AJ Mikus is the Facilities Manager for the Daniell Heights apartment complex at Michigan Technological University. AJ led an improvement event designed to improve the student experience of checking out of their apartments, reduce the amount of repairs needed, and ensure all damages were properly accounted for. Watch AJ’s report out on his kaizen experience at our Lean at Michigan Tech YouTube channel.
Sustainment is arguably one of the most challenging parts of a Kaizen, or more, the most challenging part of Post-Kaizen. It can sometimes be very easy to drop a new process when there is stress, even though the old process was stressful as well. However, the old process brought along stress that you became conditioned to, it produced a level of stress you were used to, versus a new stress. This tends to negate all the hard work you put into the Kaizen itself. Processes can be broken down, the improvement measured through its results, but what happens when you revert to old ways as soon as there is resistance? How does one keep themselves from back-sliding after making new improvements?
Involvement: One vital part of maintaining improvement is engagement of your entire team, the entire workforce involved with the process. Sustaining improvements isn’t the job of one, but it’s accomplished through the work and perseverance of many. When everyone is involved with a process and the completion of that process, then you have many people invested in its sustainment. When there is only one or two out of the whole who are invested in improvement, it becomes easier to revert, as everyone is not on the same page.
Metrics/Data: Evaluating your improvements and its progression is also important Post-Kaizen. The data and metrics collected through the Kaizen show the improvement itself, and go on to show the improvements growth afterwards. Data and metrics can help with sustainment in that they will show you where improvement is falling-off, or where adjustments need to be made. Part of the services our office provides was implementing a 2,4,6 month check-in for Kaizens, which go over the improvements that had originally been made and the data and metrics collected along the way. This allows everyone to visually see how the metrics flux, and whether the metrics values have gone up or down due to lack of adherence to the sustainment plan, or because the new process needs some PDCA.
Evaluation: Sometimes, having many action items to complete Post-Kaizen contributes to a lack of sustainment. If one person becomes bogged down with many different tasks to complete, or if many tasks are put into place and later found in need of adjustments, the wheels for back-sliding may have already begun to turn. Having action items completed before the end of the Kaizen gives you time to collect metrics and data for the changes made, and therefore gives you time to evaluate the effects of those changes. If a large amount of the changes don’t get made, or the changes didn’t have the desired effect, it becomes very tempting to want to go back to the familiar “old-way”. Lean is all about testing the changes made In Real Time, so it’s important to give yourself time to evaluate the changes that are being made, their effects, as well as seeing that implementation doesn’t spread one person too thin. If it appears that one person is overburdened with action items, its okay to take it one item at a time, or to disperse the items in a different manner.
Incorporation: Along with involving everyone in a process who has a say, you should also have a plan for incorporating this new improvement and knowledge into everyday culture. When approaching improvement and sustaining it, it’s helpful to have a mindset that revolves around continuous improvement. This allows for new ideas to be given, received, and applied in reaction to results. To help keep the thoughts from, “well, this isn’t working, lets just go back to the old way,” it’s more positive to think “if this doesn’t work, we can find something to try next.” When improvement is blended into one’s daily routine, it becomes easier to train someone who’s new to the process, as well as to hand-off the information down the road. This makes sure that improvements are not only sustained by those who were first involved, but those after as well.
Continuous Improvement: Last but not least, improvement rarely is spot-on the first try, meaning Post-Kaizen improvements may not always go smoothly. There may be stress on the new process, unforeseen road bumps, or even resistance to something new. Remember that just because you spent time creating a new process, it does not mean that the new process is set in stone, and it will more-than-likely need improvements of its own. Never be afraid to make tweaks or ask, “how can we make this process even better?” Incremental improvement is just as effective as all other improvement efforts, don’t feel like it all has to be done at once, take the time to make improvements at a sustainable pace.
Sustaining improvement is a tricky thing, but it’s a challenge well worth the fight! After all, you’re trying to become more effective in the service and value you provide. I have a lot more to say on the subject, however I will save that for another time. Please feel free to comment with any thoughts or experiences that you have with sustaining improvement!
Data collection can be a tricky thing, especially in a Higher Education setting. We tend to have to get creative in identifying what data would be helpful in representing improvement, as well as how we can collect the data using the resources we already have. This need for creative thinking skills tends to make brainstorming a collection plan seem ambiguous and maybe even insignificant at times.
We can easily generate a process map for the current state and future state and then count how many steps were eliminated, but what if five steps were removed, and one was created? It would appear (numerically) as if four steps were removed. Which is true, but how can we account for the process change in the new step? How can we measure that the new process adds more value than the old process? How do we represent the waste of five steps versus one new step? This is where our creative thinking ends and we decide that removing four steps is “good enough.”
In a video I recently watched, Mike Wroblewski, a senior consultant from the Kaizen Institute, shared a little bit about all the things we should consider before we create a data collection plan. The part that really stuck with me was his emphasis on going to the Gemba, the place where work is done, and asking questions. Wroblewski’s video showed me, that you can’t fully grasp the current state until you immerse yourself in the environment of the user, even if it is only observation. Once you’ve gone to the Gemba, it becomes more clear what the steps in the process are. From here you can identify metrics that represent the frequency of an event, such as the number of corrections to file, or that represent importance. For example, how critical is it that this step be in the process at all.
By now you’re probably thinking, “this is all great, but why do we even care about metrics?” Results. When you think of a research project, you want to know the results. When you missed the ending of a baseball game, you want to know the results. When you hear of someone applying for a new job, you want to hear the results. We as humans are hard wired around, “what happened next?” Lean and Continuous Improvement is no exception to this. When an improvement event is initiated, we soon begin talking about data collection before and after a kaizen so that we have results to showcase the work that was done. Metrics can be the difference between a department hypothetically getting $500 towards improvement efforts or $50,000. Metrics and results drive more people to put in the energy to improve their work from good to great.
This outlook and approach towards data collection is one that our lean practitioners here on campus have been trying to implement more and more, as well creating a more systematic approach towards getting numbers easily, accurately, and that will also provide meaningful data.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
There has been a new Kaizen started here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, and I get to be the PIC for it! The new Kaizen is through the JR Van Pelt and Opie Library. The topic will be based around the scheduling methods of conference room 103 in the Library. Chad Arney, Director of Strategic Initiatives, is the team leader. He has proven to be very knowledgeable, both in the understanding of Library itself and in Google calendar. Andrew Miles (Financial Aid Manager), Briana Tucker (Student Engagement Coordinator), and Lori Weir (Dir Admin Services & Projects) are the three facilitators that have volunteered for this Kaizen. An added bonus, is that they are all outside eyes, and often ask very formidable questions about the process for how to schedule the conference room. Our team members are Annelise Doll and Mia Kemppainen, both employees in the library who know the process inside and out, and work with it on a daily basis.
We held our pre-meeting at the beginning of the March and identified what the problem was exactly. Chad explained the confusion and difficulty there was just to reserve the conference room, which believe me, was very confusing, especially for an outsider looking in. It was a bit unbelievable to see the process that people have to go through to reserve this room. Not only is there a lengthy process, but there is all the potential for other people to be in the room or that another reservation could be made, over-booking your event.
We held our first Kaizen day this past Monday with the whole team together in one room. We were able to create a process map of what people have to do to reserve the room. We were also able to figure out some things in Google calendar that really none of us have really known about before, like knowing who can reserve the room on campus and how Google calendar can accept whether or not the room can be reserved. It was very interesting to learn about these new things I hadn’t known before. We were also able to identify the different things that people struggle with when reserving the room.
Overall, it’s been, and hopefully will continue to be a fun, exciting, and great learning experience.
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…
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
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.
I was recently given the opportunity to be a Lean facilitator for a 5S Kaizen event. The goal of the event was to organize the Van Pelt and Opie Library staff document management system. I found this to be a great project and was inspired by the event to write a blog post going over some of the lessons learned. The project also remind me of how the 5S method (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) can be applied to both Google Drive documents as well as Network Drive documents. Here are some things to try when working with a large documentation systems:
- Have a standard naming convention – Having a standard naming convention helps documents and key information be found quickly with minimum effort.
- Include key people from different departments – When this is done insight into how different people use documents is come to light and a more logical system can be created for all participants.
- Eliminate extra files – If there are four revisions of a document from over a few years ago don’t be afraid to get rid of these files, especially if no one is using them!
- Define upkeep roles and a timeline – Last but not least this step is what is going to ensure the work put into creating an organized system stays organized. This timeline will define how often and who will go through the document system and make sure that previously outlined steps are followed. For example a rotating schedule where every Friday 15 minutes is spent on ensuring that there are no loose files.
If you want to see some of the tools and templates that our office has compiled on 5S feel free to check them out here. To learn more about continuous improvement at Michigan Tech visit http://www.mtu.edu/improvement/, or call (906) 487-3180. We have multiple resources for you, including a Lean lending library!
I recently facilitated a Kaizen project for Dining Services that involved their student hiring process. A lot of good ideas and improvement plans came out of it, and the team was very excited about the opportunity to make this process more efficient. What stood out for me, however, was a new process step that we incorporated at the end of the Kaizen called “Measuring Success.”
As Lean practitioners we understand that metrics and data collection are pivotal to the success of any implementation initiative. However, sometimes we forget the benefits of putting these numbers on display for all to see; this group did not. We decided at the end of the day to put all of our success metrics with their respective goals and deadlines on a flip chart for each member of the team to display in their office. The motive behind this was to ensure that every day, with every decision they make, they are focused on reaching these goals.
I thought this was a fantastic idea and one that should be used in all of our projects in the future. A big part of Lean is engagement. Setting clear goals and expectations is a big factor in increasing employee engagement. When everyone is united and working toward a common goal, the opportunities for improvement are endless.
Earth’s moon along with the Sun’s gravitational pull are what cause tides on our earth . In the past, coastal cities used the tides as a way to tell the time of day. This past week the “Super Blood Moon” was out, and for all those who gazed up at the sky with me in the Houghton area, I’m sure you can agree with me that it was a majestic sight to see. The awe I felt was only heightened with the knowledge that the phenomenon last occurred in 1982 and is not expected to occur again until 2033 . As I reflected on how amazing it was watching the super blood moon, and seeing the moon change from its normal white color to an amazing orange hue over the course of a few hours, I couldn’t help but think about how time, the moon, and this rare occurrence all relate back to continuous improvement.
One can get used to how things are going, and when something out of the ordinary takes place it can set the whole system into shock. For example, an increase in job responsibilities as an employee, or for students, a disruption in their schedule like fall career fair. These times do not need to cause anxiety and worry. Such events don’t happen on a daily basis, and it is good to take time and recognize them as they are and then trust that the systems set in place will work as intended. If the rare shock to the system does take place leading to an upset in the way the system behaved before, it could be an indication that the previous system was not as effective as it could be. This is a great time to implement Lean tools, and if needed a whole Kaizen event! Taking time to gather key people and utilize an appropriate Lean tool to get back in the rhythm of things can really be helpful. That’s what Continuous Improvement is all about!
Relating back to the blood moon example, Beijing was unable to see the blood moon because “a choking blanket of air pollution covered Beijing” . This caused anger among residents and was a time that the pollution problem was brought to national attention once again. This shows how sometimes extraordinary events can actually be a call to action, a way to set the wheels in motion to make a positive change.
As career fair is now over, and the super blood moon has passed, I look forward to making sure my systems can handle such fluctuations in time demands, and I reevaluate their past true effectiveness.
If you want to know more about continuous improvement feel free to reach out to the Office of Continuous Improvement either by phone, 906-487-3180, or email email@example.com
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