Category Archives: Lean Thinking

WOW: MUB Basement Transformation

Just after the semester started, I completed PIC training, and one of the first things I was assigned to as a PIC was to take over the MUB basement Kaizen from Matt, since he left the office. I was kind of terrified of it at first because it’d be technically my first Kaizen on my own, and I didn’t really have very much of an idea of what Kaizen’s really were yet, so I’m sure you can tell why I was a bit scared of it.
I started working with the team on the Kaizen at a newspaper meeting since the Kaizen technically started in January of 2017, so the processes at the beginning of the Kaizen were already long gone. Anyway, the first newspaper meeting I went to, we did a Gemba Walk through the basement and there was still some standards to be set with the janitorial supplies/carts, fire safety was another thing that still had to be implemented, and just some small clutter things that were waiting to be moved out.
The next newspaper meeting, during our Gemba Walk, everything was moved/implemented, and there wasn’t very much left to do in the Kaizen itself. However, the two sides (Dining & Auxiliary Services/MUB) that have control of the MUB Basement decided to split up to find uses for their parts of the basement.
Going through some of the pictures of the basement prior to the Kaizen, it’s so unbelievable seeing the changes that have been made, going from not have very much if ANY space to even walk, to having rooms opened and things having their own place, it’s a transformation unlike any other. Also the team has been fortunate enough to learn a lot of safety and disposal laws during the Kaizen. Even during the closure meeting during reflections, the only thing that the team could really say was “WOW.”
Now the two teams are doing their own Kaizens on their portions of the MUB Basement to see what to do with their areas and what processes work best for them and what they’re trying to achieve. I’m very excited to see what will happen in the future given the tremendous transformation already. Both teams are just past the pre-meeting stage, and are moving on to the Kaizen days, so I can’t wait to see what’ll happen.

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Welcome Ellie!

One of our newest additions to our PIC team is Ellie. She has been working on several enrichment projects since joining our office and to watch her mind start to shift towards a lean mindset has been nothing short of exciting. Ellie has continually expressed her excitement to work in the office and is already hopping on her first kaizen with Dining Services. She has even started to bridge the gap between lean and her major in psychology. We are so excited to watch our team grow and branch to other departments on campus. I’ll let Ellie take over from here…

Hi! My name Is Ellie Luokkanen, I am a first year psychology student here at Michigan Tech. I just recently started and am now finished training as a new Process Improvement Coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

I grew up in a small town called Fulton, 30 minutes north of Houghton.  I graduated from Calumet High School 2 years ago and have just finished taking a gap year to do some traveling and pursue my love of music. I have participated in PJ Olsson’s Rock Camp, as a vocalist, at the Rozsa Center here on campus for the last two years of my high school career, which is what prompted me to take my gap year. I got to spend a lot of time doing what I love, making music, as well as having great opportunities to travel. I even lived in Kentucky for a little while doing these things. After my year of travel I was excited to get back to school to start my journey towards a degree in another passion of mine, psychology. I couldn’t be happier to be here at Michigan Tech!

Thanks!

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Lean Culture; Why Isn’t This The Norm?

This past month, I was able to participate in the making of a video with Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, and it was my first solo project as a PIC. I was both extremely excited and cautious, as I wanted to put to work the Lean knowledge and values my training had instilled me with, but I was also worried. What if I couldn’t do my job well? What if I under-performed what was expected of me? My first project was working with the “Big Dogs” and what if I couldn’t cut it? After a very reassuring meeting with Ruth about the basis of the project, I tried to go into it with the best outlook. No matter what happened, it would be an experience that would allow me to grow, and overall, improve.

It should not surprise you that the environment with which I met was nothing like I had feared, in fact, I felt no different than if I were back in the office as usual. The meeting with Mrs. Coleman-Kaiser went so easy and smooth, and not once did I feel inferior or inadequate. The conversation was natural, my questions came out unhindered, and overall I felt completely confident in my abilities. It was the same kind of  culture I experience everyday in the office, the very embodiment of lean culture I read about during training and in books. So why was I expecting any different?

Lean culture is one where respect for people is central, no matter status or position of individuals. The establishment of respect cultivates teamwork and camaraderie among everyone, and together we work towards the common goal of improvement. This allows for a blame-free space, where a mistake means an opportunity for improvement and the evolution of our standards. There is no need for taking the credit or pointing fingers, because we are all working towards the same goal; improvement.

In theory, the culture of Lean sounds great, as it gives the best approach towards a system where everyone is equal and working together.

Realistically, Lean culture in practice is even better. Lean culture allows you to function uninhibited by fears or worries, because not only are you geared towards the same end-goal as those around you, but because there are no mistakes, just areas that you recognize could use improvement. There is no failure in Lean culture.

The reason I expected different is because the culture of Lean is not what the majority encounters normally. Before my introduction to Lean, I had never encountered a work environment such as this, and I thought it too good to be true, even though it’s a workplace we all deserve.  Here we have a healthy, high functioning, improvement-promoting environment that yields the best of results, and yet it is an environment known by only few. What a concept! Now that I have been immersed in Lean culture for a few months, it is becoming the norm for me. I am becoming more sensitive to the differences between this work environment and other work environments that are not Lean.

As we continue our work with Lean, and continue on the path of continuous improvement, not only do we strengthen the standard of Lean culture, but it is so important that we also continue to  introduce others into the Lean and its values. It is very important to spread so that everyone everywhere is working at the same standards, and working towards the same goals. Hopefully someday the majority shall be Lean, and Lean will become the new societal norm.

 


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 is the dates to come (for the volunteer kaizen) and our team to be solidified for the preparation kaizen.

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 by April 2018, and to reassess after this year’s commencement ceremony. A foot in the door for lean, just as the students are about to leave.


Finding your Balance

My time in the Office of Continuous Improvement, and my first few months here at MTU have provided me with a lot of new things to learn about and figure out. As most first year’s figure out, college has its fair share of difficulties, whether it be tough teachers or classes, since we’re at Michigan Tech, the weather, and of course the many social issues every person my age faces.

Which brings us to the skill that I’ve most gained so far from my time in the OCI and at MTU, which is a balance. Trying to find that balance of everything is critical for even your first semester at college, and I’d like to think that I have a pretty decent balance figured out so far. Along with working in the OCI, I also work in the athletic department here at Tech keeping stats for various athletic teams. Also, I am a sports writer for the Tech Lode, along with college and homework, and trying to fit in a family and social life, you could say I’m a pretty busy guy. So, finding that balance is pretty important for me.

When I started at the OCI, I was introduced to Google Calendar, which has honestly been my lifesaver so far this year. I plan all my events throughout the day on my Google Calendar, maybe I over-do it a tad, as one of my friends can’t even understand my calendar when looking at it, but for me it works. I have my MTU calendar, which has all my school, work, and other major things in my life on. I also have a separate calendar for my own personal items, and lastly a calendar for my professor’s office hours. So, I’m sure you can see why my friend struggles with understanding my Google Calendar.

Another item that has really been a lifesaver for me this school year has been the introduction to a Kanban. I really loved it when I was first introduced, because I love the feeling of getting things done, and seeing my results, which ultimately is the point. My Kanban was based off of one of my director’s (Ruth Archer) ideas. So my Kanban consists of the traditional to-do, doing, and done columns vertically. While horizontally, I have half seven columns each with two weeks of a semester, so like week 1 and 8 would be in one column, 2 and 9, and so on, to represent the weeks throughout the semester. I also have an upcoming events portion off to the side of my Kanban, for any upcoming events on campus, or for me personally. Now for the sticky notes I have three different kinds of sticky notes, the darker yellow is for the different activities on campus, pink is for school assignments, and the lighter yellow is for my work-related items.

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Not everyone has to get that complex, it’s about whatever you’re comfortable with, in finding your balance.


Lean: Past, Present, and Future

Beginning my learning in the Office of Continuous Improvement, not only did I learn what Lean itself was and what it looked like, but also I began to recognize where it is applicable. (The last part of that sentence is an oxymoron, as Lean is applicable literally everywhere). However, I began thinking about and applying Lean to circumstances from my past, starting to apply it in everything I do now, and applying it in the future.

Before working in the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech, my place of employment was absolutely awful, pretty much to the point of unbearable. For those of us who know what it is like to work at a job that gives absolutely no satisfaction in any shape other than being un-employed, then you know just how depressed it makes you. After being inducted into the Lean culture and environment, I cannot help but to mentally think about how much that company could truly grow and prosper if Lean was truly and wholeheartedly applied. I dream of how the 5 Whys and Swim Lanes and other useful tools of Lean could benefit the company and employees there, and the many problems that never go away. The kinds of issues that myself and others continue to deal with are ones that are chronic; not only in terms of the process, but that there is also an entire lack of safety as well as lack of respect between employees and managers of the company. Those who understand the culture of Lean understand that this is a huge issue, in that the two most basic pillars of Lean are lacking, which cripples any sort of progress or improvement trying to be made. To say that I am much more happy and satisfied in my work now is an understatement, but I do hope that my old work-place embraces Lean for the better, for the sake of those who continue to work there. Looking back at the two different work environments, and the two different attitudes that I attend work with each day, I can already personally see the difference Lean has made in my life.

Once learning about Lean, I began applying it immediately to my every-day schedule. Not only because I would have to be familiar with Lean tools at work, but also because they are good tools to use anywhere and the more familiar I am in applying them, the better. Thinking Lean is not a mindset that is only adopted in certain situations, but it is a mindset that you continue to use and apply all day, everyday. I can personally say, the transition to the Lean mindset was extremely easy and beneficial. Everyday, I find something I can improve on, and I try to take one more Lean step forward.

In terms of the future, I already have a head-start, thanks to the implementations I have made with Lean thus far. However, this does not mean my Lean journey is done, in fact it is far from being over. One of the best parts about Lean is that there is no limits to its application, the possibilities are truly endless. Endless! As said by Maria Calcagni  in “Gemba Kaizen”, by author Masaaki Imai,  “It is not the idea that something is wrong, but that it can be better”(pg 96). There is always room for improvement, always some process in life that can be made more efficient or effective.

And so, I will take my Lean journey and think of how it would have helped my past, allowing me to know where to start applying it in the present, and continue to let Lean guide me through the future.


Spread of Lean

When I first started here in the Office of Continuous Improvement in August, I was asked many times by many of my friends and family what exactly it is that I do in the office. Well, I didn’t really know exactly how to explain it, or even understand what exactly I was doing. That went on for the first half a month of me working in the office, and it kind of died down a little bit after that.
A couple weeks ago one of my friends asked me again what exactly my job is, because I never could explain it well enough before, because like I said I didn’t really understand exactly what it is that I do. Anyways, she asked me again, and I told her that I am the communicator between the Office of Continuous Improvement, and essentially the rest of the university, and we do special events to help different departments or services essentially fix problems using Lean tactics that they come across.
She seemed to really enjoy the thought of what it is that I do, and eager to learn more. So I’m trying to help her incorporate Lean into her life, to see how it could benefit her. For starters, I’m planning on introducing her to Kanban’s, to hopefully help her with her scheduling throughout her day or week, because she has a tough schedule as is. Hopefully, from there we can expand into more Lean tools, to help find and eliminate waste in her life, and hopefully make her happier as a person.

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I’m excited to see if I can help make a difference for the better in her life.
It’s very enriching to think that I could have a good influencing impact in the way someone lives their life, especially if I’m helping them live a more efficient and effective lifestyle, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do in the future with my newfound knowledge.


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.


Welcome Dominique!

Joining our team of PICs is one of our newest additions, Dominique Aleo. She has continually expressed her excitement to work in the office and is already hopping on her first kaizen. Already she has shown she has taken her training to heart by applying it to other aspects of her life, including the student org. that she is president of. We are as excited to have Dominique here as she is to be here, and I’ll let her take it from here!

Hello!

My name is Dominique, and I am training as one of the new Process Improvement Coordinators here at the Office of Continual Improvement.

I was born and raised in a small town called Herman, outside of L’Anse, and graduated from L’Anse Highschool in the year of 2015. In the fall, I started at Michigan Tech in persuit of a Biological Sciences Bachelors, with a concentration in Pre-Medicine. It has always been my dream to be a doctor, and a part of that dream is to return here to the U.P. to work in the rural areas like the one I grew up in.

Most of my time is spent with my family, as I am the second oldest out of 7, and most of the kids are still at home. Growing up in the U.P. most of my favorite activities are outdoors, such as Dom picswimming, hiking, biking, and hunting. Other times, I’ll usually have my nose in a book, be watching a movie or The Office, painting, or enjoying time on the piano or my saxophone.

I personally had never had any experience with Lean (or any I was aware of, anyways) until I began training in the office. I had talked about it with others before, but until training and really learning about Lean, I didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. Now I can see the light! I have learned so much in my training, and I believe I will continue to learn so  much more as I continue in this office. I am very excited to become part of the Lean culture, as well as watch the effects of implementing Lean on University life and in my own.

 

Thank you!

 


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. 🙂

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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.