March Madness and the Principles of Operational Excellence at THE University of Dayton

You may have heard about THE University of Dayton’s bracket busting tour through the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball tournament and perhaps have seen the pictures of their President, Dr. Dan Curran crowd-surfing with the celebrating students in the streets surrounding the university.  Perhaps a little background is necessary in order to understand the link of March Madness and Operational Excellence at UD.

My wife and I are in the small percentage of people who picked the University of Dayton to proceed to the sweet sixteen in the NCAA basketball tournament.  Dayton, once considered a “bubble” team, (one that may not make the final cut of 64 teams) was seeded 11th in the South region and faces one of the toughest paths to the finals.

Their first game was against interstate foe, The Ohio State University Buckeyes.  I can’t  call this a rivalry game because of Ohio State’s policy of not scheduling games against in-state schools.  The state of Ohio has had it’s share of talented basketball schools – Cincinnati, Xavier, Kent State and Dayton who have all participated in recent NCAA tournaments and have had some success.  Even my alma mater, Cleveland State University made a trip to the sweet sixteen back in 1986, while I was earning my MBA, there.  For some reason, Ohio State will not schedule a regular season game with another in-state school.

Ohio State has represented the cream of the crop when it comes to NCAA Division 1 basketball in Ohio.  We’ve always rooted for the Buckeyes, because of their success and our loyalty to the state of Ohio.

So when the brackets were announced last week, my son, Noah, a freshman at UD was a little torn.  After all, we had taught him that you should be loyal to Ohio State and he had grown up always rooting for them.  Ohio State started as his first choice of schools to attend for his Engineering undergraduate degree – until we visited both Ohio State and Dayton.  Dayton was always a close second due to his older sister having graduated from UD in 2009.  After visiting both schools last year, Dayton won his heart and his mind. So when he texted us with the question, “Who am I supposed to root for in the first round?”  He may have been thinking more about the Billion Dollar challenge than he was about school loyalty.  He later texted, “I want Dayton to win, but I’ve always rooted for OSU.  It’s so conflicting, haha”.  We helped him make a quick adjustment in his thinking and he, my wife and I filled out our brackets with Dayton beating Ohio State and they did!

Next up, Syracuse, a team that at one time during this season was ranked number 1, having won their first 25 games of the season.  Logically, Syracuse should end Dayton’s run in the tournament.  It would be silly to pick Dayton, as the experts only gave them a 3.5% chance of making it to the Sweet Sixteen round.  We picked them anyway and Dayton won.

Their victory set off a celebration in the streets around the campus, which brings me to my link between the NCAA tournament known as March Madness and Operational Excellence on display at UD.

The President of the University goes to gemba.  Not only in the classroom, but he takes to the streets.

As retweeted by the University of Dayton twitter account:  Dayton’s president celebrates ‘s big win by crowd surfing (Pic via ). /

That’s right, University of Dayton president, Dr. Daniel Curran, instead of sitting at home and watching news coverage of the celebration, decided it would be best for him to be a part of it.  He was not afraid to interact with the celebrating students.  It looks like his presence was appreciated by the students, as they could be heard cheering, “Dr. Dan, Dr. Dan, Dr. Dan!”

This represents what many organizations are lacking when it comes to implementing a lean culture.  Their leaders don’t want to go the gemba, where the work is done.  They would rather look at reports on their computer screens and rely on their managers to go see what is going on.  This is what keeps front-line caregivers and associates distanced from their leaders.

We’ve been to Dayton and have met and shook hands with Dr. Curran.  He was at the freshman orientation pep rally and opening Mass this fall when my son started his college journey.  My wife and I watched from the stands as Dr. Curran interacted with the students.  When he spoke later about genuinely being interested in the success of the students, we believed him because we had seen the way he interacted with them.

Dayton practices lean management across the University.  Mark Graban posted about their lean initiatives in their back office operations.  http://www.leanblog.org/2014/01/a-lean-machine-university-of-dayton-uses-lean-to-improve-operations/

Mark also hosted a podcast with Paul Piechota, Director for the Center for Competitive Change at the University of Dayton School of Engineering.  You can listen to the podcast at  www.leanblog.org/194 

In the podcast, Paul talks about the support from Dr. Curran and how they have adapted lean as a business strategy.  Dr. Curran’s leadership is a constant message throughout the podcast.

UD’s quest to achieve operational excellence is not a tool-based approach, rather, it is grounded in guiding principles, starting with their roots as a Marianist university.

We had an opportunity to experience another principal of operational excellence (Respect for Every Individual) at UD recently when our son, Noah, called my wife in the morning a few weeks ago complaining of severe abdominal pain.  His roommate had left for the day and there was no one around in his dorm for him to contact.  He was lying on his dorm room floor writhing in pain.  My wife called 911, who contacted University student services.  An ambulance transported Noah to the local hospital where it was discovered that Noah was passing a small kidney stone.   He was given some pain-killing medication and was given a ride back to his dorm where we met him after driving the 3.5 hours to ensure everything was ok.  He is ok now, but it was a scary morning for him and for us.

While we were driving to Dayton, we received a call from Student Services checking to see that everything was ok and offering us housing for the evening if we wanted it.  It is a service that they offer to all parents whose kids require medical attention.  We assured them that Noah was ok and that we would not be staying the night, however, we were extremely pleased and thankful for the personal interest in both Noah’s and our well-being.

We were excited to see Dayton students and Dr. Curran celebrating their success by dancing in the streets last night.  They will be facing Stanford, another bracket busting team, in Memphis on Thursday.  We’re hoping they can continue their dancing in the next two weeks!

We are looking forward to the next few years as we continue to learn and benefit from and celebrate with UD’s President, Faculty, Staff and students.

Goooooo, Dayton Flyers!

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Introducing C.A.O.S. – The Chosen Acres Operating System. “Lean Practices” in the Dairy Industry

Mark Graban recently posted a funny story about government websites losing something in their translation to Spanish.  In Washington state, the term “Lean Practices” translated as “Skinny Cow Handling”.  See the story here.  http://www.leanblog.org/2014/02/weekend-fun-skinny-cow-handling/

While funny, is it too far from the truth?  Perhaps “Skinny Cow Handling” can be translated as “Lean Practices”.

Back in September, 2011, I wrote about a man who I met at the Clinic while I was doing Patient Experience rounding.  I shared our discussions about the “Lean Practices” he was applying in his work as a consultant to dairy farmers.  I found the work that he was doing fascinating and we established a friendship.

Well, I am happy to share more with you.  Jeff Weisel, CEO of Chosen Acres Consulting, Inc. has produced a video that demonstrates a little of what he does, but more importantly highlights what his customers have to say about the products and services that he offers.

I’ve been serving as an adviser to Jeff for the past few years, helping him to present his services as an overall operating system that serves the dairy farmer, their cows and the “plow to plate” value stream.

Jeff and his family have been serving the dairy industry for over 30 years.  Jeff’s passion and concern for cows has led him to some remarkable discoveries that has not only made life better for dairy cows, but has also produced higher quality milk, higher productivity per cow, higher pregnancy rates for herds, and lower costs for the dairy farmer.

What first attracted my attention the work the Jeff is doing was his business card.  The message on his card was “In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection.”

chosen acres business card

His work with “flipping” milking parlors was straight out of a lean transformation text-book.  Jeff starts with an assessment of the farm to identify opportunities for improvement.  Since the milking parlor represents the quickest return on investment, Jeff works with the farmer to plan a “flip” or in lean terms, a week-long kaizen or rapid improvement event , where complex equipment is torn out and replaced with simpler equipment that the farmer can fix himself, if necessary.   Jeff provides instructions for the milkers and helps to install a new management system.  With quick financial gains from the “flip”, farmers are then able to work with Jeff’s assessment to improve other aspects of their organization – from feed and water, to bedding to waste recycling.

I had the opportunity to visit one of the farms Jeff was preparing to flip, and then to come back to observe the results of the flip and to talk with the dairy farmer.  The transformation was startling.  Not only were the cows producing more milk, it was a higher quality of milk, the use of antibiotics had decreased and the use of bovine growth hormones was eliminated.  The farmer was very pleased with the results.

Jeff showed me all around the farm and talked about the assessment tool that he uses to assess the farm’s current state and what it will take to reach the next level.  It was like going on a Shingo site assessment.  Jeff not only looks at the parlor, but he looks at the entire organization.  The water and feed supply – critical inputs to the process of making milk.  He looks at the bedding stalls, where he says you should see cows laying comfortably, chewing their cud which is when they are making milk.  If the cow is uncomfortable, she will produce less milk.  Lameness, a condition that affects the hoofs of cows causing extreme pain ,is also a major contributor to lower milk production.  Farmers looking to increase efficiency have actually contributed to the poor health of their herds and the lower quality products.  In the lean community, there is a term used to describe the mis-understanding of lean.  The term, coined by Mark Graban is LAME.  Lean As Misguidedly Executed.  In the dairy industry, lame is a real condition that negatively affects the health of the herd and the strength of the farm.

Jeff’s work concentrates on the milking parlor, since that is the primary source of disease.   Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands, caused by the cow’s environment.  It causes the cow extreme pain.  The infection causes an increase in somatic cells to fight the disease.  These somatic cells get passed through the milk supply, leading to poor quality milk.  The treatment for this disease is through the use of antibiotics which, despite great lengths to contain, eventually get passed on for human consumption in the milk supply.  As a result of mastitis and lameness, milk production can decrease, leading to the introduction of bovine growth hormones intended to increase production.  These hormones also get passed along in the milk supply.

Jeff research and practice over the past 20 some years has led him to focus on eliminating the cause of mastitis and lameness.  His work is reminiscent of the work being done in healthcare to eliminate the causes of Hospital Acquired Infections.  Jeff recognizes that current farming practices, incorporated in the name of efficiency,  are actually contributing to the problems facing the dairy industry.  Jeff’s focus on the health of the cow has led to great results for the dairy herds and their farmers.

His biggest problem to date?  Getting farmers to change their thinking to adapt his practices that go against what they’ve been taught by universities, pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians and equipment manufacturers.  It is very reminiscent of the healthcare industry.

I’ve been impressed with Jeff’s work and am happy to share it with others.  Jeff and I will be co-presenting at the upcoming Shingo Conference in Sandusky, OH on May 7th.  I hope you can all come to hear Jeff’s story as well as the other great presentations on the agenda.

We are also working on arranging a site visit as part of the Shingo agenda for Friday, May 9th to the local dairy farm where I first observed Jeff’s work.

Could the humble cow actually be the start of the Healthcare Value Stream?

Let me know if you will be attending the Shingo Conference.  I’d love to see you.

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Gemba visit logistics lessons…adapt, don’t adopt.

Some things need to be seen to be believed, while others need to be believed before they can be seen.

During the planning sessions for our recent Continuous Improvement in Healthcare Conference at the Cleveland Clinic, we were discussing the logistics of our optional Gemba day visit for our guests.

Earlier this year, we hosted approximately 50 people from member organizations in the Healthcare Value Network during a Gemba visit.  We selected six sites to visit, broke the larger group into 6 smaller groups and established a golf tournament “shotgun” start process that had each group starting at a different location, then rotating counterclockwise through the series of 6 locations throughout the day.   We even added a visit to one of our regional hospitals one week prior to the event, requiring a 30 minute shuttle drive.

The day came off without a hitch and the best words I heard all day were from a participant who said “We haven’t seen any of the other groups!”.  To me, that indicated success, because we designed the process to keep the groups apart.  If they had seen each other, it would have meant that our Gemba guides or host locations had not met their takt time.  Everyone had a full day and made it back to where they belonged at the end of the day.  We received very positive feedback on the planning and logistics.

So when we started to plan the Gemba visit for our recent Conference, everyone wanted to use the same process.  Why mess with success?  However, things were different this time.  Instead of a full day, we only had a half day.  We also were planning on hosting up to 72 people vs. 50.  One other big difference, we were asking people to pay to see our sites, while the HVN Gemba visit represented an obligation on our part to share with other member organizations.  As a result, we needed to ensure that the visit was value-added.

Since we only had time for 3 site visits, planning team members suggested we establish 3 routes and force participants to choose a pre-determined set of sites.    None of us felt qualified enough to guess on how to group 3 sites together to satisfy everyone.  So how to manage the logistics of such a visit?  Additional constraints included keeping the group size to below 12 participants, while offering enough locations to accommodate up to 72 people.

We choose a “FedEx”  hub and spoke process.  Participants would be given their choice of 3 of the 6 available sites and rather than rotating people from site to site, we would gather in a central location, send people out to their sites, then bring them back to the central location, shuffle, then go back out.

Participants received a name tag with their color-coded choices for their 3 gemba sites.  We posted color-coded Gemba signs in the Gemba central hub location and when every group had returned to the central hub, we asked everyone to “shuffle” for their next site.  Gemba guides also had color-coded name tags to help with the proper identification of the location of the tour.

As we gathered at the start of the day, everyone was anxious to see how the “Gemba Shuffle” would work.  Participants signed in, received their name badges and we gathered in a conference room to explain the logistics of the day.  Once we explained the process, everyone went to the hallway to find their group for their first gemba stop.  Gemba guides were given a list of people scheduled for each time slot and checked off participants as they gathered.  Once they accounted for everyone, the gemba guides set forth on their journey while we sat back and awaited to see if everyone returned on time.  As the first groups started to return, our focus shifted to seeing if the “shuffle” would occur without a hitch.  While attendees were waiting for their next trip, we provided “posters” of improvement projects that our CI group had worked on throughout the year to showcase some of our work.  Attendees found the posters an interesting distraction while waiting.  At the appointed time, I made an announcement that it was time to “shuffle” and report to their next Gemba station.  People moved, assembled at the right location and went off to visit their second site.  The process repeated one more time and everyone ended up seeing what they wanted to see and no one was lost.

It worked!

Benchmarking is necessary sometimes in order for people to see a process work before they believe that it will.  Other times, proper planning and thinking through a process are required before the end results can be seen.  The key is to not blindly try to replicate a successful tool or system, rather, understand the problem that the tool or system is trying to solve, then adapt, don’t adopt to your current problem.

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Fun while learning…the definition of a successful CI conference!

Earlier this month, the Cleveland Clinic hosted our first Continuous Improvement in Healthcare conference.  What fun we had while learning.   We were very pleased with the results for a first year conference, and have many people to thank for our success.

There are many components that need to come together for a conference to succeed.  The speakers of course make a huge difference.  Ours were some of the best…John Shook, Dr. Patricia Gabow and Alice Lee, along with our own Dr. Lisa Yerian and Darryl Greene.

Dr. Patricia Gabow

Alice Lee

Breakout presentations are also important.  Again, we had many high quality presenters representing Denver Health, Henry Ford Health System, Christie Clinic, Parkview Health and Akron Children’s Hospital, not to mention the 9 presentations from Cleveland Clinic personnel.  Thanks to all of our breakout session presenters for sharing your time and your experiences.

Cleveland Clinic Experience

Distribution Center tunnel

Our Gemba day worked just as planned when we hosted over 50 people at 6 different sites and allowed participants the opportunity to choose which 3 of the 6 locations they wanted to visit.  Using a hub and spoke process, we effectively sent people out to the Gemba, brought them back to a central location, shuffled and then sent them out to their next location.

Gemba central

Emergency Department

All of the success couldn’t have occurred without the support of our sponsors and exhibitors.  Their participation and their financial support enabled us to offer the conference at an affordable price for participants and for us to break even financially.

Key sponsors for the event who provided educational grants were:

Amgen

and

 AbbVie  (Abbott Proprietary Pharmaceutical Division).

Our exhibitors provided interesting and valuable information for our participants.

A special thank-you is necessary for GBMP (Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership).  They were the first to step up to be an exhibitor and without their initial commitment to our conference, we may not have been able to move forward.  So a big thank you to my friends Bruce Hamilton and Pat Wardwell and the rest of the GBMP team for your support.

The “Old Lean Dude” made an appearance.

Additional exhibitors included:  Corporate College (a division of Cuyahoga Community College),  ExplorysSimpler Consulting, Cardinal Health, LEI (Lean Enterprise Institute), ASQ’s Lean Enterprise Division and the AME/ASQ/Shingo Prize/SME Lean Certification program, John Carroll University and IntelligentInsites.

Thanks to all of our sponsors and exhibitors who helped make our initial conference a huge success!

Corporate College

Simpler Consulting

Lean Enterprise Institute

ASQ’s Lean Enterprise Division and the AME / ASQ / Shingo Prize / SME Lean Certification Program

Finally, a huge shout out to the conference planning committee for pulling it all together.  There were many lessons learned that we will implement as we start planning for next year’s conference.

We hope to see you there!

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How do you spell success? An AME Workshop

I’ve previously shared some of my story from my time at Ford and how I learned about Lean manufacturing through the development of the Cleveland Production System and eventually serving as a Ford Production System coach for the Powertrain division.

Here are some additional details that have led to an opportunity to facilitate a half-day workshop at the upcoming AME Conference in Chicago on October 19th.

The Background:

In 1997, following Cleveland Engine Plant 2’s successful challenge for what was then called the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence, I was given the opportunity to move over to Cleveland Engine Plant 1 to help them implement the Ford Production System and transition to a team-based organization structure.  

There were a few challenges associated with this.  

First, the overall environment at the plant was not real conducive to change.  They had recently shut down one engine line (4.9L), while the remaining engine line (5.0L) had just lost 50% of its production volume.  

The transition to a team-based structure was set to take place in a plant where the employees working there had decided that they didn’t want to transfer to CEP 2 when it opened several years earlier with a team-based approach.   CEP 1 Employees were comfortable with their seniority-based structure where high seniority employees could “bid” on easier jobs, while employees with lesser seniority were stuck in difficult jobs.  The only ones who were excited about the job rotation that came with the new contract negotiated with the UAW were the lower seniority employees who would see some relief from their 8 hour days doing the same, difficult job.

Did I mention that the plant was also scheduled to close in three years?  This had already been decided at the Corporate level and communicated to the local workforce.

So, together with my UAW counterpart, John Nahornyj, we set out to create a training plan that would eventually accomplish the goal of implementing wall-to-wall teams and achieving what was then called “Checkpoint A” of the Ford Production System.

One of the many things we did was to develop a 3-hour simulation for implementing “lean” principles and tools.  The simulation utilized the board game Scrabble to demonstrate the value of teamwork, workplace organization and the way to track a new set of production-based metrics to direct continuous improvement efforts.   The simulation, along with a host of other ideas we implemented resulted in the plant turning around its performance and eventually earning a new engine line that kept the plant open.

Several years ago, in response to a post on the Lean.org manufacturing forum about simple 5S simulations, I responded with my story about utilizing Scrabble.  The response to my post was overwhelming – over 31,000 views to date with several hundred requests for details about the simulation.  It wasn’t quite the same response that Bob Petruska’s Pizza Game received, but it was a notable post in LEI lore.   Not being prepared for the response, I struggled to keep up with the correspondence and eventually posted the PowerPoint presentation detailing how to conduct the exercise.

This stopped the requests for the most part, however, I was never really sure if people “got it” and implemented it. 

I do know that the exercise works in different countries.  I had a student from one of my lean classes take the exercise to China to teach the concepts at one of their suppliers.  I also had someone send me a Spanish translation of the exercise.  It has been a fun diversion for the past 10 years or so.

The Workshop

Earlier this year, I heard that my friend, Richard Evans was looking for half-day workshops for the up-coming AME Conference in Chicago on October 19th.  On a whim, I submitted the required forms for consideration and received confirmation that my workshop was approved and is on the agenda. 

So for those of you who may have seen the exercise on Lean.org, or for those of you  interested in seeing a fun, engaging and informative workshop on the value of work groups, the magic of workplace organization and the value of using metrics to drive the right Continuous Improvement behaviors, then join me in Chicago.  I’m looking forward to seeing you.

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Continuous Improvement in Healthcare – A roadmap for transformation.

I am excited to invite everyone to a 2-day conference on Continuous Improvement in Healthcare, hosted by the Cleveland Clinic on November 11-12.

In addition to sharing some of the continuous improvement activities that have been taking place at the Clinic, we’ve gathered an all-star line-up of Keynote speakers and other healthcare organizations who are leading the way in transforming healthcare through continuous improvement activities.

Keynote Speakers

John Shook, Chairman and CEO of Lean Enterprise Institute.

Lean practitioners will recognize John’s name.   Shook learned about lean management while working for Toyota for nearly 11 years in Japan and the U.S., helping it transfer production, engineering, and management systems from Japan to NUMMI and subsequently to other operations around the world.

As co-author of Learning to See John helped introduce the world to value-stream mapping. John also co-authored Kaizen Express, a bi-lingual manual of the essential concepts and tools of the Toyota Production System. In his latest book Managing to Learn, he describes the A3 management process at the heart of lean management and leadership.

On a personal note, I had the great pleasure of having John as the instructor for my Value Stream Mapping training course over 10 years ago, while working at Ford.  What a treat it was to learn from the “guy who wrote the book”.  His personal insights on his experience while working for Toyota are an inspiration to anyone in the Continuous Improvement community.

 Dr. Patricia Gabow, recently retired CEO of Denver Health.  Professor of Medicine University of Colorado School of Medicine

Dr. Gabow will share her perspective on the role of Leadership in a lean transformation.  I had the  pleasure of meeting Dr. Gabow nearly two years ago when Denver Health earned the Shingo Prize Bronze Medallion for Operational Excellence for their Community Health Services division.  Spending time with Dr. Gabow and her leadership team left a lasting impression.  Under Dr. Gabow’s leadership and despite strong financial pressures on Denver Health, an inner-city safety net hospital, the Denver Health team improved access, improved quality, raised employee engagement, while lowering costs and remaining financially viable.  Her positive attitude is contagious and she will share some of her lessons learned.

Alice Lee, Vice President, Business Transformation at Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center,  Boston.      

Alice will share her journey in transforming Beth Isreal Deaconess.  Not satisfied with the great progress made to date, Alice has worked tirelessly to keep moving forward.  I first saw Alice speak at the Shingo Prize Annual Conference in 2009 about the initial successes her team had accomplished in reducing wait times and improving patient flow.  I met her several years later through our involvement with the Healthcare Value Network’s assessment team.  She is an engaging speaker who has a driving desire to continuously improve.

Darryl Greene, Executive Director, Continuous Improvement, Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Lisa Yerian, Medical Director, Continuous Improvement, Cleveland Clinic

            

To close out the morning’s keynote addresses, Darryl Greene  and Dr. Lisa Yerian will present Cleveland Clinic’s continuous improvement journey to date and our future destination.  After six years of successfully introducing and sheparding continuous improvement, Darryl and Dr. Yerian have positioned Cleveland Clinic to move beyond what we call the establishment of our base camp, to accelerating our journey to excellence.  Darryl’s thoughtful, deliberate approach to improvement has been infused with Dr. Yerian’s enthusiastic and never-ending desire to learn to create a dynamic leadership duo that will continue to cement Cleveland Clinic’s  role as an international leader in healthcare.

And that’s just the first 4 hours!

Panel Discussion

After lunch, the gathering will be treated to a Leadership Panel discussion with John Shook, Dr. Gabow, Alice Lee and Dr. Yerian about IHI’s Triple Aim Initiative.  The panel discussion will be hosted by Greg Surtman, Director, Business Development, Corporate College.

Breakout Sessions

The afternoon will feature 15 breakout sessions to provide participants an opportunity to hear and learn directly from practitioners.

In addition to 10 presentations from Cleveland Clinic personnel, the program will include presentations from:

Shingo Bronze Medallion recipient – Denver Health;  Baldrige Award recipient – Henry Ford Health System;  Healthcare Value Network member organizations,  Christie Clinic (Champaign, IL) , Parkview Health (Fort Wayne, IN), and Akron Children’s Hospital.

Gemba Visits

Day 2 of the event will provide an opportunity for participants to choose 3 of 6  Gemba visits to sites on the Cleveland Clinic main campus.  Participants will have the opportunity to see U.S. News and World Report‘s leading Heart Center for the past 18 consecutive years; our Pathology and Laboratory Medicine’s new building that used lean principles in its design; our state-of-the-art Supply Distribution Center; our Emergency department that has effectively implemented a split-flow process to improve patient flow; our nursing floors where we have implemented a process to improve patient responsiveness and finally;  have the opportunity to participate in a condensed version of the Cleveland Clinic Experience – a 3.5 hour enterprise alignment activity that over 42,000 Cleveland Clinic caregivers around the world have participated in.

It should be a great day and a half.  We’re looking forward to seeing you!

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AME Conference and Lean Certification


The Association for Manufacturing Excellence
(AME) annual conference will be taking place this October 24-28 in Dallas, TX.  This is one of the best conferences of the year when it comes to the quality and quantity of the attendees, presenters, workshops, tours and sponsors.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend and present at this conference for 5 of the past 6 years, missing only last year’s event in Baltimore.

At this year’s conference, I have the privilege of facilitating a Special Interest Session on the AME / ASQ / Shingo Prize / SME Lean Certification program on Thursday, Oct. 27th at 10:30.

In addition to providing attendees a brief overview of the certification program, we will be highlighting how organizations, (such as ThedaCare and Halliburton) are using the program as a capability development tool and how colleges and universities are using the program as an outcome assessment tool for their curriculum.

In addition to this overview, there will be a distinguished panel of lean authorities to address questions about the program.

Ted Stiles, Partner and VP Executive Search at Stiles Associates, LLC, recruits lean talent for organizations and will offer his insights into the direction that lean certification is taking in the job market.

Pat Wardwell, Lean Gold Certified (LGC),  is the COO of Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership.  She will provide her insights on the value of  attaining Lean Gold status and discuss the genesis of the program and  how it has evolved into the standard for Lean Certification programs.  Pat is a past Chairperson for the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee.

Ron Oslin, Capital One, is the current Chairman of the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee.  Ron will share how Capital One is using the program to build lean competencies in their leadership team and will also provide insights into the exam question development and review process.

Larry Anderson, LGC, is president of ResourceSyncing and a member of the Shingo Prize Board of Examiners.  Larry is also a former Chairman of the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee.  Larry will discuss the portfolio process from both the candidate and peer reviewer perspectives.

Kelly Lacroix, Certification Project Specialist, Society of Manufacturing Engineering.  Kelly leads the Lean Certification efforts at SME and coordinates the activities of the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee.  She will be available to answer any questions you may have on the administrative aspects of the certification process.

This promises to be a great discussion of the program.  If you are at the conference and would like to learn more about the program, please stop by to ask your questions or offer your insights.  Committee members will be available throughout the conference to answer your questions and talk about the benefits of the program.

If you have any questions or comments about the program, please comment below.

I will bring your questions to the panel and report back on their answers.

If you would like to see how others, including myself, viewed lean certification several years ago, there is a great blog post with over 60 comments at Mark Graban’s Lean Blog.  http://www.leanblog.org/2009/09/whats-the-buzz-on-lean-certification/

Looking forward to seeing y’all in Dallas!

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Standard work: New Ideas are not necessarily better.

Welcome Fall!  My favorite time of the year brings the memory of the story below that really drives home the essence of the waste of over-processing.  It also demonstrates poor alignment around a vision.  It also serves as a good lesson on the need for standard work.  In fact, there are many lean, life lessons in it.

Just because an idea is new, doesn’t necessarily mean it is better.  Vetting a suggestion through the use of a robust (not cumbersome) review process, leads to the implementation of proven and consensed upon changes before changing the current standard and leading to unintended consequences.

New standards, if misaligned with the vision as recounted below, result in process improvement gone wild or a tale of unintended consequences.  Enjoy.

Saint Francis and Grass Lawns
author: Unknown

“Winterize your lawn,” the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I’ve fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die anyway. Now I’m supposed to winterize it? I hope it’s too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest thing we’ve come up with outside of thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace,

Daucus carota QUEEN ANNE'S LACE

Image by gmayfield10 via Flickr

thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four-step chemical dependency.

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:

“Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.”

“It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass.”

“Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?”

“Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.”

“The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.”

“Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.”

“They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”

“Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”

“They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”

“No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”

“Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.”

“You aren’t going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.”

“What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”

“You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away.”

“No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?”

“After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”

“And where do they get this mulch?”

“They cut down trees and grind them up.”

“Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?”

“Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”

“Never mind I think I just heard the whole story.

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Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days.

Papa Johnny with my three sons on Halloween, 2001

Today is a special day for many reasons. We are going to my daughter’s house to celebrate my oldest grandson’s 4th birthday.  When he was born, I remember thinking that I was not worthy of the title “Papa Pettry”.  My grandfather owns that title. My father is called “Papa Johnny” by my children.  “”Papa Tim” just doesn’t sound right to me,  so just plain “Papa” will have to do.   As we celebrate the growth of our next generation, we will also take time to remember the events of September 11, 2001 and the sacrifices and memories of previous generations.

September 11th will forever be a day of remembrance for those of us who watched in horror in 2001 as our world changed in front of us.  It forced all of us to question what was important in our lives and served, at least for me and my family, as a point of gathering closer together, seeking comfort in each other.

Papa and Mama Pettry with my brother and me.

My family comes from humble beginnings in the coal country of West Virginia.  Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines to support their large families.  Eight kids in my father’s family, ten in my mother’s.  That’s a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins.  I’ve been blessed with a large extended family.

Last year, another tragedy occurred in the coal mine where my Grandfather worked.  The mine in Montcoal, W.V. exploded taking the lives of 29 miners.  It put the town of Montcoal on the global map.  This, however, was not the Montcoal that I remembered.

In anticipation of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in 2007, I asked my father for the 8 mm videos that he had taken while we were growing up.  I was able to convert the films to digital files and then create updated videos of my parents, their families and friends, and my siblings and their families.  It was a joy to work on these and I watch them frequently.

Putting music to the raw 8mm videos resulted in a one hour montage of my youth.  After the mine explosion, I shared the linked video of my favorite segment on YouTube, to show Montcoal in better times.  (click here to see video). It is special because it includes both of my grandfathers and my great-grandmother.

Memories of the struggles that those before us have endured are what keep me moving forward.  Their hard work made my life easier.  Creating new memories with those who are following me is a joy and I hope that my hard work translates into a better life for them.

Nana and Papa with Nathan and Noah at the circus.

We need to occasionally pause to mourn the loss of our innocence, and we must never let the sacrifices of those who have gone before us go unrecognized or be forgotten.  We must also work harder to create and capture new, happy memories for those who are following us.

Happy birthday, Natey Bee! Love, Papa.

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An EPIC (Engine Plant In Cleveland) story

Working at Ford in the early 1990’s, I had the privilege of learning about lean manufacturing from some of the best lean thinkers at the time.  Looking to develop and implement a production system, Gifford Brown, our plant manager, sought the assistance of key ex-Toyota Georgetown powertrain leaders.

Russ Scaffide, John Allen, Dwight Clark and Bill Costantino joined the Cleveland Engine Plant 2 (CEP2) team as consultants and helped author and implement what was then called the Cleveland Production System.

The Cleveland Production System (CPS) became the forerunner to the modern Ford Production System (FPS), and its implementation at CEP 2 led to the plant being recognized with the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing in 1996.

My role (as a cost analyst at the time) in the development of the CPS, in addition to taking the handwritten model and creating the slide above, was to proof-read the documents that were created.  I was new to manufacturing, however, my prior background at what was then Ernst & Whinney‘s National Marketing headquarters in Cleveland, included conducting secondary market research on potential client companies, their industries, officers, directors and our competitors.  We used this data to support the writing of major audit and management consulting proposals, which we were also responsible for proof-reading – a valuable skill that I’ve used to learn as much as I can throughout my career.

Proof-reading the early documentation of the CPS gave me the opportunity to learn about this new way of thinking in manufacturing and because I had less to un-learn, I was able to pick up on the concepts quickly and contribute to the discussion.

The model – and its implementation – with Ford and UAW leaders responsible for jointly championing and teaching the individual elements, served as a visual reminder of our responsibilities.  Our role was to take all of these lean tools, systems and principles and create value for the customer through continuous process improvement and the identification and elimination of waste.

Attending the initial training, then eventually becoming a trainer for the system, there was one thing that always bothered me about the model.  The model placed itself at the center, rather than the customer.  Our model seemed to put all of its weight on top of the customer and never seemed quite right.

I sought to reconfigure the model as a “Focus within a Framework”.  I placed the customer at the center of the model, and then built the framework with the “pillars” of the system – People, Added Value, Just-in-Time, and Performance Measurements.  Once the focus was placed within the framework, I then used the elements of the production system to create the web.  As our plant was a supplier to Ford assembly plants around the world, I used the (new at the time) catch phrase “Worldwide Web” to attract the attention of attendees at a joint Ford / UAW quality conference in Dearborn in 1996.

My Magnum Opus

My use of a spider’s web as an analogy for a production system came from several places.  First, my favorite bedtime story to read to my kids was E.B. White‘s Charlotte’s Web.  In the story, Charlotte, a spider, weaves words into her web to describe Wilbur, a runt pig who is in constant fear of being slaughtered as he fattens up.  Charlotte seeks to save Wilbur by pointing out his better qualities in such “web posts” as “Some Pig“, “Terrific”, “Radiant” and finally “Humble”.  I started to view a production system much like a spider’s web. (I’ll discuss the irony of the word “Humble” being the word that finally saved Wilbur in an up-coming post.)

The other influence on my spider thinking came from a student who I was supervising in my first job out of college at a major retail store.  She was working in the evening and when asked about getting stock out of the storeroom and onto the shelves, commented  “if it wasn’t for the customers, I would be able to get my work done.”  This view of the customer as a nuisance fit nicely with the transformation in thinking required to move from mass (where the customer is sometimes viewed as a nuisance) to lean, (where the customer is nourishment).

In my web analogy, the contrast between the way that humans view flying insects as a nuisance and the way that spider’s view flying insects as nourishment emerged.  In fact, a spider’s existence is dependent upon its ability to capture and hold onto insects that move in and out of its “Window of Opportunity”.  Much like customers’ disposable income should be viewed as the lifeblood of any organization.

If the spider’s web doesn’t cover the entire opening, potential nourishment can fly through without being captured.  If the web breaks, the ability of the spider to quickly react and fix the problem directly impacts the spider’s future viability.

An organization’s leaders are responsible for identifying the organization’s Window of Opportunity, providing a focus on the customer, and creating the systems that enable employees to create value to capture and hold onto customers.  Quick reactions to breakdowns and weaknesses in the systems when identified, are necessary to maintain organizational stability and provide continued growth.

Principles – the focus and the framework of any organization –  linked through systems and tools enable employees to create and provide increasing value to customers.  Thus, our “Window of Opportunity” defines  how well our Principles connect to our customers and our ability to create value through the continuous improvement in our systems and tools and the identification and elimination of waste.

Continual assessment of the effectiveness of our systems and adjustments when and where necessary will determine the amount of nourishment we receive.

Unfortunately, the model, which I found attractive and intuitive, never caught on as the CPS morphed into the FPS.  However, the learning I obtained from creating it and thinking through all of the various messages it conveys have helped me as a frame of reference when assessing other lean organizations.  It was especially helpful the following year when I moved to Cleveland Engine Plant 1 to implement the new Ford Production System in a plant that was in a slightly different emotional state.  I’ll share that story in my next post.

Are you capturing your customer’s disposable income that is moving in and out of  your Window of Opportunity?  Are your systems complete and connected?  Do you react quickly to signals your customers are sending,  indicating their presence in your window?  When your systems are weak or broken, do you respond immediately to minimize the loss of potential customers?  Do you view your customers as a nuisance or nourishment?

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