Lean, applied to your (mean) global content machine
“Lean”. A trendy buzzword recently. Everyone and their mother seem to try on being “lean”, as if it were a new pair of shoes that you try on in a boutique (and, in many cases, never buy in the end). Yet, what does “lean” actually mean? Specifically, how does it apply to those of us in the realm of global content – be it marketing or technical or legal, in Latvian, English, Arabic, or Norwegian? Or, perhaps, even in all those languages at once? (in which case, do we automatically qualify as being L.E.A.N.? 🙂 Let me share a story that might be helpful to understand one of many original Lean quality management techniques called Value Stream Mapping, and suggest how to fit it into our world.
Customer Value-Add, Business Value-Add, and Non Value-Add
Imagine you’re in a bookstore. A traditional, brick-and-mortar bookstore. You’re strolling around the store without any particular need, just looking at the shelves randomly. Then a particular magazine catches your eye.
It’s an old-school magazine – not the fancy digital kind that you can keep on your tablet by the dozen nowadays. No, it’s a magazine that’s thick, heavy, printed on glossy paper, fresh off the press, with a faint smell still radiating from its pages. Intrigued by a catchy headline, you take the magazine off the shelf and start flipping the pages.
First thing you see: a huge ad taking the entire double-page spread. It’s an ad for a new sports car from a globally famous brand. You don’t really care much for fancy sports cars, but at this point, you’re probably OK with seeing that ad. You realize: ads help keep the magazine running by helping the publisher pay their bills.
That’s exactly what Lean calls “Business Value-Add”, or BVA. That is, activities that aren’t directly bringing any benefit to the customer, but that are essential to keeping the overall business processes operating smoothly. Take them away, and things will inevitably fall apart – the product might never even make it to the customer.
You continue flipping through the magazine pages. More ads, large and small, greet you on each spread. You slowly start to get frustrated. It takes you 7 flips before you get to the headline article. “Aha!”, you say to yourself. “Finally, found it!” You start reading, and it turns out to be quite interesting indeed… now why didn’t I ever think about this idea before… hmm… hmm…
You return to reality only after another visitor accidentally bumping into you. “Sorry!” Taking a look at your watch, you realize that 10 minutes have flown by while you were absorbed by the article, and you’re already running late for your dentist appointment. But boy that sure was a good read! You make a mental note to look for this author online. Perhaps she has a blog I can subscribe to?