All posts by wmdavis

Simple Quote About Trouble

“No one has more trouble, than a person who claims to have no trouble”

 – Taiichi Ohno

The way I reflect on this quote is by thinking of the phrase  “the pursuit of perfection,”  one of the key principles of Lean thinking.  How can we approach our pursuit without becoming comfortable with our ‘trouble’ –  errors, unhappy customers, re-work, delays, inconsistencies, bottlenecks, poor communication, unhappy employees, waiting?    Many times throughout my Lean journey I have heard people speak of trouble/problems as ‘gold nuggets’ – finding them is great!   Lean thinkers use trouble as a base for improvements and continuous strides towards perfection.  Go find your trouble and claim it!

HIRING – Student Process Improvement Coordinators

The Office of Process Improvement is hiring 2 Student Process Improvement Coordinators. The successful candidates will work with the department on specific improvement goals as well as support the Michigan Tech campus community in carrying out diverse improvement efforts. More position information is available on NACElink, Job ID#15871. Candidates must be available to work over the summer of 2012. This position is year round and the hours are flexible. $9.00/hour.

Leadership Standardized Work Part 1

Those in leadership roles may argue that the work they do is not “routine,” that their day-to-day work can not be made standard.  However, in Lean practice, all work can be highly specified and standardized.  Leadership Standardized Work (LSW) is a developed practice leaders use to create specific content, sequence, timing, and outcomes for the work they do.  In simplistic terms, it is a checklist for daily, weekly, monthly, annual leadership activities.  I am beginning my personal journey to develop LSW for my work.  I am very new to this practice and I will be learning along the way.  Here is what I am doing this week, Week 1:

  • I am currently tracking what I do each day, down to 15 minute increments.  Today is day 3.  This will give me an idea of how I currently use my time.
  • I am also keeping a list of deliverables that I need to do each day, week, month, quarterly and annually.  For me, this includes things such as the quarterly Lean Overview presentations for employees, Board of Control reports, monthly Facilitator Meeting, leading Staff Council Meetings, daily group-ups…I will stop there, you get the idea.    
  •  Job reflection: What is the purpose of my job?  What can I continue doing, begin doing, or do more of (to do my job well).  Where is the “waste” in my work?

My plans for the next step: I will use my findings to begin drafting my LSW checklist.   Check back in a few weeks for an update!


Snowmaking and muda??

Muda is the Japanese term for waste.  There are eight forms of muda:

  • Motion—unnecessary movement of people
  • Waiting—people waiting for people, information, products, equipment, etc.
  • Movement—unnecessary movement of “things”
  • Correction—incomplete or incorrect information
  • Over Processing—doing more than necessary to produce a product/service
  • Overproduction—doing/making more than needed
  • Inventory—excess supplies, paperwork, information or equipment
  • Knowledge—not utilizing an individual’s full capacity (knowledge, skills, aptitude, and/or creativity)

Nick Sirdenis, General Manager at Mont Ripley Ski Hill, recently shared a short story of his day-to-day experience with muda – in the form of overproduction.   Mont Ripley uses snow guns to produce snow, supplementing when Mother nature doesn’t come through.  “A good 18 inched of base (snow) will last through any thaw” Nick stated.  However, he continued with “when the snow guns are blasting and the ground is covered it is hard to tell whether there is one inch of coverage or four feet.”  The Ski Hill staff then use drills to make a measurement of the snow coverage. 

Daily snow production changes with the weather, so Nick and his staff are always watching the forecast and measuring snow to make sure portions on the hill do not get too much (overproduction).   To date this season, Nick estimates the guns have allowed them to be open for an additional 40-45 days. 

Check out the Ski Hill on Facebook

(Photo of a snow gun at Mont Ripley)

Hoshin Kanri – Strategy Deployment

Hoshin Kanri or in English, Strategy Deployment, can be better understood as its translation is broken down…

  • Ho – Direction
  • Shin – Compass
  • Kan – Control
  • Ri – Reason or logic

Hoshin Kanri is a practice of steering an organization and supporting it’s continuous improvement efforts.  Hoshin Kanri involves setting strategic goals, a vision, and tactics to achieve the goals and vision at all levels in an organization.  It also encompasses a reflection on current performance.  Think of it like this – Michigan Tech sets overall vision targets (the Strategic Plan).  At each level moving downward, people participate in the strategy deployment process by aligning their units and activities to meet the overall strategic goals.  Hosin Kanri is a means for keeping actions, activities and improvements at all levels, in line with the University’s strategic goals.

Strategy Deployment A3s are a Lean tool; A3 referring to an 11” x 17” piece of paper.   A3 is a storytelling approach that helps organize the thinking and development of the University’s Strategy Deployment. At Michigan Tech, the department of Auxiliary Services has started using Strategy Deployment A3s to align their activities and tactics.  Check it out below.  

Hansei “Reflection”

In Japanese culture, Hansei, is a personal and continual exercise of identifying problems in oneself and creating plans to ensure they do not reoccur.  Heavily practiced at Toyota, even if a project is successful, a hansei-kai (reflection meeting) still occurs  to review what went wrong.  Employees are reminded that “no problem is a problem,” and that they haven’t objectivly evaluated their work to find areas for improvement.  You might think this this would be difficult to endure – constant critiquing of work, searching for problems, negative feedback.  However, in Japan, this is embedded in their kaizen (continuous improvement) culture. 

Hansei typically has three elements:

  • Individual recognition of a problem – a gap between expectations and achievement
  • Individual responsibility for the problem and deep regret
  • The individual commits and makes a plan to improve

What are your thoughts about this concept?  Have you or do you practice Hansei?  What would it take to begin this practice within your work?

In my quest for more information for this blog post, I found a lot of information all summarizing this very concept.  In my search however, I was lucky to stumble upon a story about a personal experience with Hansei – after reading this post, it clicked.  Read it here.   At Toyota, hansei-kai are conducted at project milestones and at project completions, but this article reminds that it is also very well a part of their culture.

FMCS Grant Update

Things have been heating up with the work for the grant project (goal: to expand the use of Lean Principles across campus, strengthen labor/mgmt relationships). The committee is developing two training programs that will be taught by an an external consultant. We will be looking for all levels of employees to apply for the training programs. Here are descriptions of them:

This cohort is designed to be half represented (union) employees and half non-represented employees. This group will develop a practiced understanding of what makes a Lean Organization, the Key Principles of Lean, and various tools and concepts. They will understand their role in improvement events, and will practice their skills by facilitating on-campus improvement events after the training.

This training is for non-represented staff that are positioned in their department or work areas to plan and implement a lean transformation. The training will give them a working knowledge to become a Lean practitioner and hands on experience applying Lean problem solving methods.

Stay tuned for details on a series of information sessions to learn more about these opportunities.


By: Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

In order to solve problems and make improvements, we need to encourage ourselves and people who are involved in a process to question it.

“This is my process, and it doesn’t work as well as I think it should.  Why?“

By asking “Why?” you can identify problems and their root cause allowing you to work towards making the right improvement.  One simple method for solving problems is just that—asking “Why?”  Again and again and again until you get to that root cause.  To learn more about the 5 Whys technique, click here.

A Personal Experience with the Four Step Problem Solving Process

By Allie Olano, Student Process Improvement coordinator

When I entered my first Kaizen event I was very overwhelmed.  I was a Student Manager at the time and our Kaizen was focusing on the efficiency and flow of student workers during our busy times in the Residential Dining Halls.  The facilitator walked us through the four step problem solving process, which was something I had never heard before. 

We started going through all the steps and I was able to participate and give my perspective on things.  We were able to brainstorm and formulate countermeasures that would later be implemented to help solve our problem.

After the Kaizen was over, it really got me thinking about my job and how I could apply this process to day-to-day tasks that often have problems.  I took the task of our substitution-card process and through the problem solving process was able to come to the conclusion that the root cause was actually overscheduling due to the process I was using.  My student workers were signing up for more hours than what they wanted, and I was scheduling them based on those hours not knowing it was too much.  In turn this lead to more sub cards being posted and the sub cards not being filled.  To solve the problem I rescheduled my workers to where it was more manageable with their class schedule and I also hired a couple more students that just filled sub cards.

I found that going through the process is very beneficial because you are able to reveal the true cause of your problem and you are able to find a solution to solve the problem.  I encourage you to contact a facilitator if you a have problem and would like to work through it using the problem solving process.

Other Lean Universities

Hello out there!  Is there anyone else in higher education administration practicing Lean principles?  Why yes, yes there is!   Below are some links to other Universities who practice Lean.  It is great to see what’s out there and get ideas for our Lean journey.

University of St. Andrews appears well established on their journey.  Check out the pocket guide on their main page, it is full of great information.  I really like their “Ideas” page too.

University of Washington Tacoma‘s Organizational Effectiveness Program uses Lean to support it’s services (see right hand navigation bar).  They provide coaching and facilitation and have packaged training programs that departments can request for their staff. 

University of Iowa’s Workplace Consultation group has a University of Iowa Lean program that started in 2006.  They are also using kaizen events to make improvements.