Part of developing a continuous improvement culture is learning how to speak the common language of continuous improvement.  This requires that everyone in the organization understand and use the same lean vocabulary.

Organizational Language Can Have Differences

Just as many regions of the U.S. speak a little differently than another, every company and industry has a dialect, a language, and symbols as unique as the products or services they provide. For example, doctors, lawyers, plumbers and others all have specific terminology unique to their profession. They use common and other not-so-common terms that are specific to their industry to create understanding and a sense of community within their individual organizational structures.

Good communication is vital at work—and usually taken for granted that everyone understands what is being said. An effective common language of continuous improvement is critical to the functioning of an organization and satisfaction of employees that it has been called the building block of an organization.

Developing a common language is not as easy as it seems.

Communication becomes much more efficient if everyone in a company is up to speed with the shared language of continuous improvement. A lack of understanding can result in confusion and mistakes.

Words and phrases unique to a Lean organization need to be identified and their meaning and usage defined. The new words and phrases need to be used appropriately in all company communications and documents. A common language assures that all members of the organization understand expectations.

Learning and Speaking in the Language of Continuous Improvement.

Part of developing a culture is learning to speak a common language.  Developing a lean culture requires that everyone in the organization understand and use the same lean vocabulary. Following, are common words used in a lean organization:

Continuous Improvement Word Word Definition
Projects An individual or collaborative activity that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.
Improvement Project A project assigned to a project leader for the purposes of improving an existing process,  developing a new one, or solving a problem.
Goals Something you want to accomplish, aka Objective.
Metric Something we can measure (see KPI).
KPI Key Performance Indicator (see metric).
Project Leader A person who takes responsibility for an improvement project.
Team Member A person involved with an improvement project, other than the team leader.
True North A term used to refer to a future aspirational or ideal state. Similar to a mission statement, can be aspirational. Used as the basis for driving improvement projects and goals.
Standards The current set of best practices for a particular function or job.
Lean Creating more value for customers with fewer costs.
Gemba Where the work gets done.
Kaizen The Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc.
Kaizen Event Kaizen events are short duration improvement projects with a specific aim for improvement; typically they are week long events led by a facilitator with the implementation team being predominantly members of the area in which the kaizen event is being conducted plus a few additional people from support areas.
Standard Work Detailed definition of the most efficient method to produce a product (or perform a service) at a balanced flow to achieve a desired output rate. It breaks down the work into elements, which are sequenced, organized, and repeatedly followed.
Leader Standard Work A set of standard activities that are accepted as best practices for  leaders to sustain a Lean/ Continuous Improvement culture.
Project Benefits Specific quantifiable results which can be predicted (planned benefits) and then measured after a project is completed. (actual benefits).
Control / In Control When a given process is operating within the accepted or established limits. A given process should have a range of acceptable results. If the results are within the range, then the process is “in Control”
Out of Control When a process has results that are outside of the range of acceptable results.
Visual Management Pictures say more than words. Display target conditions, pictures we use to guide our work. Traffic light is a good example.