Lean isn’t just for manufacturing processes on the shop floor. Back-office operations also can benefit greatly from lean techniques.
Breaking down departmental barriers is crucial to developing lean operations throughout an entire organization.
According to an article on the IndustryWeek website, a lot can be gained from employees having an awareness of how their actions affect co-workers in other divisions. An end-to-end approach to improving value chains is a critical lean principle.
Workers in each step along the process must assume ownership of their work to root out inefficiencies and cut waste. Adopt a holistic approach to problem-solving, rather than take on projects within departments.
“Problems are treated as opportunities to improve, and people are empowered to cooperatively resolve issues and make the workflows more efficient. In this way, lean encourages communication and problem-solving,” the article notes.
There’s a misconception that finance and accounting can’t benefit from the lean techniques of the shop floor. It’s not as though back-office operations are the same as the traditional environment in which lean principles evolved. But improvements to productivity and quality can reach beyond the factory.
Finance and accounting — along with the front office and sales — tend to think that they’re all working on different tasks throughout the day. But you’ll often find that there are common patterns of work that must be accomplished that can be standardized and improved. Sometimes it’s as simple as how they handle the approval process for journal entries.
The key is to not become overwhelmed by deciding to make sweeping changes all at once. Start small, keep going, and get into a cycle of continuous learning and improving.
Remember that the main idea behind implementing lean processes is to get a group of smart people together to decide how to create a world-class process. Then turn to technology to automate the process and make it even better. That’s what lean is all about, and when implemented properly, lean processes can significantly improve finance and accounting functions.
Source: IndustryWeek, November 2013