Oxford TRIZ Successes

                                       TRIZ & Lean why teams need both

Many of our customers, including Highways England’s successful LEAN teams and their top tier Highways England leading suppliers have recently adopted Oxford TRIZ, and now encourage their key teams to do the same. 

They all asked "Why - with our LEAN benefits - do we need Oxford TRIZ as well?” 

To answer this and encourage the others, Highways England's first, fast TRIZ successes are now published– revealing solutions to difficult problems and showing how Oxford TRIZ delivered to them complementary, critical, additional, innovative benefits all extra to their Lean skills.  

Highways England teams discovered that TRIZ problem-solving helped them to overcome previously intractable problems and showed when and where they should add TRIZ to LEAN (See New Civil Engineering News article >>)

TRIZ and Lean - benefits
Plane Assymetry - using TRIZ in the Aerospace Industry

For example, the Bristol Highways England team in their first day solved one thorny (£10 million budget) problem with a £50,000 solution (see Where are the Road Cones?). After just another six TRIZ problem solving days they documented how their new TRIZ skills gave them innovative insights into tackling complex problems, clarity for decision making as well as rapid cost-effective answers to several other challenging issues. 

Important Highways England problems were tackled (see Highways England TRIZ case studies below) including those for increased safety in many situations. In this article I compare TRIZ and LEAN and reveal what TRIZ adds to LEAN and how Oxford TRIZ makes this addition simple and logical.

‘LEAN’ing a wrong answer helps maintain a flawed status quo

TRIZ often takes us in the opposite direction to LEAN; I don’t mean that TRIZ suggests lots of waste, high costs and ignoring customers’ needs but rather that TRIZ gives something very different from the start, helping us lift our heads from the detail, see the big picture more clearly and then guides us to new, different and innovative solutions. Although TRIZ is needed at all stages of problem solving, in practice it is often only engaged at a late stage (often people say “we’ve tried everything else and we are desperate”).  This makes it much appreciated by teams under pressure to deliver, as TRIZ offers fast results particularly with difficult and perplexing challenges, taking teams is systematic, repeatable steps to the right elusive answers.

You are Here map!  Where do we need to go from here? TRIZ problem solving using the world's solutions

Oxford TRIZ experts are often called in when teams say “We have LEANED in every direction and LEANED as far as we can, but it is not taking us to the right solutions for this problem” ...

When this happens we guide them through TRIZ and they see that applying LEAN to the wrong solution just makes everything a bit less wrong, but will not solve their problem. We were approached by one Government Department legal team who had to reduce their costs or be made redundant and their services were to be outsourced. They had applied LEAN vigorously, had cut every cost as far as possible but were told that it was not still enough to save them – they then tried TRIZ.  

Together we analysed what their masters really wanted was beyond cost savings, as they needed to retain their legal team’s valuable services and essential support but also must save money and be seen to be cutting costs. We analysed their legal department’s capacity and found solutions which although increased their costs and their scope, reduced their overhead charge to their masters first to zero and then enabled them to contribute funds. They provided better services, cost nothing and of course they then survived and flourished (see Bucks County Council TRIZ case study).

Bucks County Council - TRIZ case study

The Bucks CC Legal and Democratic team
earn more than they cost, and still provide all their important, valuable services.

Bucks County Council - self-sufficient using TRIZ and Lean


BCC LDS 2013

BCC LDS in 2013

BCC LDS in 2014

BCC LDS in 2014 

Practical Innovation

LEAN teams will improve anything, but if they cannot get results: then TRIZ systematic innovation leading to different answers, is a fast way forward. The simple but unique way Oxford TRIZ delivers pragmatic, structured innovation is by taking teams along all the possible and proven routes to solutions which often look obvious in retrospect (like all the best answers).  

Until teams try TRIZ which quickly helps them to uncover and create these new, innovative approaches, they may remain completely stuck and find even LEAN can’t help them. 

Oxford TRIZ for LEAN results

LEANing a wrong answer helps maintain a flawed status quo. TRIZ shows how teams can confidently and appropriately abandon favoured, but insufficient or fundamentally wrong established solutions. 

 Once they have a broader view of using both TRIZ and LEAN they won’t start from wrong place and develop wrong solutions of unprofitable and inappropriate systems and processes. 

This stops them wasting their own and everyone else’s resources and energy and instead of being stuck or worse (travelling further away from the right answers) TRIZ helps them choose the right directions fast.

LEAN and TRIZ - why it works for them to be used together

How do LEAN & Oxford TRIZ work together?      

In their simplest forms LEAN and TRIZ work on improving existing systems and processes but in fundamentally complementary and different ways.  When a step change solution or essential new directions are sought, then TRIZ enhances any Lean work by guiding teams in structured processes to find new, better and completely different systems – without TRIZ only brainstorming is offered.  TRIZ also helps improve outcomes for everybody involved.

 TRIZ and LEAN also both help us deliver the best systems to meet needs and give customers/people/everyone involved what they want. Within these toolkits are methods to help us recognise and resolve the conflicting needs of all different stakeholders.  TRIZ does this with a deceptively simple and powerful tool which asks us to define our IDEAL. This is structured in TRIZ to help us define the final place, the perfect outcome we would like to reach, which gives each stakeholder what they ideally want. It involves a strict and logical pursuit to accurately define the prioritised benefits which are essential and by offering simple ways of solving contradictions locates solutions which satisfy all stakeholders whenever possible.

Customer Supplier Budget Documentation cartoon of LEAN Team

Cost Cutting – more elegant solutions

In other ways TRIZ and Lean are also very complementary toolkits – Lean emphasises getting rid of waste – ensuring efficiency in time, effort, material and unnecessary costs – TRIZ offers another additional approach which is called TRIMMING (which sounds gentle but in reality slashes away as much of a system as possible without losing any benefits). Oxford TRIZ charts Six Trimming Rules to help teams systematically step through all the known ways of maximising benefits whilst minimising costs and harms by mobilising available resources. Trimming works well on most things and shows how TRIZ applies to all kinds of problems. Some people claim that Lean is very much about improving activities, whereas TRIZ is better at improving things – this is an incomplete picture for both - TRIZ and Lean are important for improving all systems, whether products or processes. (see TRIZ for Dummies for many examples of TRIZ improving all kinds of activities).

LEAN plus the powerful TRIZ toolkit works well when you need:

  • To go further - beyond the five Lean fundamentals. TRIZ Ideality Tools and Function Maps reveal everything relevant we know and then prompt solution triggers taking us towards all the best answers for all stakeholders.

  • New concepts, different systems/processes –TRIZ Trends of Evolution help us map the best routes to the future /next generation products / new IP /patent strengthening and protection.

  • To resolve contradictions – TRIZ 40 Principles list all the ways human kind knows to resolve any contradiction –TRIZ tools show how to access and apply them.

Don't throw away your best assets! your people!
  • Progress – especially when stuck and don’t know what to do – TRIZ Time & Scale maps deliver clarity of understanding of the big picture/context and relevant details – and map trajectories from the past to present and on to the future and what we want.

  • Different solutions – when all current options look bad – TRIZ offers 24 Standard Solutions for dealing with HARMS and seeing if those options can become viable.

  • Innovation -  something completely different.

TRIZ and the Five Lean fundamentals:

Lean Fundamental One - Specify VALUE

Lean demands that all activities add value. In Lean and many toolkits Value is defined by the customer needs - if it's not wanted then it’s not value – this gives critical clarity as organisations exist to satisfy the customer. Value is further described in Lean as the outputs, functions, features and activities which the customer prepared to pay for – one definition is:


TRIZ has important additions to ‘Specify Value’

TRIZ Ideality extends value definitions beyond desired outputs and their costs to include all their problems as well.


Ideality offers the powerful notion of understanding not just the cost of customer benefits, but their subsequent and sometimes unintended harms, problems and downsides.

This gives a simple but complete picture of the good outputs (how everyone’s needs are met) and their real costs (COSTS = all inputs) and all bad and unwanted or redundant outputs (HARMS) including any conflicts and problems they create. HARMS also encompass all sustainability issues like disposal downsides.  

TRIZ and the 5 Lean Fundamentals
TRIZ Ideality extends and completes Value particularly as Benefits in Ideality are much broader and more powerful than Functions in Value (Benefit = what is wanted, whereas a function represents just one way of delivering Benefits). Achieving Positive Ideality is a rigorous and complete assessment of worth. To increase Ideality the benefits must increase more than any rise in costs and harms (this often means solving a contradiction). Higher benefits with matching higher costs keeps Ideality the same (we just have a more expensive system). Similarly cutting costs and cutting benefits gives us a cheaper system but no increase in Ideality. 

Increasing Ideality is the best measure of achieving the fundamental aims of Lean when there are multiple stakeholders with different needs. In TRIZ the defining the different Idealities required by each stakeholder (aka customers) leads to efficient and fast understanding and sometimes offering massive efficiencies and cost savings (see Australian City Road Planning Case Study). 

Defining IDEALITY is simple and gives great clarity especially if there are multiple customers with different and conflicting notions of value - i.e. contradictions in the requirements. 

Lean Fundamental Two - Identify the VALUE STREAM

Value Stream Maps (VSM) are based on time – they aim to identify in one complete diagram the the flow of information and the flow of materials from supplier to customer. 

Their purpose is to illustrate any wasted time and to find ways of making better use of available time to get things done more quickly/earlier. 

Lean and TRIZ - why do the fit together? The Mobius Ants might know the answer

What TRIZ adds to ‘Value Streams’

TRIZ Function Maps reveal all systems’ functions showing at a glance what is good and bad about them at one moment in time. This unfailingly gives clarity about the system and any problems (in TRIZ the next stage is to create a Problem List and use the right TRIZ tools to solve each type. This includes anything excessive/expensive, harmful, insufficient/missing, contradictory or if we face a How To? problem). 

The unique power of this TRIZ process is to systematically and succinctly step through all known ways to deal with the revealed problems one at a time, using the Oxford TRIZ Solutions.

The first step is the 6 TRIMMING rules for simplifying and removing anything inefficient, unnecessary, extravagant and/or harmful. If Harms cannot be removed there are 18 further solutions for dealing with them. For anything good but insufficient there are just 35 strategies, and for contradictions the 40 Principles. If new functions / solutions are required then the free TRIZ Effects Database links us to the world’s on-line knowledge to answer the How To? Questions.

These LEAN and TRIZ maps are complementary as they deal with different problematic aspects of a system. The VSM is very helpful if you have a lot of things going on and want to speed things up by looking at the system 'in the large'. TRIZ can also help speed things up by taking out anything non-essential or extravagant. VSM is good for seeing time-related problems, but not functional ones, whereas TRIZ Function Maps reveal and guide us to correcting functions to achieve cost cutting, elegant systems and efficiency which also improves activities.

Lean Fundamental Three - Make value FLOW continuously

The emphasis here is on efficiency and in particular the management of time; it also helps in other ways - such as eliminating the need to store stuff, inventory etc. Flow does not move anything between separate departments or processes, but ensures materials are always available when required. Delivery of products to the customer triggers more production to ensure reactive availability.

What TRIZ adds to ‘Make value flow continuously’

The elimination of stuff is achieved by solving the contradiction of wanting something to be ‘there and not there’ (i.e. only when needed). The simple list of 40 TRIZ principles record all the known ways of resolving contradictions, including simple strategies to ensure things are available only when required. (One suggested solution in TRIZ for this is principle 20 'continuity of useful action’)

TRIZ and LEAN both show ways of getting everything everyone wants. TRIZ extends this so that even when providing contradictory functions or features, and demanding opposites in one system such as BIG and small (like an umbrella) all the possible 40 answers can be easily looked up and innovative solutions found.

TRIZ and LEAN - demanding opposites in one system such as BIG and small

Lean Fundamental Four - Let customers PULL value

Lean Pull means it is the customer demand which initiates (pulls) all production processes extending all the way back to the production of raw materials. Pull also demands that systems deliver products to the customer as soon as needed, quickly on demand without stockpiling or anticipatory work. This is achieved through streamlined work processes, maximizing throughput, ideally with no inventory and backlog, and eliminated bureaucracy. Pull is achieved within stable, long-term partnerships with everyone involved including suppliers and customers. Pull aims to reduce costs for everyone by maintaining a steady state efficiency through shared responsibility for quality goals and design.

What Oxford TRIZ adds to ‘pull value’

When problem solving with TRIZ, both systems and processes are radically improved to increase Ideality i.e. to help them deliver exactly what is required – no more – no less - and to cleverly minimise costs through smart use of Trimming and Resources. Often this delivers surprise extra savings even to expert teams who have applied LEAN PULL successfully to their systems. 

Using LEAN PULL. When problem solving with TRIZ, both systems and processes are radically improved to increase Ideality

Team work at all levels is essential for Lean Pull to be effective. Solving problems with Oxford TRIZ surprisingly creates happy, collaborative teams because as they follow the TRIZ processes and use the TRIZ tools they are thinking clearly, locating the best solutions and intelligently sharing ideas. The Bad Solution Park helps everyone share their initial solutions and improve them together with TRIZ.

Solving problems with Oxford TRIZ surprisingly creates happy, collaborative teams because as they follow the TRIZ processes and use the TRIZ tools they are thinking clearly, locating the best solutions and intelligently sharing ideas.

Lean Fundamental Five - Pursue PERFECTION

Lean says however good you are you should be able to get better – as the 5th Lean Fundamental this implies a final push, something extra and subsequent to the previous 4 powerful Lean Principles to urge you to do even better.  TRIZ offers the IDEAL Outcome for perfection but it is almost the first step not the last. Altshuller, the founder of TRIZ says ‘Begin by thinking of the endpoint you ideally want to reach’.  In TRIZ problem solving this has a remarkable effect on expectations, directions chosen, understanding of benefits and clarity of purpose. TRIZ Ideal thinking is simple to grasp and apply but is a remarkably powerful and rigorous tool.

 In twenty years of Oxford TRIZ problem solving, Ideal thinking has always begun the problem understanding and been an integral part of problem solving, identifying the right solutions and locating the most sustainable and cost-effective ways of achieving them through clever mobilisation of available resources.


TRIZ was uncovered independently but simultaneously with the stable of toolkits from which came LEAN as we know it today. TRIZ offers different and complimentary tools to LEAN and adds to its excellent practices at all stages but most uniquely guides teams to innovative solutions to their problems. LEAN is a proven and respected toolkit – TRIZ, although less well known, was developed and honed by thousands of scientists and engineers making it the biggest study and toolkit for innovation and creativity ever. Oxford TRIZ is an accessible version of TRIZ, pragmatic, fast to learn and apply and has proved itself with 20 years of problem solving successes in many industries. Its recent work in Highways England has resulted in phenomenal cost savings, resolution of previously unsolvable problems and innovative important new solutions for major challenges including safety on smart motorways.



Karen Gadd

TRIZ facilitator, trainer, author and Founder of Oxford Creativity - a TRIZ company based in Oxford, United Kingdom. www.triz.co.uk

Karen Gadd

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