Lean is about waste. Mainly about waste. Obsessive about waste.
Wastes are activities that carry costs without adding any value. Reducing wastes is turning these expenses into savings.
So far so good. Yet why doesn’t lean emphasize adding value instead?
Adding value means adding or improving something that customers will value and will be ready to pay for. It’s a real challenge because if such improvement or enrichment misses to convince the customers, the whole initiative is a waste. Adding value requires some ability to pick up the voice of customer and to design accordingly. This is a field devoted to marketing, design or R&D and their specialists.
Lean found its origins in Toyota’s workshops, where workers, techies and engineers had few if any opportunities to contribute to really add value. What they had plenty: wastes. That’s probably the reason why Lean practitioners concentrated on wastes and keep doing so. Furthermore, wastes are everywhere and waste elimination can be challenged by everybody.