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COVID -19 and the Lean Lessons of Yore

May 16, 2020

Never has the entire business world and the world in general been challenged to revisit and re-imagine their way of life and operating models as they are now, due to the global pandemic that has hit us after nearly a century. This pandemic has made every Government, Business owner, employee and household question and re think everything they took for granted. Enforced lockdowns are having a domino effect on the economies, creating uncertainty in every fabric of society.

Interestingly though, the countries that are getting a relative grip on the situation are the ones that are relying on data, facts, Science and ground realities and have followed the tried and tested ‘PDCA‘ (Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust) approach. These are Governments that are very aware of their people’s actual needs and challenges. Decisions on opening up the Economies are based on data analysis, modelling and Statistical trends. Whilst different countries are dealing with the challenge in different ways and to varying degrees of success, Sri Lanka’s approach (and other notable countries such as New Zealand, Taiwan & Vietnam to name a few ) seems to have been quite effective so far, quite possibly due to the aforementioned PDCA approach which is elaborated below.


  • Early planning , screening and detection of people entering and leaving the country to ensure they were of good health (Ensuring people who showed symptoms did not enter the system).


  •  Fast action by ensuring people worked from home and were isolated, no sooner early cases were detected (Stopping the flow, no sooner a problem was detected)
  •  Continuous communication via the media, visual marking at workplaces and in public transport (Communication and Visual Management)
  • Action taken to ensure business owners and employees were relived from Loan repayments (via Credit moratoriums) and numerous other actions to alleviate the problems faced by the masses based on VOP (Voice of the ‘People’)
  • Testing to monitor the number of  new cases in the population
  • Piloting incremental steps in re opening the economy once the curve had flattened


  • Continuously monitoring new cases to ensure the curve remains flat and new cases keep dropping (Statistical Trend analysis) post piloting opening up of the Economy
  •  Closely monitoring the ‘R No’ – Reproductive rate to ensure it remains below 01
  • Increasing the testing sample size and improving the efficacy of the testing methodology


  • Constant review of the success of the steps taken thus far and making adjustments  to the execution plan as required

When contrasting this method to a ‘fly by wire’ approach that has been mostly based on a gut feel; well the results tend to speak for themselves. COVID -19 has taught us that ‘Lean’ Principles hold true, even whilst countries and businesses the world over are revisiting and reimagining their ‘New Normal’.

One thing is for sure; Lean will be very present even in the New Normal.


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