All posts by Sophie Pawloski

Sophie Pawloski is a Student Process Improvement Coordinator at Michigan Technological University.

Visual Organization

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

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

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

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

 

PIC Sophie’s Old Personal Kanban

School Year Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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/

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.

Brassard, M. and Ritter, D. (2016). The Memory Jogger 2: Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning. 2nd ed. Methuen MA: GOAL/QPC.

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.

Brassard, M. and Ritter, D. (2016). The Memory Jogger 2: Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning. 2nd ed. Methuen MA: GOAL/QPC.

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.

Brassard, M. and Ritter, D. (2016). The Memory Jogger 2: Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning. 2nd ed. Methuen MA: GOAL/QPC.

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!


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.


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/

 


Summer Adventures

This summer I made the decision to stay in Houghton, take classes, and explore the Keweenaw during the warm weather before I start my last year here at Michigan Tech. With the Keweenaw and the U.P. in general being such a beautiful place during the summer I started to think about all the things I wanted to do and see this summer and I began to become overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I knew there was so much to do and I didn’t want to leave out anything so I thought, what is the best way to make sure I remember and accomplish everything I want to this summer? In the end I decided on an affinity diagram.

An affinity diagram is a tool that is used by groups to gather and sort ideas, opinions and issues when brainstorming. When creating one you first pick a topic; in my case summer adventures. Then you and whoever else you want to be involved, in my case my friends, each take a stack of sticky notes and write each idea on a separate sticky note. You then put them all in a central location and then categorize them into groups based on similarities. This way you have a chance to write down all of your ideas before deciding if they fit in with everything else.

I decided to use this tool because I figured as the semester progressed every time my friends or I thought of an activity we wanted to do this summer we could write it on a post-it note and stick it on a piece of poster board. This way we won’t forget anything we think of and we can see what everyone is interested in. At the end of the semester we will look at all the ideas and categorized them by which are similar and then rank them to figure out what we are going to do first. This will help ensure we have a fun productive summer.

As you can see affinity diagrams can be used for things as simple as summer adventures or things much more complicated. I love taking the opportunity to use lean tools outside of work and in my personal life. It helps me to see the real value of lean and continuous improvement. I hope you guys take the opportunity to use lean tools in your lives too!

Image result for affinity diagram

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/affinity-diagrams-learn-how-to-cluster-and-bundle-ideas-and-facts


Lean can be Simple!

The more I learn about Lean and Continuous Improvement the more I realize how many different topics and tools it entails. Because there are so many tools and topics it’s easy to get caught up in all of them and forget about the simple aspects of Lean and Continuous Improvement. There are many simple tools and concepts you probably already use on a daily basis but, have never thought about them as tools. One tool I find myself using often without even realizing it, is the 5 why’s tool. This is probably one of the simplest lean tools out there. 5 why’s is a questions-asking method used to determine the root-cause of a problem. It prompts you to continue asking the question why until you have found the underlying cause of the problem.

I actually recently used this method when helping a friend figure out why they can never find the papers they are looking for. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “I can never find my papers when I need them in class,”
Me: “Why can’t you find your papers when you need them in class?”
Friend: “Because I don’t know where I put them,”
Me: “Why don’t you know where you put them?”
Friend: “Because they are never in the same place,”
Me: “Why are they never in the same place?”
Friend: “Because I don’t have a location to put my papers for certain classes,”
Me: “Why don’t you have a location to put your papers for certain classes?”
Friend: “Because I never established one,”
Me: “Why did you never establish one?”
Friend: “Because I never bought folders for my classes.”
Me: “Oh, well let’s go purchase folders so you have a place to put your papers.”

       As you can see from the conversation, there was an easy solution to his situation but, my friend needed a little help mapping his way to the solution. The 5 why’s is a good tool to use when you don’t have any supplies to draw out a diagram and all you have is your brain and a problem. There are many lean tools that are just as simple as this one that can help make using lean in your everyday life simple!

 


Who Doesn’t Love Spaghetti?

Who doesn’t love spaghetti? It’s one of the most iconic pastas out there! Spaghetti is easy to make and tasty to eat, what could be better? Here at the Office of Continuous Improvement, not only do we like our spaghetti in pasta from, but even more so in diagram form: a Spaghetti Diagram!

Ever do something every day and suddenly realize it takes you way longer than you expected to, or that it took longer than it should? I came to this realization the other day while packing my backpack up to leave for school. I recognized it was taking me 10 minutes to put some binders, pencils, and other common school supplies into my bag, when really it should only take about 5 minutes. I thought what better way to map out my process then a Spaghetti Diagram!

A Spaghetti Diagram is a map that used lines to show the different paths you are taking when you are completing a process. At first glance a Spaghetti Diagram sounds strange and chaotic, but it is actually a very helpful Lean tool. You first map the normal process that you do every day, then you look at the paths that over cross or are unneeded and change them or take them out. This results in a streamlined process. Below you will see my first spaghetti diagram of the steps I take to get my backpack ready on a normal day.

  1. Open backpack
  2. Grab supplies such as pens, pencils, and notepads
  3. Put these supplies into backpack
  4. Grab books and binders from book shelf
  5. Put these supplies into backpack
  6. Grab water bottle and lunch from fridge
  7. Put those into backpack
  8. Grab coat and shoes from closet and put them on
  9. Grab backpack from hook
  10. Leave for school

After looking at the diagram and the steps I take every morning, I could see that by carrying my backpack around throughout the process and not returning to it every time I retrieved something to put in it I would save multiple steps. Below is the updated diagram and steps.

  1. Grab backpack
  2. Grab supplies such as pens, pencils, and notepads and put them in backpack
  3. Grab books and binders from book shelf and put them in backpack
  4. Grab water bottle and lunch from fridge and put them in backpack
  5. Grab coat and shoes from closet and put them on
  6. Leave for school

As you can see the steps in the process reduced from 10 to 6, and all I needed was a little help from the Spaghetti Diagram to see the root cause of my problem. By mapping out my steps and the process, all the extra work became visible. This lean tool and many more can be very helpful in situations not only at work but also at home! And who doesn’t love spaghetti?


A3: Not Just A Paper Size

Although I am a third year student, I still find myself struggling to determine and practice good study habits that fit my learning style. It seems like every semester I try changing many different things in order to find how studying works best for me, but every semester feel as if I still fall short. Whether it’s not achieving the top grade for the class or the feeling that the time I spent studying was not spent using maximum productivity, whatever I was doing never seemed to work. That is, until I was introduced to Lean and Continuous Improvement. I then realized the tools I use at work every day could also be applied to my school and home life. After I started to use the various Lean tools available to me at work I began to see how they could be very valuable to me in my academics. I started to think about what to work on and improve in my school life and the first thing that came to mind was making my studying more effective and efficient. This is when I found that an A3 would be great tool to use to pinpoint the root problem with my studying habits.

Normally when people hear the term A3 they think of the stand size 11″ x 17″ piece of paper. The A3 lean tool refers to this sized piece of paper that is used as a template for a problem solving report. The template is comprised of six different topics or steps to help you analyze the problem and attempt to find a viable solution. These steps include purpose statement, objectives, current state, future state, implementation plan, and outcome/metrics. This template focuses on planning in order to guide you through the problem solving process using the PCDA Method (Plan, Do, Check, Act). A basic template for an A3 can be seen below.

I am currently in the process of creating and revising my A3 for my study habits, but after multiple revisions and zeroing in on the root problem, I can already tell how much using the A3 helped. This is just one example of how I use Lean tools in my everyday life. There are many tools out there, some of which you probably already use without knowing it, that can really assist you in your everyday life. So take advantage of the Lean culture, I know I do!