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/

Holier Than Thou

I am sure we have all been there, someone else makes a mistake, either at work, at class, or at home. If that individual comes back after failing an exam, we may think to ourselves, “What a fool, who would think World War I started in the 19th century? Not I”. If that individual messes up at work, we may think to ourselves, “What a simpleton, who would leave a bubble in the carpet? Not I”. If someone swears in the basement of a church, we may think to ourselves, “What a sinner, who could say something like that, most assuredly not I”. This mindset has many problems, least of which is the obvious hypocrisy seeing as I doubt any of us could honestly consider ourselves to be free from mistakes. The chief concern, in the workplace, at any rate, is the inefficiency that this mindset causes. An inefficiency that the blame-free environment of Lean can solve.

Image result for blame thrower
http://www.inspiredlivingmedical.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/not-my-fault-.png

Why is a blame-free environment the most efficient way, one may ask? The reason is that it allows the limelight to be placed on the process rather than the individual. For example, in the instance of a student failing an exam, it would be unlikely that the mistake lied in the amount of effort that was put forth on the exam. Rather, the mistake likely lied in the entire process that that individual followed. Likewise if one makes a serious mistake at the workplace, the error likely falls in the process, not in the present decision.

There are many components that go into sustaining a blame-free workplace. One of the most important is respecting people and their abilities. When a mistake is made respect should still stand, rather than accusations of delinquency. In addition, fostering a workplace where excuses are not mandatory is important. In a blame-free environment, one can admit their wrongdoings without fear of accusations and repercussions. Perhaps the most important part of sustaining a blame-free environment is communication with others. Lack of communication can lead to assumptions of blame (I personally start jumping to conclusions when I am not communicated with).

Overall, getting off of our holier-than-thou soapboxes, and using Lean to foster an environment that is free of blame, is essential for any workplace.


First Week of Track B.

As we start the first week of track B, the Office of Continuous Improvement would like to welcome back all the students for summer classes. It has been a very busy summer, and we are happy to report that track A ended successfully. Now that track B is starting, we want to remind everyone that we are available to help you start off this term on the right foot. The best way to start off these classes successfully is to set up a smart study plan. There are many strategies and tools out there that will help you with your organization. These tools have the potential to speed up and improve your work.  The Office of Continuous Improvement would like to be a tool in your tool box and assist you in accomplishing your summer goals.

The Office of Continuous Improvement has many tools and methods you can implement in your work. The office has a library of books that can help you maximize your work efforts while minimizing the time wasted. We also have tools like the personal Kanban, and other visual tools which will help you organize what you have to get done. A personal Kanban is an organizational tool that helps you track what you need to do, are doing, and have done. You can refine this system further by color coding the notes. I personally use pink for most important, purple for the least, and blue for the rest. To bring it a step further you can add due dates to your notes to keep it better organised. This is just one of the many tools that the Office of Continuous Improvement uses on a daily basis. 

 

If you want to learn more about personal Kabans or other organization tools for your work please feel free to stop by. We have books available in the lean library that can help you on your Lean journey. If you want some basic organization tips, the book “How To Organize Your Office” will be a great tool. This book brings up Kabans, as well as other visual tools available to use. Another book that can be a great help on how to get started being organized could be “How to De-Junk Your Life: Keys to Taking Control, Getting Organized and Getting It All Done”. These books among many others we have can help you get situated into a productive routine that can save you time. I have personally implemented parts of both of these books in my life to improve my productivity. We are located in room 136W, Wadsworth hall and you can also reach us at improvemnt@mtu.edu. 

 


A Lifesaving Tool

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, I imagine many of you are planning or have already planned a vacation during this holiday. Maybe it’s to your lake house or to visit family or maybe to go camping. Nevertheless, planning a vacation can be a very stressful task and you could run into many issues in the process. So, if we know these issues are going to arise, why don’t we get one step ahead and plan for them? I mean, we have all these Lean tools at our disposal to pinpoint these issues before they arise.

A great Lean tool to use to sort out issues involved in planning a fun family vacation is an affinity diagram. An affinity diagram is a tool used by groups to gather and sort ideas, opinions, and issues when brainstorming. It gives structure and helps initiate action when brainstorming about a topic. In this situation, it will also allow your family to brainstorm ideas with you so everyone’s issues can be accounted for. The first step in creating the affinity diagram is to have your family brainstorm as many issues as possible that could occur when planning a fun family vacation. Then, have them write down each issue on a sticky note and place them all in a central location.  There should be one issue per sticky note and they should be placed at random in the central location. An example of this can be seen in the figure below.

The next step is to sort the ideas that are similar to each other. Put these ideas in a vertical line with one another, so you can distinguish between the different groupings. An example of this step can be seen in the figure below.

The last step is to come up with category names for each grouping so that you can pinpoint the similarities within them. Place the category name above each grouping. This can be seen in the figure below.

As you can see from the figure above, the issues that you could encounter when planning a fun family vacation are now clearly laid out and can be more easily addressed. Now you will be ready for almost any issue that appears during the process. Affinity diagrams can be used in many situations other than this one and are a very good tool to have in your back pocket. So, next time you are planning a vacation, brainstorming good movies options, or trying to figure out what could be wrong with your dishwasher, try using this tool. It could be a lifesaver in your situation!


Jump in the Fire

Recently, I discovered some interesting academic writings. I found my self attracted to one professor in particular. He has several interesting ideas, mainly in topics that go far over my head, that usually have something to do with “Jungian Archetypes”, “Lobsters”, or the like. One of the ideas that I actually could comprehend was his ideas on truth, perhaps best explained via his quote here, “The truth is something that burns, it burns off deadwood, and people don’t like having their deadwood burnt off because they’re 95% deadwood”. As an interesting aside, he even went so far as to hypothesize that perhaps, symbolically, this was the reason that when God spoke to Moses, he did via a burning bush.

Now I think it may be reasonable to assume that the readers that frequent Michigan Tech’s website here, may have the age and experience to make the phrase “95% deadwood” become slightly hyperbolic, but I’m sure the general thought that we all have weaknesses and bad habits that need to be disposed of, is a true idea. These weaknesses that we all harbor can have a negative impact on both our professional and personal lives.  Yet we hide these weaknesses not only to others but also to ourselves. Shahram Heshmat, in his article “The Many Ways We Lie to Ourselves” says, “90 percent of all drivers think they are above average, and 94 percent of professors at a large university were found to believe that they are better than the average professor”. It may seem obvious that 50% of us are below average when it comes to driving, but admitting to one’s self one’s own incompetency is a difficult thing to do.

Often when one speaks of Lean or Continuous Improvement it is in the board context of organization; however, the principles behind Continuous Improvement require growth as an individual. Once an individual recognizes their own flaws then they can begin to “burn off the deadwood”. I doubt that I, in my youthful ignorance, could begin to articulate any processes for self-growth after this, but I do think it is clear that, metaphorically speaking of course, every once in a while we all need to Jump in the Fire.

References

  • Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. The Many Ways We Lie to Ourselves. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201708/the-many-ways-we-lie-ourselves.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

There are 100 days with leaves on the trees at Michigan Tech. At first glance that sounds like a lot because it is about 27% of the year, but when you think of what that entails you can clearly see how little that is. For the most part spring, summer and fall are crammed into these days and they go by so quickly. Then we are back to winter and snow. This is why we need to be smart about how we utilize our time this summer to get the most out of it that we can.

In order to get the most out of these days I am going to use one of the best tools in my belt, lean. The way to do this is through the use of a SMART goal. A SMART goal is a tool to use to ensure your hard work is paying off. It does this through being specific, measurable,attainable, relevant and timely. 

 

http://www.newfoundbalance.com/new-year-new-goals/

My SMART goal for this summer is to get at least an 85% in my finance class by working on my independent studies for at least 6 hours every week starting in July until it finishes in August. I will do this by visiting the professor’s office hours every other week and doing all the practice problems i can make. I will be able to do better in the class because I will be keeping my studies on track and creating a study group with other students in my class. A study group will help me be able to work out problems and bounce ideas off others. This is my SMART goal because it is specific about what I want, has check points that I can measure my progress with, is a reasonable goal that pertains to my degree and has a timeline that I can follow. 

A smart goal can be a useful tool to anyone trying to make the most of their time this summer and can help you spend less time on unimportant activities. When you make your smart goal remember to ask yourself is it as specific as possible? Will you be able to track its progress? Can you reasonably reach this goal? Why do you want to reach this goal? When should it be finished?  If you want to learn more about smart goals you can read about theme here or come visit us in the Office of Continuous Improvement in 135 W Wads, or email us at improvment@mtu.edu.

 


Safety and Lean

One of the most important aspects of any workplace is the safety of its workers. When most people think of safety in their workplace they envision long boring safety videos and training every so often, but shouldn’t we empower our workers to want to be safe? This is one of the ways that lean can be brought to safety to further improve it. Actually lean has a lot to offer safety in all of its different aspects.

One of the biggest things lean does to change the environment of safety at the workplace is the safety professionals will treat the workers as their costumers. This is different from the average environment because normally safety professionals will view the upper management or board of directors as their customer. When shifting it from “what does management want in safety” to “what do the workers want in safety”, it allows the workers to have more control of how and what they are learning about safety at their workplace. It enables them to learn in a way they want to, and makes them more apt to be engaged during those training sessions.

Another way lean changes the environment of safety is it can help to make safety more apparent and visual. This can be done through the use of visual management. By creating visual cues and diagrams of the right and safe way to do something it will give the employees something to refer to and model after. Visual management in this situations also allows anyone who is walking around to determine if the act is right or wrong or safe or not. This allows for anyone to identify an unsafe action and help to correct it before it turns into an injury.

Another aspect that goes along with Visual Management that can improve the safety of workers is the 5S workplace organizational tool. During a 5S, an area or process gets sorted, set, shined, standardized, and sustained. This improves safety in many ways. Some of these ways include the removal of clutter, ensuring spills get cleaned up quickly, having necessary tools close to where they are needed, and the elimination of unsafe practices through standardization. All of these aspects of 5s help to ensure workers are doing their jobs in the safest way possible.

These are just a few ways that lean can change the environment of safety in the workplace for the better. Lean has a lot to offer safety and on the other hand safety has a lot to offer lean. These two concept go hand in hand and when used together can drastically improve the well-being of the workers and the culture of a workplace.


Eye of the Beholder

One of the small projects that I’m helping with here at work is the cleaning of two storage spaces for the dining service staff here at Michigan Tech. In cleaning it out we had to get rid of several useless old kitchen appliances. One of the appliances that we were planning the get rid of was an old pizza oven. The cafeteria didn’t need or want it, and I presumed that nobody would need or want it. It almost seemed comical that someone would want such a thing. However, a few quick calls later, and sure enough someone at the school wanted it. Thus it happened that an item I considered to be practically useless found a home.

In a similar vein many items or ideas considered to be foolish by one can be useful to another. No matter what ones background is, they will always see things at least slightly differently than their peers. One could simply point out the apparent foolishness of the other’s opinion, but often this can lead to waste. For example, in the example I gave above, if someone asked, I would most likely have given the answer of tossing the pizza oven, with all the other appliances we threw away. It is essential that with any project that involves more than one person, every person with some skin the game has their voice heard.

During the regular improvement events that we participate in here at the office we regularly create a “newspaper” for our plans. A newspaper is a simple tool used to delegate tasks to different people and keep tabs on the progress. When we create a newspaper for any project, it is essential that we get the opinions and feedback from everyone involved in order to make sure nothing is missed.

Kaizen Newspaper

 

velaction.com/kaizen-newspaper/

Overall, it is important to receive feedback, and opinions from everyone involved with any event, no matter how obscure or obvious the right path forwards appears to be.


A Lean Community

This week I had the privilege of attending the First Annual Copper Country Lean Conference at Michigan Tech. Now I’m not going to lie I went into this conference not expecting much and was prepared to just be talked at all day but, it ended up being so much more.  Ever since starting this job, I have become significantly interested in Lean and Continuous Improvement. It has helped me figure out how to study in a way that benefits me, plan out trips, and organize almost every aspect of my life. However, until the conference I never really understood the meaning or feeling of being involved in a Lean Community. I mean, I understood that there were people around me who were also passionate about Lean and that I could be considered a part of the Michigan Tech Lean community, but during the conference I was able to see what that truly meant.

At the conference there were people from all different industries and from all across the Keweenaw and further. These people had different jobs, degrees, and interests, but there was one thing everyone had in common, their interest in lean. Some people had been practicing lean for years, while others had just begun their lean journey, but it didn’t really matter. During this day everyone networked and shared stories of how lean has impacted them, or how they plan to integrate lean into their lives. Ideas were being bounced around and contact information was being shared. It was crazy to me how one thing, Lean, could connect so many people who have so many differences.

It’s when I saw all of these people interacting, sharing stories, and really being engaged in the conference I realized how much Lean really can connect you with others. It also showed me how important it is to develop your “community of practice” with in Lean. If you have that group of people eager to share their knowledge with you it allows you to grow as a lean practitioner and expand your own understanding of lean through theirs. So, this week I really felt what is was like to be a part of a Lean community.

https://sobrevivirrhhe.com/2013/07/23/busca-compara-y-si-encuentras-algo-mejor-lean-community/

 


Day 7

Now to all the Leadershape graduates, you know what Day 7 is, but I’m going to explain it for the people who have never attended. Day 7 is the day to take the first step to implement your vision. The first attempt to try to make a change in the world and bring about your dream. Now I know this is a bit different than what is usually talked about on this blog, but bear with me while I show the similarities between Day 7 and Lean.

How do you know what you need to improve? There may be many answers to this but to me it is when someone has an idea to do something better. At Leadershape, participants go through a process of finding out where they have weak points, what they want, and how to bring that about through a series of team building activities. The participants go through a personal Lean process in order to become better people and to hone their vision. They have to identify the waste in both their life and work, then plan to eliminate it. This is seen clearly in one of the activities that was simulating a production line. In this activity people had to work as a team to pass the ball to everyone as many times as possible while not passing it to the people directly next to you. Then, once they have figured out how to do this, people come in to try to disrupt the flow. By going through this, the students learned how to be efficient and use Lean thinking under pressure. Lean is about the implementation of Continuous Improvement and is necessary for a vision.

Image result for throwing balls in a circle

Image: http://www.ballsandballoons.com/originofaname/

My day 7 had a lot coming to it. I changed my mind over and over on what I should do and what I could do. My vision had a core value of wanting to help women. I wanted to change the world, but struggled knowing that I couldn’t just jump to the final solution. I eventually decided to work without an answer, and to fix mistakes as they come around. I took my first step with Women’s Leadership Council. While it was a small step, it was one in the right direction. By taking on a leadership role with them, I was able to help young women in the community. One of the activities we planned was aimed to help girl scouts get their science badges. This event took a lot of planning and was guided by the principles of Lean. We split up the events and looked at how to plan the event using swim lanes and dividing the work between the members. It was a tedious process but through the implementation of Lean, my Day 7 went smoothly.

I hope that with the use of Lean and Continuous Improvement, everyone can create their own successful Day 7, changing the world for the better. If you have any questions about Lean or Continuous Improvement please feel free to stop by the Office of Continuous Improvement in 135W Wads, or email us at improvement@mtu.edu.