Category: Lean Thinking

Incremental Improvement

Here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, we are always striving to continuously improve in all of our activities. Recently, we were introduced to another opportunity to grow through a new practice (to us) called Incremental Improvement.

Most often, our work consists of large massive sweeps of improvement, tackling large projects and issues with Kaizens. This calls for the scheduling large increments of time around multiple busy schedules. Daily office work usually includes dedicating chunks of time to a project until it’s complete, before moving on to the next project on the agenda.

Incremental Improvement focuses on smaller solutions and actions when tackling large projects, and allows for completion through small steps and not leaps and bounds. It allows for easier implementation of ideas, which meets less resistance as any changes are slowly made and adjusted to. Changes implemented are less risky, and allows for PDCA on a smaller scale. Overall, the improvements made are done by the staff collectively, as they all have the knowledge and power to implement more beneficial improvements.

Right now, the Office of Continuous Improvement is working on a Lean Lending Library project, where we’re making a standardized activity check-out. This would allow anyone to come in and check-out a learning activity and have all the information and materials they would need in order to do the activity. We could see right away that it definitely would be a large project, but were ready to get down to business!

At first, we wanted to just start tackling it head on, and initially figured someone would be assigned to work on the project with it as a priority. However, after being introduced to the concept of Incremental Improvement, we began looking at how we could break the monster project into smaller steps instead. Now we’re steadily going through each step, bit by bit. Small amounts of time are consistently made for us to work on the steps of the project, in comparison to someone working on it for large chunks of time when they’re able to.

Already, the progress we have made is tangible, though there is still a lot more work to do. I personally have found that this large project is not so daunting now that it has been broken up, and is continuously being worked on bit by bit. I’m very excited to see the end results of our Incremental Improvements!


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


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.”

toyota way

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.


Visual Management of PDCA Rapid Experimentation

We are pleased to post this guest blog by Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Senior Associate Vice President for Administration at Michigan Technological University. 

I have been practicing online coaching using Lean principles and Kata concepts during short, frequent meetings for nearly six months.  I started with finding my own coach who then guided me to begin and improve this practice.  I now have six coachees that I am guiding to strengthen their own success and to improve Michigan Tech.

The coaching sessions were going really well, but they lacked any Visual Management element which is an important Lean tool that makes work visible.  My coach encouraged me to figure out a way to incorporate Visual Management into my online coaching sessions.  I created a video to explain how I used rapid experimentation through several PDCA cycles to implement Visual Management.

You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/gEbf1aQTkMQ

I hope you enjoy learning from my experience.  Do you have an effective way of using Visual Management using an online platform?

TCK Visual Management PDCA Rapid Experimentation
The Visual Management of PDCA Rapid Experimentation video was created with the assistance of Dominique Aleo, a student process improvement coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Standard Work- Managing Your Day

We are pleased to present this guest blog by Brenda Randell, Executive Assistant at Michigan Technological University. 

Are you running from meeting to meeting, feeling overwhelmed and un-prepared? Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Senior Associate Vice President for Administration, has been there and has since implemented a system to help overcome those obstacles. The system continues to improve, but I would like to share how we currently manage events in order to keep her feeling calm and prepared throughout the day.

The system depends heavily on the Google Calendar, Brenda, and Theresa herself. It also depends on the folders and our filing system that we have in place. Most value-adding elements that Theresa needs to do is scheduled on her calendar, leaving 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. “available” for emails and follow-up from the day’s meetings. Things often come up throughout the day and she uses this time to catch-up.

Theresa’s calendar is very detailed, with standards set. There is a standard 30-minute prep for every meeting, which is scheduled two days in advance (allowing for the possibility of needing to reschedule that time.) If Theresa gets ahead of schedule, she moves on to the next item. Travel-time is booked on the calendar as well. Color-coding occurs, but is done very cautiously because colors start to become meaningless when you use too many. Theresa uses four different colors, with red signaling “do not schedule”. Work-time is scheduled on the calendar with each block including additional details such as date of request, the number and the number of occurrences (i.e. 1 of 1), amount of time specified, and the due date. I am starting to include this with Theresa’s meetings that she requests, and I find it to be especially helpful for me if I need to reschedule that particular meeting.

Theresa is responsible for informing me what is needed and everything she needs is noted and put into my box. She is also in tune with the system so if I am not here, she is able to continue working through her day(s) without difficulty.

Folders used throughout the day are filed according to a previously developed standard. That standard color-codes sections (departments). For example: Human Resource-related items are placed in a green folder. Each folder has a standard label with the font, size, and information. The example below shows the folder title as “compensation strategy task force” and the sub-title explains the location of the file. Filed under “employment” in “Human Resources”. Having this standard makes it easy to file as well as find the file.

Theresa’s work flow circulates. I easily pull the folder that relates to the calendar item and set it up in a parallel sequence to her calendar. Theresa pulls the folder and takes care of the calendar item. She then writes notes of additional requests for that particular calendar item and puts the folder into my box. I then take the folders out of my box multiple times per day and do one, or multiple, of the following tasks: complete/finalize agenda, email and print agendas/attachments, schedule work time, schedule meeting, file the folder, and/or place folder in the pile for the next day that it will be needed.

What tips can you share to add flow to your work day?

Sample label – this particular label would be placed on a green file folder.

                         COMPENSATION STRATEGY TASK FORCE                            

                                 (Human Resources – Employment)

Theresa’s box with folders paralleling her calendar. Once the item/folder is complete, Theresa moves the folder to my box, right beside hers.
Theresa’s box with folders paralleling her calendar. Once the item/folder is complete, Theresa moves the folder to my box, right beside hers.                                                                  
Theresa’s folders for the next day. These are ready to be put into her box at the end of the day, or right away in the morning.
Theresa’s folders for the next day. These are ready to be put into her box at the end of the day, or right away in the morning.

  


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.

Wow


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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Lean Culture; Why Isn’t This The Norm?

This past month, I was able to participate in the making of a video with Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, and it was my first solo project as a PIC. I was both extremely excited and cautious, as I wanted to put to work the Lean knowledge and values my training had instilled me with, but I was also worried. What if I couldn’t do my job well? What if I under-performed what was expected of me? My first project was working with the “Big Dogs” and what if I couldn’t cut it? After a very reassuring meeting with Ruth about the basis of the project, I tried to go into it with the best outlook. No matter what happened, it would be an experience that would allow me to grow, and overall, improve.

It should not surprise you that the environment with which I met was nothing like I had feared, in fact, I felt no different than if I were back in the office as usual. The meeting with Mrs. Coleman-Kaiser went so easy and smooth, and not once did I feel inferior or inadequate. The conversation was natural, my questions came out unhindered, and overall I felt completely confident in my abilities. It was the same kind of  culture I experience everyday in the office, the very embodiment of lean culture I read about during training and in books. So why was I expecting any different?

Lean culture is one where respect for people is central, no matter status or position of individuals. The establishment of respect cultivates teamwork and camaraderie among everyone, and together we work towards the common goal of improvement. This allows for a blame-free space, where a mistake means an opportunity for improvement and the evolution of our standards. There is no need for taking the credit or pointing fingers, because we are all working towards the same goal; improvement.

In theory, the culture of Lean sounds great, as it gives the best approach towards a system where everyone is equal and working together.

Realistically, Lean culture in practice is even better. Lean culture allows you to function uninhibited by fears or worries, because not only are you geared towards the same end-goal as those around you, but because there are no mistakes, just areas that you recognize could use improvement. There is no failure in Lean culture.

The reason I expected different is because the culture of Lean is not what the majority encounters normally. Before my introduction to Lean, I had never encountered a work environment such as this, and I thought it too good to be true, even though it’s a workplace we all deserve.  Here we have a healthy, high functioning, improvement-promoting environment that yields the best of results, and yet it is an environment known by only few. What a concept! Now that I have been immersed in Lean culture for a few months, it is becoming the norm for me. I am becoming more sensitive to the differences between this work environment and other work environments that are not Lean.

As we continue our work with Lean, and continue on the path of continuous improvement, not only do we strengthen the standard of Lean culture, but it is so important that we also continue to  introduce others into the Lean and its values. It is very important to spread so that everyone everywhere is working at the same standards, and working towards the same goals. Hopefully someday the majority shall be Lean, and Lean will become the new societal norm.


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.


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.

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