Side Effects

Almost invariably, when one acts they commit that act with a specific goal in mind. The reason why we move is to get from point A to point B, and the reason why we drink is to quench our thirst. In the office it is the same, we create checklists with the goal of ensuring full completion of tasks, and we flip off light switches to reduce the amount of electricity used. Acting with a purpose is quite important, but it is also important to consider the side effects of our actions and the side effects of our processes.Image result for light switch

Side effects can manifest themselves in many forms, both positive and negative. The positive side effect of turning off a light switch could be that natural light is easier on the eyes, while a negative effect could be a lack of vision in some areas. Though it must be noted side effects as with intentional results often interact with many other systems, and can change when other systems change as well.

It is also worth recognizing that the value of a side effect can be greater than the intended result itself, though comparing value is often a difficult task itself. To again use the light example, it is very likely that a lack of vision is far costlier than the small amount of money saved from turning off the light, or perhaps the area is well enough lit with natural light.

Branching side effects.

There are many Lean related tools that can assist in understanding the side effect of processes, even when this revelation is itself a side effect of the Lean tool. Mapping out a process in its entirety can lead to an understanding of many of the detailed side effects involved. Furthermore, a SIPOC (a tool designed to analyze the inputs and outputs of a process) can help one understand the big picture behind a process. Knowing the side effects of a process is an important part of continuous improvement as one cannot improve that which one does not know.

Overall, it is clear that processes and actions are not merely standalone, they often interact with others and produce side effects. These side effects come in all manner of forms, and recognition of these forms is significant for finding areas that need improvements.

 


The Utility of a 5S

One of the Kaizen (improvement) events that is nearing completion is our 5S of two large storage closest that the dinner services here at Wadsworth are using. Throughout the whole process, the effectiveness of a 5S has really hit home with me. The initial state began with both storage closets being cluttered, with a combination of unneeded junk and items the dinner services would need. Now as the process nears completion one closest is completely empty, allowing other offices to store items there. Furthermore, only necessary items are now stored, and their storage spaces contain labels to prevent future disorders. As far as measurable effects go that is a 50% reduction in the total amount of space. Also, it seems clear that items will take less time to store and retrieve, though there is not enough data to definitively claim this as of yet.

The target state established at the beginning of the Kaizen.

To achieve these results, we followed the process that every other 5S follows as well. Each of the “S”s in the 5S is another step of the process. The five different “S”s are sort, set, shine, standardize, and sustain, with most 5Ss following that order.

The sorting step entails categorizing each item or cluster of items by importance (for our 5S we simply assigned items colored stickers). Then,  useless items can be re-purposed, or discarded.

The next step is the set step. In this step, the position of each item or cluster of items is determined through careful planning to ensure an organized area. Then, these items are put into their rightful place.

Following this is the shine step. This step is the continual process of keeping the area clean. This step is critical to sustaining the results of the previous two steps.

After this is the standardize step. A standard is created so, the current organization is not modified. This standard is recorded to allow future employees to be able to keep the area organized without being part of the improvement event themselves.

The last step is sustain. This step entails having a formal system to ensure that each previous part of the 5S is not changed over time. Typically, this is done by setting up periodic audits to determine if there are any issues with the execution of the 5S.

Overall, a 5S is a very effective workplace tool that, when followed, has proven to improve organization in the workplace.


Career Fair

Good afternoon! I hope you all have had a successful week. So much is going on. Career fair, industry days, interviews and more! Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you this week. Here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, we are looking forward to seeing you succeed and we would like to give you some tools to be more successful.

We have books on every part of improvement. From how to improve your office and efficiency on a personal level to the grander scale of Lean implementation throughout your workforce. In addition to our books, we have tools we can teach you about and classes in lean at Michigan tech that you can take. If you decide to read a book about self-improvement in lean, I would recommend “Organize your office”. This is an easy to read book for beginners, outlining simple steps on self-improvement in your office space. Just try a few tips a week and you will see tremendous results. Just imagine the reaction you could get from your boss if you manage to eliminate wasted time in the office.

Image result for an organized office with lean

If you would like more information regarding lean and how it can help you with your job, please feel free to reach out to improvement@mtu.edu or stop by our office in 136 W Wadsworth Hall between 9-5 during the week. We look forward to seeing you there!

 


Visual Organization

School is back, and my schedule is busier then ever! I’m sure everyone is feeling a little bit of this chaos with getting back into the swing of things, having student back on campus, and starting classes. With this chaos everyone has their own way of organization to make sure they can remember everything. Actually, many people use personal kanbans and aren’t even aware. A personal kanban is a very versatile productivity system that has basically only two rules, visualize your work and limit your work in progress. Personal kanbans can be made in many different way to organize many different aspect of your life.

Personally, I use my personal kanban to keep track of events that I have and tasks that need to get done. During the school year, I have classes, work, homeowner/study time, and multiple extra curricular that I need to plan out to make sure I get to everything on time and prepared. My personal kanban helps me do that by allowing me to see all that information in one spot and mark things complete when I have accomplished them. Many others use personal kanbans for tasks such as work meetings or projects, home tasks or chores, and homework completion. Some also use them to keep track of all of these things at once.

While there are many different ways to use a personal kanban, there are also many different ways to make a personal kanban. It could be electronically, in a book, on a white board, or maybe even just a piece of paper. I used to use a laminated A3 piece of paper, however I found that I didn’t look at it as often as I needed to. I switched to google calendar and have found great success with that. This way I was able to color code my events, add tasks that I could mark complete, and the best part it was basically always available on my phone. While google calendar worked for me, different platforms work for different people, electronic or not.

Personal kanbans are a life-saver for me and I think they could be for you too! Next time you feel over whelmed and don’t know where to start, try making this visual management system to help you figure out where you are with everything. Also, if you would like help or more information always feel free to stop by the Office of Continuous Improvement and we would be happy to give you a hand. This tool might just be the right step to turn your hectic year into a breeze.

 

PIC Sophie’s Old Personal Kanban

K Day

I hope you all are excited for K Day as much as I am! It is such an amazing event and over 250 student organizations will be there to show you what they are all about. From fishing to accounting clubs, you will be bound to find something that works for you. I am personally excited to visit the cooking club and try out some pasties with them. It is going to be such an exciting day and so many new students will get to find places they feel happy to join.

 

One amazing thing about K day is the amount of planning and organization that goes into it on all levels. Without the Lean principles, K day would be impossible! Some principles they employ are spaghetti flow charts, a 5S, and the collection of metrics every year. According to Business Analyst Learnings, “A spaghetti diagram is a visual representation of the actual path taken by people as they move through a process within a department to complete their jobs.”. As seen in the picture above there is a ton of people around but there is also some obvious flow of the crowds. Through the use of a spaghetti diagram, the organizers of K day have the skills to direct the flow of people so that there is less chaos. Much like the spaghetti diagram, 5S and metrics helps them keep themselves organized. They can help expand upon previous years successes with the metrics and improve upon their set up and break down systems with the 5S. Lean tools are a necessary part of the success of K day.

If you would like more information on some of the lean tools listed above or what we do here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, then please feel free to drop by in wads 136W or or email us at improvement@mtu.edu. I hope you have an amazing K day and weekend!


Confusion

Working here at an office, sometimes scheduling events can be challenging. Trying to find a meeting time that works for five to ten people that all work in separate departments is hard enough. Even worse is when someone needs to get a task done before the meeting can be scheduled, or the issues that arise when someone chooses not to respond until that person gets a two-minute task done only to eventually forget about both responding and completing said task. These issues, especially the last one, are problems often caused by simply not starting simple tasks.

PDCA Cycle
https://www.mindtools.com/media/Diagrams/PDCA2017.jpg

Scheduling might be one example, but in the workplace or in personal life there are many instances when small tasks not being done lead to serious issues down the road. Incompletion of small tasks can be something that Lean and continuous improvement can solve, as Lean helps to solve the root cause of these problems. Perhaps the primary reason that a task will not be finished is the fear of reprimand, and/or failure. These fears are at the root of many problems at the workplace. However, it can be solved by one of the most important principles of Lean: sustaining a blame-free environment. Sustaining a blame-free environment is an essential practice that can prevent small problems from spiraling out of control. In a blame-free environment, one can do their work without fear of being criticized for small mistakes.

While keeping a blame-free environment is a good way to solve simple issues, proper planning can prevent small problems from arising in the first place. Again, the principles of Lean are useful to fix many issues. The cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) is at the core of all continuous improvement. This allows for experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t work. Often when going through the cycle, the small issues that seemed to constantly plague the workplace before disappear.

Overall, the piling up of small issues is a serious problem in the workplace. The idea of a blame-free environment and the PDCA cycle can turn these headaches into something that is simple to dispatch.


School Year Goals

It’s almost O-Week, can you believe it? With a new school year starting, it’s probably safe to say everyone is setting new goals for themselves. Maybe if you’re a student, you want to study more, get better grades, or be more social this school year. If you’re faculty or staff, you might want to better your teaching strategies or increase your productivity at work. While these might sound like simple goals, many people set these same goals every semester and are never able to achieve them. This lack of success can be due to many different attributes but, more often than not, it boils down to not actually knowing the root cause of your issue.

Every start of the year the student employees in the Office of Continuous Improvement set a goal for themselves. The goal can be personal, professional, or academic, it just has to be something they want to accomplish that school year. After they have set their achievable goals, then it is time to create an A3. The A3 helps the students understand the root cause of why they are not currently achieving their goal and how to get there. It also aids in improving your goal so that it is a S.M.A.R.T. goal, which makes it more likely for you to obtain.

This last year I decided my goal would be to improve my study habits. When first looking at this goal it seems very vague, this is where the A3 came in. It allowed me to assess why my current study habits were not working and what study habits would work for me. I also used tools like a fish-bone diagram and the 5 why’s. Laying out the issues around my study habits helped me find the root cause of my poor study habits and how to improve them.

Using an A3 to map out your goal and the issues associated with what you are currently doing is a great way to come up with solutions. If you are interested in trying out an A3 with your school year goal, you can find an A3 template and quick point on the Continuous Improvement website. It’s definitely an effective way to kick off your journey to your goal!

https://www.shmula.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Lean-Manufacturing-A3-Report-Haiti.jpg

One

The continuous cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) is a mantra often repeated here at the Office of Continuous Improvement. It can be thought of as the origin of all the other tools and ideas that we use for improvement. As our Director of Continuous Improvement, Ruth Archer likes to point: if tomorrow we forgot all the tools and process aside from PDCA we would eventually create each one over again. PDCA is a cycle because once the planning and the doing have been done, one checks the process, and then acts on their observations, with the goal of reaching the target state.

Part of the process of PDCA is recognizing that one cannot get from step 1 to step 100 instantaneously, but rather through taking several small steps. This allows one to check each part of the process individually, as each step can be thought of as an experiment. As an experiment, a positive result is not guaranteed. Thus, by checking each step one can find errors in the process one by one, rather than as a whole. After each cycle, a standard is set in place to prevent the quality of the process from slipping.

Overall, PCDA is an effective customizable tool that can be used for any process, whether it be in the workplace or home life.


Study tips for track B

Do you feel ready to be tested in your classes? Track 2 midterms are currently taking place this week, and it is time to shape up. The Office of Continuous Improvement is working hard to be the most productive we can be and we are ready to help you too with some simple tips!

 

What is the easiest way to improve your study methods? Well, the answer is to cut out all distractions and useless projects. Start with your electronics. When going over your work you should put them out of your sight. This is because by looking at the electronics you are more likely going to shift your focus while studying. According to Texas Undergraduate Studies, “Students who kept their phones on the desk performed the worst on the tests followed by those who kept their phones in a pocket or backpack. The highest performers were the students who left their phones in a separate room”. Take this advice to heart and try to leave it in your dorm or one of the lockers the library provides while studying. See how much you can improve your scores.

Image result for phone put away

Our next lean tip is to eliminate waste. You can do this by bringing everything you need and nothing you don’t. For example, when studying for a math class, you should bring a calculator, notes, your book, and blank paper. You do not need to bring your phone, a fun book to read or your computer. It will just make you distracted and take time away from the work that needs to be done. Even your computer with your notes can be a bad idea because there are fun games, social media and a whole host of other things that are on there that can distract you. Try printing out our notes ahead of time and leave the computer behind. I know when I am studying I often want to check my email and messages. When I leave my electronics behind, I can put all my focus on my studies.

 

Make sure to have breaks. Studying nonstop for 8 hours is no good for anyone. It exhausts you and makes you much less productive. Try throwing breaks into your studying. According to Elizabeth Hoyt, “Studies show that breaks in your study routine can positively affect your attention abilities. Taking breaks from studying every ninety minutes or so can improve both focus and attention”. So take a break every once in a while. Step outside the library and take a short walk around campus, get a snack, or stretch your muscles. It is good for you to rest every once in a while.

Image result for woman going for a walk

If you have any more questions or want to know more about maximizing your efforts in your studies, please feel free to drop by the office in 135 West Wadsworth hall. We look forward to seeing you and hope you have a good midterm week!


Chaotic to Clean

As we reflect on the state of our lives and homes a lot of the time the word that comes to mind is chaotic, well at least for me it does. Then we begin to reflect on why our lives seem so chaotic, and that’s no hard question to answer. Most of us are balancing tight schedules whether it be work, school, a family, or activities we are involved in, it tends to seem like downtime is never a thing.  So how do we keep organized during these chaotic times so we aren’t spending our free time searching for items and reorganizing places we can never seem to keep organized? Well, a good way is to 5S your spaces. Now, you can’t dive in headfirst and do it to every room in your house all at once, but you can start with one area and go from there. Let’s say you start with your closet.

So first you will need a little background on exactly what 5S is. 5S is an organizational tool where you sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Each one of these “S’s” has a distinct definition:

Sort – Sort items in the area to figure out what is not needed and eliminate it. In your closet, this would be separating your clothes, shoes and other items to figure out what you wear, what you don’t wear, and what doesn’t belong in the closet. Then get rid of the things not used or not in the right spot.

Set in Order – Organize items that remain after sorting. Arrange items neatly and make sure there is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. In your closet, that means putting all your clothes in easy to find spots and designating an area for each type of clothing.

Shine – Clean the area that you have previously organized. In your closet, that means dusting, vacuuming, and completing any other cleanup you can think of.

Standardize – Set regular cleaning and maintenance to be done. For your closet, this could mean every time you put your clothes away make sure everything is in its spot and the closet is clean.

Sustain – Make this process a habit and conduct audits to make sure the process is working. For your closet, this could mean every month you go through and asses if everything is in place and if not rethink the process.

Following these steps and performing a 5S on your closet could save you a lot of time in the morning and maybe allow you to get that extra 5 minutes of sleep. The closet is also just the beginning. This tool can help you with any other area or process at home, work, school, or any other place. So, next time your feeling overwhelmed, try using this tool to organize the area causing you stress.

https://comoorganizarlacasa.com/en/ideas-to-organize-your-closet-before-and-after/ideas-to-organize-your-closet-before-and-after-5/