Tag: Lean Culture

The Road to Lean Success

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Mark Randell, Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at UPHS Portage.

Yes, we tried Lean.Mark Randell

I was fortunate to start my Lean journey and see success first hand with very little knowledge of Lean principles.  We solved an inventory management problem at my work using visual management tools and Kanban cards. This small event saved us a ton of time and frustration. We no longer run out of patient supplies or overstock our supply closets. The pivotal event for me was participating in a week long kaizen at Pettibone. The thing that amazed me was the entire company was involved in the event and the organization made the changes suggested by the team the following Monday. I’ve sat in numerous meetings over the years talking about what we’re going to do and not really accomplishing anything. The Lean-thinking folks at Pettibone implemented improvements on Monday!

I started this blog post with my early success because it didn’t take long before I ran into a ton of fun wreckers. The comments I heard were:

  • Lean has a life cycle.
  • We tried Lean many years ago; it didn’t really work.
  • This is another fad.
  • It didn’t work at Toyota–look at their recent recalls.

If I would not have seen the early success of Lean/continuous improvement and met my coaches, Ruth Archer and Jim Manley, I would have focused my efforts back to return on investment and efficiency training.  The question is, then, why does Lean/continuous improvement fail?

Jim Manley, a former executive at GM, believes they struggled at GM because they didn’t change the organizational culture to lean thinking. Art Byrne, in his book The Lean Turnaround, did not appear to be satisfied with the Lean implementation at IBM because IBM did not change the culture.  Many of the MBA programs across the country were built on GM and IBM business principles and focused on return on investments and productivity. I believe the only way a company can successfully implement Lean is by changing the culture to Lean thinking. Lean is about changing the process by creating Lean thinkers, using Lean tools, and following Lean principles.  If your goal is to decrease expenses by using Lean tools you will fail.


A Calm Mind, Ready to Learn

One of the main ways we create value here at Michigan Tech is educating students. Our goal is to get the student in the classroom with a calm mind and ready to learn. Anything that gets in the way of that is an opportunity for improvement.

John ODonnell and LCI

We used to think our job was to just take care of the person in front of us. But we’ve discovered that what happens before they get to us and after they leave us impacts that person as well. Think of when you go and see a doctor. Maybe you were supposed to come early to do some paperwork. Or maybe you weren’t sure if you really needed medical attention, so you waited too long to make the appointment. Or maybe the waiting room is crowded with sick people. Then you see the doctor. Afterwards, you might not have enough money to pay for the prescription. Or you didn’t really understand the doctor’s instructions. Or you don’t agree with the doctor’s diagnosis, so you don’t do what she said. The aim of the system is a healthy patient. Even though the doctor did her job perfectly, these before and after things can have a negative impact on achieving that aim.

In the same way, what happens to a student before they get to the classroom and after they leave the classroom impacts the ability of faculty to educate that student. If students are worrying about their financial aid, they aren’t in the classroom with a calm mind, ready to learn. The same goes for problems getting an appointment with their academic advisor during registration, having long lines at the dining hall, or not understanding their homework instructions. These are all examples of opportunities for improvement using Lean principles, because they affect the students’ ability to fully participate in their education.

The next time you see a frazzled student leave your desk, call the Office of Continuous Improvement. We can coach you through a process improvement in your area.

If our objective is students with a calm mind, ready to learn, what are some other ways we could identify areas that are opportunities for improvement?


Are You Making Excuses or Solving Problems?

“When we find barriers that prevent us from closing the gap, are we a victim that makes excuses or a leader that solves problems?”

This the closing statement from a talk given by Mark Graban at the 2014 Lean Transformation Summit. He discusses some of the major issues clouding the creation and development of a culture of continuous improvement within organizations. 

Mark asks, “When we are facing challenges about creating this culture of continuous improvement, how are we reacting? What are we doing about it.” He discusses a few of the most common problem statements or excuses given to push back against lean initiatives and gives insight on how to overcome these obstacles. Some of the common problems statements or excuses he highlights are:

  1. Staff don’t have time to do Kaizen
  2. Managers: “I don’t have time for Kaizen”
  3. Working on Kaizen hurts our productivity numbers

The talk ends with a general discussion about change. Graban elaborate on how successful change in any setting – small or large – hinges on three 3 things:

  1. The will to do it
  2. A methodology for how to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be
  3. Execution and discipline to actually make it happen

Without the will to create a culture of continuous improvement; the ideas, tools, and methodologies for closing the gap; and the support from upper management to execute the plan, we are developing a workforce of victims and not leaders.

Check out Graban’s talk here: Lean Talks: Are You Making Excuses or Solving Problems?

Mark at the 2014 Lean Transformation Summit

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare,” as a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger. Mark is also the Vice President of Customer Success for the software company KaiNexus.


Lunch and Learn at the Lean Enterprise Institute

This summer I had the great fortune of being a mechanical engineering intern at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. While in Cambridge, John O’Donnall, Executive Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), was kind enough to reach out to me and invite me to visit the office. Mr. O’Donnall and I had the chance to meet on campus last year when he was the keynote speaker at the 2015 facilitator graduation.

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Lean Enterprise Institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts

While there it just so happened that they were also having a guest speaker come in and talk about Lean in the civil engineering world and how much waste happens at construction sites because the main currency is the amount of time it takes to complete a project. Although I had to leave before the whole event was over I found her talk to be very interesting. It really opened my eyes to the need to integrate Lean practices into the civil engineering world the way mechanical engineering has integrated it into manufacturing. Below is a picture of the talk from an outside view.

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Presentation on integrating Lean principles into civil engineering projects

I also got to meet with James P. Womack the founder of the LEI, as well as some of the M.B.A. summer interns who were in the office. Every summer the office hired a few M.B.A. students from the area to work with them and learn in an immersive experience about Lean principles. John O’Donnell and I mused about the possibility of bringing in Michigan Tech M.B.A. students on as summer interns and I think that it could be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties. 

Elizabeth and John
Selfie with Mr. John O’Donnell

Before leaving John showed me around the office and I was pleasantly surprised with how much our own Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech resembled the  Lean Enterprise Institute. A picture of their office can be seen below.

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Snapshot of the open floor plan office at Lean Enterprise Institute

I had a great experience there meeting up with Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Womack, and meet some of their M.B.A. summer interns.  


Lean in Their Own Words

This is the second installment of Lean in Their Own Words. At the April graduation ceremony for our new Lean facilitators, the graduates each said a few words about what Lean means to them. Many of them have given me permission to share their thoughts with you. Here is what Gina Goudge, Manager of Business Operations and Student Employment for Career Services, had to say.

Gina Working on a Training Exercise“When I asked my boss, Steve Patchin, if I could sign up for Lean Facilitator Training, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Lean was all about organization, right?  I’m organized, I create checklists, I already know all about Lean!

This will be a breeze, I thought…maybe I’ll pick up a few new tools!  Well, I was so wrong, because Lean is so much more.

As I embarked on my Lean journey (and it has been a journey!) I quickly realized Lean was going to push me, force me to move outside of my comfort zone, force me to work on my presentation skills, to face my fear of public speaking!

So as I stand here, facing my fear, I’d like to present my elevator speech…what I believe Lean is and is not.

Lean is NOT about being skinny or “cutting to the bone.”  Lean IS about having the right resources to ensure we are providing the best quality product or service.  Lean IS a way of approaching and thinking through any problem, system, or situation.

Lean is NOT just a few tools to use.  Lean IS an entire toolbox of management practices to help you Gina Receiving Her Lean Facilitator Certificatestreamline a process and continuously strive for improvement.

Lean is NOT mean.  Lean IS respectful toward everybody–a no fault/no blame game that locates the flaw in the system when an error occurs rather than the individual.

This is why I’m so excited to become a Lean Facilitator.  I get to share with others a new way of thinking, a new mode of operation, empowering them with the Lean tools and strategies to constantly question their status quo, inspiring cooperation, respect, change and growth both personally and professionally.”

When you see one of our Campus Facilitators, be sure to ask them about Lean!


Lean Culture: Respect for People

When Lean principles are fully understood and Lean tools are correctly applied, the opportunities for improvement and growth are endless.  I have been a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for almost a year and a half, and I have witnessed, numerous times, the benefits of successful Lean implementation. What I want to talk about today is why some organizations fail at becoming Lean.

Why is it that some organizations, or even some functional units within an organization, are able to successfully implement this methodology while others fail miserably?  Short answer: Culture. The greatest mistake you can make on a Lean journey is taking a shortcut down Tool Avenue. Often times, in unsuccessful attempts at spreading Lean, one entity assumes it can achieve the same results as another simply by applying the same tools that the other has gotten positive results from. “Continuous Improvement” is therefore reduced to an “improvement project” and concern then arises when the improvement is not sustained.

Lean will never be something you do, it is something you become. In order to truly become Lean, the entire value system of the organization must change. Commitment to Lean thinking and the establishment of a Lean culture give birth to successful Lean “implementation.” An organization’s culture and the principles that drive people’s behaviors ultimately determine the degrees of an organization’s performance, quality, and success. There is no concrete definition of what a “Lean culture” is, however there is one principle that all Lean enterprises do follow: respect for people.

In their book, "Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice," Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.
In their book, “Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice,” Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé present the following model for leading with respect.

In a 2007 eLetter, James P. Womack, Ph.D., founder and senior advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc, describes how the best managers at Toyota show respect for people:

  1. Managers begin by asking employees what the problem is with the way their work is currently being done.
  2. They challenge the employees’ answer and enter into a dialogue about what the real problem is. (It’s rarely the problem showing on the surface.)
  3. Then they ask what is causing this problem and enter into another dialogue about its root causes. (True dialogue requires the employees to gather evidence from the Gemba for joint evaluation.)
  4. Then they ask what should be done about the problem and ask employees why they have proposed one solution instead of another. (This generally requires considering a range of solutions and collecting more evidence.)
  5. Then they ask how they – manager and employees – will know when the problem has been solved, and engage one more time in dialogue on the best indicator.
  6. Finally, after agreement is reached on the most appropriate measure of success, the employees set out to implement the solution.

“The manager challenges the employees every step of the way, asking for more thought, more facts, and more discussion. This problem solving process actually demonstrates the highest form of respect.

The manager is saying to the employees that the manager can’t solve the problem alone, because the manager isn’t close enough to the problem to know the facts. He or she truly respects the employees’ knowledge and their dedication to finding the best answer. But the employees can’t solve the problem alone either because they are often too close to the problem to see its context and they may refrain from asking tough questions about their own work.

Only by showing mutual respect – each for the other and for each other’s role – is it possible to solve problems, make work more satisfying, and move organizational performance to a higher level.”

References

Womack, James P., Ph.D. “Respect for People.” Letter to LEI. 20 Dec. 2007.Jim Womack’s ELetters & Columns. Lean Enterprise Institute, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.lean.org/womack/DisplayObject.cfm?o=755>.

Henderson, Bruce A., and Jorge L. Larco. Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise. Richmond, VA: Oaklea, 1999. Print.