||This article's introduction section may not adequately summarize its contents. (July 2014)|
Lean enterprise is a practice focused on value creation for the end customer with minimal waste and processes. The term Lean Enterprise historically has been associated with Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma (or Lean Six Sigma) due to lean principles being popularized by Toyota in the automobile manufacturing industry and subsequently the electronics and internet software industries.
Principles & Variants
- Value: Understand clearly what value the customer wants for the product or service.
- Value Stream: The entire flow of a product's or service's life cycle. In other words from raw materials, production of the product or service, customer delivery, customer use, and final disposal.
- Flow: Keep the value stream moving. If it's not moving, it's creating waste and less value for the customer.
- Pull: Do not make anything until the customer orders it.
- Perfection: Systematically and continuously remove root causes of poor quality from production processes.
- Non-Utilized Talent
- Eliminate wasteful practices
- Increase value producing practices
- Customer feedback during product development
- Build what customers want
- Continuous deployment process
Early 1900s: Ford, GM & Toyota Systems
Henry Ford developed a process called Assembly line production. This is a manufacturing process in which parts are added as the assembly moves from work station to work station where parts are added in sequence until final assembly is produced.
Alfred Sloan of General Motors further developed the concept of assembly line production by building a process called Mass production that allowed scale and variety. This process enabled large amounts of standardized products to run through assembly lines while still being able to produce more variety and compete against Ford's single offering.
Kiichiro Toyoda studied the Ford production system and adapted the process in order to have smaller production quantities. He built a production system called Just-in-Time for Toyota along with Taichi Ohno. It's worth noting too that Kaizen, the process of continuous improvement, was developed in the 1950s by Eiji Toyoda along with the Toyota Production System. 
1980s & 1990s: Motorola
New innovations in lean enterprise moved away from machine technology to electronic technology.
Another development was management techniques from Motorola commonly referred to as Six Sigma. This management technique was build off of mass production principles with more focus on minimizing variability. Applying Six Sigma principles led to reduced cycle time, reduced pollution, reduce costs, increased customer satisfaction, and increased profits.
1990s & 2000s: Internet Companies
New innovations in lean enterprise moved away from electronic manufacturing to internet and software technology. Before, during, and after the Dotcom boom, internet and software enterprises originally did not place emphasis on lean enterprise principles for efficient usage and allocation of capital and labor due to accessible funds from venture capital and capital markets. The idea of "build it and they will come" became common practice as a result.
After the Dotcom boom, inspired by the Agile Manifesto, internet and software companies began operating under agile software development practices such as Extreme programming. Along with the agile software movement, companies (especially startups) applied both lean enterprise and agile software principles together in order to develop new products or even new companies more efficiently and based on validated customer demand. Very early practices of lean enterprise and agile software principles was commonly referred to as Lean startup.
After 2010, more and more enterprises are adopting this new branch of lean enterprise (Lean startup) since it provides principles and methodologies for non-internet enterprises to enter in new markets or offer goods and services in new form factors with less time, labor, and capital. For internet and software enterprises (by tradition), the Lean startup variant of lean enterprise enabled them to remain competitive with new technologies and services that are rapidly coming out to market without exclusively resorting to Mergers and acquisitions, and being able to retain internal innovation ecosystem competency.
- Maskell - The Principles of Lean Manufacturing
- James Womack & Daniel Jones - Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth In Your Corporation
- History.com - Moving Assembly Line at Ford
- Stephen Meyer - The Degradation of Work Revisited: Workers and Technology in the American Auto Industry, 1900-2000
- Ronald M. Becker - Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System
- Six Sigma Institute - History of Six Sigma at Motorola
- KQED - Inside the dotcom IPO game
- Kent Beck et al. - History: The Agile Manifesto
- Inc. - Creating the Lean Startup
- Tristan Kromer - Lean Enterprise & Innovation Ecosystems
- Brad Power - How GE Applies Lean Startup Practices
- Bruce Upbin - How Intuit Is Applying Lean Startup And Design Thinking Principles