All posts by Rylie Store

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

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.

Justice for All

Lean

Above is a quote that I stumbled upon recently. When I saw it, I became aware of a change within myself. I couldn’t look at this simple statement from Tom Ford without feeling as though “lean” was leaping from each word.

With the recent holiday weekend at a close–a celebration of the United State’s independence from Great Britain–I found myself reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The part that I’d like to highlight is the closing line, “with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty meaning that we are not to be enslaved by another nor are we to enslave another. Justice for all, meaning that each individual person is given an equal opportunity to succeed. I’m aware that the Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t written about or for lean, but I do know that it was written under the umbrella of structured common sense which happens to be a part of lean. These concepts along with the concept of striving for perfection have created (what I feel) to be an appropriate depiction of the lean culture.

Before taking on this job as a process improvement coordinator I would’ve classified myself into many variations of personalities, however, obsessive would not have been in the mix. I think that the reasoning may be due to a negative connotation regularly associated with the idea of being obsessed or “perfect.” I was no exception to this stigma until I began working here in the office of continuous improvement. I will say that I now would classify myself as having an “obsessive personality” simply because lean, continuous improvement, and the utilization of waste elimination has taught me that striving for perfection is not condescending, but rather commendable.

Without coincidence, I’ve found that all of the factors for this change are rooted from lean, whether it be from the abundance of tools, the endless room for growth, the “personalities” within lean itself, or simply the growth of a culture. These have all had an active role in how I view the world now compared to how I viewed it months prior. It’s irrelevant as to how I’d describe my personality traits, however, as I briefly mentioned before, lean also has a personality. To me this personality shines through in it’s encouragement of devotion, improvement, and above all it’s accountability regarding respect. These three areas are the specific root causes of why and how I have transitioned from the negative norm to thinking outside of the box to get whatever the day’s job is done in the most precise and efficient manner.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Problems Away

Lean is like eating an apple. There’s the skin that we all see-it has a color, a texture, and a stem. However, once you break through the skin with your teeth you see a different color, texture, and the core. This is the same principle in Lean and problem solving through the use of the five why’s.

You’re given a scenario (the skin), you see the results of the problem (the color), you see the repercussions of the results (the texture), and you may even see a sliver of the actual problem (the stem). Yet, until you sink your teeth into the scenario you won’t truly see what’s underneath. By taking a bite you slowly begin revealing a new color, a new texture, and eventually the core, or in this case the root cause.

For a moment let’s pretend that it only takes five bites to get to the core of the apple. Each bite represents one of the five why’s.

Imagine a woman who cuts off the ends of a ham before putting it in the oven. Her husband asks “Why do you cut the ends off of the ham before cooking it?” *Bite* She replies, “because it’s how my mother cooked it.” So the husband goes to his mother-in-law and asks, “why do you cut off the ends of the ham before cooking it?” *Bite* She replies, “because it’s how my mother always made it.” So the husband goes to the grandmother and asks why she cooked ham this way *Bite* here he got the same answer that he got from his wife, and his mother-in-law. Finally, he asks the great grandmother “Why have you always cooked your ham without the ends on?” *Bite* She replies, “so I could cook as much ham as possible,” the husband then asks, “why couldn’t you cook the whole ham at once?” *Bite* and she replies, “because the pan I had was too small.”

For generations, the women thought this was how they were supposed to cook a ham simply because their mother before them had cooked it that way, but not once did they stop to recognize that there may be an underlying method to their madness. Over the years this resulted in much ham, time, and money wasted for no real reason.

By asking ourselves five why questions we allow ourselves to get to the root cause. Now, if the husband had only asked four why questions, his last answer would’ve been, “so I could cook as much ham as possible,” this really wouldn’t have answered his question-it would’ve gotten him closer but not to the root cause. The same is true with eating an apple-by taking few too little bites you don’t ever see the core, all you recognize is the apple in your hand. However, if you take another bite you may just find the seeds, and your perspective and appreciation for the apple in your palm has changed.

*Note: The example of the ham is one that was introduced to me by Daniel Bennett of Public Safety and Police Services here at MTU.

What are some areas of waste around you? Have you properly identified the root cause? If not, try utilizing the ‘5 why’s” they may be able to help you find a problem you didn’t originally see.

I’ve been Ruined for the Better

I’ve been on board as a process improvement coordinator (PIC) for about three months now and believe me when I tell you I’ve been ruined… for the better. I truly had no idea what  I got myself into by taking this job, let alone any idea of how much it would change ME so quickly. I’ve always been a well organized person, but with three months of lean in my life I’ve gone a little over the top.

When it became undeniable that I had changed and will continuously change was after I learned how to make an A3. It all started because I’ve been working on a project with our database so that it can be ready to be used to create our updates and annual reports for the board of trustees. That being said, there’s a lot of little things that have been creating tremendous amounts of waste within our current system. To be able to get to the root cause(s) appropriately is where the A3’s came into play. An A3 is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement tools that is outlined on a piece of A3, or ledger, paper (an example of the outline is below). To kick start this project I created six A3’s total, a parent and five daughters. The parent has all of the vague information of what’s happening, where each daughter goes into detail on one or several of the problems identified on the parent. Currently revisions are still being made to the parent and daughters. Revisions help in thoroughly planning out the project and ensuring all of the details are correct before making changes.

A3 template

Going back to how lean has ruined me- I’ve recently moved into my first apartment and I’m noticing waste all around me. From clutter under the kitchen sink, to disorganization in my pantry and refrigerator, to how I store my shoes- there’s a lot of waste and unnecessary movement of things to get to what I actually want, causing a lot of wasted time. The moment that I noticed I was ruined was after my first draft of the database A3’s. I went home and noticed the waste of time, movement, space, and inventory. Having lean in my life I naturally began wondering where all of this waste was coming from, so what did I do? I created A3’s for myself and I’m on the road to improvement in my own environment. An example of one of my personal A3’s is shown below.

decluttering groceries