All posts by Rylie Store

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

A foot in the door: Commencement Kaizens

For the last six months a team has been pulled together to address various areas of the commencement process here at Michigan Tech, from ticketing to safety, and from configuration of space to guest speakers. This team has covered the commencement process inside and out, and with all of the stakeholders involved too! That’s HUGE!! The team has met 13 times already, for a total of 20 hours, and they are just getting started on most of it.

Before I introduce the teams let me tell a little bit more about how the Office of Continuous Improvement and the commencement committee have paired up and identified the kaizens that they’d like to move forward on. The meetings mentioned used swim lanes, a process mapping tool to map out the commencement process. The details to go on the swim lanes were acquired by the team leader, Kelly Vizanko, who emailed all of the stake holders and asked for their timelines. For the ones that were not received via email, they attended half-hour segments to help the team map out their part of the process. These meetings then identified areas of waste using kaizen bursts. From there the kaizen bursts were grouped based on the sub-process that they fell into and then later placed into a ICE Table, used for prioritization. This is how the kaizens were identified, by the most important/greatest impact, the level of control the team had, and by the ease to implement change/improvement. The kaizens identified were: Ticketing, Preparation, Volunteers, and Space + Configuration.

Ticketing consisted of eight people:

  • Kelly Vizanko (Registrar’s Office) – Team Leader
  • Ashley DeVoge (Ticketing Office) – Team Leader
  • Megan Goke (Office of Continuous Improvement) – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store (Office of Continuous Improvement) – Process Improvement Coordinator
  • Alisha Kocjan (Registrar’s Office) – Team Member
  • Shanda Miller (Bookstore) – Team Member
  • Nancy Byers-Sprague (Graduate School) – Team Member
  • Mary Stevens (Graduate School) – Team Member

This kaizen is wrapping up soon with a report out to the commencement committee. Several changes are expected such as scanning tickets to track the number of bodies in the room, communication to students (undergraduate and graduate) streamlined, established a limit for how many tickets will be issued, etc…

Day 1
This is a photo of Day one of the very first kaizen. This is half of the start of the swimlane that ended up being created.

The Commencement Volunteers and Preparation kaizens are just about to take off, all we are waiting on the dates to come for volunteers and our team to be solidified for preparation.

The team for volunteers is:

  • Kelly Vizanko – Team Leader
  • Gina LeMay (Research Office) – Facilitator
  • Megan Goke – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store – PIC
  • Alisha Kocjan – Team Member
  • Joel Isaacson (Athletics) – Team Member
  • Jennifer Biekkola (Alumni House) – Team Member
  • Brian Cadwell (Public Safety & Police Services (PSPS))- Team Member
  • Daniel Bennett (University Safety & Security – PSPS) – Team Member

And to kick off the Preparation Kaizen we have:

  • Kelly Vizanko – Team Leader
  • Alisha Kocjan – Team Leader
  • Laura Harry (Memorial Union) – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store – PIC
ICE Table
Here is the team leaders and the facilitators working on prioritizing the kaizens.

All in all, we have a ways to go on these kaizens but the goal is to have at least something changed in each of these areas, and to reassess after this year’s commencement ceremony. A foot in the door for lean, just as the students are about to leave.


What is a PIC

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to write a blog post for the Michigan Lean Consortium’s newsletter. In that blog post I wrote about how Michigan Tech is bringing lean to students, but more specifically on the Process Improvement Coordinators, commonly know as the PICs. While writing, it dawned on me that we have never really talked in depth about what our PICs do for the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Lately, we have been introducing a few new members to our PIC  team: Blake, Dominique, and not too long before them we had Matt. Even further back in time than Matt, we introduced Ari in April and Anita in March. In this time frame, Anita and Matt went their separate ways to prioritize other things in their lives. For me, Rylie, I was introduced way back in March of 2016.

Overall you’ve gotten to know a little about each of us, and hear from us during our journey with the office. However, what is it that we actually do for the office? What is our contribution? Where does our value lie?

Well the answer is sort of simple, we are process improvement coordinators for kaizen events. This means that we are responsible to make sure that all of the right people are in the right place, at the right time, and with the all of materials they need to be successful. We work closely with all levels of faculty and staff through the use of lean methods and thinking. We are well respected by these employees and are treated as equivalents whenever we’re seated at the table. On average, once each PIC is well out of their training they can be assigned eight different kaizens that they are coordinating. Deviating away from this part of our role, the PICs can also be responsible for aiding in facilitation of a kaizen,  data collection, and creating presentations for reporting out.

Kaizens are what we all know how to do, but there’s a lot more projects that us PICs are involved in; this is variable depending on which PIC you are talking about. For example, Blake and Dominique just completed training and are starting to get into kaizens. Ari and Dominique are currently working on a question bank for our facilitators to study for the Lean Bronze Certification test, a nationally recognized certification. Ari is also working on coordinating a information session on lean for students taught by the PICs. My big on-going project is training in the new PICs. This is done through a course that I designed along side a former PIC, Aspen, to accommodate all learning styles while enabling coaching opportunities for our more seasoned PICS.

The last bit of what we do is our routine standard work: blog posts, newsletters, report-outs, presentations, keeping up with kaizens and our access database, the typical. The key with our work, however, is that we don’t only do our work, we are continuously improving it through the PDCA cycle. As a team we have decided to highly boost the lean culture of mutual respect, by asking lots of questions and eliminating blame from our work.

In summary, our PICs are always on the go, and our “typical” day in the office is really unpredictable. Each day is different, and that’s how we like it, as it allows for growth and things to get done, without the lag of a droning routine.


Lean for the first time – again and again

If you’ve been following our blog for a little while, you’re probably already aware of this. I have been with the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech for a little over a year and a half. The last year of that has been spent training in new student Process Improvement Coordinators at a regular speed. In the past year we have put four people through our training completely, and our fifth will be wrapping up within the next few weeks. Our first guinea pig was Stephen, then we had Anita, and Ari. After Ari, there was enough data and feedback to dedicate some time (upwards of 45 hours) to making revisions, deletions, and additions to the training. Then Matt joined our crew, our Guinea pig for the second round, and currently we have Blake going through the training (he will formally introduce himself in a few weeks). All five of these people have brought a great deal of joy, excitement, and “proud parent” moments for me as I watch them move through different modules, emotions, and faces.

What’s interesting is they all seem to have identical emotions but how they react to their emotions has been incredible for me to watch. I can almost now tell where Blake is at in the training without checking online to see his progress, simply by watching the vibe he’s giving off.

Moving back a year, I was assigned to redesign the training along side my co-worker at the time, Aspen. We sat down and discussed what worked and didn’t work from the training we went through. We talked about all the things we wish we had known, and the questions we asked. This started our direction for drafting the new training course. Then we hit a rut. “What is our goal? What does our future state look like. ” It took us a long time (I mean a few weeks) to answer this question. Then one day it was clear as day, duh! We want to design a training course that eliminates the surface questions, promotes deeper questions, and provides the new PIC with everything they need to know or how to find out what they need to know to jump into our processes. Once this was established we took off running.

In the past four months I have spent about 75 hours updating the training to get closer and closer to our future state. We will have to take several more jumps but we’re closer.

The piece about training others that is so rewarding for me is that, through these new comers, I am able to relearn lean again and again. I’m able to experience the flood and being overwhelmed, the light bulb flickering on, and the excitement once you finally get it! Its breath-taking to have this opportunity repeatedly, and this, this helps me to see a clearer picture of what our next jump is. Plus, then I have more minds to help pull it off. 🙂

861c61642ded8f23ca973a6130b7530e--surprise-parties-love-her
I pulled this off of a google search, but to put into perspective, this is about identical to what I feel on the inside (maybe look on the outside too) when the PICs reach the light-bulb flickering on point.

Finding Your Niche-Personal & Organizational Values

It’s a fairly common thing for organizations to identify a set of core values that they would like their company to function around. Here at Michigan Tech we strive to revolve about the following five values: Community, Scholarship, Possibilities, Accountability, and Tenacity (for more on our values follow here.) What is the purpose of organizations identifying their values? What is the purpose behind plastering these next to your name? How do these values reflect the environment you are in?

These are all sorts of questions that stormed my mind as I was attending the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) a few weeks ago. This year I attended three active learning sessions all centered around the same topic- how to start, run, and operate a business. Two of these three sessions took the conversation a step beyond the walls of the company and into a state of vulnerability, honesty, and unequivocally raw. The last session I attended challenged the social tendency to keep your professional life at work, and your personal life at home- within reason. When on-boarding a new employee, we often mention something like: “Keep the conversation work-related,” “We have a professional environment here,” and “Separate work from home.” However, the thought provoking piece of this session was that, we all go into these environments with a preconceived thought about what those three phrases (plus their sisters) actually mean. Where along the way did our home life become deemed as a professional pitfall? It’s kind of like, why do we have rules? We have rules because somewhere somebody did a thing that was seen as bad and so a rule was created.

Let’s go back to the ideas of values, almost every organization has a set of core values. Michigan Tech has them, NASA, American Red Cross, Apple, and even the United States has them in the form of documents, songs, and our pledge of allegiance! All of these organizations are professional by the unwritten american standard, and they all have identified the core values that they administer around. These values were created to display an image and a feeling that the company would like to be remembered for. These values are the theme for their practice, their impression they want to give. Unfortunately, it is often that one or all of these values will fall off as they aren’t practiced, and sometimes one value may even trump another value. When we begin to notice these sorts of collapse, it is often times too late: A company filed for bankruptcy, there was internal fraudulence, Safety hazards or even a death occurred…

I’m going to ask a few questions that the speaker asked us. The questions are based on the pictures below. I want you to really think about the answers to each of these and try to figure out what feelings are leading you to these answers.

IMG_0769

What draws us to beauty?

compassion

What draws us to compassion?

 

Sterling R. Cale, treasurer, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Unit 1, salutes his fallen comrades in the rear of the USS Arizona Memorial Monday during the Memorial Ceremony and Interment of James Evans Cory, the first Marine to be buried aboard the Arizona since World War II.
Sterling R. Cale, treasurer, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Unit 1, salutes his fallen comrades in the rear of the USS Arizona Memorial Monday during the Memorial Ceremony and Interment of James Evans Cory, the first Marine to be buried aboard the Arizona since World War II.

What draws us to respect?

Question-mark-blackandwhite

Where do our values come from?

As people, we all have core values within ourselves that date back generations through our family history, adapting and changing with the times. Yet we all have our own values that we strive for. We may not be perfect in all of the values we hold, but we try to get better, and we try to surround ourselves with environments that hold true to our values. These tend to reflect the moments that we are happiest, prideful, and most fulfilled. The speaker of my session, Art Hoeskra, shared this article here to help us evaluate our own values. Some of my values are: Family, Empathy, Honesty, Independence, Positivity, Faith, and Structure.

I’d like to conclude with one of the final questions Art asked in this session which was, “What are the ideal values you want to instill in your family? Why don’t you instill these at work too?”


Lean at Girl Scout Camp

Time and time again I am amazed by the flexibility of lean and its endless applications outside of the office. It seems that no matter what sort of process I have going I can always improve it in some way. Whether it be how often I perform regular maintenance on my car, how I stock my pantry, or how I prioritize my chores for the evening. The most adaptable part of lean is the use of people. Not a single aspect of lean was designed for one person and one person alone to complete a task, but rather to be easily used in a team.

Being a college student there are many times that you get put into a group of total strangers and you are expected to get the task done. However, each member goes into the group with a different set of priorities, expectations, and values that they carry with them- whether they know it or not. This is true going into a marriage, a summer camp, a new job, or even something as simple as a group project for school. The question I began to ask was, “How can you accommodate the different values and expectations before a diverging trait breaks lose?” and, “How can you have a plan for when disagreement arises?” The answer is by implementing a team charter.

What is a team charter? A team charter is developed in a group setting to clarify the teams direction while establishing boundaries, it is used to encourage a common understanding and shared voice among all group members.

I recently had the opportunity to practice a team charter in a unique setting with nine 9-11 year old girls in my cabin at girl scout camp. This charter was developed by the girls in my cabin on how we planned to take care of cabin, how we were going to treat each other, and how we were going to treat ourselves. To make sure that all of their voices were heard without making these preteens uncomfortable, I opted to use an affinity diagram with them. We took a few minutes to make three affinity diagrams (one at a time), after this we collaborated, laughed, and successfully agreed on our game plan.

Affinity
One of the older girls working on her sticky notes. This one puts lots of thought and effort into her ideas. It was fun to watch her become so invested in the cabin.
affinity 4
One of the girls thinking about the ideas and helping everyone to brainstorm categories.
affinity 2
The girls working together to group their ideas.
affinity 3
Finally some rearranging and getting close to the end.

Sadly, I don’t have an after picture of what we came up with, I was a little too excited that the idea even came together in the first place (In my time as a counselor I have learned that you never know what the middle school girls are going to bring). However, the game plan we formed was visible all week long and in several instances I noticed the girls taking a look at it, holding one another accountable to it, and sometimes asking for buy in to add a few more items to our plan. All in all it was a great week, and I was thrilled once again with the malleability of lean.


Welcome Matt!

Joining the team in the Office of Continuous Improvement is a new Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC), Matt Chard. Matt is a local student who just graduated this spring prior (May 2017), making him a first year student pursuing not only one, but two degrees. Although Matt is only a first year, we are happy to have some fresh eyes not only for our office, but also in terms of the Michigan Tech campus. Just like he has provided for our office in his short time with us, we are positive that Matt will have a great impact on the university, his keen personality and curious mind make him a natural in the lean world.

Matt will now introduce himself and tell you a bit about him and his lean journey this far.

Hello,

My name is Matthew Chard, I am the newest Process Improvement Coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

I was born and raised in the Houghton area. I graduated from Houghton High School this last spring. I look forward to continuing my education here at Michigan Tech next fall where I plan to dual major in Engineering Management and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Off campus I spend most of my time outdoors. I enjoy mountain biking, disc golfing, hiking, fishing, skiing, and just about anything where I have the chance to explore or learn something new. When I am not outdoors I enjoy working in my shop where I do metal working.

Before taking on the position as a Process Improvement Coordinator I heard a lot about the positive effects of lean but I never really understood the underlying concept. Now that my training is wrapping up and I can grasp the concept of lean, I look forward to incorporating it into my life and seeing what affects lean has on me and the rest of the university.

Matt Picture

 


Parade of Nation’s Kaizens

On May 31st of this year, we officially closed out THREE kaizens pertaining to the community based event, Parade of Nation’s (PON). These three kaizens consisted of improving the fundraising, Multicultural Festival, and Parade aspect of PON.

What is the Parade of Nation’s? PON is a community event that is hosted by a committee, mainly consisting of members from the Michigan Tech faculty and staff. The event is going on its 28th year and its mission is to promote worldwide culture and national awareness in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through an annual event that includes a parade and a multicultural festival, serving approximately 3,000 people.

14066349_1156478601058227_2811645082211730547_o

When our team initially met in October, we identified four kaizens, but once we got started the Team Leader was able to solve one of the problems, allowing our teams to divide their focus on three instead. Before I get too much further I’d like to introduce the teams, the problem statements, and the targets that were identified for each kaizen.

For the fundraising kaizen the team was:

  • Angela Kolehmainen – Facilitator
  • Linnea McGowan-Hobmeier – Facilitator
  • Vienna Chapin – Team Leader
  • Rylie Store – Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC)
  • Stephen Butina – PIC
  • Bob Wenc – Member
  • Cassy Tefft de Munoz – Member
  • Laura Givens – Member
  • Briana Tucker – Member

Problem Statement: The method for requesting sponsorship’s from local businesses isn’t the most efficient method and it creates a lot of work for those responsible for it. 

Target: Focus on applying for grants and large/corporate sponsors and/or grants. Create less work while bringing in more money and still maintaining relationships with the local businesses.

For the Multicultural Festival kaizen the team was:

  • Angela Kolehmainen – Facilitator
  • Vienna Chapin – Team Leader
  • Stephen Butina – PIC
  • Rylie Store – PIC
  • Bob Wenc – Member
  • Cassy Tefft de Munoz – Member
  • Scott Austin – Member
  • Joseph Schutte – Member
  • Briana Tucker – Member

Problem Statement: 3,000 people are crammed into a very busy venue that isn’t configured to hold so many people at one time. There is lots of chaos and safety concerns in regards to the amount of people present. On another note, the setting up and tear down of the tables, chairs, and booths take up so much time and people in the form of the volunteers.

Target: To provide customers with a new experience that is safe, entertaining, relaxing, and can still accommodate a large amount of people. Want to reduce the amount of time spent setting up and tearing down while also using volunteers appropriately in other areas of PON.

And finally the Parade kaizen team was:

  • Linnea McGowan-Hobmeier – Facilitator
  • Vienna Chapin – Team Leader
  • Rylie Store – PIC
  • Brianna Tucker – Member
  • Laura Givens – Member

Problem Statement: Due to many locations the registration forms for floats, flags, and walkers get lost which creates a great deal of turn around time and inaccurate information which increases the stress on everyone. There is a lack of communication between the PON committee and the community in terms of how the parade is organized. There is a lot of stress associated with the day due to the lack of flow and organization of the event.

To begin the process on all of these kaizens we used Swimlanes to help us understand the process and to see the flow/lack there of. Once these swimlanes were done we went through the process and identified the areas of waste and assigned them a kaizen burst. Once this was done, the nature of the bursts helped us to determine what our next step was, whether it was another tool or if we could start brainstorming some potential solutions. We almost always opted for another tool.

40682EF2-1F88-430E-A836-F449CECF1EBB
This is a picture of the fundraising swimlane.

After completing the swimlane for fundraising the team decided that the next best thing to do would be to create an affinity diagram; one consisting of all of the types of sponsors. After that the team used a decision matrix to decide what type of sponsors they wanted to focus their time/energy on the most. The end result was that they created deadlines to apply for grants from larger sponsors, to send emails out to the local businesses, and as a thank you they provided each sponsor with a window decal to put on the window of their business (free advertising bonus as well!).

4C40FC6D-50E6-4018-A041-936BA825A9AB
Some of the team members pondering the fundraising affinity diagram.
07B17D19-56A3-4CA6-84B1-85CFA8274F5A
The decision matrix that was created after the affinity diagram.

 

 

F472B917-D175-47A0-901B-737E7D09C0E5
The Multicultural festival team working on their swimlane.

The multicultural festival team created a swimlane and after that they moved into a SIPOC and Spaghetti Diagram. These three tools paired closely together to help the team understand who’s responsible for what at the venue and then what is the current flow of the venue. The result of this was that the committee decided to use a different vendor for all of their tables, chairs, and booths.  As a result they were provided with an outdoor tent which will utilize the outside space more, the inside space was freed up, and for about the same price they were provided with some other great bonuses such as table cloths and decorations. The other perk to using a different vendor is that the vendor will do all of the setup and tear down, allowing PON volunteers to be used more effectively in other aspects of PON, such as the parade. The most important result? Now the venue is being used safely.

Swimlane2
The Parade team discussing the kaizen bursts identified in the swimlane.

After starting the swimlane for the parade, we quickly realized the extent of the waste in this particular process. This swimlane turned into a much bigger process than we had ever imagined, nearly eight pages long of steps and details. However, after carfeul conversation, we were able to decide that most of the areas of waste were a result of poor visual management. By brainstorming visual management solutions for each are of waste, we were able to increase the communication between the PON committee members and the community. The action items that came out of this kaizen were plentiful but overall we believe that the flow of the parade will increase and the waste will decrease. To help with communication we found there wasn’t a shared understanding of who was responsible or accountable for what, so to help with this area the team completed a R.A.C. I. chart, which is being shared among the PON committe and volunteers, so that everyone has a shared understanding.

File_005
This is the R.A.C.I. chart that was created for one task.

In the words of the team leader: she was happy with the kaizens and she enjoyed gaining insight into new perspectives. “Each time (I) left with something new, I always learned and found creative ways to think, work, and function efficiently. These kaizens reduced stress for EVERYONE.” After her involvement in these three kaizens she’s formed some advice for those going through an improvement event, and it is, “Don’t be afraid to try something new. You don’t know what else is out there unless you embrace change and ask questions.”

We look forward to attending this years PON as community members and to support the teams we formed these past eight months. Our extensive time really brought a new meaning to the word community in terms of Michigan Tech’s campus, the Houghton County and surrounding areas, as well as between each other.


PIC Training & Diversity

The last time that you heard from me was when I introduced the word cloud, pictured below. I was able to generate this cloud from a plethora of individuals, worldwide and via LinkedIn. The topic of the word cloud? Lean and Continuous Improvement summarized into a single word.

wordcloud

Naturally (also fairly), I chose a word as well. My word? Diversity. Throughout my time practicing Lean and CI, I have been faced with several challenges, and yet one of the greatest is still summarizing lean. This is because it is SO diverse!

Now Diversity can mean a million different things, and can be applied anywhere and at anytime. Diversity is what gives the word “unique” life and it’s what gives meaning to the idea of being receptive.

I chose diversity, not because I wanted to select a word that wasn’t used by my comrades, but rather because if you place “Lean and Continuous Improvement” into the sentence above, in place of “Diversity,” you will have an equally true statement.

Recently I have finished designing a training course for our new Process Improvement Coordinators (PICs) and every step of the way I ran into lean’s diversity. I ran into it when I had to organize the lesson plans and orders, I ran into it when I had to decide what topics should be elaborated on and to what extent, and I ran into it especially when the new employees began asking questions. Last time I focused on the idea of DNA, people, perspective, respect, empowerment, etc. Today I want to cover how other words tie lean to diversity and they are: evolution, focused, prepared, better, purposeful, helpful, and flow.

The first word, evolution was chosen because the training course has certainly evolved since I went through it. The training that our most recent hire is going through is technically revision 3 of the course. Just like the content and existence of the training, lean is always evolving towards perfection, towards improvement. Without evolution we have no Continuous Improvement, only Lean, but the two go hand in hand. They’re sister pillars, if one falls so does the other. This is a lesson I learned while designing the training course. I believe that in order to grow, evolution or improvement must be made.

In sense of the training, in order to make sure the training was in fact having a growth spurt, the lessons had to remain focused, prepare the student for their job, it had to be better, each piece had to serve a purpose and help, and all of this had to flow together.

The above ideas all tie to the thinking of lean. In order to make helpful changes, to enhance the flow, and to achieve the goal of a better process, the thinking must be focused. The thinking must concentrate on the current state, and future state. After this happens then the thinking must become purposeful and deliberate. Every step concerning bridging the gap between current and future state must be principle. How do we ensure that all of this is happening? It’s easy, you must be prepared. To be prepared is to plan, if there isn’t enough time or effort put into designing a plan then the “Doing” will be futile. All of these concepts go hand in hand, making improving anything more complex, more diverse.

When I started designing the PIC training course the objective I had in mind was to create a flowing, helpful, and better training course for the incoming PICs. However, I had never anticipated that while I was constructing this course, I too was learning a great deal. The lessons I learned in planning this training were ones that actually apply to understanding lean in general.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__640


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!