Tag Archives: Lean Culture

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).

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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.

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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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Lean – More than a Buzzword at Career Fair

As the career fair has passed and students anxiously await interviews and follow ups from company representatives, I’d like to take this time to remind students about how Lean principles are more than knowing where to insert buzzwords. I know from experience that understanding lean practices and then applying the tools in a real world project can really make you shine as a candidate on career fair day–not to mention change your environment for the better.

For example, when I was a freshman I learned about Kanban and then integrated the principles into my own work flow. This has helped me tremendously when juggling school work, student organizations, research, and working at the Office of Continuous Improvement. A picture of a Kanban can be seen below. I encourage you all to learn more about Lean principles and start to integrate them into your daily life. Then when it comes time for an interview you can not only refer to the Lean term, but also follow up with an example of how you then applied the given concept.

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If you want to know more about continuous improvement, feel free to reach out to the Office of Continuous Improvement either by phone at 906-487-3180 or email improvement@mtu.edu. You are also welcome to stop by our office (we love having visitors) located in 136 West Wadsworth Hall, right above the WMTU sound booth.

 


The Road to Lean Success

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Mark Randell, Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at UPHS Portage.

Yes, we tried Lean.Mark Randell

I was fortunate to start my Lean journey and see success first hand with very little knowledge of Lean principles.  We solved an inventory management problem at my work using visual management tools and Kanban cards. This small event saved us a ton of time and frustration. We no longer run out of patient supplies or overstock our supply closets. The pivotal event for me was participating in a week long kaizen at Pettibone. The thing that amazed me was the entire company was involved in the event and the organization made the changes suggested by the team the following Monday. I’ve sat in numerous meetings over the years talking about what we’re going to do and not really accomplishing anything. The Lean-thinking folks at Pettibone implemented improvements on Monday!

I started this blog post with my early success because it didn’t take long before I ran into a ton of fun wreckers. The comments I heard were:

  • Lean has a life cycle.
  • We tried Lean many years ago; it didn’t really work.
  • This is another fad.
  • It didn’t work at Toyota–look at their recent recalls.

If I would not have seen the early success of Lean/continuous improvement and met my coaches, Ruth Archer and Jim Manley, I would have focused my efforts back to return on investment and efficiency training.  The question is, then, why does Lean/continuous improvement fail?

Jim Manley, a former executive at GM, believes they struggled at GM because they didn’t change the organizational culture to lean thinking. Art Byrne, in his book The Lean Turnaround, did not appear to be satisfied with the Lean implementation at IBM because IBM did not change the culture.  Many of the MBA programs across the country were built on GM and IBM business principles and focused on return on investments and productivity. I believe the only way a company can successfully implement Lean is by changing the culture to Lean thinking. Lean is about changing the process by creating Lean thinkers, using Lean tools, and following Lean principles.  If your goal is to decrease expenses by using Lean tools you will fail.


A Calm Mind, Ready to Learn

One of the main ways we create value here at Michigan Tech is educating students. Our goal is to get the student in the classroom with a calm mind and ready to learn. Anything that gets in the way of that is an opportunity for improvement.

John ODonnell and LCI

We used to think our job was to just take care of the person in front of us. But we’ve discovered that what happens before they get to us and after they leave us impacts that person as well. Think of when you go and see a doctor. Maybe you were supposed to come early to do some paperwork. Or maybe you weren’t sure if you really needed medical attention, so you waited too long to make the appointment. Or maybe the waiting room is crowded with sick people. Then you see the doctor. Afterwards, you might not have enough money to pay for the prescription. Or you didn’t really understand the doctor’s instructions. Or you don’t agree with the doctor’s diagnosis, so you don’t do what she said. The aim of the system is a healthy patient. Even though the doctor did her job perfectly, these before and after things can have a negative impact on achieving that aim.

In the same way, what happens to a student before they get to the classroom and after they leave the classroom impacts the ability of faculty to educate that student. If students are worrying about their financial aid, they aren’t in the classroom with a calm mind, ready to learn. The same goes for problems getting an appointment with their academic advisor during registration, having long lines at the dining hall, or not understanding their homework instructions. These are all examples of opportunities for improvement using Lean principles, because they affect the students’ ability to fully participate in their education.

The next time you see a frazzled student leave your desk, call the Office of Continuous Improvement. We can coach you through a process improvement in your area.

If our objective is students with a calm mind, ready to learn, what are some other ways we could identify areas that are opportunities for improvement?


Are You Making Excuses or Solving Problems?

“When we find barriers that prevent us from closing the gap, are we a victim that makes excuses or a leader that solves problems?”

This the closing statement from a talk given by Mark Graban at the 2014 Lean Transformation Summit. He discusses some of the major issues clouding the creation and development of a culture of continuous improvement within organizations. 

Mark asks, “When we are facing challenges about creating this culture of continuous improvement, how are we reacting? What are we doing about it.” He discusses a few of the most common problem statements or excuses given to push back against lean initiatives and gives insight on how to overcome these obstacles. Some of the common problems statements or excuses he highlights are:

  1. Staff don’t have time to do Kaizen
  2. Managers: “I don’t have time for Kaizen”
  3. Working on Kaizen hurts our productivity numbers

The talk ends with a general discussion about change. Graban elaborate on how successful change in any setting – small or large – hinges on three 3 things:

  1. The will to do it
  2. A methodology for how to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be
  3. Execution and discipline to actually make it happen

Without the will to create a culture of continuous improvement; the ideas, tools, and methodologies for closing the gap; and the support from upper management to execute the plan, we are developing a workforce of victims and not leaders.

Check out Graban’s talk here: Lean Talks: Are You Making Excuses or Solving Problems?

Mark at the 2014 Lean Transformation Summit

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare,” as a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger. Mark is also the Vice President of Customer Success for the software company KaiNexus.


Lunch and Learn at the Lean Enterprise Institute

This summer I had the great fortune of being a mechanical engineering intern at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. While in Cambridge, John O’Donnall, Executive Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), was kind enough to reach out to me and invite me to visit the office. Mr. O’Donnall and I had the chance to meet on campus last year when he was the keynote speaker at the 2015 facilitator graduation.

 

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Lean Enterprise Institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

While there it just so happened that they were also having a guest speaker come in and talk about Lean in the civil engineering world and how much waste happens at construction sites because the main currency is the amount of time it takes to complete a project. Although I had to leave before the whole event was over I found her talk to be very interesting. It really opened my eyes to the need to integrate Lean practices into the civil engineering world the way mechanical engineering has integrated it into manufacturing. Below is a picture of the talk from an outside view.

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Presentation on integrating Lean principles into civil engineering projects

 

I also got to meet with James P. Womack the founder of the LEI, as well as some of the M.B.A. summer interns who were in the office. Every summer the office hired a few M.B.A. students from the area to work with them and learn in an immersive experience about Lean principles. John O’Donnell and I mused about the possibility of bringing in Michigan Tech M.B.A. students on as summer interns and I think that it could be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties. 

 

 

Elizabeth and John
Selfie with Mr. John O’Donnell

 

Before leaving John showed me around the office and I was pleasantly surprised with how much our own Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech resembled the  Lean Enterprise Institute. A picture of their office can be seen below.

 

 

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Snapshot of the open floor plan office at Lean Enterprise Institute

 

I had a great experience there meeting up with Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Womack, and meet some of their M.B.A. summer interns.  

 


Lean in Their Own Words

This is the second installment of Lean in Their Own Words. At the April graduation ceremony for our new Lean facilitators, the graduates each said a few words about what Lean means to them. Many of them have given me permission to share their thoughts with you. Here is what Gina Goudge, Manager of Business Operations and Student Employment for Career Services, had to say.

Gina Working on a Training Exercise“When I asked my boss, Steve Patchin, if I could sign up for Lean Facilitator Training, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Lean was all about organization, right?  I’m organized, I create checklists, I already know all about Lean!

This will be a breeze, I thought…maybe I’ll pick up a few new tools!  Well, I was so wrong, because Lean is so much more.

As I embarked on my Lean journey (and it has been a journey!) I quickly realized Lean was going to push me, force me to move outside of my comfort zone, force me to work on my presentation skills, to face my fear of public speaking!

So as I stand here, facing my fear, I’d like to present my elevator speech…what I believe Lean is and is not.

Lean is NOT about being skinny or “cutting to the bone.”  Lean IS about having the right resources to ensure we are providing the best quality product or service.  Lean IS a way of approaching and thinking through any problem, system, or situation.

Lean is NOT just a few tools to use.  Lean IS an entire toolbox of management practices to help you Gina Receiving Her Lean Facilitator Certificatestreamline a process and continuously strive for improvement.

Lean is NOT mean.  Lean IS respectful toward everybody–a no fault/no blame game that locates the flaw in the system when an error occurs rather than the individual.

This is why I’m so excited to become a Lean Facilitator.  I get to share with others a new way of thinking, a new mode of operation, empowering them with the Lean tools and strategies to constantly question their status quo, inspiring cooperation, respect, change and growth both personally and professionally.”

When you see one of our Campus Facilitators, be sure to ask them about Lean!