LeanScape Logo White


Making Things Flow in lean

Principle 2: Lean Flow | Learning to Make Process Flow | Principles of Lean


“Make a continuous process flow to surface issues”

A great example of the difference between batch and lean flow is when you imagine the difference between an elevator and an escalator.

In the elevator scenario, you press the button and wait for the lift. You are then joined in a queue by others who are also waiting for the lift. Then a few more arrive and a few more press the button just to be sure its working. Once the doors open, you stand to the side to let others out while trying to maintain the prime position to make sure you get in the lift. (Not in all countries!).

Once the elevator is empty, you and everyone else starts nudging to get your space, being as polite as possible. The conversation you were just having stops as too many others might now be listening.

Now that everyone has squeezed in, doors close after a couple of attempts, and then everyone patiently waits while it goes up. And then, in an ordered or unordered order, the batch of people pile out of the lift. Then the process starts again.

When you think about how much time you spent just “waiting” it may have been more than the actual time it took the lift to go up. Learn more about the 7 Lean Wastes

Now think about all the other people who took the escalator. One by one, they aligned themselves in an orderly file continually flowing forward towards the escalator. The people who are in a hurry go up the left side while everyone else stands still on the right. When they reach the top, they then walk off when the time is right, one by one. The batch was replaced by “lean flow”.

The key to creating lean continuous flow is trying to move things forward in the smallest batch continually. 

The benefits are that as soon as there is an issue and things stop to flow, they become visible. Cycle times also reduce as items go from start to end quicker with flow. There is now a visible sign of something going wrong. A pile of invoices not processed, an email box full and unread, a queue on the motorway or just everyone walking up the escalator.

And this is the same concept that can be used to battle procrastination and even creating a new idea, product, or service. Too often, we batch up every new idea in the hope that it will be perfect. We delay starting; we delay doing the first step until we feel like we know everything. This is the same as a batch. The flow version would tell us to start with the first action that helps us move towards where we think we want to go.

So think about how you shop, how you travel, how your team operates. What can you move to flow?

Our Newsletter

Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell is a highly accomplished professional with 15 years of experience in building lean management programs for corporate companies. With his expertise in strategy execution, he has established himself as a trusted advisor for numerous organisations seeking to improve their operational efficiency.

Jump To Section

Yellow Belt Course

Green Belt Course

LEAN SIX SIGMA Online Courses

A Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Masterclass

only €999

Ready to start your journey into the world of Lean with this free course?


A Lean focused continious improvement certification course

only £119

Propel your career forward, tackle complex problems and drive change

Only £167

The ultimate fast-track for future leadership

only £849

Become an expert in change management and complex problem-solving.

Only £1649

Lean Accelerator Program

discover the power of problem-solving


download the syllabus