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Applying lean principles to your finance team

In a series from Tessa Hebditch on how to enhance sustainability in finance using the Lean Way principles, part one is on overproduction: how to avoid waste.

8th Apr 2020
Owner Chickp
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Hand holding light bulb against nature on green leaf with icons energy sources for renewable, sustainable development.

More and more businesses are waking up to the fact that customers want sustainable products from sustainable companies. According to the Nielsen report, this includes everything from labour practices to the environmental impact of production.

So, what can the average company do to enhance their own sustainability? And why bother?

My company works with companies across the globe to embed lean processes and systems into their core, with an emphasis on improvements within finance teams.

We have noticed that a by-product of these projects is the improved sustainability of the company as a whole. Although sustainability has strong connotations with environmental performance, we believe it’s important to acknowledge the inclusion of the full triple-bottom-line; people, planet, profit.

The end customer

Overproduction, sometimes called over processing in service environments, is simply producing too much, too little, or ‘just-in-case’. It is well-known for being the most lethal of the ‘wastes’ because of the knock-on effect it has to other wastes. A waste is defined best by the Lean Way as “any action or step in a process that does not add value to the customer. In other words, waste is any process that the customer does not want to pay for”.

The finance team should be regarded as a service environment, there to serve the internal and external stakeholders (i.e. their direct customers) using data and information from their direct 'suppliers'.  

They should examine:

  • Customer
  • Supplier
  • finance team

The starting point for any lean analysis is to define what the customer wants, and not just your assumptions of what they want. Even when remotely looking at the finance team’s activities, consider the end customer. What would they be willing to pay for?

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