All posts by Blake Patterson

Scheduling of the Library Conference Room

There has been a new Kaizen started here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, and I get to be the PIC for it! The new Kaizen is through the JR Van Pelt and Opie Library. The topic will be based around the scheduling methods of conference room 103 in the Library. Chad Arney, Director of Strategic Initiatives, is the team leader. He has proven to be very knowledgeable, both in the understanding of Library itself and in Google calendar. Andrew Miles (Financial Aid Manager), Briana Tucker (Student Engagement Coordinator), and Lori Weir (Dir Admin Services & Projects) are the three facilitators that have volunteered for this Kaizen. An added bonus, is that they are all outside eyes, and often ask very formidable questions about the process for how to schedule the conference room. Our team members are Annelise Doll and Mia Kemppainen, both employees in the library who know the process inside and out, and work with it on a daily basis.
We held our pre-meeting at the beginning of the March and identified what the problem was exactly. Chad explained the confusion and difficulty there was just to reserve the conference room, which believe me, was very confusing, especially for an outsider looking in. It was a bit unbelievable to see the process that people have to go through to reserve this room. Not only is there a lengthy process, but there is all the potential for other people to be in the room or that another reservation could be made, over-booking your event.
We held our first Kaizen day this past Monday with the whole team together in one room. We were able to create a process map of what people have to do to reserve the room. We were also able to figure out some things in Google calendar that really none of us have really known about before, like knowing who can reserve the room on campus and how Google calendar can accept whether or not the room can be reserved. It was very interesting to learn about these new things I hadn’t known before. We were also able to identify the different things that people struggle with when reserving the room.
Overall, it’s been, and hopefully will continue to be a fun, exciting, and great learning experience.

Spread of Lean

Yesterday I attended the Michigan Tech Career Fair. I wasn’t going in-order to get a job, internship, co-op, or anything really, except for experience. Not many companies are looking for anyone like me with my major being Sports and Fitness Management, and me being a first year, the odds that I would get offered anything by any company were very slim, if at all in existence. Just to clarify, no, I was not offered a job or internship, but I did gain a bit of experience and confidence from career fair as a whole.
Last semester at career fair, I just walked around and didn’t really do too much, but this time I was determined to at least talk with one company to gain some sort of experience. I first went and got my name tag, had my professional picture taken (because I really needed one of those, living without one on my LinkedIn has been killing me!) So, after that was out of the way, I grabbed  a map of the Multi-Purpose Room, and a list of all the companies that were represented. Like I said, I wasn’t looking for anything but experience, so I wasn’t searching for any company in particular.
I walked in and did a couple of laps just to see what companies were there, and I noticed one that didn’t have anyone at it, so after A LOT of hesitation I finally just walked up and said hello. I talked with the representatives from the Oakland Road Commission, and essentially just told them that I wasn’t looking for anything like a job offer or anything, and I just told them a little about myself. During this conversation I brought up my talking point, Lean and CI, which was my common subject with any company that was represented at the career fair. Both representatives knew about Lean and we had a nice conversation about what I do with it here at Michigan Tech, and they told me about a couple processes in their company that have been modified using Lean tactics. After our conversation came to a close, I thanked them, and moved on.
I talked with a couple other companies, neither of which knew about Lean or CI, so it was a very valuable teaching moment for myself, and maybe I might hopefully have been a spark for their companies to get invested in Lean. I told them about the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech, and just what my job is here in the Office of Continuous Improvement. I also tried my best to explain exactly what Lean is, but everyone has a different definition for Lean, so I tried my hardest and I told them about some Kaizens that I’m working on and the processes that are involved to get them to their end states.
Overall, I had a pretty good time at career fair, especially after I got over my fear of talking to strangers. I’m excited for next year’s career fairs, to hopefully get some more experience, and to possibly spread the word of Lean further!

Career Fair

Ripley Kids- Instructor Standards

Fellow PIC’s Rylie Store, Ari Laiho, and myself embarked on a journey to try to improve the Ripley Kids program at Mont Ripley. Rylie is the Ripley Kids Program Coordinator, so she essentially runs the show when it comes to the Ripley Kids program. Ari is an instructor in the program, a ski and snowboard enthusiast herself. I, however, don’t ski or snowboard, and have honestly never even heard of the Ripley Kids program, so this was a whole new experience from day one for me.
Rylie was the team leader on this Kaizen, Ari facilitated it, and I was introduced to my first Kaizen as a PIC. Rylie, Ari, and I had our pre-meeting, and Rylie explained a lot of the challenges, difficulties, and frustrations she has to face as the Program Coordinator. She was worrying about instructors not showing up, classes not starting or ending on time, keeping track of each group, and the registration process (just to name a few). Needless to say, it was time for some improvements.
Rylie and Ari compiled a team that is directly involved with the Ripley Kids process, and they addressed many of the same issues Rylie shared in the pre-meeting. So, we went to work. The team was able to come up with many great ideas that the team was able to incorporate into the Ripley Kids program. They held an instructors meeting, where Rylie talked with all the instructors, and got their input on what they’d like to see in the Ripley Kids program, which went very successfully.
We just had our two month check-in yesterday, for a check-in on how things are going. Rylie said that this has been probably one of, if not the most successful years of Ripley Kids yet. They were able to purchase helmet covers to help in keeping track of each group as well as each kid in the groups, and so far there haven’t been any issues and non-of the covers have gone mission because Rylie has built a system for keeping track of them after each lesson. There was some resistance to the changes, simply because the processes are new, but overall the instructors seem to be enjoying the program more, and seem to be more committed to Ripley Kids, which has made everything else go much smoother. Rylie has also been keeping track of metrics such as start times, questions asks, the amount of time instructors spend on each lesson.
One of the biggest things Rylie has implemented is a reflection process after each lesson. Each instructor fills out a reflection to track the progress of each kid in their group, it helps to show the instructors and Rylie to see the progress and plan the next lesson plan in a way that is tailored to each student.

I am very lucky to be a part of this Kaizen, and I’m glad seeing that everything things improved, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Ripley Kids program.

Mont Ripley

WOW: MUB Basement Transformation

Just after the semester started, I completed PIC training, and one of the first things I was assigned to as a PIC was to take over the MUB basement Kaizen from Matt, since he left the office. I was kind of terrified of it at first because it’d be technically my first Kaizen on my own, and I didn’t really have very much of an idea of what Kaizen’s really were yet, so I’m sure you can tell why I was a bit scared of it.

I started working with the team on the Kaizen at a newspaper meeting since the Kaizen technically started in January of 2017, so the processes at the beginning of the Kaizen were already long gone. Anyway, the first newspaper meeting I went to, we did a Gemba Walk through the basement and there was still some standards to be set with the janitorial supplies/carts, fire safety was another thing that still had to be implemented, and some small clutter things were waiting to be moved out. The next newspaper meeting, during our Gemba Walk, everything was moved/implemented, and there wasn’t very much left to do in the Kaizen itself. However, the two sides (Dining & Auxiliary Services/MUB) that have control of the MUB Basement decided to split up to assign uses for their parts of the basement.

Going through some of the pictures of the basement prior to the Kaizen, it’s so unbelievable seeing the changes that have been made, going from not have very much if ANY space to even walk, to having rooms opened and things having their own place, it’s a transformation unlike any other. Also the team has been fortunate enough to learn a lot of safety and disposal laws during the Kaizen. Even during the closure meeting during reflections, the only thing that the team could really say was “WOW.”

Now the two teams are doing their own Kaizens on their portions of the MUB Basement to see what to do with their areas, what processes work best for them, and what they’re trying to achieve. I’m very excited to see what will happen in the future given the tremendous transformation already. Both teams are just past the pre-meeting stage, and are moving on to the Kaizen days, so I can’t wait to see what’ll happen.


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.


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

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.


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.

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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