The Lean MSP: What does Lean actually look like?

BY IT GLUE | October 31, 2017

Last spring, we ran a series of blog posts about where we adapted the Lean philosophy to the MSP context. That series, and the e-book that went along with it, provided a powerful high-level overview of the concept, some food for thought to get you started. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be running a follow-up series, where we get into the nuts and bolts of transforming your MSP into a Lean MSP. This week we will show you what lean actually looks like, to give you a sense of what it will look like when your MSP adopts lean philosophy.One of the important aspects to Lean is to understand the key elements of the process. There are basically three parts: defining metrics, brainstorming solutions, and trial & error. During the early stages where you’re introducing lean, your team will find a lot of waste, but you won’t be able to solve everything at once, so you’ll need to set priorities. That starts with metrics.

Defining Metrics

Lean forces you to understand your business exceptionally well. Start with some of your KPIs. Find KPIs where your performance has been better in the past, or where you feel that competitors are doing better. To prioritize, build a pro forma income statement to serve as a sandbox. Change some of the KPIs and see what happens to the bottom line – some will be more impactful than others. Start with the KPIs that have the most impact, and target those for improvement via waste reduction.


Let’s say you’ve identified the average time to onboard a new tech as a key KPI that you want to improve on. Get your team together in a room and brainstorm some possible solutions. Include people from all levels – some of your front-line workers have the best insights into wasteful practices and processes, so make sure to include them at this stage. Lean isn’t about managers solving problems; it’s about everybody solving problems. To truly break down existing hierarchies and organizational inertia, cross-functional teams are frequently recommended in lean literature.

You may wish to check out a resource on brainstorming if it’s not something you normally do. Get some ideas on the table, and then work through them for the one that seems like the best, and implement it.

Trial and Error

This goes back to metrics. Once you’ve decided what solution you’re going to implement, you want to make sure that it’s actually working. So you measure the results. If the first solution doesn’t have the desired effect, then you’ll have to think about whether you want to try a different solution, or focus on a different form of waste. Just be realistic – you want to have success with each initiative, but it might take a few tries to really get good at identifying the biggest forms of waste and the best approaches to fixing them. As long as you’re measuring so that you have full visibility on the results, failure isn’t the end of the world, but rather an opportunity to learn and get better.

Next week, we’ll outline the steps to a successful launch of lean. Until then, if you haven’t seen the Lean MSP e-book, we recommend downloading that.

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