Lean Sales is a Learning Process, not a Teaching Process


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Every act of your Lean sales process is a learning process. This is why Lean works in development, aka Lean StartupTM, why Lean works in operations and why Lean works in sales. I have no idea why process consultants continue to try to force fit Lean into the sales and marketing process from a standpoint of waste reduction. Process methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma worked based on making things better, faster and cheaper. It was how value was determined in the 90’s or in a Goods-Dominant logic (GD Logic) world. We still had economies based on excess demand.

Things have changed, we have excess supply, and though we have not completely expelled GD Logic, Service-Dominant Logic (SD Logic) is becoming more prevalent. Even if you argue this point, it is hard to consider that the process methodologies are as prevalent in today’s world, which is a world, that is becoming more digital every day. Lean has survived this change, not because of being a superior waste reduction methodology but because of its foundational principles of being a learning process. The continuous improvement cycle of PDCA, in my humble opinion, is the culture of Lean. It also happens to be one of the two pillars that we discuss in Lean, the other pillar “Respect for People” being of equal stature and importance.

As we have seen this shift of value, the old saying “value is what a customer will pay for” also has limited meaning. That saying fit when value was determined at a point of transaction. Value is still determined by many from a functional standpoint, but the components of social and emotional are more relevant than ever. This trilogy of value is determined at the point of use which is a foundational principle of SD Logic.

The Lean mindset was first introduced to companies through the eyes of operations or an internal perspective. Gemba was considered as an internal term to make operations more effective. The point of use or in Lean terms, Gemba was seldom viewed at the point of use of the customer. It is at this external Gemba that Lean can shine as a learning process. However, it is not in the tradition role of shedding your expertise and teaching your customer what he doesn’t know. That is back to the GD Logic world that you are smarter than your customer. In the SD Logic world, it is the contention that the collaborative effort between the customer, the supplier and the product/service that is put into use is where the expertise is co-created. 

This is why the Lean Startup, Service Design and Design Thinking have received so much support. The Lean Startup calls this Product/Market fit. I think Service Design and Design Thinking looks at it slightly different and considers the process in terms of empathy. I am not discussing empathy from a point of sympathy but from a point of understanding.

When we utilize the traditional cycle of PDCA, we start with Plan. We form a hypothesis of what we need to do. We assume the role of a teacher or revert to GD Logic. If we utilize the CAP-Do, we start with Check or understanding. We look to uncover common intent while stopping and listening to others. This point of understanding and SD Logic is best implemented through the CAP-Do cycle.

More information on CAP-Do is contained in this blog post, Lean Marketing Conversation Infographic with CAP Do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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