Confirm Your Scope with SIPOC Diagrams

One of my favorite continuous improvement tools is called a SIPOC diagram. A SIPOC diagram is used by a team to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. Using this tool helps define a complex project and refine a project profile. SIPOC diagrams also help to confirm the scope of the improvement project.

Its name prompts the team to consider the suppliers of your process, the inputs to the process, the process your team is improving, the outputs of the process, and the customers that receive the process outputs. The SIPOC is a valuable tool that will:

  • Identify suppliers and customers
  • Establish the scope of the project, and satisfy stakeholders that the problem area is captured in the process
  • Target the right metrics for verifying customer requirements
  • Establish who should participate on the project team

SIPOC stands for:

  • Suppliers- supply the inputs for the process
  • Inputs- materials, equipment, information, forms, staff, etc.
  • Process- the steps of the process from initial step to finishing product step
  • Outputs- outputs to internal or external customers, i.e. reports, products, services, etc.
  • Customers- anyone who receives the outputs

SIPOC Diagram Template

How to Complete a SIPOC Diagram

  1. Process— The first step to completing the SIPOC is to list the process steps, keeping detail to a minimum by only outlining five to eight steps.  When describing the process steps, try to limit the description to two words. Have each description start with a verb (action) and end with a noun (subject).
  2. Output—What information, data, reports, materials, etc. come out of this process or are produced as a result of the process?
  3. Customers—Who or what receives the outputs of the process?
  4. Inputs—What data, supplies, systems, tools, etc. are required for the process, or who is needed to perform the action?
  5. Suppliers—Who or what functional organization, system, report, database, etc. supplies or provides whatever it is that is needed as an input for the process?  Who supplies what’s needed to do the process?

To learn more about SIPOC diagrams email us at improvement-l@mtu.edu or call 906-487-3180. 

 

Lean Culture: Respect for People

When Lean principles are fully understood and Lean tools are correctly applied, the opportunities for improvement and growth are endless.  I have been a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for almost a year and a half, and I have witnessed, numerous times, the benefits of successful Lean implementation. What I want to talk about today is why some organizations fail at becoming Lean.

Why is it that some organizations, or even some functional units within an organization, are able to successfully implement this methodology while others fail miserably?  Short answer: Culture. The greatest mistake you can make on a Lean journey is taking a shortcut down Tool Avenue. Often times, in unsuccessful attempts at spreading Lean, one entity assumes it can achieve the same results as another simply by applying the same tools that the other has gotten positive results from. “Continuous Improvement” is therefore reduced to an “improvement project” and concern then arises when the improvement is not sustained.

Lean will never be something you do, it is something you become. In order to truly become Lean, the entire value system of the organization must change. Commitment to Lean thinking and the establishment of a Lean culture give birth to successful Lean “implementation.” An organization’s culture and the principles that drive people’s behaviors ultimately determine the degrees of an organization’s performance, quality, and success. There is no concrete definition of what a “Lean culture” is, however there is one principle that all Lean enterprises do follow: respect for people.

In their book, "Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice," Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.
In their book, “Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice,” Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.

In a 2007 eLetter, James P. Womack, Ph.D., founder and senior advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc, describes how the best managers at Toyota show respect for people:

  1. Managers begin by asking employees what the problem is with the way their work is currently being done.
  2. They challenge the employees’ answer and enter into a dialogue about what the real problem is. (It’s rarely the problem showing on the surface.)
  3. Then they ask what is causing this problem and enter into another dialogue about its root causes. (True dialogue requires the employees to gather evidence from the Gemba for joint evaluation.)
  4. Then they ask what should be done about the problem and ask employees why they have proposed one solution instead of another. (This generally requires considering a range of solutions and collecting more evidence.)
  5. Then they ask how they – manager and employees – will know when the problem has been solved, and engage one more time in dialogue on the best indicator.
  6. Finally, after agreement is reached on the most appropriate measure of success, the employees set out to implement the solution.

“The manager challenges the employees every step of the way, asking for more thought, more facts, and more discussion. This problem solving process actually demonstrates the highest form of respect.

The manager is saying to the employees that the manager can’t solve the problem alone, because the manager isn’t close enough to the problem to know the facts. He or she truly respects the employees’ knowledge and their dedication to finding the best answer. But the employees can’t solve the problem alone either because they are often too close to the problem to see its context and they may refrain from asking tough questions about their own work.

Only by showing mutual respect – each for the other and for each other’s role – is it possible to solve problems, make work more satisfying, and move organizational performance to a higher level.”

References

Womack, James P., Ph.D. “Respect for People.” Letter to LEI. 20 Dec. 2007.Jim Womack’s ELetters & Columns. Lean Enterprise Institute, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.lean.org/womack/DisplayObject.cfm?o=755>.

Henderson, Bruce A., and Jorge L. Larco. Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise. Richmond, VA: Oaklea, 1999. Print.

 

A Brief History of Michigan Tech’s University Policy Office: How Lean Methodologies Helped Pave the Way

This post was originally published in the Business Operations Blog. It was written by Ann Kitalong-Will, the executive director of business operations here at Michigan Tech.

leanSometimes continuous improvement results can take some time to materialize. But it’s important to remember to focus on the goals you’re trying to accomplish, and to trust that lean process improvement methods can and do result in reaching the tangible goals that we have in our work.

In 2012, as part of a grant Michigan Tech received through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, we were able to bring consultants to campus to help us continue on our lean journey as a University. Our grant application had proposed an innovative approach to enhancing relations between management and union-represented staff via a rigorous series of Lean training sessions. Lean as a management method is particulary well-suited to accomplishing such a goal, because it is an approach that focuses on the value of each employee, at all levels and within all units. We believed that our proposal would contribute to improving communication and relations between employees at all levels across campus.

I was a co-PI on this grant and participated as a “student” in most of the training sessions. One of the exercises we were asked to do was to facilitate a kaizen(“improvement”) event to solve a challenging process issue in our work. Having recently taken on policy administration at the University, I had become aware of many areas within the policy development process that seemed to cause confusion for customers (policy developers) and for the campus community in general.

We assembled a small group of individuals that included me, and 3 or 4 additional people who served as facilitators, subject matter experts, and customers. From this single kaizen event, we were able to identify some key improvements that needed to happen:

  1. We needed a dedicated staff member who was primarily responsible for overseeing policy at the University.
  2. We needed to critically review the current policy development process, and identify ways we could eliminate wasteful or unnecessary steps.
  3. We needed a new website, that included tools for policy developers as well as some “educational” pieces about what policy is (and isn’t).
  4. We needed to continually educate the university community on the policy development process, and provide some outreach and support to policy developers along the way.

Most of these goals hinged on the need to hire that staff member. I am now pleased to say that in 2014, after a lot of thought and planning, we were able to hire a University Policy Coordinator, Lori Weir, who has jumped right in to making these kaizen-originated goals a reality. She is also constantly looking for ways to continuously improve how we manage policies at Michigan Tech, and I’m looking forward to working with her to realize our vision of what a Policy Office should be.

I encourage you to visit our new policy website, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions, suggestions, or would like help getting started on a new policy.

Leaders in Continuous Improvement Partner with 31 Backpacks!

A recent partnership has been formed between the student organization Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and local non-profit 31 Backpacks. 31 Backpacks is a non-profit organization that sends food home in backpacks every Friday and school breaks for eligible children. The teachers, principals, and counselors at each school identify the children who need assistance and aid in the giving of the food bags.

Before
Before
Before 4
Before

Laurel and Melissa Maki, the founders of 31 Backpacks, were very enthusiastic about partnering with Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and a game plan was formed right away. It was decided that LCI would begin with a storeroom 5S.

5S is a workplace organization methodology used to eliminate waste, organize a workplace, and create a system to sustain improvements. The 5 S’s stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The members of LCI were able to completely re-vamp the existing storeroom (as you can see in the pictures). In order to properly sustain this improvement, a weekly audit was created. This will allow various volunteers to “audit” the

After
After

storeroom to ensure sustainment of the improvements.

Although we haven’t fully implemented the new process, this is still a huge improvement from where we were at the beginning. This is a great starting place for a hopefully long partnership.

Be on the lookout for future improvements from the LCI and 31 Backpacks partnership!

 

Visual Management Workshop

The Office of Continuous Improvement is hosting another workshop. This time the topic is visual management. Visual management is where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. The design allows for quick recognition of the information being communicated in order to increase efficiency and clarity. Visual controls also make problems, abnormalities, or deviations from standards visible so corrective action can take place immediately.

The visual management workshop will take place Tuesday, March 24th and Wednesday, March 25th. For more information or to sign up, visit the improvement website.

Visual 2

Continuous Improvement of Annual Events

During Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival event, I started thinking about how continuous improvement works with events that have a really long time between them. The preparation work for Winter Carnival has a flow to it. There are always things like the free chili from The Library restaurant, broomball games with free hot chocolate, and most importantly the creation of some amazing snow statues. This epic event couldn’t happen without a flow and organization through standardized work. One very key part of standard work for projects with a long time frame between events is the reflection from year to year by the committee heads on what was done well and what can be improved for the following year.

standardwork

Last year the Blue Key Honor Society, the group who organizes Winter Carnival, reached out to the continuous improvement office, and the office facilitated an event to help them organize their workflow. From this event not only were Lean practices introduced into the organization, but also Lean knowledge was shared with students who can take the knowledge they learned into other activities they participate in, both on campus and off.

If you’re an advisor for a student organization or a student member who has a process you’re responsible for and would like some coaching to create standard work, feel free to contact the office of continuous improvement at 906-487-3180, e-mail improvement@mtu.edu or request a Process Improvement Event here. We can show you how to use things like knowledge folders, process maps, and 5S, or facilitate a Kaizen event to improve your process.

Annual events around campus like orientation week, semester break and Winter Carnival can be greatly aided with Improvement events. However, they aren’t the only time to apply Lean principles to a process. Let’s not waste any time finding areas to improve and work towards making 2015 the best year yet!

 

Lean and SMART

At some point in all of our lives we’ve had things we’ve wanted to achieve, whether it was in 1st grade and all you wanted was to be the best at shooting chocolate milk from your nose, or your very first day of college when you were determined to be “the best student you can be.” While some people would call these goals, a Lean practitioner might call them dreams. In the area of continuous improvement, goal setting is a very precise and important activity. The difference between having a dream and setting and achieving goals is what I want to focus on today.

 

How exactly does one go about fulfilling the dream of becoming the best student they can be or the best chocolate milk shooter? …and how is it determined? By setting SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goal setting helps bring substance and measurability into your goals and objectives.

Specific

When setting a SMART goal, it is important to know exactly what you want to achieve. The level of specificity you use is directly correlated to the chances of you achieving the goal.  SMART goal setting clarifies the difference between “I will be the best student I can be” and “I will do all of my homework, attend professor office hours once a week, and go to tutoring twice a week.”

Measurable

How will you feel? What will you see? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? With a measurable goal, there is no question as to if the goal was met. Instead of stating your goal as “being a better parent” a more measurable goal would be “spending 3 hours of one-on-one time a week with your child.”

Achievable

Can you actually do this? Your goals should always push you slightly out of your comfort zone in order to make you feel challenged. However, it is important to keep the scope small enough that you avoid becoming discouraged. The timeliness aspect of SMART goals also comes into play here. Most goals are attainable when you carefully plan your steps and give yourself a time frame that allows you to succeed. Goals that you never thought you could achieve become more realistic as you work through your plan and systematically break down any road blocks.

Relevant

Your goals need to matter. How does the goal tie into your key responsibilities? How does this goal align with the strategic goals of the organization? These are questions that need to be answered to determine whether the goal you are setting is even worth achieving. A lawyer’s goal to “make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound but completely lacks relevance.

Time-bound

Things are always more likely to get done when there is an established target time or date in place. When setting your SMART goals, put deadlines in place to push progress along and keep yourself, or your team, working efficiently. Deadlines, however, should always be reasonable; there’s nothing worse than feeling the pressure of an unreasonable deadline. A time frame is necessary in creating a sense of urgency within yourself; saying “I want to lose 20 lbs” is great but saying “I want to lose 20 lbs by June 1st” gives you a definitive end date to complete your goal by.

If you’re interested in a coaching session using SMART goal setting or any other continuous improvement technique(s), let us know at improvement@mtu.edu or call the Office of Continuous Improvement at 906-487-3180.

References
“Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals.” Self Improvement and Personal Development Community. Top Achievement, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2015. <http://topachievement.com/smart.html>.

“SMART Goals.” Coaching Tools. YourCOACH, n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2015 <http://www.yourcoach.be/en/coaching-tools/smart-goal-setting.php>.

 

Lean Thinking in an Office

A warm welcome to our new guest blogger, Jim Desrochers. Jim is the Associate Director for Employer Relations in Michigan Tech’s Career Services. He is also training to become a campus Lean Facilitator.

In a manufacturing setting, waste is measured in terms of factory efficiency and scored by the accounting measurement system as part of the financial reporting process. In an office setting, these measurements are harder to define but they “show up” in wasted effort, frustration, frayed nerves, and people staying late to help make the event a success.

Our Career Services group is known for coordinating our bi-annual Career Fairs. Managing logistics for hundreds of companies, nearly a thousand recruiters, and several thousand students leaves very little room for error.  Most importantly, the future careers of our students are on the line. With the economy improving and the excellent reputation of Michigan Tech students, the size and expectations for Career Services events have continued to grow.

Career Services Huddle Board

As our department’s first step in our lean journey, we decided to start a morning huddle.  Initially, the primary focus of the meeting was our event-planning calendar. This grid is a look ahead for the next few weeks to ensure everyone in the department knows what is coming next. To make this happen, we repurposed a dry erase board and moved it to a central area. A few dry-erase markers later, we had the beginnings of a communication structure!

In an office where everyone is extremely busy, we had reservations about everyone sacrificing 10 minutes of their day. We also were concerned that we would not know what to talk about! These concerns turned out to be unfounded! After a month of using this new process, the information on the dry erase board has changed. Some things we initially placed on the board aren’t used anymore and we simply erased them. New items are added as we develop new educational programming. Using only markers and bad penmanship, the board continues to be dynamic. We are starting to use rulers and magnets to make the look neater – but we don’t want to lose the flexibility of just getting the information communicated.

Our implementation of Lean Initiatives in our offices continues as time allows. As we continue to add process improvements, these items will find their way back to the central huddle board. It will be interesting to see what the board looks like a year from now!

 

Developing Students, Improving Universities

This post was originally published at The Lean Post. Our own Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistant Vice President for Administration, is the author. 

Today, lean thinking in higher education is uncommon. As a rule, institutions that teach lean continuous improvement in their academic curricula or that have centers or institutes to educate the public struggle themselves to be practitioners in their own administrative processes. There’s the challenge of teaching lean thinking and the challenge of practicing it ourselves in the administrative processes of a university system.

In 2008, when Michigan Technological University’s own lean journey began, President Glenn Mroz introduced the principles of lean thinking to his administration and asked that a transformation begin at the university. Mroz knew what Balzer pointed out in Lean Higher Education (2010), which is that institutional processes link to the overall success of universities and directly benefit all constituents, particularly students. Our intent was to begin this journey by first using lean thinking in our everyday operations and also begin exposing students to lean principles through participation in improvement events. This directly aligned with our directive to “prepare students to create the future.” It also aligned with our strategic intent of distinctive and rigorous, action-based, experiential learning, responding to the needs and challenges of the 21st century.

At Michigan Tech, we’ve found many compelling reasons to seek out a continuous improvement methodology we can use as a foundation upon which students could build academic and career success and that would also be effective in improving our own administrative processes.

                             Value Stream Mapping
                             Fishbone Problem-Solving

Here’s where we’ve focused our energies:

  • Accreditation. The University’s accreditation is dependent upon demonstrating continuous improvement in both academic and administrative areas. We’re working on creating and sharing demonstrable methods for improving administrative processes. Demonstrating and measuring improvements builds our credibility and strengthens the assurance argument necessary for university accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.
  • Cost of Education. As is the case in many states, Michigan has experienced shrinking state allocations for higher education. To keep the resulting rise in tuition costs as low as possible, employing lean continuous improvement methodologies help contain costs. Cost savings that can be used to offset tuition increases have been generated through a variety of improvement events ranging from reducing days of inventory on hand in our dining services to reducing fuel costs at our golf course by adjusting mowing patterns and frequencies.
  • Quality. Improved administrative processes elevate and strengthen the student experience. This is done by saving time, reducing waste, and avoiding cost while delivering the expected service to students. This helps Michigan Tech retain students.
  • State Initiatives. Since 2010, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has supported service and process optimization and lean practices through the Office of Good Government. As a state institution, at Michigan Tech we’ve aligned with these efforts.
  • Universal application. Lean thinking and practice have daily application in all aspects of the business and academics of the university. Part of our work has been about simply spreading this thinking throughout administrative and academic offices.
  • Pull. Companies recruiting Michigan Tech graduates have told us they are looking for students with exposure to and proficiency in lean continuous improvement. We’ve worked to share this information with students through employing students in our Office of Continuous Improvement, by including students in kaizen events, and by sharing lean knowledge through our Leaders in Continuous Improvement student organization
  • Academic curricula. Most importantly, adopting a continuous improvement methodology integrated with an academic curricula is what makes a difference for students’ overall learning experience. Currently, we have 22 quality-related courses on different aspects of lean and continuous improvement being taught as part of a diverse curricula on our STEM campus.

Successes So Far

Michigan Tech’s lean transformation has its foundations in a network of over 20 trained improvement facilitators from all areas of campus. These volunteers range from hourly employees to executives who work to facilitate improvement events requested by departments. Initially the university engaged outside consultants to provide facilitator training, some of which was funded by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services through a labor/management-focused grant. Currently an Office of Continuous Improvement is staffed by a Manager and a team of student Process Improvement Coordinators that provide training and support the lean efforts on campus.

A student organization called Leaders in Continuous Improvement was formed two years ago and continues to grow in size and interest. Over 650 university employees have been exposed to lean thinking and over $250,000 in savings have been identified through formal improvement events.

Ongoing Challenges

The culture of higher education poses challenges when rolling out a lean transformation. Some are unique to higher ed and others are more universal. Here’s what we’ve experienced:

  • Unwillingness to view students as “customers”
  • Difficulty translating lean’s manufacturing history into knowledge work
  • Discomfort in learning as you’re doing
  • Focus on the visible use of tools instead of the underlying thinking
  • Oversimplifying Lean as the application of just one or two tools (5S and visual displays)
  • Push back on standard work as “dumbing things down” and wringing out creativity and intellectual freedom

What’s Next

We plan to continue designing courses to prepare lean-certified students who are ready to work in industry. This will require the endorsement and participation of academic leadership, as well as continuing to also practice lean improvements in the administrative processes of the university. Our goal is to serve as a co-curricular learning laboratory for students, teaching lean thinking while also assisting in the university’s success.

We’d like to hear from you. Do you think that higher education can provide students with an immersive experience that brings together both the academic curriculum and the co-curricular companion piece of administrative processes and extra-curricular activities? Tell us your thoughts in the comments. We’re particularly interested in hearing success stories that we can learn from!

 

The Quarter Pounder

During a recent Auxiliary Services Report Out, Bob Hiltunen gave an incredible teachback demonstrating the benefits of one-piece flow over traditional batch and queue. He was able to do this through an exercise we call “The Quarter Pounder.” One-piece flow refers to the concept of moving one work piece at a time between operations. This may also be referred to as the OHIO method (only handle it once).

To learn more about The Quarter Pounder activity, read a previous blog post by fellow Process Improvement Coordinator Nate Hood by clicking here.

The group of participants really enjoyed this fun, hands on exercise. It was great to see the mental light-bulbs going off when each participant saw the difference between batching and one-piece flow.

QP

No matter who is participating in this activity, the results are always the same. By eliminating the batching and implementing one-piece flow, the team is always able to decrease the total process time, and the time it takes for the customer to get their first item plummets. During this round of the exercise, the team was able to decrease total processing time by 289%!! How can implementing one-piece-flow in your organization benefit you?