Tag Archives: Lean

4 things you (probably) didn’t know about a Kaizen event

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 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.

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The Purpose of Lean

The Office of Continuous Improvement had the pleasure of welcoming guest Karyn Ross on Monday afternoon (and on her birthday, no less!). Having her here at Michigan Tech was a wonderful opportunity, as we get to learn more about Lean from another perspective.

While talking with Karyn and students from Leaders in Continuous Improvement, Karyn was asked how to better cultivate a Lean culture, was there certain tools that they should be using. Karyn’s response was not what I expected, but I was also pleasantly intrigued, as she addressed our usage of tools and Lean culture in a way that allowed be to look at Lean in a way I hadn’t previously.

In terms of tools, there are many that we have in order to help us make an improvement, and there tends to be heavy dependency on these tools. However, improvement is more than implementation of just a tool or tools: it’s the combination of principles, practice AND tools that allow us to accomplish an overall purpose. It is the establishment of the purpose that seems to have been forgotten, which means that an important key to improvement has been forgotten as well.

When beginning an improvement event, the first step is to identify and evaluate the current state, when really we should be asking and establishing what our purpose for the improvement is. “What is it we want to accomplish? What do we need to do, in order to make that accomplishment? How can it be done in a way that fulfills our purpose?” Establishing your purpose allows you to be able to define your target of the improvement. Only after the purpose and  your target are established can you truly look at your current state and start to find how to bridge the gaps. Only then can tools be used without creating waste.

In terms of culture, Karyn asked, “What is the purpose of Lean?”  To which the immediate response was the one I had only ever known; “To make all processes more efficient and effective.”

I was taken aback by Karyn, smiling, saying, “Can we flip flop those two?”

What did she mean, to flip the two? In most everything I had read about Lean, all that I had learned through training, the saying was always “efficient” and then “effective”. How could you be effective without being efficient first? Karyn went on to talk about that when a group works towards their purpose, and produces an end result that adds value to their customer, then they are being effective. The more value you produce for the customer, the more effective you are being, and the more you are fulfilling your purpose. Therefore, being more effective allows you to become more efficient, as you fulfill your purpose in the best, Lean way possible.

In all, I think that there is a lot that we can all learn about our purpose within Lean and about our own culture, Karyn more than helped me learn about my own. Towards the end of our visit, Karyn herself was asked what is the purpose of Lean, to which she replied:

“The purpose of Lean, is to help people improve the world.”

Karyn was overall, engaging and knowledgeable, and I wish I had had more time to talk to her. I hope that now, with my new found knowledge about my own purpose within Lean, that I can help other people improve the world, and do so more effectively.

 

 


The Trickiness of Out-of-Scope

One of my first solo kaizens has been with a group of newly trained facilitators, and has gone smoothly so far! I would like to share how during this particular kaizen, I witnessed this group really dig-down and think of tools and ways that would allow them to cover as many aspects of the root cause as possible.

Recently, the IT library help-desk has been working on improving the hardware drop-off process. The process itself had issues such as miscommunication and lack of information and standards. This left the help-desk with no information about the hardware’s progress as well as other issues, such as the customer not knowing how to access what little information there was about their hardware.

One of the challenges of going through this Kaizen was how often certain parts of the process were “Out-of-Scope” due to the process involving many other departments and people. Though IT could do their best to standardize the parts of the process that they were hands on, there was little that could be done at that time in terms of standardizing the process as a whole.

As ways to address communication within IT and the customer, they came up with ideas such as information cards for customers specifically, as well as more details added to the hardware log. These two improvements helped a majority of the process in terms communication all around.

Although it was established earlier that areas of the process that took place in and with other departments was out of scope, the team came up with a fairly simple idea that was still able to address the lack of communication and was able to help bridge between the current improvement and the out-of-scope. Their idea was to create a channel that allowed communication only between the main contacts of IT and the other heads of the process. This way, there’s more effective communication between all groups involved in the process.

It was very exciting and refreshing to see this group take on improvement in a creative way, in which they didn’t let the out-of-scope deter them from improving what they could.


Scheduling of the Library Conference Room

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.


Lost in Translation – The First Pillar

From a young age we were taught to obey our elders, use our manners, and present ourselves in an appropriate manner. As we got older, more detail was added. Saying “please” and “thank you” wasn’t enough, we also had to treat others how we wanted to be treated, be kind, and help others when they needed it. Everyday, we add a little more detail to all of these areas, we learn a little bit more. What am I describing? Have you caught yourself saying it in your head? If you need to, reread this paragraph slower, then continue on.

Did you catch it now? I’m describing respect. Respect is the foundation to every relationship we have. Whether it be with a spouse, a co-worker, a boss, a friend. The amount of relationships we have, are endless. Respect fuels these relationships and if the respect is lost, then often times so is the relationship (unless you actively try to rebuild it).

Because respect is such a fundamental piece of human nature, I believe this is why Toyota made “Respect” one of it’s two pillars (the other being Continuous Improvement). This pillar is referred to as “Respect for People.” We’ve talked plenty before about respect for people, so instead I want to talk about how “Respect for People,” may have been a false translation when it was translated from Japanese to English.

I’ve been doing lots of  digging lately and I found some pieces written by a man named Jon Miller who summarized that the Japanese phrase, ningensei no soncho (人間性の尊重) was once translated, resulting in the phrase: “Respect for people.” After further translation it was found that the phrase was actually meant to be, “Respect for Humanity,” or “Respect for Human Nature.”

Before I totally throw you off, respect for humanity does indeed include respect for people, but “respect for people” simply doesn’t bring justice to the entirety of Toyota’s pillar. Some parts were lost in translation. When respect for humanity is broken down, it results in three areas: Respect for the workers, Respect for the customers and suppliers, and respect for the environment. All areas that human interaction is involved while producing, or consuming a product.

Respect is a huge part of Lean, and that’s because it’s a huge part of life. Respect goes beyond our interactions between other humans, it involves our relationship with our products, ourselves, our homes, our world. Creating honest emotion, passion, and empowerment. Without respect, lean would fail, just like everything else does. Respect for people is important, but when we expand our respect beyond people, greater things are produced.

Citations:

“Respect For Humanity.” Lean manufacturing – Practical advice, information resourcesand, 2014, www.lean-manufacturing-junction.com/respect-for-humanity.html.

Miller, Jon. “Respect for humanity…of your boss.” Gemba Academy, 10 Aug. 2015, blog.gembaacademy.com/2015/08/10/respect-for-humanity-of-your-boss/.


Lean: Past, Present, and Future

Beginning my learning in the Office of Continuous Improvement, not only did I learn what Lean itself was and what it looked like, but also I began to recognize where it is applicable. (The last part of that sentence is an oxymoron, as Lean is applicable literally everywhere). However, I began thinking about and applying Lean to circumstances from my past, starting to apply it in everything I do now, and applying it in the future.

Before working in the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech, my place of employment was absolutely awful, pretty much to the point of unbearable. For those of us who know what it is like to work at a job that gives absolutely no satisfaction in any shape other than being un-employed, then you know just how depressed it makes you. After being inducted into the Lean culture and environment, I cannot help but to mentally think about how much that company could truly grow and prosper if Lean was truly and wholeheartedly applied. I dream of how the 5 Whys and Swim Lanes and other useful tools of Lean could benefit the company and employees there, and the many problems that never go away. The kinds of issues that myself and others continue to deal with are ones that are chronic; not only in terms of the process, but that there is also an entire lack of safety as well as lack of respect between employees and managers of the company. Those who understand the culture of Lean understand that this is a huge issue, in that the two most basic pillars of Lean are lacking, which cripples any sort of progress or improvement trying to be made. To say that I am much more happy and satisfied in my work now is an understatement, but I do hope that my old work-place embraces Lean for the better, for the sake of those who continue to work there. Looking back at the two different work environments, and the two different attitudes that I attend work with each day, I can already personally see the difference Lean has made in my life.

Once learning about Lean, I began applying it immediately to my every-day schedule. Not only because I would have to be familiar with Lean tools at work, but also because they are good tools to use anywhere and the more familiar I am in applying them, the better. Thinking Lean is not a mindset that is only adopted in certain situations, but it is a mindset that you continue to use and apply all day, everyday. I can personally say, the transition to the Lean mindset was extremely easy and beneficial. Everyday, I find something I can improve on, and I try to take one more Lean step forward.

In terms of the future, I already have a head-start, thanks to the implementations I have made with Lean thus far. However, this does not mean my Lean journey is done, in fact it is far from being over. One of the best parts about Lean is that there is no limits to its application, the possibilities are truly endless. Endless! As said by Maria Calcagni  in “Gemba Kaizen”, by author Masaaki Imai,  “It is not the idea that something is wrong, but that it can be better”(pg 96). There is always room for improvement, always some process in life that can be made more efficient or effective.

And so, I will take my Lean journey and think of how it would have helped my past, allowing me to know where to start applying it in the present, and continue to let Lean guide me through the future.


What is a PIC

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to write a blog post for the Michigan Lean Consortium’s newsletter. In that blog post I wrote about how Michigan Tech is bringing lean to students, but more specifically on the Process Improvement Coordinators, commonly know as the PICs. While writing, it dawned on me that we have never really talked in depth about what our PICs do for the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Lately, we have been introducing a few new members to our PIC  team: Blake, Dominique, and not too long before them we had Matt. Even further back in time than Matt, we introduced Ari in April and Anita in March. In this time frame, Anita and Matt went their separate ways to prioritize other things in their lives. For me, Rylie, I was introduced way back in March of 2016.

Overall you’ve gotten to know a little about each of us, and hear from us during our journey with the office. However, what is it that we actually do for the office? What is our contribution? Where does our value lie?

Well the answer is sort of simple, we are process improvement coordinators for kaizen events. This means that we are responsible to make sure that all of the right people are in the right place, at the right time, and with the all of materials they need to be successful. We work closely with all levels of faculty and staff through the use of lean methods and thinking. We are well respected by these employees and are treated as equivalents whenever we’re seated at the table. On average, once each PIC is well out of their training they can be assigned eight different kaizens that they are coordinating. Deviating away from this part of our role, the PICs can also be responsible for aiding in facilitation of a kaizen,  data collection, and creating presentations for reporting out.

Kaizens are what we all know how to do, but there’s a lot more projects that us PICs are involved in; this is variable depending on which PIC you are talking about. For example, Blake and Dominique just completed training and are starting to get into kaizens. Ari and Dominique are currently working on a question bank for our facilitators to study for the Lean Bronze Certification test, a nationally recognized certification. Ari is also working on coordinating a information session on lean for students taught by the PICs. My big on-going project is training in the new PICs. This is done through a course that I designed along side a former PIC, Aspen, to accommodate all learning styles while enabling coaching opportunities for our more seasoned PICS.

The last bit of what we do is our routine standard work: blog posts, newsletters, report-outs, presentations, keeping up with kaizens and our access database, the typical. The key with our work, however, is that we don’t only do our work, we are continuously improving it through the PDCA cycle. As a team we have decided to highly boost the lean culture of mutual respect, by asking lots of questions and eliminating blame from our work.

In summary, our PICs are always on the go, and our “typical” day in the office is really unpredictable. Each day is different, and that’s how we like it, as it allows for growth and things to get done, without the lag of a droning routine.


Lean at Girl Scout Camp

Time and time again I am amazed by the flexibility of lean and its endless applications outside of the office. It seems that no matter what sort of process I have going I can always improve it in some way. Whether it be how often I perform regular maintenance on my car, how I stock my pantry, or how I prioritize my chores for the evening. The most adaptable part of lean is the use of people. Not a single aspect of lean was designed for one person and one person alone to complete a task, but rather to be easily used in a team.

Being a college student there are many times that you get put into a group of total strangers and you are expected to get the task done. However, each member goes into the group with a different set of priorities, expectations, and values that they carry with them- whether they know it or not. This is true going into a marriage, a summer camp, a new job, or even something as simple as a group project for school. The question I began to ask was, “How can you accommodate the different values and expectations before a diverging trait breaks lose?” and, “How can you have a plan for when disagreement arises?” The answer is by implementing a team charter.

What is a team charter? A team charter is developed in a group setting to clarify the teams direction while establishing boundaries, it is used to encourage a common understanding and shared voice among all group members.

I recently had the opportunity to practice a team charter in a unique setting with nine 9-11 year old girls in my cabin at girl scout camp. This charter was developed by the girls in my cabin on how we planned to take care of cabin, how we were going to treat each other, and how we were going to treat ourselves. To make sure that all of their voices were heard without making these preteens uncomfortable, I opted to use an affinity diagram with them. We took a few minutes to make three affinity diagrams (one at a time), after this we collaborated, laughed, and successfully agreed on our game plan.

Affinity
One of the older girls working on her sticky notes. This one puts lots of thought and effort into her ideas. It was fun to watch her become so invested in the cabin.
affinity 4
One of the girls thinking about the ideas and helping everyone to brainstorm categories.
affinity 2
The girls working together to group their ideas.
affinity 3
Finally some rearranging and getting close to the end.

Sadly, I don’t have an after picture of what we came up with, I was a little too excited that the idea even came together in the first place (In my time as a counselor I have learned that you never know what the middle school girls are going to bring). However, the game plan we formed was visible all week long and in several instances I noticed the girls taking a look at it, holding one another accountable to it, and sometimes asking for buy in to add a few more items to our plan. All in all it was a great week, and I was thrilled once again with the malleability of lean.


Lean at Home

When I last visited home, something in the relationship dynamic I have with my dad shifted; not only did I occasionally treat for coffee, but we had conversations about work. This is not to say we never talked about work prior to this trip, but the conversation was significantly less one-sided and lasted easily ten times as long. Until recently our work never really overlapped, he did his job and I did mine in completely separate worlds, Lean is what bridged the gap.

Becoming immersed in Lean Culture has actually filled many gaps throughout my life. Starting to take part in Lean around campus reminded me of the “Chores Board” my parents used to assign my sister and I tasks well before I could even say the word “Kanban”, or my dad’s tool board in the garage with clear spots for all of his tools. Lean was all around me before I even knew what it was, and upon telling my father of this revelation I had he laughed briefly and said something to the effect of: “of course, because Lean just makes sense.” He was right, it makes sense to organize different tasks somewhere you can see them so that they actually get done, it makes sense to keep things near the location they will be used at, and it makes sense to organize your work space and reduce excess so that you can easily find the things you need and increase your productivity. It turns out that Lean had been ingrained in my home life in a way I never really noticed.

If you walk into the Office of Continuous Improvement here on campus, it is easy to initially feel a little overwhelmed by all of our visual management systems and you can pretty immediately tell there is something different about the culture here compared to most office environments. Our office has five full whiteboards that help keep us on track, and that’s what many people think of when they think of where they would see Lean Culture; they think of work.

My home growing up had elements of Lean Culture all around without most people noticing it, and it still does. My apartment seems pretty normal, maybe a little more tidy than necessarily expected of a college student, but otherwise normal. Underneath the appearance, are all of those Lean principles that have silently guided my life thus far. Everything in my apartment has a place, and if it does not yet, it will shortly. This goes to show that practicing Lean does not necessarily mean having bright post-it notes everywhere or giant kanban boards, it can be as simple as using 5S in your garage, or using visual management to help your kids keep track of their chores.

Having Lean principles implemented around me during my life has definitely helped me develop into a better organized, more productive person, and to me it makes sense; it can to everyone. Likely you have already practiced some element of Lean either in your personal or professional life, just maybe without realizing it, much like I did.


Leaning Away from My Fear of Change

How can just 6 letters be arranged to create one of the most powerful words in our language? This word can strike fear into the hearts of some, and empower others. Change is a powerful word, and even so, a more powerful tool. I will be the first to admit that I am afraid of change. For most of my life, I have run from change, only to have been dragged back kicking and screaming into its path. It was only recently, as I began to learn and embrace LEAN culture that I also learned to embrace change for what it really is, a powerful tool that can change my life for the better.

I haven’t always been able to embrace change for what it is. When I first learned about LEAN I thought it would be a good way to hide from change. LEAN would be my shelter, protecting me from the winds of change. Inside my shelter I would learn all of these life saving tools and battle techniques and emerge from the darkness as the hero that would defeat change once and for all. I would build standards and processes that would allow me to justify my need to do things the same way everyday. These standards would be the walls that kept me safe.

It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was with my vision of LEAN. LEAN was not a sword to be used to defeat change. LEAN was, and is, a language that can help us communicate through change. LEAN and change are a pair of tools helping me continue on my path of improvement.

One of the first lessons I learned taught me that LEAN is not an excuse to justify current state. In fact, the LEAN culture actually seeks to remove the justification of current state and see our current state for what it actually is. LEAN culture wants us to find the problems with our current states, without placing blame on each other. My fear of change stems from the justification of my current state. If my process isn’t broken, then why should I fix it?  I learned the answer to this question when I started learning to collect metrics. Metrics can come in any shape, but they all have one thing in common. Metrics show where a change was beneficial or where it wasn’t. For me, this system of metric collection helped me embrace change; I could see that change can help rather than hinder. The LEAN culture has helped me to see that change isn’t something to be afraid of.

I still have a long way to go in my relationship to change. I can admit that I still have trouble jumping right into a new idea without fear. I know that I can embrace change. Now that I have a language to help me communicate with change, I can use it to further my path of improvement.