Let’s Start Talking about ‘Lean Thinking’ for Schools and Nonprofits

Recently I queued up The Lean Startup in my reading. The book provided a great explanation of the approach and history of “lean thinking.” Having been a student of Deming and Total Quality Management (TQM), I had some understanding of the work that has been done, but have not revisited the topic much over the past 20 years. Like many things, reading about this now could not have happened at a better time for our company.

Over the past five months we’ve been working on our brand, messaging, and visual design. Throughout this process we have been exposed to a new way of developing and collaborating. Thinking Lean has been a method of innovation, discovery, and problem solving that we’ve begun to incorporate into our process from sales to service delivery. It’s still very much in the early stages, but already we have much better alignment across our goals and initiatives, we’re creating more autonomy, and investing just enough in our goals and ideas to make improvements or change direction when needed. Taking everything into account I’m confident that as we grow past another milestone, we are headed in the direction of a less bureaucratic organization and one that is actually more agile than when we were half the size.

Discovering more about Lean thinking got my wheels turning – how could this approach help schools and nonprofits? These organizations are perpetually strapped for resources, yet have big ideas and monumental societal needs to address. Lean thinking could be a great way to develop education that involves families, communities, and schools. It could also foster changes that are lower cost but with much higher impact, and lead to less autocratic decision making.

Over the next few months, we’ll dig deeper and share some Lean thoughts, ideas, and practices that can benefit schools and nonprofits. If you are practicing this now at your organization, please let us know. We would be interested in collaborating with you and sharing ideas.