Communication and language are messy subjects.

While traveling, have you ever ordered a soft drink at a restaurant? Did you order pop, a soda, or a Coke? Are they the same or different drinks? Apparently, it depends mostly on where you’re from—and where you are now.

An elementary English teacher pointed out: Laid is pronounced like paid, but not said. And said is pronounced like bread but not bead—and bead is pronounced like lead, but not lead. That’s difficult to follow, isn’t it?

Learning the lean vocabularyOrganizational language differences.

Just like every region of the U.S. speaks a little differently than another, every company and industry has a dialect, language, and symbols as unique as the products or services they provide. For example, doctors, lawyers, plumbers and others all have specific terminology unique to their profession. They use common and other not-so-common terms that are specific to their industry to create understanding and a sense of community within their individual organizational structures.

Good communication is vital at work—and usually taken for granted that everyone understands what is being said. George Bernard Shaw famously said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Effective communication is so critical to the efficient functioning of an organization and satisfaction of employees that it has been called the building block of an organization.

Developing a common language is not as easy as it seems.

Communication becomes much more efficient if everyone in a company is up to speed with the shared language used by the industry and within the company. However, a lack of understanding can result in confusion and mistakes.

Words and phrases unique a Lean organization need to be identified and their meaning and usage defined. The new words and phrases need to be used appropriately in all company communications and documents. A common language assures that all members of the organization understand expectations.

Learning and speaking in the Language of Continuous Improvement.

Part of developing a culture is learning to speak a common language.  Developing a lean culture requires that everyone in the organization understand and use the same lean vocabulary. Following, are common words used in a lean organization:

Projects An individual or collaborative activity that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.
Improvement Project A project assigned to a project leader for the purposes of improving an existing process,  developing a new one, or solving a problem.
Goals Something you want to accomplish aka Objective
Metric Something we can measure (see KPI)
KPI Key Performance Indicator (see metric)
Project Leader A person who takes responsibility for an improvement project.
Team Member

A person involved with an improvement project, other than the team leader.

True North

A term used to refer to a future aspirational or ideal state. Similar to a mission statement, can be aspirational. Used as the basis for driving improvement projects and goals.

Standards / Standard Work The current set of best practices for a particular function or job.
Lean Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer costs
Gemba Where the work gets done.
Kaizen A Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc.
Kaizen Event

Kaizen events are short duration improvement projects with a specific aim for improvement; typically they are week long events led by a facilitator with the implementation team being predominantly members of the area in which the kaizen event is being conducted plus a few additional people from support areas.

Standard Work Detailed definition of the most efficient method to produce a product (or perform a service) at a balanced flow to achieve a desired output rate. It breaks down the work into elements, which are sequenced, organized and repeatedly followed.
Leader Standard Work A set of standard activities that are accepted as best practices for  leaders to sustain a Lean/ Continuous Improvement culture.
Project Benefits Specific quantifiable results which can be predicted (planned benefits) and then measured after a project is completed. (actual benefits).

Control / In Control

When a given process is operating within the accepted or established limits. A given process should have a range of acceptable results. If the results are within the range, then the process is “in Control”

Out of Control

When a process has results that are outside of the range of acceptable results.

Visual Management

Pictures say more than words. Display target conditions, pictures we use to guide our work. Traffic light is a good example.