5 Lean Principles

Understanding Lean Principles

The 5 Lean Principles are guiding points for correctly implementing Lean.

These 5 principles are:

  1. Establish Value
  2. Map Value Stream
  3. Establish Pull
  4. Create Flow
  5. Pursue Perfection

In this article, we’ll take a look at how each principle works and how it can benefit your business. We will also give you pointers on getting started with Lean principles.

The 5 Principles of Lean

Covered in This Article


A Quick Note About Lean…


Lean enables you to work more efficiently on an individual, team, and organisational level.

The goal of Lean is to eliminate waste from processes, resulting in higher levels of productivity, streamlined processes, a more cohesive, motivated team, and sustainable savings.

Correct application of the 5 principles of Lean enables you to achieve these benefits.

Want to know more about Lean and how it works?


Download our Essential PDF Guide to Lean or take a look at our article, “What is Lean Six Sigma?”. This article will take you through the origins and main characteristics of Lean. It also looks at Six Sigma, a methodology regularly combined with Lean.

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Where do the 5 Lean Principles come from?


James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, founders of the Lean Enterprise Institute championed the 5 Principles of Lean in their books “The Machine that Changed the World” (1990, with Daniel Roos) and “Lean Thinking” (1996, and second edition 2003).

The DMAIC Cycle

5 Cleverly Sequenced Principles


You’ll notice that some of these principles line up quite nicely with the stages of the DMAIC Cycle, which is at the heart of how Lean works.

You’ll also find that they run in sequence. This is important, as to gain maximum effect from the process improvement techniques of Lean, you will need to apply the principles at every step of the way.

Product or Service?

Although, like Lean itself, these principles originate from a manufacturing mindset, they are equally relevant in all sectors and areas of business and industry.

To keep things simple, we’ll use the word “product” as we discuss the 5 principles. However, you can interchange it with the words “service” in every instance, as the following 5 principles apply just as much to services too.

The 5 Principles of Lean Explained


1. Establish Value


Begin by looking at a product and asking yourself, “what value does this provide, and to whom?”.

Look at your product from the perspective of the customer or end user. What are the benefits they receive by using it? What is the unique value of this product?
Establish Value

2. Map Value Stream


Once you know what value is provided, the next step is to begin looking at what’s involved in creating your end product. What are the steps in the process?

It’s worth taking plenty of time with Value Stream Mapping, as this is one of the most valuable tools in a lean practitioner’s kit. Leave nothing out as you map the journey of a product from start to finish.
Map Value Stream

3. Create Flow


Armed with your Value Stream Map, you can now begin to analyse the process or journey of your product from start to finish.

Use your Lean tools (more on how to acquire these tools below in "Applying Lean Principles in Real Life") to evaluate all stages involved. Begin to assess what’s truly necessary to achieve the end goal (the value), what could be streamlined, and what’s just causing wasted resources, time and money.
Create Flow

4. Establish Pull


This one’s all about timing, strategic thinking, and understanding the customer’s needs. Establishing pull relates to meeting demand.

Knowing when your customer will need your product enables you to time production in-line with those needs.
Establish Pull

5. Pursue Perfection


Bringing home one of the key elements of lean thinking, pursuing perfection is focused on continuous improvement.

No matter how well your processes are working, there is always room for improvement. Anyone who wants to “be more lean” must always be ready to start the cycle all over again.

Return to the principles of establishing value, mapping out the processes, and identifying areas for improvement.
Pursue Perfection
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Applying Lean Principles in Real Life

How can I apply Lean Principles and Lean Thinking to my work?


Reading through the principles above will no doubt illustrate how beneficial lean can be for any business.

The crucial factor in getting started on implementing the 5 Lean Principles is acquiring the skills to do so. Training is the most effective and efficient way to do this.

Lean Training for Individuals


Our 5-day Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course is ideal for those who want to get started fast. This course covers each step of the DMAIC Cycle, giving you the tools and techniques you need to implement each stage.

You can instantly view and download our PDF brochure for this course below, or click “Reserve My Place” to view upcoming dates and save your spot.

Lean Training for Teams & Businesses


If you want to train an entire team or department in Lean and begin introducing a Lean culture to your organisation, we can provide a tailored solution for your business.

Get in touch with us by requesting a quote or call back below. We can discuss your training goals and develop a streamlined solution for your business.


Ask us anything about lean training, either for yourself or your team by calling our training consultants on Freephone 1800 910 810 or by Asking Us a Quick Question.



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