Finding your Balance

My time in the Office of Continuous Improvement, and my first few months here at MTU have provided me with a lot of new things to learn about and figure out. As most first year’s figure out, college has its fair share of difficulties, whether it be tough teachers or classes, since we’re at Michigan Tech, the weather, and of course the many social issues every person my age faces.

Which brings us to the skill that I’ve most gained so far from my time in the OCI and at MTU, which is a balance. Trying to find that balance of everything is critical for even your first semester at college, and I’d like to think that I have a pretty decent balance figured out so far. Along with working in the OCI, I also work in the athletic department here at Tech keeping stats for various athletic teams. Also, I am a sports writer for the Tech Lode, along with college and homework, and trying to fit in a family and social life, you could say I’m a pretty busy guy. So, finding that balance is pretty important for me.

When I started at the OCI, I was introduced to Google Calendar, which has honestly been my lifesaver so far this year. I plan all my events throughout the day on my Google Calendar, maybe I over-do it a tad, as one of my friends can’t even understand my calendar when looking at it, but for me it works. I have my MTU calendar, which has all my school, work, and other major things in my life on. I also have a separate calendar for my own personal items, and lastly a calendar for my professor’s office hours. So, I’m sure you can see why my friend struggles with understanding my Google Calendar.

Another item that has really been a lifesaver for me this school year has been the introduction to a Kanban. I really loved it when I was first introduced, because I love the feeling of getting things done, and seeing my results, which ultimately is the point. My Kanban was based off of one of my director’s (Ruth Archer) ideas. So my Kanban consists of the traditional to-do, doing, and done columns vertically. While horizontally, I have half seven columns each with two weeks of a semester, so like week 1 and 8 would be in one column, 2 and 9, and so on, to represent the weeks throughout the semester. I also have an upcoming events portion off to the side of my Kanban, for any upcoming events on campus, or for me personally. Now for the sticky notes I have three different kinds of sticky notes, the darker yellow is for the different activities on campus, pink is for school assignments, and the lighter yellow is for my work-related items.

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Not everyone has to get that complex, it’s about whatever you’re comfortable with, in finding your balance.


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.


Spread of Lean

When I first started here in the Office of Continuous Improvement in August, I was asked many times by many of my friends and family what exactly it is that I do in the office. Well, I didn’t really know exactly how to explain it, or even understand what exactly I was doing. That went on for the first half a month of me working in the office, and it kind of died down a little bit after that.
A couple weeks ago one of my friends asked me again what exactly my job is, because I never could explain it well enough before, because like I said I didn’t really understand exactly what it is that I do. Anyways, she asked me again, and I told her that I am the communicator between the Office of Continuous Improvement, and essentially the rest of the university, and we do special events to help different departments or services essentially fix problems using Lean tactics that they come across.
She seemed to really enjoy the thought of what it is that I do, and eager to learn more. So I’m trying to help her incorporate Lean into her life, to see how it could benefit her. For starters, I’m planning on introducing her to Kanban’s, to hopefully help her with her scheduling throughout her day or week, because she has a tough schedule as is. Hopefully, from there we can expand into more Lean tools, to help find and eliminate waste in her life, and hopefully make her happier as a person.

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I’m excited to see if I can help make a difference for the better in her life.
It’s very enriching to think that I could have a good influencing impact in the way someone lives their life, especially if I’m helping them live a more efficient and effective lifestyle, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do in the future with my newfound knowledge.


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.


Welcome Dominique!

Joining our team of PICs is one of our newest additions, Dominique Aleo. She has continually expressed her excitement to work in the office and is already hopping on her first kaizen. Already she has shown she has taken her training to heart by applying it to other aspects of her life, including the student org. that she is president of. We are as excited to have Dominique here as she is to be here, and I’ll let her take it from here!

Hello!

My name is Dominique, and I am training as one of the new Process Improvement Coordinators here at the Office of Continual Improvement.

I was born and raised in a small town called Herman, outside of L’Anse, and graduated from L’Anse Highschool in the year of 2015. In the fall, I started at Michigan Tech in persuit of a Biological Sciences Bachelors, with a concentration in Pre-Medicine. It has always been my dream to be a doctor, and a part of that dream is to return here to the U.P. to work in the rural areas like the one I grew up in.

Most of my time is spent with my family, as I am the second oldest out of 7, and most of the kids are still at home. Growing up in the U.P. most of my favorite activities are outdoors, such as Dom picswimming, hiking, biking, and hunting. Other times, I’ll usually have my nose in a book, be watching a movie or The Office, painting, or enjoying time on the piano or my saxophone.

I personally had never had any experience with Lean (or any I was aware of, anyways) until I began training in the office. I had talked about it with others before, but until training and really learning about Lean, I didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. Now I can see the light! I have learned so much in my training, and I believe I will continue to learn so  much more as I continue in this office. I am very excited to become part of the Lean culture, as well as watch the effects of implementing Lean on University life and in my own.

 

Thank you!

 


Welcome Blake!

Joining the team in the Office of Continuous Improvement is a new Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC), Blake Patterson. Blake is a first year student pursuing a degree in Sports Management. Although Blake is only a first year he was actively involved in many clubs and organizations in high school. Blake is fun spirit, full of excitement for each day and shares the office wide enthusiasm for lean. We are very excited to formally introduce Blake. We will now let him take over and tell you more about himself!

Hey everyone!
I am Blake Patterson and I am a first year majoring in Sports and Fitness Management. I was hired in early August as the new Student Process Improvement Coordinator, and I’ll be working with Rylie and Ari in the Lean and Continuous Improvement activities here at Michigan Tech. I’m very excited for the future, as my training comes to an end, and to see what I’ll be able to do with Lean, not just in work, but in my everyday life.
I was born and raised in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, but my all-time favorite thing to do is to travel. I love traveling to different places, and seeing new things, which is why I’m thinking I eventually want to study abroad at some point during my college career. I have been lucky to travel to some really cool places already during my lifetime, but probably my two most memorable trips would be going to New York City, and watching President Trump’s inauguration in Washington D.C. this past January.
I graduated from Hancock Central High School this past May (2017). During high school I was a member of the Aurora Battalion JROTC, the Hancock band, while I wasalso dual enrolled at Gogebic Community College. I ran cross country for three years and ran track for two years, this may sound weird to the average person, but I enjoyed the long distance of cross country so much more than track. If you couldn’t tell from my major, I’m an avid sports fan. My absolute favorite team, ever since I was little, is the Seattle Seahawks football team. Another hobby of mine is that I really enjoy keeping statistics for sports, hence why I have a job in the Athletic Department as an Athletic Communications Assistant, where I keep statistics for different athletic teams for Michigan Tech.
I am very excited for my time in the Office of Continuous Improvement, because every day is an adventure, and it validates the saying “you learn something new every day.” I can’t wait to see what I can contribute to the university, as I embark on my adventure in the world of Lean.

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Lean for the first time – again and again

If you’ve been following our blog for a little while, you’re probably already aware of this. I have been with the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech for a little over a year and a half. The last year of that has been spent training in new student Process Improvement Coordinators at a regular speed. In the past year we have put four people through our training completely, and our fifth will be wrapping up within the next few weeks. Our first guinea pig was Stephen, then we had Anita, and Ari. After Ari, there was enough data and feedback to dedicate some time (upwards of 45 hours) to making revisions, deletions, and additions to the training. Then Matt joined our crew, our Guinea pig for the second round, and currently we have Blake going through the training (he will formally introduce himself in a few weeks). All five of these people have brought a great deal of joy, excitement, and “proud parent” moments for me as I watch them move through different modules, emotions, and faces.

What’s interesting is they all seem to have identical emotions but how they react to their emotions has been incredible for me to watch. I can almost now tell where Blake is at in the training without checking online to see his progress, simply by watching the vibe he’s giving off.

Moving back a year, I was assigned to redesign the training along side my co-worker at the time, Aspen. We sat down and discussed what worked and didn’t work from the training we went through. We talked about all the things we wish we had known, and the questions we asked. This started our direction for drafting the new training course. Then we hit a rut. “What is our goal? What does our future state look like. ” It took us a long time (I mean a few weeks) to answer this question. Then one day it was clear as day, duh! We want to design a training course that eliminates the surface questions, promotes deeper questions, and provides the new PIC with everything they need to know or how to find out what they need to know to jump into our processes. Once this was established we took off running.

In the past four months I have spent about 75 hours updating the training to get closer and closer to our future state. We will have to take several more jumps but we’re closer.

The piece about training others that is so rewarding for me is that, through these new comers, I am able to relearn lean again and again. I’m able to experience the flood and being overwhelmed, the light bulb flickering on, and the excitement once you finally get it! Its breath-taking to have this opportunity repeatedly, and this, this helps me to see a clearer picture of what our next jump is. Plus, then I have more minds to help pull it off. 🙂

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I pulled this off of a google search, but to put into perspective, this is about identical to what I feel on the inside (maybe look on the outside too) when the PICs reach the light-bulb flickering on point.

Learning Journals

Each day every person learns something new, no matter the intention and awareness of the lesson. It is known that improvements are made by learning and applying knowledge, but what does that actually mean?

For students it is expected that they will learn by listening to an instructor and for faculty and staff to learn from experiences and mistakes. However, that is only half of the learning process. If reflection is not made a part of experience then nothing can possibly be learned. For instance, if students do not study the material outside of class (reflection) then they will not fully understand the material and will not have learned to their full potential. Similarly, if faculty and staff do not reflect on their work then nothing can be improved or learned from the experiences. When given the choice, people normally prefer doing over thinking. Although it seems more productive to be constantly doing, it is actually more valuable to reflect as it effects efficacy and understanding of the task.

Here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, we strive to continuously improve through reflection, and later implementation of what we learned into the processes that we are trying to improve. Often we use a tool called Learning Journals to reflect.

Learning journals are quite literally a journal to write in before, during and after an experience. The content of the journal should be focused on identifying areas that you would like to explore in more detail and get a better understanding of. Here are some examples of things you might write to improve:

-Support learning from experience

-Develop critical thinking and/or a questioning attitude

-Encourage awareness of our own learning processes

-Increase ability in reflection and thinking

-Enhance problem solving skills

-Support personal development and self-empowerment

-Enhance creativity

-Support planning and progress

 

Inside of each category you can ask individual questions to reflect on an experience. For students you can ask questions in class such as:

  • What were the main points I learned from this session?
  • What is something I learned in this session that I may be able to use in my future?
  • After completing an assignment it could be useful to ask:
  • What strategies did I use as I was working on the assignment?
  • What do I need to do to overcome these uncertainties?
  • To improve at work you can ask yourself:
  • What mistakes did I make? Why did I make them?
  • How do I feel about the way I handled things today?
  • What resources helped me be successful?

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Interested in starting a personal learning journal to help you improve your ability to learn? The Office of Continuous Improvement is here to provide assistance and to answer any questions you may have. Check out our website or stop by our office in 136 W Wads.

Sources:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B46HHziBnQeTZm92M2Nhd3NTMHc/view

University of Worcester. “Learning Journals .” Google, Google, 2016, drive.google.com/file/d/0B46HHziBnQeTZm92M2Nhd3NTMHc/view.

Open Learn. http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/learning-learn-learning-can-mean-change/content-section-5.1

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B46HHziBnQeTQkZvb2lqRzRaQ28/view

Stefano, Giada Di, et al. “Making Experience Count.” Google, Google, drive.google.com/file/d/0B46HHziBnQeTQkZvb2lqRzRaQ28/view.


Finding Your Niche-Personal & Organizational Values

It’s a fairly common thing for organizations to identify a set of core values that they would like their company to function around. Here at Michigan Tech we strive to revolve about the following five values: Community, Scholarship, Possibilities, Accountability, and Tenacity (for more on our values follow here.) What is the purpose of organizations identifying their values? What is the purpose behind plastering these next to your name? How do these values reflect the environment you are in?

These are all sorts of questions that stormed my mind as I was attending the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) a few weeks ago. This year I attended three active learning sessions all centered around the same topic- how to start, run, and operate a business. Two of these three sessions took the conversation a step beyond the walls of the company and into a state of vulnerability, honesty, and unequivocally raw. The last session I attended challenged the social tendency to keep your professional life at work, and your personal life at home- within reason. When on-boarding a new employee, we often mention something like: “Keep the conversation work-related,” “We have a professional environment here,” and “Separate work from home.” However, the thought provoking piece of this session was that, we all go into these environments with a preconceived thought about what those three phrases (plus their sisters) actually mean. Where along the way did our home life become deemed as a professional pitfall? It’s kind of like, why do we have rules? We have rules because somewhere somebody did a thing that was seen as bad and so a rule was created.

Let’s go back to the ideas of values, almost every organization has a set of core values. Michigan Tech has them, NASA, American Red Cross, Apple, and even the United States has them in the form of documents, songs, and our pledge of allegiance! All of these organizations are professional by the unwritten american standard, and they all have identified the core values that they administer around. These values were created to display an image and a feeling that the company would like to be remembered for. These values are the theme for their practice, their impression they want to give. Unfortunately, it is often that one or all of these values will fall off as they aren’t practiced, and sometimes one value may even trump another value. When we begin to notice these sorts of collapse, it is often times too late: A company filed for bankruptcy, there was internal fraudulence, Safety hazards or even a death occurred…

I’m going to ask a few questions that the speaker asked us. The questions are based on the pictures below. I want you to really think about the answers to each of these and try to figure out what feelings are leading you to these answers.

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What draws us to beauty?

compassion

What draws us to compassion?

 

Sterling R. Cale, treasurer, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Unit 1, salutes his fallen comrades in the rear of the USS Arizona Memorial Monday during the Memorial Ceremony and Interment of James Evans Cory, the first Marine to be buried aboard the Arizona since World War II.
Sterling R. Cale, treasurer, Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Unit 1, salutes his fallen comrades in the rear of the USS Arizona Memorial Monday during the Memorial Ceremony and Interment of James Evans Cory, the first Marine to be buried aboard the Arizona since World War II.

What draws us to respect?

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Where do our values come from?

As people, we all have core values within ourselves that date back generations through our family history, adapting and changing with the times. Yet we all have our own values that we strive for. We may not be perfect in all of the values we hold, but we try to get better, and we try to surround ourselves with environments that hold true to our values. These tend to reflect the moments that we are happiest, prideful, and most fulfilled. The speaker of my session, Art Hoeskra, shared this article here to help us evaluate our own values. Some of my values are: Family, Empathy, Honesty, Independence, Positivity, Faith, and Structure.

I’d like to conclude with one of the final questions Art asked in this session which was, “What are the ideal values you want to instill in your family? Why don’t you instill these at work too?”


Burning Brighter

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I attended my first Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) Annual Conference this past week in Traverse City, MI; it was a fantastic experience! Between Key Note Speeches, Active Learning Sessions, and networking opportunities I was surrounded by people from a variety of backgrounds at various stages of their Lean Journeys. Especially coming from an engineering background, it was eye opening to get to know people from the different industries represented at this conference. It opened my eyes to how remarkably different each person’s experiences have been, and yet they still had many similar underlying stories.

Throughout the conference days, I took more notes than I really know what to do with, talked to so many people that the conversations ran together, I ate well, and I learned more than I thought I would in just two days. The more speeches and activities I attended, the more inspired and empowered I felt. One of the activities I participated in involved creating a slogan to brand Lean to the world; and this session is what stuck most with me. The focus of this session was to find fun in facilitating and improvement events, and we certainly had a good time. We were split into competing teams and went through an activity called Ritual Dissent, this turned out to be a wonderfully engaging and fun way to get teams to reach a consensus. So what did we come up with?

Relentlessly, Continuously, Positively Improving People’s Lives

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Working together to make life better for all of us

It is entirely up to you to decide how much you like our slogans, but given 20 minutes of thought and two iterations of editing, they are not bad. I never really considered the potential for Kaizens to be truly fun, but this theme ended up continuing throughout the conference. Making events fun not only makes them more enjoyable, it increases team member buy-in, overall satisfaction, and quality of the outcome.

There was also emphasis on creating competition as a way to drive people to actually improve continuously. Many people think of events as one-time occurrences, or something to drop by without getting too involved in; calling Kaizens “Improvement Events” carries those associated thoughts when in reality a Kaizen is just the beginning and creating some friendly competition keeps employees engaged and motivated to seek perfection and keep improving.

Beyond anything else, this conference really inspired me to take back my new knowledge and apply it in my work and my personal life; it lit the fire of improvement, now it’s up to me to carry the torch.