Category: Lean Thinking

Lean Thinking Aligns with Deliberately Developmental Organizations

This week’s post is a guest post from Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistant Vice President for Administration and campus Lean Facilitator.

I recently read the blog post referenced below that introduced me to Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO’s).  Defined by Kegan, et al. (2014), DDO’s shape their culture through dedication to the “conviction that the organization can prosper only if its culture is designed from the ground up to enable ongoing development for all of its people”

The concept that work provides “as essential context for personal growth” (Kegan, et al., 2014) with the flipside being that personal growth or continuous development and improvement are essential to an organization’s success, reminded me of the foundational lean principle of respect for people and the sometimes forgotten eighth form of waste – knowledge waste.

Respect for people is often depicted in both the foundation of the Lean House and as one of the supporting columns, and can be simply described as putting people before products and services.  A DDO demonstrates this culture of respect for people by integrating the work of improving yourself as an essential function of all jobs.  It is visible through an infrastructure involving your own deep and forced reflection (hansei kai), one-on-one sessions with others who can guide your improvement work, and through meetings designed to identify your blind spots and then identify root cause so that appropriate countermeasures can be put in place.  It’s all designed to disallow you from being able to “unwittingly limit your own effectiveness at work.”  (Kegan, et al., 2014)

(Carroll, R., n.d., Box Theory)

In the 8 wastes of lean, Knowledge waste is alternately described as unused creativity, under-utilized people, not engaging all, non-utilized talents, and untapped human potential.  DDO’s are committed to developing employees so that their potential can be developed and fully tapped to benefit both the individual and the organization.  Whether accomplished through formal training or through a reflective, iterative process, the result is a happier and more productive employee.  In fact, DDO’s recognize that creating a no-blame culture where inadequacies are continuously and systematically reviewed as part of the work is in itself a waste-elimination effort since employees don’t have to spend time and energy “covering their weaknesses and inadequacies” and “managing others’ good impression of them.” (Kegan, et al., 2014)

DDO’s approach individual inadequacies as potential assets that have not yet been fully developed.  By putting people first, the respect and commitment shown by prioritizing development and dealing with it in a transparent manner helps to eliminate wasted knowledge and wasted time covering up shortcomings.  Is your organization on its way to becoming a DDO or do you need to shift some mental models and behavioral practices to get there?


Carroll, R. (n.d.). Lean thinking for small business – Add value!  The Systems Thinker Blog.  Box Theory. [web log].  (Accessed February 18, 2014).  Retrieved from:

Kegan, R., Lahey, L., and Fleming, A., (2014, January 22).  Does your company make you a better person?  HBR Blog Network.  Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from:

The Juran Trilogy

The Juran Trilogy was developed by Dr. Joseph Juran, and it’s something I learned about recently in my Total Quality Management and Six Sigma course. The Juran Trilogy is an improvement cycle that is meant to reduce the cost of poor quality by planning quality into the product/process.

The Juran Trilogy

1. Quality Planning

In the planning stage, it is critical to define who your customers are and find out their needs (the “voice of the customer”). After you know what your customers need, you’re able to define the requirements for your product/process/service/system, etc., and develop it. Additionally, any plans that might need to be transferred to operators or other key stakeholders should be done during the planning phase. Planning activities should be done with a multidisciplinary team, with all key stakeholders represented.

2. Quality Control

During the control phase, determine what you need to measure (what data do you need to know if your process is working?), and set a goal for your performance. Get feedback by measuring actual performance, and act on the gap between your performance and your goal. In Statistical Process Control (SPC), there are several tools that could be used in the “control” phase of the Juran Trilogy: Pareto Analysis, flow diagrams, fishbone diagram, and control charts, to name a few.

3. Quality Improvement

There are four different “strategies” to improvement that could be applied during this phase:

  • Repair: Reactive; fix what’s broken.
  • Refinement: Proactive; continually improve a process that isn’t broken (like the continual pursuit of perfection in Lean!)
  • Renovation: Improvement through innovation or technological advancement
  • Reinvention: Most demanding approach; start over with a clean slate.
Image from:

Affinity Diagrams

Lately Affinity Diagrams have been used a lot! So I thought what better way to showcase this improvement tool than with a blog post.

Affinity Diagrams are tools used by groups to gather and sort ideas and issues when brainstorming. Affinities provide structure to and help initiate action in brainstorming sessions. They also support teams by allowing them to work on a creative level with difficult or emotional issues.

Affinities are great to use and extremely simple! All you need are sticky notes, markers, and flip chart paper (if available, if not just use a wall). Tell your team/group what the topic is they are brainstorming on and ask them to write down their ideas or issues on a sticky note. This allows their thoughts to be private if the subject is sensitive. Once complete, gather all the stickies and place them into several groups (the groups will become evident when reading the stickies). It’s as simple as that. This information can then be easily created on the computer for storage purposes.

For example The Leaders in Continuous Improvement student organization used an Affinity Diagram when brainstorming different ideas and events for the upcoming semester. This allowed all of the members to come up with several different ideas without being persuaded by any other members. The results were fantastic! Once completed the different ideas were transferred into a computer document and sent out to the members. Another example of Affinity Diagrams was at the Termination Process Kaizen. Affinity was a great tool to get the group to “vent” about the many different issues with the current termination process. The end results allowed the facilitator and team leader to see where the majority of complaints/issues were coming from.

Affinities are great for all projects, so don’t be afraid to get out there and affinitize!

Come Check Out the Lean Model Office!

The Office of Continuous Improvement has been working on a Lean Model Office tour, open to anyone on campus that is interested. The self-guided tour includes bright signs throughout the office to explain how we use the Lean concept or tool. Tools and concepts presented in the tour include: 5S, A3, Andon, Poka Yoke, Audit, Kanban, Visual Controls, PDCA, and more! Feel free to come visit us at 136W Wadsworth Hall to check it out!

Our photo copier is an example of andon from our Lean Model Office tour.
An example of a visual control and our kaizen hopper.

Ernie Beutler: My Experience with Lean

This week’s blog post is from one of the Lean Facilitators on Campus; Ernie Beutler.

“I just wanted to share some experiences I have encountered since beginning my lean journey.

I have been learning and implementing lean principles here at Michigan Tech since 2008. During this time I have played many different roles including: a team member, outside eyes, team leader, Facilitator, and an overall lean practitioner.
It has been so rewarding to see the lean culture grow and develop around campus since then. I have witnessed and been part of numerous time, space, and money saving practices that have been implemented in and around our campus.
In my most recent involvement, I was a team member on a 5-S kaizen of a major shared computer drive.
Once completed the team was able to create standards for the drive.
The team reduced wasted space by purging files. This has saves time because everything is neat, organized, and easy to find.
We reduced our drive from:
5.03 gb  12311 files  1574 folders 130 root folders to
3.56 gb    6314 files    787 folders   21 root folders!
I have also practiced and preached lean principles at home, travel, and overall in my daily personal life.”

Rapid Experimentation

Rapid experimentation can be used to test out a hypothesis or countermeasure that can be easily and usually inexpensively implemented, allowing quick iterations through the PDCA cycle.

During a recent 5S event with Kathy Wardynski, Manager of Purchasing and Process Improvement for Dining Services, it was determined that Kathy had a need for an inbox where coworkers could leave information for Kathy to “pull” from,  rather than having the work “pushed” at her by dropping it off directly on her desk. So, we did a little rapid experimentation! We put creativity before capital and used some funky duct tape from our office to attach a spare wall pocket just outside the door to Kathy’s office. Now Kathy is able to pull work from this inbox as she has time to process it.

Our rapid experiment with a new inbox for Kathy! Who said Lean isn't fun?

Back to the Basics: 5 Principles of Lean

Happy New Year! I hope the holidays treated everyone well.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and now a new semester I thought it would be a perfect time to get back to the basics and look at the Five Principles of Lean.

The five key principles guide the Lean philosophy of continuous improvement that involves all employees, who constantly pursue the elimination of waste and the reduction of variability; towards the pursuit of perfection. The principles are as follows:

1. Customers–Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product of family. Understand who your customer(s) are and know what they consider to be valuable.

2. Value stream–Identify the value stream for each product or service, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.

3. Flow–Make the value-creating steps occur so the product or service will flow smoothly toward the customer. Eliminate steps that do not create value for the customer.

4. Pull–As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the new upstream activity.

5. Continuous Improvement–Seek perfection; begin the process again and continue to make improvements and celebrate success.

In following these five principles of Lean you will implement a philosophy that will become “just the way things are done.” You are ensuring that you are driving towards the overall organizational strategy by constant review of your processes to ensure that they are consistently delivering value to your customer.

Keep these principles in mine throughout 2014 and your year is sure to be a success!

Andon – Not Just Pulling a Cord

One of the pillars of lean thinking is Jidoka.  Lean Lexicon defines Jidoka as “Providing machines and operators the ability to detect when an abnormal condition has occurred and immediately stop work.  This enable operations to build in quality at each process and to separate men and machines for more efficient work.”  Within Jidoka, andon is the visual management tool used as the signal to call for help and stop production when that abnormal condition is recognized.

Some of the requirements for this type of visual management include

  • Standardization – the process must have a standard so that the operator or machine knows when an abnormal condition exists.
  • Easy to understand – the signal must be easy to understand without too much training.  If it gets to complicated people are spending more time figuring out what the signal means than improving quality.
  • Commonly used – the system must be commonly used within a work group.  If only a few people in the group are using it, it will not be effective.
  • Standard responses – when the signal is indicated those responsible for correcting the issue must know how to respond to avoid confusion and reduce downtime and waste.

I tend to think of andon as the worker on a factory line pulling a cord to stop production, but it can also be an automated system or in an office setting.  As I was preparing a teachback on andon for a department report out the office printer started beeping and blinking.  I immediately got up, glanced at the screen and grabbed a new ream of paper to put in.  When I got back to my desk it hit me that this was an example of andon.  The printer encountered an abnormal condition (out of paper), stopped production (my print job was on hold), and indicated the problem through the flashing light and beeping.  On the screen is exactly what the problem is and the steps you would need to take to correct it.

Another example of an automatic andon is the low fuel light on your vehicle.  The light is the indicator and you, as the operator, know you should go to the gas station and fill up the tank to correct it.  There are more examples of andon around us than my originally narrow view of them thought!

Toilet Paper and Waste

Our University recently switched to a new compact toilet paper from Georgia Pacific.  Being a Lean practitioner, I have thought about this toilet paper change every trip to the bathroom since.  I think of each instance of waste that was eliminated from the simple change in design of the toilet paper roll.

On the right you have your standard toilet paper roll…..and on the left is the new type of toilet paper we are using:

I have compiled some of my best thoughts on the major waste reductions from this new toilet paper roll design, though I cannot be certain that all are recognized by the stakeholders:

  • Inventory reduction – less space required for storage of inventory, more inventory per square foot.
  • Over Processing (doing more than necessary to produce a product or service) – As a customer I never used the cardboard roll and this new toilet paper design appears to be working just fine without it.  Thus, it was unnecessary.
  • Motion/Movement – I assume there is less changing of toilet paper as there is more “TP” per roll.  There will also be more rolls shipped per delivery truck!

Why Report Out?

A Report Out is an event that is usually put on by the members of a kaizen team after their improvement event is completed. It is a presentation where the whole team can share their problem solving process and celebrate any positive results that have been seen from their improvements. During a Report Out the team might discuss what their area of focus was, their current and future state, metrics, results, and their newspaper items. But why should a team report out? I’ll share a couple reasons!

In addition to being an opportunity for a team to celebrate their results, it also provides an opportunity for the team to reflect on their experiences and provide clarity for the team at the end of an event. Reporting out on the newspaper items from the event can also help with accountability and sustaining of improvements. In Auxiliary Services at Michigan Tech, we even ask past improvement events that have already reported out to give updates on past kaizen events at our monthly Report Outs. This provides the team with an opportunity to give updates on accomplishing their newspaper items or to share any further “PDCA-ing” of the process since the kaizen event.

Having a Report Out event is also a way to share an improvement with anyone who needs to know about the improvement (if they might be effected by the change) or anyone who just might be interested! Reporting out on an improved process could be a way to share current best practices with another team that works with the same or a similar process. For example, if one dining hall on campus made improvements to a particular process, such as, how they schedule their student workers, they could report out to share the improvement with the other dining halls on campus.

A team from Dining Services reporting out on their improvement event.

So, why report out? To celebrate, reflect, and share!