All posts by Rylie Store

Rylie Store is a Student Process Improvement Coordinator at Michigan Technological University.

Wedding Bells Are No Exception

So often we get caught up in our projects: we start them, prioritize them, and then devote all of our attention to them one by one until they’re completed. We very rarely have a single project that is on-going for a long period of time; why is this?

I think it’s because we don’t want lingering work, we thrive off of completion. From that we gain satisfaction and pride in our work.

There is, however, a trade-off for this pride. That is, when we continuously move from one project to the next, seeing each to completion before starting the next, most of us quickly become burned out. When we get burned out we lose our energy and our enthusiasm, as well as become negative, frustrated, and unproductive. That satisfaction we were chasing before no longer sustains us.

Back in February, one of my co-worker’s blogged on incremental improvement, and recently she blogged about Preemptive Improvement. In these blogs, she’s shared how our office has been using small improvements to achieve a high future state and strive for perfection, even when a correction isn’t necessary. These methods are some that I’ve been applying in my own personal life heavily in the last year or so.

Last July I got engaged, we set a date 11 months out and so commenced the wedding planning. For all those who’ve been married, you probably know the magnitude of this task. I’ve always been a “planner,” per say, and I tend to enjoy getting to use my creativity, so from the beginning I’ve been pretty excited about the planning process. However, I know a lot of people who’ve gotten married and I’ve learned that the entire process isn’t always fun, or creative. I also know myself and I tend to go and go and go, and focus on one thing until it’s complete before I’ll start the next; meaning, I tend to burn myself out.

Knowing the planning wouldn’t always play on my interests, and knowing that I sometimes overburden myself were good things to be aware of back in July. Because of this, I was able to plan ahead and use my lean thinking skills to combat potential burnouts or becoming a bridezilla (my worst nightmare). I did this by utilizing the skills I’ve learned here in the Office of Continuous Improvement. I can honestly, say with 10 days left until the wedding, that I’ve only had two “burnouts,” one as a result of over-processing, and the other was out of my control to change.

After talking to multiple soon-to-be wives, I’ve learned that I am the one who’s been the least bit stressed about the planning process as a whole and I believe this is from all of the lean I’ve implemented… From organizing my thoughts via a gigantic affinity diagram, laying out the roles and responsibilities of our family members in a swim lane, using a decision matrix to decide on venues and vendors, ICE prioritization of tasks, plentiful checklists, recognizing when I was over processing, and also taking it one step at a time and remembering that the entire wedding doesn’t need to be planned over-night.

I’ve also gathered that on average, the last three weeks before the wedding tend to be the busiest with wrapping up small details. However, because of the prioritization that we conducted early on, and the small deadlines we set, we were able to spend two of those weeks towards something not related to wedding, and only spend the last week wrapping up details.

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This is the original affinity diagram that kicked off the planning (kind of) last August. Things would get added and removed as we moved, but at one point it took up this entire 10 ft wall.

The purpose of today’s blog post is to show you that as long as you learn how to slow down your thinking, anyone can implement and benefit from small improvements striving for perfection.

 

 

 

 


4 more things you (probably) didn’t know about a kaizen event

The word kaizen is quite literally a foreign word to most Americans, it means improvement. Attending a kaizen, or an improvement event, may also be a foreign concept to some, especially to those that have never participated in one.

Two weeks ago, we discussed four things you probably didn’t know about a kaizen, particularly targeted to help those who have never been apart of one. Here we’d like to cover four more things:

  1. Use your resources wisely – Part of the girl scout law says, “I will do my best… to use resources wisely.” When making an improvement, or improvements, it gets really easy to see fantastic countermeasures that could be a solve all if there was a good amount of money spent. However, we like to say that money is out of scope. It’s always better to try and find a solution utilizing the resources already available, it’s about creative thinking and problem solving. That’s why I think of the girl scout law for this, because it follows the same principle.
  2. Improvement requires teamwork – Kaizen events, often times are a lot easier when there is only a handful of people actually assigned to newspaper (to-do list) tasks, simply because it’s convenient for everyone else. However, this has a tendency to burden the single one or two people. But it takes a team to identify current state and future state, as well as to implement the improvements.
  3. Change is an evolution and not necessarily a revolution – One of the pillars that lean is built on is Continuous Improvement. This was intentional in order to represent continuous improvements. We identify our current state and then identify the ideal or future stat, but in order to get from current to future we have to take baby steps. The leap to the future state embodies many small improvements that need to be made over time rather than a single large improvement. The purpose of continuous improvement is to keep striving for the future, but allowing grace to step in and slow things down (See #4).
  4. Slow and Steady wins the race – Kaizen events often seem tedious, but this is because the majority of the time is spent trying to fully understand the current state, the problems coming from it and then understanding the root cause. This takes a considerable amount of time, because it slows the thinking down so that nothing is missed. Then you move on to identifying the future state. Once the future state is identified it gets really easy to start coming up with counter measure after countermeasure. Tying back to #3, it’s easiest to start with the first countermeasure in a series and then come back to the others later on.

The eight pieces that we’ve discussed are huge in understanding the culture within a kaizen event. These items are in alignment to our office, the Office of Continuous Improvement, and the ground rules that we practice in kaizen events on the Michigan Tech campus.

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4 things you (probably) didn’t know about a Kaizen event

In the last 10 years we’ve gained a lot of momentum in sharing Lean with the people of this campus; the largest connection has been made through hosting Kaizens, improvement events. However, when hosting a kaizen there’s not always team members that have ever heard of Lean and Continuous Improvement, let alone fully grasp its concepts. This isn’t their fault, how could they possibly understand something they haven’t been exposed to?

That being said, there’s eight things you probably didn’t know about a kaizen event that can help you to understand them a little more, the first four will be covered here:

  1. We’re not here to fix it for you – So often when our office assists with a kaizen, others believe that we are the ones that are going to come up with the solutions. This isn’t the case, the facilitators and coordinators are there to coach the team through a new way of problem solving, so that the team can develop the solutions.
  2. No silent objectors – A whisper can be more damaging than a shout. Meaning, if a team member has an idea, in agreeance  to the conversation or not, and it’s whispered or only kept as a thought, then that may be lost potential. We highly encourage all members of the team to share all of their thoughts and opinions so we can gain all perspectives. I mean, each team member was invited to the kaizen for a reason, right? And just to clarify we don’t encourage shouting, there’s really no need for it in a positive and mutual-respect environment, but shouting your idea is better than not expressing it at all.
  3. Blame the process, not the person – People are out of scope when identifying problems in a process. The process is the way it is, because it was able to be that way. Typically people don’t try to do a bad job, or deliberately cause waste. It’s easy to blame people, but really that person was just a victim to the faults of a process.
  4. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to be disagreeable – This kind of ties to #2, we encourage ALL opinions to be shared. Including opposing opinions. BUT, there is a difference between a difference of opinion and simply being irritable or challenging to work with.

So there’s four things you probably didn’t know about kaizen events, particularly the culture of a kaizen event. Stay tuned for the next four.

If you’d like to learn more about kaizen events, and how we run things here on campus, consider subscribing to our blog. We aim to get a post up once a week.

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Taking the Plunge into 5S

For some people accomplishment comes from the words, “our work here is done,” however, I believe that accomplishment can also come from, “we’ve only just begun.”

As we’ve shared in the past, each year 15-18 Michigan Tech faculty and staff come together in hopes of becoming the newest additions to our facilitator co-hort here on campus. To achieve the title of a “Level 1 Facilitator,” each candidate must attend seven days of training, complete various homework assignments, and participate as either a team leader or a facilitator on a new kaizen with three to four other candidates.

The group I’ve been assigned to has decided that their kaizen was going to be to 5S the Foundry Lab located in the Material Science and Engineering building. A couple of weeks ago, four future graduates, and an already seasoned facilitator, went to the gemba, where work is done. Our tour of the Foundry Lab consisted of Team Leader, Matthew Otte (Material Science and Engineering) walking us through the various workstations and processes for every corner of the lab. Our walk took a little over an hour and a half, and we really only scraped the surface for potential areas of improvement.

Before
This is the top view of the Foundry lab before any changes have been made.

Following this Gemba walk I found myself a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of potential within the lab. I was struggling with imagining where, how and when to start.

One of my favorite things about lean is that it has taught me to become an independent problem solver. When this overwhelming feeling creeped in I remembered that the most important thing with any change is to just start. There’s no rule that says you must jump from current state to ideal state in one step. Continuous Improvement is about incremental changes. It doesn’t matter how big the stride, what matters is the direction.

Considering this, the team and I regrouped, and we decided to start with one single workbench and slowly pick away at other areas within the Foundry.

Before finishing station
This is a before picture of the finishing station workbench our team decided to start with.

Now, these emotions I experienced weren’t necessarily circumstantial, however they’ve been encountered many times by many people and seem to be associated with any sort of change. Commonly, this sense of being overwhelmed is coupled with 5S. I’ve found that in most cases, when 5S is initiated, there’s usually a lot that needs to be done.  These emotions can be used as a trigger to take a deep breath, and pick one incremental change at a time.


Lost in Translation – The First Pillar

From a young age we were taught to obey our elders, use our manners, and present ourselves in an appropriate manner. As we got older, more detail was added. Saying “please” and “thank you” wasn’t enough, we also had to treat others how we wanted to be treated, be kind, and help others when they needed it. Everyday, we add a little more detail to all of these areas, we learn a little bit more. What am I describing? Have you caught yourself saying it in your head? If you need to, reread this paragraph slower, then continue on.

Did you catch it now? I’m describing respect. Respect is the foundation to every relationship we have. Whether it be with a spouse, a co-worker, a boss, a friend. The amount of relationships we have, are endless. Respect fuels these relationships and if the respect is lost, then often times so is the relationship (unless you actively try to rebuild it).

Because respect is such a fundamental piece of human nature, I believe this is why Toyota made “Respect” one of it’s two pillars (the other being Continuous Improvement). This pillar is referred to as “Respect for People.” We’ve talked plenty before about respect for people, so instead I want to talk about how “Respect for People,” may have been a false translation when it was translated from Japanese to English.

I’ve been doing lots of  digging lately and I found some pieces written by a man named Jon Miller who summarized that the Japanese phrase, ningensei no soncho (人間性の尊重) was once translated, resulting in the phrase: “Respect for people.” After further translation it was found that the phrase was actually meant to be, “Respect for Humanity,” or “Respect for Human Nature.”

Before I totally throw you off, respect for humanity does indeed include respect for people, but “respect for people” simply doesn’t bring justice to the entirety of Toyota’s pillar. Some parts were lost in translation. When respect for humanity is broken down, it results in three areas: Respect for the workers, Respect for the customers and suppliers, and respect for the environment. All areas that human interaction is involved while producing, or consuming a product.

Respect is a huge part of Lean, and that’s because it’s a huge part of life. Respect goes beyond our interactions between other humans, it involves our relationship with our products, ourselves, our homes, our world. Creating honest emotion, passion, and empowerment. Without respect, lean would fail, just like everything else does. Respect for people is important, but when we expand our respect beyond people, greater things are produced.

Citations:

“Respect For Humanity.” Lean manufacturing – Practical advice, information resourcesand, 2014, www.lean-manufacturing-junction.com/respect-for-humanity.html.

Miller, Jon. “Respect for humanity…of your boss.” Gemba Academy, 10 Aug. 2015, blog.gembaacademy.com/2015/08/10/respect-for-humanity-of-your-boss/.


The Second Pillar of Lean

Lean spends a great amount of time emphasizing the importance of the People. Whether this be through mutual respect, humility, Systems thinking, equality among ranks, Coaching, Teamwork, Active Listening, Conflict management… the list truly goes on and on. This is exactly why Toyota made “Respect for people” as one of two  pillars supporting their foundation.

The other pillar is Continuous Improvement. As Jeff Liker illustrates in his book The Toyota Way, Continuous Improvement is an embodiment of three areas:

  1. Challenge – A long term vision that is designed to tackle challenges in a creative and valiant way that shows us what our goals are.
  2. Kaizen – Constant improvement in the operations of a business through change and adaptation.
  3. Genchi Genbutsu – “Go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions and build consensus and trust.”

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Continuous Improvement is not just a two word title. It is a change in mindset. It’s a sense of purpose, to strive for something greater and actually achieve it. Here at Michigan Tech we really emphasize this pillar. I mean, we are the Office of Continuous Improvement. We focus on utilizing the people we have, and their bodies of knowledge to propel the university higher. Our model of Continuous Improvement circulates around learning to improve, and we do this by:

  1. Going to the Gemba – where work is done
  2. Collecting metrics
  3. Implementing the Scientific Method – Kata, PDCA, A3
  4. Understanding the customers point of view so that we can add value
  5. and Practicing a no blame environment – It’s the process not the people

The goal of our office at Michigan Tech is to help all areas of campus to reduce waste, and add value so that the University can function at the optimum level and focus on our customers, the students. We could not implement this second pillar of lean, if it weren’t for the first, the people. The people at this university, lean practitioners or non, are what drives our campus up.

The people here at Michigan Tech are almost always willing to join forces and tackle waste so that we can continuously improve and thrive.

 

 


Welcome Ellie!

One of our newest additions to our PIC team is Ellie. She has been working on several enrichment projects since joining our office and to watch her mind start to shift towards a lean mindset has been nothing short of exciting. Ellie has continually expressed her excitement to work in the office and is already hopping on her first kaizen with Dining Services. She has even started to bridge the gap between lean and her major in psychology. We are so excited to watch our team grow and branch to other departments on campus. I’ll let Ellie take over from here…

Hi! My name Is Ellie Luokkanen, I am a first year psychology student here at Michigan Tech. I just recently started and am now finished training as a new Process Improvement Coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

I grew up in a small town called Fulton, 30 minutes north of Houghton.  I graduated from Calumet High School 2 years ago and have just finished taking a gap year to do some traveling and pursue my love of music. I have participated in PJ Olsson’s Rock Camp, as a vocalist, at the Rozsa Center here on campus for the last two years of my high school career, which is what prompted me to take my gap year. I got to spend a lot of time doing what I love, making music, as well as having great opportunities to travel. I even lived in Kentucky for a little while doing these things. After my year of travel I was excited to get back to school to start my journey towards a degree in another passion of mine, psychology. I couldn’t be happier to be here at Michigan Tech!

Thanks!

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A foot in the door: Commencement Kaizens

For the last six months a team has been pulled together to address various areas of the commencement process here at Michigan Tech, from ticketing to safety, and from configuration of space to guest speakers. This team has covered the commencement process inside and out, and with all of the stakeholders involved too! That’s HUGE!! The team has met 13 times already, for a total of 20 hours, and they are just getting started on most of it.

Before I introduce the teams let me tell a little bit more about how the Office of Continuous Improvement and the commencement committee have paired up and identified the kaizens that they’d like to move forward on. The meetings mentioned used swim lanes, a process mapping tool to map out the commencement process. The details to go on the swim lanes were acquired by the team leader, Kelly Vizanko, who emailed all of the stake holders and asked for their timelines. For the ones that were not received via email, they attended half-hour segments to help the team map out their part of the process. These meetings then identified areas of waste using kaizen bursts. From there the kaizen bursts were grouped based on the sub-process that they fell into and then later placed into a ICE Table, used for prioritization. This is how the kaizens were identified, by the most important/greatest impact, the level of control the team had, and by the ease to implement change/improvement. The kaizens identified were: Ticketing, Preparation, Volunteers, and Space + Configuration.

Ticketing consisted of eight people:

  • Kelly Vizanko (Registrar’s Office) – Team Leader
  • Ashley DeVoge (Ticketing Office) – Team Leader
  • Megan Goke (Office of Continuous Improvement) – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store (Office of Continuous Improvement) – Process Improvement Coordinator
  • Alisha Kocjan (Registrar’s Office) – Team Member
  • Shanda Miller (Bookstore) – Team Member
  • Nancy Byers-Sprague (Graduate School) – Team Member
  • Mary Stevens (Graduate School) – Team Member

This kaizen is wrapping up soon with a report out to the commencement committee. Several changes are expected such as scanning tickets to track the number of bodies in the room, communication to students (undergraduate and graduate) streamlined, established a limit for how many tickets will be issued, etc…

Day 1
This is a photo of Day one of the very first kaizen. This is half of the start of the swimlane that ended up being created.

The Commencement Volunteers and Preparation kaizens are just about to take off, all we are waiting on is the dates to come (for the volunteer kaizen) and our team to be solidified for the preparation kaizen.

The team for volunteers is:

  • Kelly Vizanko – Team Leader
  • Gina LeMay (Research Office) – Facilitator
  • Megan Goke – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store – PIC
  • Alisha Kocjan – Team Member
  • Joel Isaacson (Athletics) – Team Member
  • Jennifer Biekkola (Alumni House) – Team Member
  • Brian Cadwell (Public Safety & Police Services (PSPS))- Team Member
  • Daniel Bennett (University Safety & Security – PSPS) – Team Member

And to kick off the Preparation Kaizen we have:

  • Kelly Vizanko – Team Leader
  • Alisha Kocjan – Team Leader
  • Laura Harry (Memorial Union) – Facilitator
  • Rylie Store – PIC
ICE Table
Here is the team leaders and the facilitators working on prioritizing the kaizens.

All in all, we have a ways to go on these kaizens but the goal is to have at least something changed in each of these areas by April 2018, and to reassess after this year’s commencement ceremony. A foot in the door for lean, just as the students are about to leave.


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 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.