What are the 5 Phases of Lean Deployment?

What are the 5 Phases of Lean Deployment?

By: Jim Gitney   |     January 16, 2023

Lean Deployment is the implementation of a prescribed set of Lean Principles throughout a business and the engagement of all stakeholders (employees, vendors, temps, contract workers, 3rd party providers and customers) in that deployment. Lean Principles are a set of guidelines and best practices for optimizing the efficiency and effectiveness of processes in business and manufacturing.

The principles of lean include:

  1. Identifying and understanding value from the customer’s perspective.
  2. Creating flow in the process by eliminating bottlenecks and delays.
  3. Building in quality from the start, through continuous improvement and testing.
  4. Creating a culture of continuous learning and experimentation.
  5. Establishing a pull-based system where production is driven by actual customer demand.
  6. Pursuing perfection by constantly looking for ways to eliminate waste and improve efficiency.

The goal of Lean is to create more value for customers with fewer resources. The 5 Phases of Lean Deployment provides organizations who are looking to become world-class leaders in their industry a roadmap for optimizing their business using lean principles.

In such an undertaking, company’s want to make sure that the Lean Deployment is properly focused on the requirements of the future state of the business. It is usually easy to establish the “what” which can be guided by Level 1 of Group50’s Business Hierarchy of Needs® as shown below:

  1. Objectives we want to meet:
    1. The company’s Most Important Goal
    2. Strategic Objectives
  2. Issues we want to address.
    1. Operational gaps
    2. Strategic gaps
    3. Organizational gaps
  3. Create more value for customers with fewer resources.
  4. Lowering cost
  5. Meeting regulatory requirements
  6. Others

Levels 2 and 3 of the Business Hierarchy of Needs® provide more insight to the “how”:

  1. Change culture.
  2. Achieving goals and objectives.
  3. Engaging all stakeholders
  4. Improving skills and leadership capabilities.
  5. Meeting KPI’s and other measures.
  6. Team optimization.
  7. A Continuous Improvement mindset

For those that choose Lean Deployment, the following 5 Phases, which follow the DMAIC process, are required:

  • Phase 1 – Exploration
  • Phase 2 – Establishing the Foundation
  • Phase 3 – Expansion and Focus
  • Phase 4 – Integration and Reinforcement
  • Phase 5 – Reinforcement and Momentum

We have specifically designed these phases to guide an organization through the development and implementation of a successful Lean program. They serve as a valuable tool for identifying potential obstacles in advance and setting expectations that enable leaders to anticipate and effectively navigate the Lean Deployment process.

A Lean Deployment plan needs to satisfy the following considerations:

  1. Education: Stakeholders (including Leadership) need to understand Lean. Most companies start with a Lean Assessment to quickly build a case for the Lean journey. Group50® has a Lean Business Assessment and a Lean Manufacturing Assessment that provides leadership with a clear understanding of its current state, strengths, opportunities for improvements, and helps outline a lean deployment program. There are additional ways to educate stake holders which include reading books, attending Lean conferences, and benchmarking with others who have successfully implemented Lean Programs in their organizations. The appropriate education will provide insight to “what is in it for me” at all levels of the organization.
  2. Application: Lean Deployment requires an application strategy for various Lean tools, that starts small and becomes more complex as Lean is accepted throughout the organization. Initial and simple applications in various parts of the organization should lead to early success and build confidence in the Lean process. Wherever you decide to do the first implementation(s), make sure that it is focused on a strategic need that has good visibility up and down the organization.  Activities such as Kaizen, Value Stream Mapping and the Brown Paper Exercise are great ways to achieve this. They are easy to learn and yield immediate results. The proper deployment will build confidence, success and early momentum, in large part because employees will start to see how their own participation helps shape the process, instilling in them a sense of ownership.
  3. Communication and Continuing Education: Formal and informal communication is essential to making all levels of the organization aware that Lean is coming and its status. Communication should focus on mitigating rumors and fear about change in the organization and emphasize the positives of change. There should be a Level appropriate education plan that delivers JIT training to people in the organization as they become ready to apply Lean principles.
  4. Lean Infrastructure: In a typical Lean Deployment, when the organization is fully committed to the Lean journey, they will begin the journey with one or two leaders, a senior person at the company and a Lean champion to build bench strength. As the deployment matures, the infrastructure will grow, but it is important to remember that Lean is owned by everyone and not by a specific group. When we talk about infrastructure, we are speaking about capable stakeholders and not about unique standalone functional groups which would be counter to Lean logic.
  5. Time frame: In general, the Lean journey takes quite a while to complete, and organizations should be patient. Lag time in this process might result in a loss of confidence and trust of the organization and its stakeholders. Companies that take too long historically lack the visionary leadership that’s required to implement true change. We typically recommend that a deployment starts with small projects in each functional area, demonstrating results and expanding the knowledge base throughout the organization. This sets the stage for buy-in and Lean expertise that can be applied to more complex cross functional projects as the deployment expands.
  6. Tools and Methods: Training on Lean tools and methods should be delivered just in time and used on specific projects. Some of the tools that can be used at this stage include 5S, Kaizen, DMAIC, Kanban, Value Stream Mapping and many others. Note, however, tools are only as good as the planning and execution.  Improper or inadequate planning and/or execution will result in ineffective implementation.  For example, without first educating the team, a Kanban deployment may fail due to a lack of understanding. This is why the proper methodology is important: learn, apply and reflect.
  7. Results:  Lean Deployments are about planning, learning and results. A well defined deployment will include projects (small at first and growing larger as time progresses) with specific objectives and expected results that are reported to leadership. This keeps everyone on track and demonstrates value creation. 

A Lean Deployment throughout an organization requires a methodical approach that includes education and planning.  Done incorrectly, a Lean Deployment will be just another flavor of the month casualty that will not move the strategic needle forward.  That is why many companies choose to work with a Lean expert to help with the development of a business case for Lean and to help guide its Lean Deployment.

At Group50® Consulting, we are committed to help you build the business case for a business wide approach to Lean and to its effective deployment. You can talk to a Lean Business or Lean Manufacturing expert by sending a note to, calling (909) 949-9083 or requesting more information here.



About the Author:  Jim Gitney is the CEO and Founder of Group50® Consulting, and the author of “Strategy Realized – The Business Hierarchy of Needs®” which summarizes a framework for creating a successful Lean Deployment strategy and demonstrates the results of Value Stream Mapping and the Brown Paper Exercise successfully (You can find out more about the book and acquire a copy by clicking on the image to the right).

Founded in 2004, Group50®consulting is focused on working with middle market companies to significantly improve their productivity by leveraging peopleprocess and technology as part of a company’s strategic plan. Lean Business, Lean Manufacturing, business process improvement and process reengineering are Group50® specialties. Group50® consists of consultants who have spent their careers in corporate America learning how to optimize businesses.  We specialize in working with senior leaders to develop and implement programs that leverage people, process and technology to optimize business performance.

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This entry was posted in Continuous Improvement, Strategy 5.0, Supply Chain Optimization, Value stream mapping, on January 16, 2023

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Strategy Realized – The Business Hierarchy of Needs


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