Online Lean Training

Is Online Lean Training Better than In-Person When Delivering Lean Essentials?

As the pandemic subsides, there has been some level of return to normal.  Meetings and face-to-face interactions in offices and factories are now little different from what they were prior to 2020.    One legacy is the paradigm shift to remote online lean training.  Surveys suggest that office workers spend about 1.5 days in the office per week compared to 3.5 days pre-pandemic.  We think this will have a lasting impact on the way we deliver training and mentoring with our clients and partners.

Lean Essentials

One of the main training programmes that we provide is a business simulation.  Essentially, it equips our client’s team members with the capability to identify process performance issues.  Then, they are trained how to make improvements to those processes which are within their own control.  We call it Lean Essentials.We have successfully delivered this programme as a workshop in class or training room over several years.   

Online Training Simulation Game

Lean Business Simulation

In 2021, we started working on replicating the same learning experience for delivery in a virtual setting.  The solution we developed was to make an electronic business simulation or online lean training solutionThe learning about Lean comes from the group going through a step-by-step process to simplify an apparently complex process for providing an order conformation.  The simulation contains many of the issues that are commonly found in many organisations.  Some of these issues are identified below:

  • Task roles are not balanced to the rate of customer demand (Takt time), this causes process bottle necks that can are “visible” in the form of the “inventory” at each process stage.
  • Tasks are performed in a non-optimal sequence, leading to non-value adding work.
  • Job operations are duplicated and more complex than necessary.
  • Orders that cannot be accepted are not resolved with the customer.
  • Visibility of how the work flows through the value stream is limited to just “my task”
  • Co-ordination and understanding of the customer need is limited. Furthermore, customers have assumptions about their supply chain that are different from others.
  • Managers are generating reports that are of next to no value in the “live” process. 

Over a few rounds of this online lean training, we aim to simplify and accelerate the process using Lean Principles and tools.  The main learning outcomes are that participants learn to see the “waste” in their process.  Furthermore, they learn how to start working together to reduce or eliminate the causes.   

Online Lean Training

With the move from “cards and paper” simulation to an electronic game we immediately found several advantages.  Firstly, the delivery method of remote working and e-workflow more closely replicates how many office-based process operate.  Second, the training event supports the development of soft skills.  And there are essential for process improvement such as leadership, effective virtual team working and use of on-line tools and techniques to make issues visible and facilitate collaboration.  Finally, the logistics effort to run the training is much less, with no travel.

We discovered early on that a virtual training delivery places additional demands on facilitation.  To address this, we needed to take steps to ensure that participants felt safe to contribute freely.  We really needed to ensure an effective “check-in” to ensure everyone has an effective learning experience. 

Prior to the workshop we also found that an on-boarding process was essential to ensure that everyone knew where and how to access all the applications and become familiar with what was expected of them.  The key here is not to allow one person’s lack of preparation or understanding to slow down the group’s learning process. 

We found that optimal delivery format for online training is 2 half day sessions rather than having people in online lean training all day.  This appears to be better for participants.  It allows some additional time for the trainers to highlight key learnings from the first round of the business simulation.

Steve Halpin Online Lean Training


Another challenge we faced was the reliability and speed of the first workflow system we developed.  We found that replicating the simulation in a proprietary workflow system was complex.  Actually, we found that the changes or improvements made by the participants was complicated by having to extract and manipulate a CSV file.

Working with a software developer, we designed our own bespoke platform to made it easier for us and the participants.  Rather than having to re-program the workflow system during the workshop we developed a set of configuration options to enable us to rapidly change the sequence of the work, combine or eliminate steps.  The performance of the team in the simulation is captured automatically.  This meant that we can focus more time on the teaching and learning.   

One thing that has worked from the start is the use of pre-formatted online “White Boards” such as MURAL and MIRO.  The templates we have developed keep the focus on Lean and improvement.  In addition, they enable rapid assimilation of ideas from the team.  In fact, many of our trainees used these tools to gather ideas and develop improvements and countermeasures in their own organisation after the training.   

So, would we go back to paper, pen, and cards?   Our answer is it depends.  If you have a training cohort that are from the same location and are present on that site most days, then yes, a training room face-to-face training delivery makes sense. 

Remote Working

For many organisations, their employees are working in various locations and often complete much of their work online via email and virtual meetings.  For these groups of course, there are social benefits of bringing teams together and meeting colleagues.  Perhaps there is also a level of “zoom fatigue”.  On the other hand, businesses are concerned about training budgets and do not want to waste their employee’s time with travel.  This where a facilitated online session can work just as well.    

Our experience is that an online workflow simulation is a better representation of the way people work today.  It particularly resonates with people working in transactional and engineering type processes where the work is about the flow of information.  For trainees that work mainly with a physical product, then it can be more difficult for them to accept the simulation for what it is.   When we train lean in traditional production settings, we would recommend onsite training with a clear visual flow.


We have learned a lot about teaching and training online over the last year.  Going forward, we are looking to make enhancements.  We feel it is important to reduce the need to switch between various applications and resources during the training.  We are working on delivering our online lean training in one virtual environment.   This will be the next step in the evolution of our delivery online.

Our approach to Lean training is that our participants put the concepts and ideas into practice.   This approach is mainly to ensure that the training makes a real difference to the businesses we work with.  Again, we use online mentoring and coaching to make this happen. 

Three years ago, we would have visited the client premises and held face-to-face meetings.  Again, the ease and convenience of virtual meetings gives both parties more flexibility.  Moreover, we get to talk with the trainees about the training experience and what worked for them.  We also get to work alongside them to see which parts of the training had greatest impact back in their workplace.  All of this means we too keep on improving and reshaping what we do. 

We hope you enjoyed reading about “Is In-Person Training Better Than Online When Delivering Lean Essentials?”  You may also be interested in reading about Why Companies are turning to Online Experiential Learning for Training & Development and ETAC Launch Virtual Training Solutions.  All our blogs are available to read here.  Please connect with us on Linkedin and Twitter.

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