or not treating your employees well.

The best way to maximize value and productivity is to make your people want to work for you.

The same goes for if you have to automate a task or eliminate a department. It’s easy to remove something from your workflow and not think about the consequences to your employees. However, you must have a team-first mentality.

If you need to remove someone from the team in the interest of running a lean business, maybe see if you can relocate them before letting them go. At the end of the day, everybody is human and what goes around comes back around.

Lean Business the Right Way

We feel it’s important to expand upon having respect for your team when you’re running a lean business. People are your most valuable resource. Especially in the world of mobile application development.

Here are a few quick tips on how to maximize the respect you show your people in the workplace. 

1. Go Straight To The Source

If an incident happens, handle it directly. It’s easy to take someone’s head off or place the blame on them for a mistake just by reading a report. But, sometimes, there are circumstances you wouldn’t know about just from reading the report.

2. Listen

Listen to what’s going on with your team and stay connected to your employees. You never know what someone is going through. An employee may be frustrated because they feel they’re doing thankless tasks.

They may even be having more serious trouble at home. 

Listening means listening. If someone comes to you with a problem or they seem off, take the time to hear them out, reflect on what they say, and offer them a sincere solution.

3. Trust Your Team

In the corporate world, it’s become commonplace to shut down employees who attempt to present management with new techniques and ideas. The problem is that every time you say “no, can’t do that” to an employee, you’re chipping away at their self-confidence and their desire to work with you.

If an employee presents an idea that won’t hurt the company to try, tell them to go ahead and try it out. Even if it seems a little off the wall. As long as it’s not drastically hurting your process, the pros far outweigh the cons.

If it ends up not working, when they come back to you ask them how we can do it better. Give them the freedom to come up with solutions. Everybody will create more value and work better together when they’re allowed to operate up to their full potential.

Applying Lean Business to Your Business

How do you apply the lean business framework to your business? Great question.

A key element is to continuously evaluate and review your process. Regular meetings to determine if your team is more efficient are necessary to keep you on track. Part of making these meetings effective is having clear KPIs and metrics to measure your team’s performance.

You can’t go anywhere if you don’t know where you are currently. That’s why having good KPIs is so important. 

It also helps to map your process. This is a technique known as value stream mapping. Map every step of the process your team goes through to provide value to your customers.

From there you can take a bird’s eye view of your team, and see what’s necessary and what isn’t. How you can do things better and what isn’t necessary at all.

Staying Lean and Mean

Now you’ve got a great framework to build from for your new lean business design. You’ll want to implement these changes as soon as you can so your team can hit the ground running. Talk with your key players and get them involved in the process.

Making the rest of your team part of this process is going to ensure the best results.

If you want to put lean business to work for you with your app development team, contact us at any time. We’re more than happy to show you what we’re doing with our lean business framework and how we can add value to your app project.


Abdulaziz Aldhubaib

My expertise in digital transformation and agile processes helps people overcome technological barriers.

All author posts

Read more

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.