Article: How can Lean management increase HR’s efficiency?

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How can Lean management increase HR’s efficiency?

Lean management methodologies have been around for quite some time now. But a similar application of such principles can help HR improve its efficiency and deliver strong people results.
How can Lean management increase HR’s efficiency?

Lean methodologies of management focus on creating a culture of continuous improvements, enabling the different components of a department to function in an efficient manner. It also focuses on establishing connections with the various stakeholders to create a bottom top integration of information channels so that each part is connected in the process of decision making. This helps reduce the redundancies in the performance processes and the entire department is better synched to function better. 

The original application of the Lean approach was Toyota when it looked at increasing its manufacturing performance to have better market penetration during the 1950s. The term Lean thinking which captures the essence of the management system was coined by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones in their in-depth study of Toyota’s Production System. 

The principles of Lean Management are 

  • Focusing on effectively delivering value to your end users
  • Respecting and engaging the people
  • Ensuring inefficient processes are eliminated
  • Maintaining a constant Flow
  • Pull Through the System
  • Strive for Perfection 
  • These principles are derived from the basic insight of lean thinking that states that if every person is trained to identify wasted time and effort in their own job and to better work together to improve processes by eliminating such waste, the resulting enterprise will deliver more value at less expense while developing every employee’s confidence, competence and ability to work with others. This becomes a good practice for HR professionals to adapt today.


HR processes today are aimed to enhance organisational performance by ensuring employee performance, besides providing transactional HR management services and providing compliance service. Within each of these various heads, HR leaders today perform and execute various processes which are aimed at enhancing employee’s ability to contribute more. Lean principles of management become helpful here for HR professionals. By creating a culture of continuous improvement within itself, HR departments can ensure it people management processes keep updating themselves and eliminate ‘waste’

Lean’s approach to problem solving

The PDCA (or PDSA) Cycle is the Lean working structure –the system for executing Kaizen or the process of continuous improvement. The acronym stands for:

  • Plan.

    Create a plan for change, identifying specifically what you want to change. Define the steps you need to make the change, and predict the results of the change.

  • Do.

    Carry out the plan in a trial or test environment, on a small scale, under controlled conditions.

  • Check (or study).

    Examine the results of your trial. Verify that you’ve improved the process. If you have, consider implementing it on a broader scale. If you haven’t improved the process, go back and try again.

  • Act.

Implement the changes you’ve verified on a broader scale. Update the standard operating procedures.

By utilizing concept of Lean HR, HRM systems can be re-engineered and redesigned to identify bottlenecks and operations with little value to create a streamlined system of management and help run operations smoothly. Under Lean system of thinking, different components of the HR faculty can be developed in a manner that gives people running those portfolios the independence to make their process more efficient. This entails staying up to date with technological shifts within the industry and regular assessment to improve people management processes within the company.  

Utilizing Lean management principles would also help HR professionals to actively identify processes within their ambit so that can be automated. For example in case of employee management, processes like leave management, reimbursement claims, benefits administration and other similar processes will be actively automated in increase efficiency and reduce waste. Combining Lean principles with concepts like geotagging and social media features help HR professional in identifying and automating transactional processes. This provides HR professionals the bandwidth to focus more on developing softer skill sets of their employees to improve business productivity.  So instead of having a huge system of management, the processes are streamlined to increase efficiency to make HR an important business partner. And ensuring the culture reaches each corner fo HR functions enables HR professionals, from front line recruiters to L&D and Total Rewards head to follow an internal culture of improvement. By empowering themselves to continuously improve, HR professionals can create stronger people management processes which contribute to business growth. 

Topics: Strategic HR

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