Tag Archives: Lean Culture

Using Lean for small practices

It’s about that time of year again when members of the Office of Continuous Improvement are getting prepared to attend the Michigan Lean Consortium conference. At the conference members of our office will have the opportunity to hear from other Lean practitioners and learn about their Lean journey. In addition, the Office of Continuous Improvement will also be displaying a poster board to showcase how we have implemented Lean here at Michigan Tech.

When we practice Lean we often think of an effect that will benefit a large group of people or an entire process. However, Lean can be used in the most simple of processes, like creating a poster board for the MLC conference.

When we made the poster for the MLC conference, we used the 5 whys tool to decide what information we should include. As a result, it allowed us to narrow down our topic to include information that we believe the customer (other Lean practitioners in this instance) would value most.

After we came to a common agreement on the topic we did an affinity diagram to figure out how we wanted to display the information. An affinity diagram is where everyone in the group writes down ideas on sticky notes and then the notes are filtered into categories for organization. This allowed everyone to have a voice in the discussion and organizing the thoughts into categories allows everyone to be on the same page.

As a result of using Lean tools, we were able to effectively collaborate to get the poster done in a timely matter.

 

Poster

 

We wanted to create a lasting impression for those that will be encountering our board so we came to the agreement to include some of Houghton’s Iconic structures. We did this to draw the audience’s attention while also including information that we thought they would find of value. As a result of using some of the Lean tools, this simple process of making a poster became an even simpler process with an even better end product.

 


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.

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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.
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One of the girls thinking about the ideas and helping everyone to brainstorm categories.
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The girls working together to group their ideas.
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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.


Lean at Home

When I last visited home, something in the relationship dynamic I have with my dad shifted; not only did I occasionally treat for coffee, but we had conversations about work. This is not to say we never talked about work prior to this trip, but the conversation was significantly less one-sided and lasted easily ten times as long. Until recently our work never really overlapped, he did his job and I did mine in completely separate worlds, Lean is what bridged the gap.

Becoming immersed in Lean Culture has actually filled many gaps throughout my life. Starting to take part in Lean around campus reminded me of the “Chores Board” my parents used to assign my sister and I tasks well before I could even say the word “Kanban”, or my dad’s tool board in the garage with clear spots for all of his tools. Lean was all around me before I even knew what it was, and upon telling my father of this revelation I had he laughed briefly and said something to the effect of: “of course, because Lean just makes sense.” He was right, it makes sense to organize different tasks somewhere you can see them so that they actually get done, it makes sense to keep things near the location they will be used at, and it makes sense to organize your work space and reduce excess so that you can easily find the things you need and increase your productivity. It turns out that Lean had been ingrained in my home life in a way I never really noticed.

If you walk into the Office of Continuous Improvement here on campus, it is easy to initially feel a little overwhelmed by all of our visual management systems and you can pretty immediately tell there is something different about the culture here compared to most office environments. Our office has five full whiteboards that help keep us on track, and that’s what many people think of when they think of where they would see Lean Culture; they think of work.

My home growing up had elements of Lean Culture all around without most people noticing it, and it still does. My apartment seems pretty normal, maybe a little more tidy than necessarily expected of a college student, but otherwise normal. Underneath the appearance, are all of those Lean principles that have silently guided my life thus far. Everything in my apartment has a place, and if it does not yet, it will shortly. This goes to show that practicing Lean does not necessarily mean having bright post-it notes everywhere or giant kanban boards, it can be as simple as using 5S in your garage, or using visual management to help your kids keep track of their chores.

Having Lean principles implemented around me during my life has definitely helped me develop into a better organized, more productive person, and to me it makes sense; it can to everyone. Likely you have already practiced some element of Lean either in your personal or professional life, just maybe without realizing it, much like I did.


Leaning Away from My Fear of Change

How can just 6 letters be arranged to create one of the most powerful words in our language? This word can strike fear into the hearts of some, and empower others. Change is a powerful word, and even so, a more powerful tool. I will be the first to admit that I am afraid of change. For most of my life, I have run from change, only to have been dragged back kicking and screaming into its path. It was only recently, as I began to learn and embrace LEAN culture that I also learned to embrace change for what it really is, a powerful tool that can change my life for the better.

I haven’t always been able to embrace change for what it is. When I first learned about LEAN I thought it would be a good way to hide from change. LEAN would be my shelter, protecting me from the winds of change. Inside my shelter I would learn all of these life saving tools and battle techniques and emerge from the darkness as the hero that would defeat change once and for all. I would build standards and processes that would allow me to justify my need to do things the same way everyday. These standards would be the walls that kept me safe.

It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was with my vision of LEAN. LEAN was not a sword to be used to defeat change. LEAN was, and is, a language that can help us communicate through change. LEAN and change are a pair of tools helping me continue on my path of improvement.

One of the first lessons I learned taught me that LEAN is not an excuse to justify current state. In fact, the LEAN culture actually seeks to remove the justification of current state and see our current state for what it actually is. LEAN culture wants us to find the problems with our current states, without placing blame on each other. My fear of change stems from the justification of my current state. If my process isn’t broken, then why should I fix it?  I learned the answer to this question when I started learning to collect metrics. Metrics can come in any shape, but they all have one thing in common. Metrics show where a change was beneficial or where it wasn’t. For me, this system of metric collection helped me embrace change; I could see that change can help rather than hinder. The LEAN culture has helped me to see that change isn’t something to be afraid of.

I still have a long way to go in my relationship to change. I can admit that I still have trouble jumping right into a new idea without fear. I know that I can embrace change. Now that I have a language to help me communicate with change, I can use it to further my path of improvement.


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.

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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.

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A Blooming Relationship: Lean and MTU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Journey Through Lean

We’re already into the second semester and I can’t help but wonder where the time went. I’ve recently been taking the time to reflect on my experiences as a PIC, and what that has brought to me in terms of understanding things that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise, like Lean. Between school, multiple jobs, family, and having a social life, the past weeks have become overwhelming and at times felt impossible.

Starting my job in the Office of Continuous Improvement, I honestly did not know what to expect. I was aware of a few different common Lean tools that I had researched, but now, the pieces of the puzzle have slowly started to connect. Through my learning of Lean, I have found a few important things that I believe are helpful in understanding different aspects of Lean. Firstly, to be able to truly learn and use Lean in personal and professional settings, you have to believe in Lean and what it can do to improve your life. After being a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for the last six months, I have been able to see the firsthand effects of what Lean has done for processes across campus. Secondly, and this may be one of the hardest things for individuals to grasp, Lean is not a sudden success. I like to think of Lean as the old fable, the tortoise and the hare. Lean is not fast moving; it is similar to the tortoise. It is a slow and steady pace while staying persistent throughout the entire process. Last (but not least), I believe that Lean is beneficial for all areas of our lives. If we limit Lean to certain area, then we are putting a restriction on what can be accomplished. Since I’ve started as a PIC, I have used a number of the Lean tools in my personal life. Unsurprisingly, they have significantly improved my productivity, and most importantly they have reduced my stress.

Becoming engulfed in the Lean culture has become a life changing experience, and for a number of reasons–all wonderful. I am grateful for everyone I have met and everything that I have learned using Lean, and I look forward to the new experiences that will come with leading a Lean lifestyle.


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.

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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.

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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.


Welcome Rylie Store!

Joining the team in the Office of Continuous Improvement is a new Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC), Rylie Store. Rylie is a first year student pursuing a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences with hopes to utilize her degree as a Pre-medicine parallel and eventually ticket her way into medical school. Although Rylie is only a first year she was actively involved in many clubs and organizations in high school such as Student Council, Prom Committee, and Yearbook Committee. Rylie is currently working on building up her involvement on campus and is currently an active member in the Alpine Ski and Snowboard Club. Prior to becoming a PIC, Rylie began her employment by forming her own photography business the summer going into her senior year of high school (July). She also received her certification as a Professional Ski Instructor of America in the spring of her senior year (March 2015).

Rylie will now introduce herself and share her own opinions on jumping on board with our team.

Coming into this position I’ll be honest, I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what Lean was. It wasn’t until a former employer of mine had guided me to the application for the opening of a PIC position and encouraged me to apply that I began to gain some basic knowledge of what it is that Lean necessitated. I’ve been on board officially now for about a week and in that time I’ve managed to complete some basic training. However, I still have a long ways to go before I’ll fully understand Lean to the capacity I feel that it deserves. With the minimal information and background that I have acquired I can say that I am most excited to become a factor in this journey to better improve processes and eliminate waste efficiently throughout Michigan Tech’s endeavors. Joining this team has encouraged me, even more so to expand my campus and community wide involvement while implementing continuous improvement in the process.

Although still being new in the office, I’ve managed to gather that my tasks in the office will be to not only grow my lean knowledge. but to do so through the arrangement, encouragement, and compilation of Kaizen Events.

I’m excited for this coming journey of mine as a PIC, but I’m even more so thankful to be given this opportunity to expand my horizon while also expanding the spread of Lean throughout  campus.

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