Click To Side-Menu

Who is the Customer?

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. – Masanobu Fukuoka

As we’ll discover shortly, a key concept in Lean is creating value from the perspective of the customer. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to determine who the actual customer is. Consider a company that manufactures components for a medical device. Is the customer the patient that ultimately uses the device or the doctor that prescribes it? The hospital that procures it or thecompany that assembles it? The insurance company that pays for it? How about the employees making a living by manufacturing the component?

The correct answer could be any one of these, depending on the context. With Lean, our initial focus is on the next downstream customer, so for the component manufacturer, the customer would be the company that assembles the device. As organizations move further along in a Lean transformation, though, they look at the value creation process throughout the entire supply chain, from their suppliers to the end customers. The most advanced organizations also include their employees.

For the purposes of this book, I’d like you to think of your team and yourself as the customer. We often focus so much on others that we forget to take care of ourselves.