Tag Archives: Respect for People

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.


What is a PIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lean 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.


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!

 


Error Proofing

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Heather Dunne, Digital Services Specialist for University Marketing and Communications at Michigan Technological University.

One of the common tools in Lean and continuous improvement is error proofing, or poka-yoke. Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that was developed and classified by Shigeo Shingo; that helps someone avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka).

The concept is simple: Create countermeasures that guard against and prevent errors and mistakes from occurring in a process. If mistakes are avoided, the product quality is high, the customer is happy, and money is saved. Workers, engineers, and managers all must work together to write procedures and design devices to prevent errors from occurring at their source. Errors made within any process can lead to problems, including multiple wastes such as defects, overproduction, waiting, not utilizing people, transportation, inventory, motion, and excess processing.

Error proofing is implemented to prevent human error, but human error cannot be accepted as the cause of an error. The blame game does not apply. Humans make mistakes typically because there is a flaw in the process, itself. There are standard steps that can be taken when error proofing a process. First, take a first-hand look at the process, walking the gemba. Secondly, learn exactly where the error occurred. Then, conduct some problem solving analysis to uncover the root cause. Finally, develop countermeasures to prevent that error from happening again.

Some examples of real-world poka-yokes are the sensor in the gas nozzle that clicks when your tank is full, the ice maker in your freezer shutting off when the bucket if full, and your washing machine stopping when it is out of balance.

Michigan Tech’s Housing and Residential Life developed some poka-yokes for summer conferences:

  • A reference visual for staff who are setting up linens for a room.  It lists exactly what linens are needed and shows how they should be placed on the bed.  This saves staff time when gathering linens to distribute and reduces error in forgetting to place an item in the room.
  • Signage informing guests about areas they have access to and areas they do not. Limiting access to certain floors used the ERA principle–Eliminate Replacement Alternatives.  If the task that is creating the error is eliminated, then the error will disappear too.
  • A kanban board for management of the many groups that stay as guests. By arranging items, information, and people according to a sequence, they developed a good mistake proofing solution.

What are some ways you can apply this simple lean concept in your area?


A Lean Future Is Wonderful!

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Laurie Stark, Department Coordinator for the Van Pelt & Opie Library at Michigan Technological University.

While I was an intern at Honda I worked on several major projects within their Business Administration unit, including one that involved their key management process for the entire plant. Their current key management process was not working very well.  Keys were given out and never returned, they were not sure how many types of keys they used throughout the plant, their key box looked like a junk drawer, and if someone asked for a key, they might not have it on hand!

I was asked to help solve this problem during my time as an intern.  I was told that I would be taught all of the tools that would help me do so: root cause analysis (fish bone diagrams), going to the “spot,” gathering metrics (pictures and data), developing and prioritizing countermeasures, and creating activity plans.  Using these tools, I developed a standard process for key management, created a new form, reorganized the keys, and mapped out how many keys were used in the plant.  These countermeasures immediately helped solve most of the problems.

honda process

Almost ten years later, I started working at Michigan Tech and was asked if I wanted to get involved with the Lean movement on campus.  I started going to Lean Facilitator training this past fall and after the first two sessions, I had a lightbulb moment! I’ve seen this before…Honda does Lean?!?  How come they never talked about it?

During the four months I worked there, I did not hear the word Lean once, yet now that I look back, I can find countless instances where Lean was used every day.  Lean is their everyday way of solving problems.  Most employees who work there probably don’t know or realize that they are using Lean tools to solve their problems and improve their processes.  It is so embedded into their culture, it has just become the way they do business.

Michigan Tech is on a Lean journey right now, and I have seen a glimpse of the destination–it is wonderful!  At Honda, I saw employees who were very productive and engaged in their work.  Employees were not fearful to share their ideas on any matter, in fact, they were encouraged to do so!  If there was a problem somewhere, everyone went to the “spot” to help problem solve, they were encouraged to submit new ideas to their supervisors and HR reps and I got the sense that people truly enjoyed working there. I would love to see the day that Michigan Tech reaches this same destination.

What can we do in our daily work to get there too?


Meet the PIC- Aspen Holmes

Hey everyone!
My name is Aspen Holmes and I am a first year Communications major here at Michigan Tech. Over break I was hired as the new Student Process Improvement Coordinator and will be joining Elizabeth and Nate in Lean and Continuous Improvement activities around campus. I’m still finishing up my training, but find I have already caught the improvement bug. I’m enthusiastic about Lean philosophy!

I grew up in the Keweenaw and with that I carry a hefty amount of Yooper pride. I can’t imagine a better place to live and hope to raise my own kids here. Along with this Yooper pride comes a sense of exploration, a willingness to be pushed out of my comfort zone, an insurmountable appreciation for the outdoors, and a tough-as-nails attitude towards everything I do. I grew up in a household that tried to continuously improve the community around us. As a result of this I see the world through a humanitarian-based perspective, trying to find ways to help in any situation that crosses my path.

Graduating a year early from Hancock Central High School in 2014 I spent the following year abroad in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, Brazil as an ambassador of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. While there I integrated myself into the culture and the community- I went to school, adapted Brazilian habits, learned the language, and volunteered. I am conversationally fluent in Brazilian Portuguese and am in the process of learning German through Michigan Tech. It is my goal to eventually speak a language from every continent. I am an avid traveler and will never say no to a proposition of adventure. I miss, and think of Brazil every day. The transition through reverse culture shock was definitely a difficult one, but I finally feel at home again here in the United States. Michigan Tech has pushed and aided me in the process of rediscovering the area, finding new hobbies, and making many new friends. I strive to utilize every opportunity that comes my way and will continue to do so throughout my time as a Husky.

I look forward to my time in this position and am already passionate about the work I will be doing. I am truly blessed to work with all of the wonderful people in the Office of Continuous Improvement and look forward to what the year will bring. I am incredibly thankful for this amazing opportunity. I will continue to learn everything I can about Lean initiatives. I hope to make a substantial impact on the university by utilizing my quirkiness and unique perspective to find unconventional solutions throughout my collegiate journey.

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A Lean Thanksgiving

Your family is gathered for Thanksgiving. The usual mix of relatives is there, and not everyone gets along. After a couple of hours, nerves begin to fray and tempers start flying. What is there to do? Family run-ins during the feast are almost as traditional as the turkey! This year, try practicing the Lean Fundamentals–and I don’t mean eating less!

dog eating turkeyThe two Lean fundamentals are respect for people and humility. Respect for people is more than just using your manners. In the workplace, it’s about valuing individuals and their knowledge about how the process actually works, coaching others to develop their problem-solving skills, and solving problems by focusing on the process, not the people. Humility comes when you admit that you don’t know how to solve every problem. This drives you to seek out the ideas of all the people involved in doing the work. Together these fundamentals create a blame-free environment where continuous improvement is the norm.

Now, think about how your relationships might shift if you apply these fundamentals around the turkey table. Instead of challenging your know-it-all cousins on everything they say, you can simply ask them about their expertise, learning more by using phrases that begin with What, How, and Tell me more. Instead of criticizing the meal planners for forgetting the cranberry sauce or burning the pie, you can ask them about what happened that caused the problems and coach them on finding solutions for next year. You get the idea. Changing how you approach the family gathering can alter the entire dynamic. Give it a try!

Do you look forward to Thanksgiving with mixed feelings? Please share with us how you think Lean could improve your Thanksgiving experience.


Lean in Their Own Words

Pattie working on a training exercise
Pattie working on a training exercise

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. In the first entry of this series are the comments from Pattie Luokkanen, Manager of Resource Access and Discovery Services at the Library, and trained Lean facilitator.

Pattie said….

“One of my early encounters with Lean was when I took part in a 5s Blitz.
I was new and didn’t really know what it was all about. I was so surprised to find that the people in the workshop all had some messes to clean up, like cluttered supply cabinets and messy desks. Here we were confessing that we had a problem, but then we were shown how to clean up the mess and keep it that way! We were assigned a coach to help us with this. My coach was Kathy Wardynski. She was a great coach, not only guiding me through my clean up project but also Pattie Luokkanen graduationtelling me other things that can be done with Lean on campus. It was a great experience for me and opened my eyes to other possibilities with Lean and left me wanting to know more.

What I like most about Lean is that it is positive. It’s a positive approach to problem solving. I believe that you can inspire great ideas and creative problem solving in a positive environment. I love the fact that an important ground rule for continuous improvement events is that it takes place in a mutually respectful, blameless environment. That is powerful!”

Visit the Campus Facilitator page on our website to see all of the facilitators here on campus.

 


Lean Culture: Respect for People

When Lean principles are fully understood and Lean tools are correctly applied, the opportunities for improvement and growth are endless.  I have been a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for almost a year and a half, and I have witnessed, numerous times, the benefits of successful Lean implementation. What I want to talk about today is why some organizations fail at becoming Lean.

Why is it that some organizations, or even some functional units within an organization, are able to successfully implement this methodology while others fail miserably?  Short answer: Culture. The greatest mistake you can make on a Lean journey is taking a shortcut down Tool Avenue. Often times, in unsuccessful attempts at spreading Lean, one entity assumes it can achieve the same results as another simply by applying the same tools that the other has gotten positive results from. “Continuous Improvement” is therefore reduced to an “improvement project” and concern then arises when the improvement is not sustained.

Lean will never be something you do, it is something you become. In order to truly become Lean, the entire value system of the organization must change. Commitment to Lean thinking and the establishment of a Lean culture give birth to successful Lean “implementation.” An organization’s culture and the principles that drive people’s behaviors ultimately determine the degrees of an organization’s performance, quality, and success. There is no concrete definition of what a “Lean culture” is, however there is one principle that all Lean enterprises do follow: respect for people.

In their book, "Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice," Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.
In their book, “Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice,” Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.

In a 2007 eLetter, James P. Womack, Ph.D., founder and senior advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc, describes how the best managers at Toyota show respect for people:

  1. Managers begin by asking employees what the problem is with the way their work is currently being done.
  2. They challenge the employees’ answer and enter into a dialogue about what the real problem is. (It’s rarely the problem showing on the surface.)
  3. Then they ask what is causing this problem and enter into another dialogue about its root causes. (True dialogue requires the employees to gather evidence from the Gemba for joint evaluation.)
  4. Then they ask what should be done about the problem and ask employees why they have proposed one solution instead of another. (This generally requires considering a range of solutions and collecting more evidence.)
  5. Then they ask how they – manager and employees – will know when the problem has been solved, and engage one more time in dialogue on the best indicator.
  6. Finally, after agreement is reached on the most appropriate measure of success, the employees set out to implement the solution.

“The manager challenges the employees every step of the way, asking for more thought, more facts, and more discussion. This problem solving process actually demonstrates the highest form of respect.

The manager is saying to the employees that the manager can’t solve the problem alone, because the manager isn’t close enough to the problem to know the facts. He or she truly respects the employees’ knowledge and their dedication to finding the best answer. But the employees can’t solve the problem alone either because they are often too close to the problem to see its context and they may refrain from asking tough questions about their own work.

Only by showing mutual respect – each for the other and for each other’s role – is it possible to solve problems, make work more satisfying, and move organizational performance to a higher level.”

References

Womack, James P., Ph.D. “Respect for People.” Letter to LEI. 20 Dec. 2007.Jim Womack’s ELetters & Columns. Lean Enterprise Institute, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.lean.org/womack/DisplayObject.cfm?o=755>.

Henderson, Bruce A., and Jorge L. Larco. Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise. Richmond, VA: Oaklea, 1999. Print.