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Operational Excellence


Lean Terms and Definitions

(Excerpted from Value Solutions,

5S–A  solution for workplace organization and to facilitate standard work. In English, the rough 5 S translations are: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

5 Why's—The practice of asking ‘Why?’ repeatedly, in order to get to the root cause of ‘why’ the problem/failure occurred. The number of times is less important than reaching the true root cause. This is one of the simplest forms of Root Cause Analysis which is usually carried out by a team and is suitable if the problem can be solved by logic and first-hand knowledge, and when additional data analysis is not required.

8 Key Wastes—All waste can be classified into one of these categories:  Defects, Overproduction, Transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Motion, Processing, and Under-utilized employee talent. Overproduction was the main driving force for the Toyota just-in-time system and is always a good place to start.

30/60/90-Day Improvement Cycle—The planned progression of teams launched in F2, where teams develop Lean skills by practicing with a Kaizen improvement cycle focused on a process.  Leaders join the team at 30, 60 and 90 days, to reflect on progress and respond to issued escalated to them.

Escalation—Teams use this function to call for assistance from peers, leaders or technical experts by a visual means of identifying the request, usually on their team visual board.

F2—UW’s Finance & Facilities organization led by UW Senior Vice President V’Ella Warren.

Gemba—The specific cell or work area where the work in question is actually being done . It is always worthwhile and usually necessary to take the time to visit the actual work area as this is essential to truly see and understand the problem before accurate problem-solving and improvement can begin.

Kaizen—An improvement from the previous condition, which is usually incremental in scale. The key elements of Kaizen include a willingness to change, a focus on quality, team effort, and employee involvement.

Kaizen Event—An organized work session usually focusing on current- and future-state value-stream mapping, targeting a specific work area or problem with the purpose of not only identifying various opportunities and solutions, but also getting consensus around a plan for improvement. Kaizen events in Finance & Facilities are usually scheduled for 2.5 days.

Kanban—A card or other signal used to trigger an action, a needed material transfer or quantity of production.

Muda—The Japanese word for waste.

Mura—The Japanese word for inconsistency or variation.

One-piece Flow—A condition where each piece of work is handled sequentially in a process, without any waiting, interruptions, backup or batching. Stacks of paper or materials, or full in-boxes are symptoms of a lack of flow.

PDCA—Plan, Do, Check and Act (or Adjust). A cycle developed to carry out change in an organized manner, as well as the follow up and adjustments required to optimize use of resources and maximize results. This is another process with North American origins.

Pokayoke—A Japanese word that refers to a device or step that prevents the further processing of an error or defect. This is also known as mistake- or error-proofing.

Pull System—A system used to control movement and production in a process by only replacing what has been sold or used. This is the opposite of traditional front-end scheduling, or of a push system where a planner will determine what the initial operation will produce based on forecasts, and the downstream operations will process whatever they are given.

Standardized (or Standard) Work—The currently known best method for a particular task, which is documented in appropriate detail. A common misconception is that ‘standardized’ is also assumed to be permanent. This is not the case. Continuous improvement is always encouraged, once the current best method is understood and practiced in order to establish a stable foundation for further improvement.

Takt Time— “Takt" is the German word for the baton that a conductor uses to control the beat to which musicians play. In production, Takt Time is the ideal time to perform a process step, which is aligned with the actual pace of customer needs. In order to optimize resources (cost of inventory and labor), the product or service cycle time should be set as close to the Takt Time as possible.

Value Stream Mapping—A tool used to identify material and information flow as a product or service travels through a major process. It differs from traditional process maps in that it looks at the overall process from a higher level and includes a broader range of information. It is especially helpful for identifying cycle time, rework, variation, and other major opportunities.

Value-Added Activity—An activity that a customer is willing to pay for, which changes the characteristics of the product or service.






Visual Management (Visual Controls) - Visual management is a system where signs and displays (often using color coding) are used to indicate information (usually real time) about the status and performance of processes. A good set of visual controls will help make product flow, standards, schedules and problems instantly evident to workers and management.

Work Cell - A logical and productive layout for types of work, employees (specific skills and tasks),  equipment and information, which allows for the most efficient processing of a family of similar products or deliverables.