All posts by Rylie Store

Rylie Store is a Student Process Improvement Coordinator at Michigan Technological University.

Welcome Ari Laiho!

Hi Everyone,

My name is Arianna Laiho, or Ari, and I have recently completed my training to become the newest Student Process Improvement Coordinator here in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

I was born in Midland, Michigan and spent large parts of my life living in Switzerland and most recently California, where I graduated from Clayton Valley Charter High School in 2015. I decided from there to attend Michigan Tech, my dad’s Alma Mater, initially as a Chemical Engineering student but my passions redirected me and eventually led me to switching majors to Biomedical Engineering last fall.

When I am not on campus, I spend a large portion of my time at Mont Ripley as a Ski and Snowboard Instructor and Ski Patroller in the winter or enjoying the local mountain bike trails when the weather permits. I also enjoy playing Trumpet in the Pep Band, and Jazz Band when my schedule allows.

I ended up applying for this position through a recommendation from one of the Facilitators and another PIC, without really knowing what I was getting into I jumped right in and realized pretty quickly that although I was unfamiliar with the terms being given to different Lean practices I was somewhat familiar with the principles. Without realizing it, I had spent my childhood surrounded by lean thinking and processes because of my dad who I recently discovered has been a Six Sigma Black Belt since 2002. This has not eliminated all the confusion of taking on Lean but I have so far enjoyed the on-boarding process and am looking forward to jumping into events in the next week or so here!

-Ari

Ari


The More You Know

I recently put out a post on LinkedIn asking anyone familiar with lean to share their one word descriptor of lean, CI, and even some on Six Sigma. All of the words below came from 103 different people, and about 95 of them I never knew existed until I started this blog post, yet every single one of them has provided me with a single word to describe Lean and Continuous Improvement. There’s a story behind every word in the word cloud below, and I can promise you that I can’t tell you what the stories are that went into choosing these words. This is the Ah-ha moment that I’d like to share with you.

wordcloud

Trying to describe lean in a single word is not an easy one, in fact it’s quite hard to even conjure an elevator pitch to present when an opportunity arises. It may seem that it was unfair of me to ask for one word, but the motive behind my rambling and asking such a question was exactly this, the picture above. Just for adherence, the picture above is a word cloud (thank you captain obvious), and in that word cloud there is a compilation of 103 words… ONE HUNDRED and THREE! However, what I have come to realize is that no matter how developed your elevator pitch, no matter the extent of your knowledge on Lean and Continuous Improvement, you will NEVER be able to express every aspect of lean, on your own, and hardly with 103 people.

Was that a bold statement? I hope so.

There are a few words that I’d like to pull out of this cloud and they are: People, Respect, Value, Empowerment, and DNA. The first that I’d like to mention is DNA. This previous semester I was enrolled in a genetics course and the one thing that stood out the most was when my professor asked, “How many years would it take you to count every gene on every DNA strand in your body?” I thought this was a ridiculous question to ask, It’d be a complete waste of time, and being lean I’m not a fan of wasting time. To no surprise, my professor had a purpose for his opening statement and it was, “Of course you don’t know, nobody has done it.” He said if the oldest person to have ever lived (122 years old) had started counting from the moment they were born, they would have been counting every second of their life. In metrics, that equates to reading every name and every phone number in a New York phone book, everyday for 122 years. Tying back to DNA as an adjective, every person has a perspective and these two act as the fundamentals of the Lean DNA.

The people are the DNA strand, the backbone. Their perspectives are the genes associated with the strand. Each word above was shared by a person, and each person brought a different perspective in the form of their word. The questions I’ve been asking as I read the comments on my post are, “What motivated them to choose that word?” “Where are they from?” “Where do they work?” The answer to these questions (plus life experiences) factored into their word choice. Without people, there is no Continuous Improvement. You need people to do the lean thinking, to succeed, to achieve value, and to eliminate waste. In order to ensure that value is added, the people must be empowered and in order to be empowered there must be RESPECT. Respect for the people and respect for the perspective that they contribute. Without respect, then we have untapped knowledge, and then we will have waste.

My single word is Diversity.

As I complete this blog, I have come to a greater realization than when I began. The Ah-ha moment for me was the reality of diversity. Diversity is defined as being composed of differing elements. Without diversity we have no differences to distinguish us, without differences there isn’t a connection to others, and without a connection there is no collaboration among the different perspectives and there is no respect. Without diversity, the word cloud above would be absent, and this post obsolete.

wordcloud2
Considering this blog is about people and respect, I feel that it is only appropriate to give credit to those that helped me form the word cloud. This cloud is a compilation of all of the first names that shared a word with me, at the time this was written. Thank you!

For more blog posts associated with this word cloud, be sure to subscribe to our blog so that you won’t miss any part of this series. Have a single word you’d like to share? Comment on this post, and be sure to share the train of thought behind selecting your word!

 


A Blooming Relationship: Lean and MTU

It’s been nine years since China hosted the summer Olympics, nine years since the United States elected Barack Obama as the 44th President, nine years since the stock market crashed, and it’s been nine years since Michigan Technological University began it’s lean journey.

In 2008, University President Glen Mroz introduced Michigan Tech to Lean. In relative terms, nine years really isn’t that long, however, not a second was WASTED since the opening of our office, the Office of Continuous Improvement. After nine years, 236+ Kaizens (Improvement Events), 70+ Facilitators, 10 PICs, 2 Directors of Process Improvement, two classes, and one student organization, it is safe to say that our relationship with MTU’s campus is now BLOOMING.

We recently hosted our 2017 facilitator graduation ceremony and introduced 16 new facilitators to our pool! Congratulations to the new facilitators who are: Joan Becker, Debra Charlesworth PhD, Paul Charlesworth PhD, Johnny Diaz, Christina Fabian, Megan Goke, Timothy Griffin, Lori Hardyniec, Kristi Hauswirth, Brian Hutzler, Austin Kunkel, Lauren Movlai, Katherine Purchase, Joseph Snow, Madeline Mercado-Voelker, and Maryann Wilcox. These 16 people come from 13 different departments campus wide, and one has now left the university and is continuing their Lean journey in the community. These facilitators are another chapter of growth for this university and the mission is simple, to IMPROVE. It’s been said time and time again that probably the greatest aspect of Lean is the people and the culture. The culture is one of open-mindedness, collaboration, humility and respect. However, without the people, the culture would fail. We are proud to welcome this group of 16 to our culture.

graduation
A picture from the Facilitator Graduation Ceremony as Lori Hardyniec gives her speech.

Our growth on campus has not only impacted the faculty and staff, it has also been growing within our student population as well. On the same day of graduation our office hosted it’s first ever Student Information Session. At this session our PICs taught students a little about what lean and continuous improvement is, along with an activity on personal kanbans.  A few days after we hosted our information session, our student organization, Leaders in Continuous Improvement, received the award for the Most Improved Student Organization for the 2016-2017 academic year (how fitting).

LCI
LCI leaders Martine Loevaas, Tom Strome, and Rachel Chard with the Most Improved Award.

These three events all happened within the last week, highlighting the success lean is having at the university.

With our culture expanding and the amount of people involved rising, I know our university will soon be flourishing with Lean, and our students will be leaving here with skills that they not only learned in lecture and lab, but also from the environment that they are being surrounded by. This environment will provide everyone immersed in it with skills that companies, coworkers and employers are looking for such as team collaboration, problem solving, and again RESPECT for everyone. Lean and Continuous Improvement has proven over and over again that it is a way of life, a way of change, and a way of growth that anybody can take and adapt into their lives, and it has proven this to all that have hopped on board with our journey.

It’s been nine years since Michigan Technological University began it’s lean journey, and it is our DREAM that the blooming culture we have will flourish, and in nine years we’ll be able to look back on this time in our journey and have no words but “wow,” and no emotion but delight.


What is Lean?

I’ve officially reached my one year anniversary of being a PIC here in the Office of Continuous Improvement. The amount of knowledge, experiences, and people that I’ve met in the past 12 months have far surpassed any expectations that I had when I was on-boarding. One question that I frequently get asked is, “what do you do for your job,” and I blandly answer, “I work with Lean and Continuous Improvement.” Now, I say blandly because my intention is to strike curiosity and to create a dialogue between us- the response to my vague answer is almost always scrunched up eyebrows and, “Lean?”

A year ago, I also had no idea what Lean was, I started my job as a PIC happy to have employment year round. I often tell people that when I started, I was also asking what Lean was and I thought it was referring to physically leaning over. It wasn’t until around my third month that I began forming an elevator pitch. Now, I have a little more solidarity to my response… Lean is like a house, with many rooms. Each room offers something a little different, but together it makes walls, floors, a roof, a home to grow in. Lean is whatever you make it to be, and this is allowed because of the foundation it is built on-top of. Lean consists of a culture that promotes tapping into a different depth of your brain so that you can use this knowledge to help bridge the gap between current and future state through root cause analysis. Lean is about solving problems to be able to understand why the root cause is functioning (or not) the way it is. Lean is about being open minded to change, differences, others, and to growth. Lean is about eliminating waste, in-order to increase efficiency, productivity, and safety for all processes and people involved. Lean is about creating standards for doing things, but also being flexible for each individuals need. Lean is a lifestyle, filled with many aspects, and advantages. I’d like to remind you, that this is lean in my eyes as of today, it will change again a little in a month, and even more in another year. It’s also important to note that due to the flexibility of lean it is going to be different for everyone.

I’ve found that Lean cannot be easily defined or phrased without feeling like the parameters defining it are too constricting. Lean is able to provide a broad application of life changing habits if you remain open-minded.

 

 


Welcome Anita Paquin!

The Office of Continuous Improvement has added a member to the team. Anita Paquin is the newest Student Process Improvement Coordinator. Anita’s willingness to learn should make her a great addition to the office. In the short amount of time she has been here, Anita has shown her passion for learning.

Here Anita will introduce herself,

Hello,
My name is Anita, becoming a student process coordinator was a bit unexpected, but a much appreciated opportunity.

I was born in Atlanta Georgia and spent the first half of my childhood exploring the country with my parents before settling in lower Michigan around age 10.  After settling in Muskegon Michigan I found my passion for learning. I attended high school at Orchard View, where I was offered the opportunity to join a program called Early College Muskegon County (ECMC). ECMC offered me a head start in my college career, allowing me to earn a full associates degree in General Sciences and Art before graduating high-school. After graduating in 2016, I decided to gain some independence and moved here to Michigan tech.

I am always busy, and I enjoy having my hands moving whenever possible. Besides my position here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, I am also a full time student, a part time Walmart Cashier, and a hobbyist wildlife photographer (In the summer I can usually be found chasing chipmunks).

I am very excited to learn what differences LEAN training can make in all aspects of my life. I have not been in the office very long yet, but I can already see that my position as a student process improvement coordinator is going to prove a valuable piece to my future.

~Anita

We look forward to seeing what Anita’s passion for learning can add to the office and what lean culture can add to her life.

Anita 1Anita 2


New Year, New me: S.M.A.R.T. Goal

The holidays are all about family, home cooked meals that are to die for, gifts, celebration, and joy. But what happens once January first hits? The fitness centers reach capacity with people outside begging to be let in, produce is scarce but your beloved lucky charms have an inventory, and the cliche statement: “New Year, New me!” until about January 14th.

Now, let’s rewire this a bit, I’m not bashing the latter statement, or the sudden interest in exercise and healthy dieting. Rather, I encourage it. What I am bashing is that it stops mid-way through January. Now, some people actually do succeed and that’s awesome, yet almost everyone sets a goal for themselves, but why do only a handful stick with it? Is it more drive? More incentive? Less busy? I don’t know this answer, but I do know a way to ensure you are one of the ones that achieve whatever it is you want. How do you do this? It’s easy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. What this stands for is that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

According to Statistics Brain 2016, the top four New year’s resolutions are: Lose weight, Getting Organized, Spend Less and Save more, Enjoy life to the fullest. Well, getting organized is what we’re all about so we’ll do something different. Enjoying life to the fullest isn’t really specific or measurable. Spend less and Save more is good, but we might as well go with #1 lose weight. This will be a hypothetical example.

Is this goal specific: What, How, and why will this be accomplished?
The goal is to lose weight, more specifically 45 pounds and to achieve a body fat percentage that is 20% body fat! How it will be accomplished is by exercising 5/7 days. The Why is because my doctor told me I was overweight and I’m not happy in my own skin, so I want to change that.

Is this goal measurable: How will it be measured? What shows progress towards this goal?
This goal will be measured by percent body fat and weight loss by the use of a scale and body mass index. Progress will be shown once the percent body fat decreases to within the healthy range, and about 3-5 lbs at least is lost each month. It can also be measured by how happy I feel in my skin.

Is this goal attainable: Is the time frame good? Is there a need for knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve? Are there resources needed?
The time frame is good. There is a need for knowledge, skills and abilities on how to structure work outs, how to diet properly and healthily. The resources that will be needed are an exercise facility, perhaps a personal trainer, and maybe even a nutritionist.

Is this goal realistic: What’s the result of the goal? What’s the reason, purpose or benefit?
The result of the goal will hopefully be successful weight loss of about 45 pounds. The reason is so that I am no longer overweight, the purpose is for a healthier lifestyle, and the benefit is that this may allow me to be around a lot longer.

Is this goal timely? What’s the time frame? What’s the completion date?
The time frame of this goal is 12 months and the completion date is December 1st.

Goal setting is fantastic, but there’s nothing more rewarding than achieving a goal that you set for yourself. Life gets busy, in the way, and often our goals to better our selves gets bumped to the bottom of the priority list. However, if you originally set your goals through the use of SMART goals, then it will be easier to stick to your goal to the end.


Winner Winner Turkey Dinner: Decision Matrix

With Thanksgiving right around the corner our mouths are beginning to salivate in preparation for all of the delicious food that radiates euphoria mirroring that of our ancestor’s kitchens on a daily basis. Family recipes are being pulled off the top shelf and dusted off, the biggest turkey is being carved and stuffed, and snores can be heard after a food coma sets in.

In my family, our first serving of food encompasses a portion of everything: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, rolls, a salad, and my grandma’s famous apple and pumpkin pies. However, the first helping is usually just shy of filling our bellies to the brim and then we are faced with the option of seconds. We can’t handle a second helping of more than one item and it becomes an internal battle to decide what our final selection is going to be before we hit the floor for a nap.

Do not fret, thanks to lean and continuous improvement we have a tool that can help you decide which sample will ryle your taste buds and place a relaxed smile on your face. This tool is called a decision matrix, and although I will be demonstrating it through the image I painted for you above, it can be translated into any part of your work environment, schooling, or life to help you make a decision best suited for you.

To begin the decision matrix you must first make a table and define your criteria and options available. The criteria is what you want your option to possess and the options are the choices that your are deciding between. These will be added to column and row headings (shown in a picture below). For our purposes there are four areas of criteria to be met and four options. The criteria are: Makes my mouth water, fills my belly for more than an hour, tastes great, not too sweet. The options are: mashed potatoes, turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole.

decision matrix

The second step is to determine how important is each of the criteria items. This is done on a scale of zero to five with five being the most important. Note: Values can be used more than once.

decision matrix 2

Third, go down each row and rank each option for how well they fit each criteria individually. This is done once again on a scale of zero to five, where five is that it fits that criteria perfectly. Again each value can be used more than one time. Personally, I prefer to rank these on a scale of 0-6 so that there isn’t any room to be right in the middle, but this isn’t the standard.

decision matrix 3

Now, you take the assigned values in each box and multiply it by the value assigned to that particular criteria. Once you get this number you add it to the bottom of that particular box. This is where the value assigned is written first then multiplied by the criteria value (the second number).

decision matrix 4

The last step with numbers is that you move across each row and add up the numbers that you just calculated to give you a total for that row. Once you have the totals you then compare the rows between one another, and the row with the greatest total is usually the option you can decide upon, in our case… winner winner turkey dinner!

decision matrix 5

Now that you have your decisions sorted and methodically picked you can get your final nibbles for the night, curl up on the couch, and drift into a snooze to the sound of a football game, but most importantly you can rest easy knowing you made the right choice for you.


A little hard-work, a little fun, a lot of lean: Affinity Diagrams

Anybody who is familiar with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is familiar with how bold our seasons are despite how long or short they become. Autumn is no exception, it is the period of time between late September to the end of October before the wind starts to howl and the snow starts to fly. Although our fall season is brief, the leaves still change and boy do they pop, deep reds, bright oranges, smooth yellows, warm shades of brown, and every single type becomes a crunchy lawn decoration for you to groan about and the kids an excited shrill. Take a deep breath. Did you feel that? The chilly air flooding into your lungs as winter takes its first breath. Hold onto that fresh air for a moment, and let it fill you. Remember this scene.

Just like a plethora of leaves in your yard, a broken or defected process will make you groan at the sight and feeling of the chaos surrounding you. Remember that feeling of fresh air replenishing your body? That is the same feeling that you get from lean, but specifically one of it’s daughters, it’s tool the affinity diagram. Let’s stick with the idea of fall in our mind, but specifically the scene of your yard. As I progress through the relation of raking a yard to an affinity diagram, I will also use the process leading up to jumping into the pile of leaves as my example highlighted in the pictures below each step.

Before anything begins your yard is not only covered in a blanket of pretty leaves, but also broken branches, toys left out from the summer, and items that you cannot see. Although the leaves are gorgeous, when you look at your yard you see derangement and are overcome with the urge to rake. The picture below represents all that you can see, the topical view.
This represents the current process: cluttered, busy, stressful, and more often than not, you can understand that there’s a lot contributing to the chaos, yet all you experience is the symptom, stress. The first step, is recognizing the topical view (depicted below).

Leaf4

The urge to rake has grown strong, you go to your storage shed, retrieve a rake and just start raking your entire yard, this way everything is stirred up and where you have a visual of the entire area. This is how the affinity diagram works, you make note of every possible thing that could be intermingled into the process and bring it out into the open, but rather than using a rake, post-it notes are used and plastered onto a flat surface. This allows for everything to be up front and prevents minimal surprises later on. For our example, the items written on the post-its, or the parts of the process are: hauling away, hat, relaxation, you, raking, gloves, jacket, pets, re-raking, toys, jumping, kids, trash, a rake, leaves, garbage bags, long pants, branches, and trash.

Leaf5

Now that the entire yard is raked, it needs to be broken up into piles that are a manageable size to be able to transport elsewhere. This also occurs with the post-its created above, the randomized notes are now condensed into piles of items that are similar to one another and placed under a category that is relevant to them. In our situation, The categories are: tools needed, dressing warm, people/things involved, items being raked, and action involved.

Leaf6

Finally, after a lot of hard work and frustration, the sounds of excited screams fill the air and leafs are quickly re-raked and hauled away to decompose elsewhere, and your process is laid out and organized in a manner that is clear and free of any surprises. Everything is out in the open and ready to be used to achieve your final product whether that be completing a current state map, planning an event, or figuring out where many people line up (or don’t) in a given situation.

jump


Lean Olympics Take on the SWIM LANES

With the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics among us and being proud Americans, you probably can’t even go to the grocery store without something or someone blaring “USA! USA! USA!” amid chanting crowds. Can you blame us? We’re up to 83 medals in two weeks, and Hello! Katie Ledecky! Breaking a world record while winning a gold medal by *cough* ONLY 11.38 seconds! That’s pretty cool and yes, GO USA! However, moving passed the idea of the stripes and stars, I’m more interested in the arena Katie took her gold in, and that was in a swimming pool-the kind with swim lanes.

Swim lanes are a tool that is depicted through a diagram. How this tool works is to show the flow of a process or the crossing of many areas of a process and doing so visually. To aid in understanding the steps, an example represented by the progression of the tool will be shown below with a description of each step. This example shows a student who needs to get into a class that has already reached it’s maximum capacity and can’t register for it so they request an exception.

How a swim lane is kicked off is through identifying who touches the process. This “who” can be an individual, a group, a department, an object, or basically anything that physically touches the process. For our example, the who’s include the student, academic advisor of the student, and the professor of the class being registered.

swimlane1

Once the “who’s” are identified, the what’s need to be added. These “what’s” are the current processes that each “who” goes through and how each others processes relate to one another. This is also where you identify where each “who’s” process starts. The process for our example starts with the student and moves to the professor then to the advisor and back to the student.

swimlane2

The third step is where the “what” is examined and analyzed for where there is waste within the process or steps and that don’t add value. For our diagram, there is a waste of time between the time the student makes the request and actually hears back that they can register. This is a waste because it is waiting time. There is also waste for the student: once they are able to register they have to do it very quickly so that another student doesn’t register when they see an open or an “extra” seat. There’s also waste for the professor: they need to do re-work of their classroom to be able to accommodate an additional student.

swimlane3

Through the use of swim lanes you are made to focus on the basic steps to figure out what is actually happening in a process, and once that is done, you are able to then dive into the process and figure out where the defected or problematic areas are and can then get to the root cause. This aids you in being able to see the big picture. Often times we have a process that is “broken” and we become frustrated and redo the entire process just to find that it didn’t reduce the frustration. However, through the use of swim lanes you are able to see the whole process and establish what part(s) of the process is/are broken and can devote your time and energy into making improvements to that specific area without redoing the whole thing. So just like Katie Ledecky, if we take one [free-style] stroke at a time, we can come out in record time.


Taking a LEAN of absence

Have you ever noticed how going on vacation is simple and coming back to reality is a challenge? There’s no weening into relaxation, you kick your shoes off and leap into a comfortable position, and that’s how you remain for your entire vacation. Yet, when it comes time to go back to your routine it takes some progressing.

This is a concept we are all familiar with, regardless of the length of our “vacation.” I am especially familiar since I just got back into the office last week from being a counselor at a girl scout camp. It was a wonderful week to simply be engulfed by songs, kids, and adventures, but it also took my mind away from being a lean practitioner for seven days. At first I tried to catch close calls, but with 100+ people I gave up pretty quickly and my lean mind was put in the shadows. Once Monday rolled in and I had to dive back into my usual routine, I found myself absolutely dumbfounded and bewildered. This was overwhelming and stressful because I felt as though I had lost my touch. Stepping away from a lean mindset didn’t only affect my work, it affected my everyday life beyond the office as well. This happened because I have been working on implementing lean into everything that I do and when my “core” was removed everything else felt as though it crumbled around me, which made me feel vulnerable, exposed, and distressed. Although I felt as though I lost my touch, I still had lean lurking in the shadows of my hibernating mind and I figured what better experiment then to see if lean really does work as well as it’s argued and to see how important sustainment is to the idea of continuous improvement. This became my first practice with lean since arriving home and I can say, yet again, I am in awe of the power of lean. Before I recognized that this could be an experiment, my apartment was a disaster and flipped upside down, my car became a “enter if you dare” zone, my notes from my classes were disorganized and irrelevant to the material, and my concentration at work was befuddled, all happening in a matter of three days. Now (only a week later), my apartment is no longer chaotic but rather rearranged AND labeled, my notes have been rewritten and deciphered, and my work is on task and on time.

From the start of my lean journey about five months ago, I could tell right away how powerful lean was, and I’ve shared this many times through previous blog posts. However, I hadn’t had enough time for my practices to fall apart and for me to appreciate lean for all that it is, nor did I really understand the importance of sustaining the changes or sustaining a mind to continuously make changes. I came into the Office of Continuous Improvement with no previous knowledge or comprehension of lean; I remember asking Nate what “kaizen” meant and him shaking his head. However, now lean is like the friends I made when I started college–one of the most important things in my life that has only been a part of it for a short period of time, but has made the largest impact thus far. Just like my new friends, I plan to continue to kindle my relationship with lean so that it will never burn out on me entirely.