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Guest Post: Can Lean be Taught to Children?

blogphotoToday’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

Lean is something that is often associated with businesses and focuses mainly on reducing waste and adding value. However, lately I have been pondering the thought “Can lean be taught to children?” Wouldn’t it be great if children learned the concepts of lean at a young age? My mind literally boggles at the sheer possibilities. I’m not talking about sitting children down in a classroom and teaching them lean exclusively like reading or math, but instead just weaving the concepts of lean through life’s regular and everyday activities.

Imagine the Possibilities

The concepts of lean have been credited with high levels of success in the workplace, so why can’t the same concepts be beneficial in other areas of life as well? The truth is, they CAN! Creating a generation of innovative thinkers, ready to add value to society sounds like a pretty wonderful idea to me. Many of us have not been introduced to the concepts of lean until later in life, and unfortunately our minds have not had the opportunity to truly expand and grow with the concept. However, we can change that with the introduction of lean.

How to Start the Lean Mindset

The first thing we have to remember is that children are just children. We cannot expect them to act like adults. However, one of the benefits of starting lean concepts early is that when children are young their minds are very malleable. If children are taught to reduce waste and participate in value added activities early in life, that mindset will usually follow them through into adulthood. The key is to really start out simple and introduce the obvious and most tangible ways to reduce waste. This may include engaging in activities such as reusing and recycling. Instead of simply throwing out old clothing that does not fit, teach children that it can be reused and given to places such as the “Goodwill” or “The Salvation Army” so other children can wear the clothing, thus adding value for another person. Engaging in activities such as this puts the act of reducing waste into terms that children can understand. Furthermore, children can also be involved with activities such as household chores to practice lean. In fact, lean can be weaved into even the simplest task such as dish washing. For example, loading a dishwasher by putting all forks in one compartment and all spoons in another takes less time to unload since the flatware has already been separated. Doing this reduces wasted time.

The possibilities are limitless when it comes to the lean mindset. The truth is that lean can be implemented anywhere and everywhere; it is not just strictly for business use. When lean concepts are implemented and practiced at an early age they become just a normal part of life. Providing children with the tools necessary to be independent thinkers, who are capable of seeking improvement and reducing unneeded waste, will help to create a society of endless possibilities and opportunities.

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Leadership Lessons from an 8-Year-Old

My daughter is 8-years-old and just started the third grade.  She is a wonderful kid.  She does everything my wife and I ask of her without complaint and she loves to learn.  We are very lucky.  But with the third grade comes the start of being aware of social situations and more awareness of what trends, fashion, friendships, etc..

She comes home with so and so is trying to pull my friend away from me or  I have gotten to be the team leader in the classroom yet.  Things like that.  As an adult, we think these things seem trivial because we are worried about paying the bills, putting food on the table and a roof over our head.  Sometimes it is really hard to take it seriously and not just tell her you worry to much and move on.

If the issue is a big deal to her then as her parents it should be a big deal to us.  We have to listen to her and take it in and make her feel like she can come to us and talk about anything.  We have to teach her in a caring way what might be good to just let go and give her mechanisms to do that and what do deal with.  We have to show her she matters.

This is no different than leading in the workplace.  We have to show our employees they matter.  If they have a problem, no matter how trivial it may seem to us we have to help them deal with the issue in a caring way.  We can’t blow it off and say get over it even though we may want to.  We have to help the employee understand context and and teach them how to handle different situations so they don’t become overwhelmed.

I am still not the best at it, but my daughter keeps me on my toes and gives me a lot of practice and this.  I just hope I have it mastered by the time she is a teenager.