Tag Archives: Lean

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.


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.

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.

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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!

 


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.

graduation
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).

LCI
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.


Winner Winner Turkey Dinner: Decision Matrix

With Thanksgiving right around the corner our mouths are beginning to salivate in preparation for all of the delicious food that radiates euphoria mirroring that of our ancestor’s kitchens on a daily basis. Family recipes are being pulled off the top shelf and dusted off, the biggest turkey is being carved and stuffed, and snores can be heard after a food coma sets in.

In my family, our first serving of food encompasses a portion of everything: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, rolls, a salad, and my grandma’s famous apple and pumpkin pies. However, the first helping is usually just shy of filling our bellies to the brim and then we are faced with the option of seconds. We can’t handle a second helping of more than one item and it becomes an internal battle to decide what our final selection is going to be before we hit the floor for a nap.

Do not fret, thanks to lean and continuous improvement we have a tool that can help you decide which sample will ryle your taste buds and place a relaxed smile on your face. This tool is called a decision matrix, and although I will be demonstrating it through the image I painted for you above, it can be translated into any part of your work environment, schooling, or life to help you make a decision best suited for you.

To begin the decision matrix you must first make a table and define your criteria and options available. The criteria is what you want your option to possess and the options are the choices that your are deciding between. These will be added to column and row headings (shown in a picture below). For our purposes there are four areas of criteria to be met and four options. The criteria are: Makes my mouth water, fills my belly for more than an hour, tastes great, not too sweet. The options are: mashed potatoes, turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole.

decision matrix

The second step is to determine how important is each of the criteria items. This is done on a scale of zero to five with five being the most important. Note: Values can be used more than once.

decision matrix 2

Third, go down each row and rank each option for how well they fit each criteria individually. This is done once again on a scale of zero to five, where five is that it fits that criteria perfectly. Again each value can be used more than one time. Personally, I prefer to rank these on a scale of 0-6 so that there isn’t any room to be right in the middle, but this isn’t the standard.

decision matrix 3

Now, you take the assigned values in each box and multiply it by the value assigned to that particular criteria. Once you get this number you add it to the bottom of that particular box. This is where the value assigned is written first then multiplied by the criteria value (the second number).

decision matrix 4

The last step with numbers is that you move across each row and add up the numbers that you just calculated to give you a total for that row. Once you have the totals you then compare the rows between one another, and the row with the greatest total is usually the option you can decide upon, in our case… winner winner turkey dinner!

decision matrix 5

Now that you have your decisions sorted and methodically picked you can get your final nibbles for the night, curl up on the couch, and drift into a snooze to the sound of a football game, but most importantly you can rest easy knowing you made the right choice for you.


Lean Olympics Take on the SWIM LANES

With the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics among us and being proud Americans, you probably can’t even go to the grocery store without something or someone blaring “USA! USA! USA!” amid chanting crowds. Can you blame us? We’re up to 83 medals in two weeks, and Hello! Katie Ledecky! Breaking a world record while winning a gold medal by *cough* ONLY 11.38 seconds! That’s pretty cool and yes, GO USA! However, moving passed the idea of the stripes and stars, I’m more interested in the arena Katie took her gold in, and that was in a swimming pool-the kind with swim lanes.

Swim lanes are a tool that is depicted through a diagram. How this tool works is to show the flow of a process or the crossing of many areas of a process and doing so visually. To aid in understanding the steps, an example represented by the progression of the tool will be shown below with a description of each step. This example shows a student who needs to get into a class that has already reached it’s maximum capacity and can’t register for it so they request an exception.

How a swim lane is kicked off is through identifying who touches the process. This “who” can be an individual, a group, a department, an object, or basically anything that physically touches the process. For our example, the who’s include the student, academic advisor of the student, and the professor of the class being registered.

swimlane1

Once the “who’s” are identified, the what’s need to be added. These “what’s” are the current processes that each “who” goes through and how each others processes relate to one another. This is also where you identify where each “who’s” process starts. The process for our example starts with the student and moves to the professor then to the advisor and back to the student.

swimlane2

The third step is where the “what” is examined and analyzed for where there is waste within the process or steps and that don’t add value. For our diagram, there is a waste of time between the time the student makes the request and actually hears back that they can register. This is a waste because it is waiting time. There is also waste for the student: once they are able to register they have to do it very quickly so that another student doesn’t register when they see an open or an “extra” seat. There’s also waste for the professor: they need to do re-work of their classroom to be able to accommodate an additional student.

swimlane3

Through the use of swim lanes you are made to focus on the basic steps to figure out what is actually happening in a process, and once that is done, you are able to then dive into the process and figure out where the defected or problematic areas are and can then get to the root cause. This aids you in being able to see the big picture. Often times we have a process that is “broken” and we become frustrated and redo the entire process just to find that it didn’t reduce the frustration. However, through the use of swim lanes you are able to see the whole process and establish what part(s) of the process is/are broken and can devote your time and energy into making improvements to that specific area without redoing the whole thing. So just like Katie Ledecky, if we take one [free-style] stroke at a time, we can come out in record time.


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.


Spring Cleaning the Lean Way

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the trees are budding.  Spring is in the air, and spring means it’s time for spring cleaning! Traditional methods of spring cleaning involve hours of cleaning and organizing that can sometimes leave us very overwhelmed. Today I want to talk a little bit about one of our Lean Tools, 5S, and it’s application for continuous improvement in our homes.

The 5S System was developed for the manufacturing environment, but can be adapted to any environment since it is all about organizing a space to be clean, tidy, efficient, and safe. The 5S’s are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in Order (Simplify, Straighten)
  3. Shine (Clean)
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Sort

How many times have you said to yourself, “I might need this one day?” This reasoning has successfully created mountains of unused items in all of our homes. There are certainly some things you would not want to throw out, but there are many things that you can do without. So, take some time to go through your house and find out what it is that you are holding onto so dearly that you could really just live without.

Set in Order

Once you’ve figured out what you want to keep and what needs to be thrown out, you can begin straightening each area of your home. The idea behind this step of 5S is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Take some time to arrange needed items so that they are readily accessible and labelled so that anyone can find them or put them away.

Shine, Standardize, and Sustain

Once you’ve eliminated unnecessary items and given everything else a place, the next steps are all about getting the area clean (shine), maintaining its appearance (standardize), and using preventive measures to keep it clean (sustain). The last three phases of the 5S go hand in hand; so take the time to plan what needs to be cleaned, when it will be cleaned, and who will do the cleaning.

Benefits of 5S

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved Safety
  • Sustainable changes—no decline back to the previous way of operating
  • Simplification and increased flow of tasks
  • Reduction in waste
  • Control through visibility

5S_Quick_Point

This year, take a Lean approach to your spring cleaning…You won’t regret it!

For more information about 5S, check out the 5S Quick Point on our Lean Tools and Templates webpage, or contact the Office of Continuous Improvement at improvement@mtu.edu!

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