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Introverts or Extroverts as Continuous Improvement Leaders

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.  

A friend of mind just got a job at Simpler, a very well thought of Lean Consultant Company.  To get the job he had to go through a very thorough and intense process which included Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment personality tests, giving a speech to a group of professionals and review of his technical knowledge.

A brief summary of Myers-Briggs personality test  is that  it looks at these different aspects of the personality:

  • Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I),
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N),
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

He scored high on the extrovert aspect.  She said “if you had scored as an introvert, I don’t think you’d be good at continuous improvement”.  This struck me hard since right now I’m in the middle of evaluating those qualities in myself which started with reading the book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  She now has a revolution on her hands after her TED talk by the same name – here is her website if interested http://www.quietrev.com/.  To determine where you are in the continuum, the most basic question is “How do you get energized?  From being alone in nature/reading a book or being with a group of people at a party?”

It turns out that there is a bias towards extroverts in our society.  I have found that I am mixed between the two – that is what my Meyers Briggs score says and my astrology chart also (if that means anything to any of you science types).  So, I felt inferior right off the bat.  If I can’t go in there and be aggressive and forward with people, maybe I’m not good at continuous improvement, operations excellence, whatever you call it.  If I can’t lead a kaizen with flair and good old fashioned pushiness, maybe I’m not good at lean.

Susan Cain says we are all a combination of both, but those who take a little time and think things through have great value.   It is important to be able to be the big, noticeable person but as or maybe more important to listen to others, to think things through and come up with the brainstorm that changes the way things are looked at.  We emphasize empowerment in lean which requires listening and giving away power, not taking the spotlight all to yourself.  All of these things are the qualities of an introvert.

So I think that both are needed and it is our goal as lean professionals to stretch the side that isn’t our natural strength.  Extraverts need to listen more.  Introverts need to be more of a cheerleader and be able to energize groups.

What the Silver Lean Certification Means to Me

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.  Connie continues to talk about certification.

At the time of renewal for the Lean Bronze Certificate from SME/AME, I thought, I’ll just go for the silver – how hard could it be. Two and a half years later, I finally accomplished the goal.

In 2007, my retiring boss was being generous, so I took advantage and had him buy the entire suite of books for all the lean levels (bronze, silver and gold). I even gave them as Christmas presents to my entire staff. They all acted excited but in truth there aren’t many people who get excited about lean books. They claimed they would go for the lean certification but nobody did.

However, I was stoked. I love books, I love lean, and so what is there not to love?

The Lean Bronze Certification Package consists of:
• Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy, Second Edition
• Lean Production Simplified: Plain-Language Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Production System
• Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation
• Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA

The Lean Silver Certification Package consists of the following six books:
• The Lean Design Guidebook
• Office Kaizen: Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage
• Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing the Lean Enterprise
• Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization
• The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
• Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

The Lean Gold Certification Package contains these five books:
• Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Third Edition
• Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth
• Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise
• Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
• Today & Tomorrow: Commemorative Edition of Ford’s 1926 Classic

I read the books, I took the test and passed and then the portfolio had to be written. That is a long boring story which resulted in working with the certification team and updating their entire system including the portfolio, scoring and results.

According to the certification leaders at SME “Lean Certification candidates will now encounter an improved program and more streamlined process in achieving certification. The hierarchical requirements – Bronze, then Silver, then Gold – have been eliminated. This allows candidates to obtain certification at the rank that is most appropriate to their career, knowledge, and experience. For more information go to Lean Certification Program Process Improvements Webpage.”

But back to the books – at the silver level, the books take you to another level of lean that none of us may ever see in our lifetimes but it is good to know it is out there. The subject some of us dread – Accounting. There were two books (see above – Practical Lean Accounting and Real Numbers) that dealt with how to lean out the accounting system. And this is the real revolutionary, transformational aspect to lean. Get rid of accounts payable, accounts receivable, all the systems that require us to do stupid things that aren’t lean, – that stop the flow of ideas from concept through to realization. The value stream is expanded to include EVERYTHING. The value stream has the material delivered to the location of the work, the material is reordered by the value stream, invoices are paid as material is consumed, and customers are billed as product is shipped.

So much of what we do in corporate life is related to how financials are measured and is our biggest roadblock. These ideas are what really cuts the costs and increases quality. This is what makes it transformational in my mind.

The Value of Certifications in Our Industry

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.

What is the value of certification in general? There are lots of people, old and young alike, who think that if they get a certification, they’ll get a job!

First of all, this is wrong. It might get your resume looked at, if it is a prerequisite to get through the screening process, but you have to know what you are doing. At this point with all of the certifications floating around, it is fairly easy to get a certificate by not telling the truth about the projects you have completed and just studying and passing the test.

On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and do it well and nobody outside of yourself has recognized that, then a certificate can help get you recognized.

I have a project management professional (PMP), Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ and have just gotten my Silver Lean Certification from AME/SME. I am most proud of the Lean certificate. It was really hard – no cake walk. They dug deep to find out if I knew what I was talking about.

At first I got my PMP so that I could get a better job. I found that it did get me past the first gate of keyword search by the computer. Then I got my Black Belt through ASQ but I had the backing of the GE Healthcare University to help me with the projects and studying the material. The test was harrowing. I had a pile of books 3 feet high with sticky notes attached to the pages where I could flip to different sections as needed. I did study questions for hours and hours on the weekend. I spent much of my personal time to prepare. I did this mid-career and this is what I found.

It was very helpful for me to get back into the practice of test taking – to read carefully and slow down before answering the questions. I actually learned a lot in both the PMP and the Black belt literature. Did I use it in my work? Some of it. To be honest, not very much. But I had the foundation and the backbone to know when I could use something and when it didn’t apply. Unless you are working in construction or defense, the project management professional roadmap doesn’t apply. Hardly anybody uses Earned Value System. Six Sigma is useful if you work in a company that has lots of data and ability to affect the variability.

However, lean is another story. I find it applies to everything I do both personally and professionally.  Who can’t apply 5S to the cabinets and drawers in the bathroom? Who can’t use visual systems to allow others to see the progress of their work?

But AME/SME (the certification is actually backed by SME, AME, ASQ and Shingo prize – so it has prestigious companies behind it) lean certifications are very different. The books that you have to read really give you the picture of how revolutionary lean can be. Based on the Toyota Production System and authors like Womack, Liker and Dennis, you are getting exposed to the very difficult path of transformation. It has led me to Mike Rother and Toyota Kata which I think is needed to change the way we think. Liker has teamed with Rother in his Kata Summit to explain that without a way to learn new behavior we are forever stuck in using tools and not having success in implementing lean.

In the end, what is the value of a certification? For me, it meant reaching a personal milestone, having the ability to get the agreement from others in the business that I know the material and have proven it in the workplace and maybe it will help me to get a job that is satisfying and rewarding.

Guest Post: Leadership style and neural networks – Part Two

Today’s post is from Karen Wilhelm.  Karen has inspired me to connect and learn more through blogging.  It has been great communicating with Karen over the last few years.  Her insights are always enlightening.  This is part two of a three part series.  

Developing versatility

We’ve seen in Part One of this article that a leader often has a preferential use of the task-oriented brain network, but we can also switch to the social neural domain.

Can a leader use both domains at the same time? Apparently, that doesn’t work out so well. That results in treating people as things — objectifying them — and manipulating them to achieve some goal, whether we mean to or not. People naturally recognize the insincerity. The leader may mean well in assuming an action will benefit people, but without proper use of the DMN operating, it’s impossible to know for certain what they want or need. When people aren’t involved in that DMN-related decision interaction, they aren’t as accepting of a management action.

The study’s authors have a couple of suggestions for training more versatile leaders. One is to use simulations for practicing switching. Another is to design career paths that alternate or split time between DMN creative endeavors like marketing or training others, and TPN activities like finance, IT, and quality assurance. In addition, Boyatzis says, management education should include more teamwork, service learning, internships and personal reflections on the impact of behavior and values on others.

Matt Wrye: As a lean change agent, the switching between TPM and DPM happens routinely.  I have had to develop training and put myself in the learner’s shoes trying to understand what they need.  Then a few hours later switch modes and work on solving a problem using data.  I would say that my natural tendency is TPN and I have had to learn more about DPM through the years.

Chris Paulsen:  It seems that most leadership roles require switching between TPM and DPM if they are to be done well.  My natural tendency is definitely TPN and DPM takes more effort for me.  The rotation between these two domains discussed in Part 1 may explain why being more people oriented seems to come easier on some occasions than others.

Leadership style and neural networks – Part 1

Visit Karen’s Lean Reflections  Blog for more interesting blogs.

Guest Post: Lean Material Handling: Making Production More Efficient and Profitable

Danielle M.Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

Lean manufacturing seeks out and eliminates waste wherever it can be found. One process that can be overlooked in a manufacturing business is the very end, where products are stacked on pallets, wrapped and shipped out. What follows are a number of ways you can reduce wasted time, effort and money by finding efficiencies in your pallet packing processes.

Material handling and lean manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Without efficient material handling processes, factories and warehouses can’t fully integrate lean manufacturing into their operations.

If you want to increase production time and reduce waste in your manufacturing business, take lean material handling practices seriously. These suggestions should inspire you to make changes in your warehouse operations.

Reduce mistakes, eliminate waste

The most basic principle of lean manufacturing is eliminating waste — wasted time, inventory, movements or processes. Your production systems should be so efficient that employees know exactly what to do with each part, how to do it and when to do it.

It’s important to remember that working faster doesn’t always mean working more efficiently. Take the time to figure out the simplest method of doing something and make that the standard of operation. Ensure that all processes are scheduled to eliminate lag time between work stations; workers shouldn’t have to wait on needed parts, and materials should be worked on immediately.

Improve efficiency with standardized routes

Material handling routes can either make or break a production line. Standardized material handling routes ensure that the appropriate parts reach their destinations on time, that there are no waiting times and that production runs smoothly. Employ standardized schedules in these areas for an efficient material handling route:

  • Deliver all components on time. This is achieved by setting up kanbans (signposts or billboards) at predetermined locations so that material handlers know exactly which components to deliver to specific work areas. Each component retrieval cycle should take the same amount of time.
  • Use the right equipment to transport components. The weight and amount of components being transported should determine the kind of equipment needed to safely and quickly move them to the designated area.
  • Set up even pulls. The amount of finished goods pulled throughout the day should be enough for each employee to manage throughout the duration of his shift, without lag time or being overwhelmed.

Invest in necessary equipment

Using the right material handling equipment to transport and store inventory increases available space and improves production time. For instance, using forklifts to carry multiple heavy items — instead of using dollies to carry a few items at a time — is safer for employees and moves inventory from point A to point B quickly.

Automated storage systems aren’t exactly necessary, but they do accurately track inventory and allow employees to quickly find necessary parts. With these systems, employees input the materials they need into the storage system, and it automatically retrieves the item, without wasted time searching each shelf.

Accurately track material handling costs

Most — if not all — pricing methods in manufacturing are estimated based on actual production time and overhead. In order to get an accurate amount of time spent on an area of production, estimators must frequently communicate with employees and managers to find out where inefficiencies exist and figure out how to eliminate them.

Systems like cost-estimating software track the efficiency and processes using existing manufacturing standards and data. This makes it possible for estimators and accountants to change their company’s processes by adding and modifying the software’s data to accommodate specific needs. Doing so provides accurate information regarding production schedules and pricing, so your company can provide clients with more accurate quotes.

Material handling processes have come a long way from the inefficient systems of decades past, but there’s always room for improvement in the production industry. Constantly examining and identifying flaws in the system is key to making your business a lean, mean manufacturing machine.

Best of Beyond Lean in 2013

Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.

4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.

3.  My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.

2.  Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball

1.  When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Guest Post: Eliminate Waste by Improving Pallet Packing

Danielle M.Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

Lean manufacturing seeks out and eliminates waste wherever it can be found. One process that can be overlooked in a manufacturing business is the very end, where products are stacked on pallets, wrapped and shipped out. What follows are a number of ways you can reduce wasted time, effort and money by finding efficiencies in your pallet packing processes.

Choosing the right pallet

The first step toward more efficient palletizing is choosing the right pallet. According to a study by the Fibre Box association, a pallet can lose 20 to 40 percent of its strength if only half an inch of product is hanging over the edge of the pallet. You should be able to load your product onto a pallet without anything hanging over. Put another way, for any given package, the pallet should be equal to or larger than the products you’re putting on it.

If you’re using wooden pallets, look into the possibility of switching to plastic ones. They are generally safer and last longer, but they do have a few drawbacks. Only you know whether plastic or wooden pallets are best for your business.

Pallets and weight

Pallets are designed to hold only a certain amount of weight. Put too much weight on a pallet and you risk damaging it and the products it carries and injuring anyone who might be in the area. An overloaded pallet can lead to higher shipping costs as well.

An easy way to keep weight under control is to load the pallet while it sits on your industrial scales. This simple process can eliminate a lot of waste:

  • It keeps your pallets in good working order.
  • It ensures you keep it within any weight restrictions.
  • It eliminates the time wasted packing a pallet and then weighing it, only to find that it’s too heavy and must be redone.

Packing pallets

Packing a pallet safely means considering the safety of all people who use the pallet and the overall security of the products the pallet holds. Keep safety guidelines in mind and remember these pallet-packing tips:

  • Don’t stack pallets too high. Doing so raises the load’s center of gravity, which could lead to a pallet falling over, damaging the product and potentially injuring someone.
  • Don’t risk it. If a pallet looks damaged, it probably is — have it examined more closely and either repaired or discarded.

When it comes to wrapping products on a pallet, make sure you understand the difference between shrink wrap and stretch wrap, and that you keep the correct one in stock:

  • Stretch wrap is a lot like the cellophane wrap you use in the kitchen. It stretches a little and sticks to itself and does a great job of getting in its own way.
  • Shrink wrap isn’t so stretchy, but it shrinks when you apply heat to it, creating a snugger hold on the products on your pallet.

The key to efficient, safe pallet packing, though, is making sure that everyone who deals with pallets understands the processes you have in place and follows all rules. The greatest step toward cutting waste is educating your employees.

Guest Post: Initiative: Employee Empowerment

Today’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.

Have you ever walked into a work facility and taken note of an atmosphere full of complaints and unmotivated workers? I have, and let me tell you first hand it’s not a fun place for anyone to be. In fact, it is basically the opposite of what is needed for growth and success. Why are these employees creating such a negative work environment? Or is the negative work environment caused by something other than employees? Well, many times the work atmosphere is a direct result of leadership. Great leadership can motivate employees, create an environment conducive to high levels of productivity, and create unparalleled levels of employee job satisfaction, while not-so-great leadership can single handedly flush an entire business down the tubes. Whether we want to believe it or not, good and strong leadership is essential to the success of a business.

Creating Good Leadership

Good leadership isn’t something that just happens on its own, good leaders have to be trained, empowered, and willing to help others reach towards success as well. By doing this, the leaders help to motivate and grow the employees by guiding and leading by example. In order to empower employees, there are some basic elements that contribute tremendously to creating strong and positive leadership:

*Create a Positive Work Environment: A productive work environment that yields high levels of success is similar to having rich soil in your garden. The richer the soil, the hardier and more desirable the harvest.

*Empower Others to Grow: Being a leader isn’t just about focusing on being a leader and growing oneself, but it is also about empowering others to grow as well. Good leaders take the time to discuss with employees where they would like their career to go and help them to develop and refine their skills to help them achieve their career goals. One of the most depressing things to an employee is to believe that they have no opportunity for growth and that they will be stuck in a dead-end job doing the same thing for the rest of their lives. When employees elicit this mindset, their levels of productivity drop significantly and they are attending work for only a paycheck and that is it. This is poison to the success of a business.

*Think outside the Box: According to Rita Mae Brown, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Don’t harbor insanity, instead if you want to strive for different results, changes must be implemented. The same goes with leadership, when leaders embrace the practice of thinking outside the box and are willing to think creatively, the sky is truly the limit.

*Encourage Experimentation: This component of leadership is similar to thinking outside the box but this tactic is more about encouraging employees to engage in experimentation. Employees should be praised for coming up with new ideas to help enhance products and streamline processes.

*Always be willing to Help and Listen: A good leader should always be willing to help employees. Whether there is a disagreement between two co-workers or a machine that creates constant headaches, an effective leader is someone who will be there to help sort out the details and rectify any issues or problems.

Never underestimate the power of great leadership. However, it is a mistake to just assume that because someone is in a management position that he or she is or will be a great leader. Instead, a leader takes time to create and must be willing to learn the important and crucial elements that make a leader great.

Guest Post: A Lean Vacation

Today’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.

When we think of lean, most people’s minds go straight to the business sector of manufacturing. While lean has been incorporated particularly well in industrial settings, lean has also experienced quite a bit of success in regular, everyday endeavors, not to mention in travel as well. The concept of lean was alive and well during a recent vacation I took. My last vacation went especially smooth due to a few lean practices that have been put into place to save time, money, and people’s sanity while visiting unfamiliar places.

Lean Airport (MSP – Minneapolis, MN) – The first inklings of lean processes were evident right at the airport before I even embarked on the actual vacation. After I made my way through ticketing and security, I set out to find my gate. Once I located my gate, it only took a second or two to notice the abundance of technology just radiating around me. There I stood in a sea of mini iPad stations just ripe for the picking. To put this into perspective, there was basically a built-in iPad station for every seat in the gate area. Not only were these iPads free to use but their use was actually encouraged. Sitting down at a station, I soon realized that these iPads were equipped with a multitude of different functions from checking flight statuses all the way to ordering and paying for various food items or supplies. As I was navigating through the iPad, I noticed that a person next to me was being served a drink right at his seat that he had ordered via the iPad. This is truly an excellent example of how an airport has utilized technology to make traveling easier and more pleasant for the customer.

Lean Rental Car Experience – My next encounter with lean happened shortly after I arrived at my destination. I’ve always considered obtaining a rental car to be one of the most tedious and dreaded parts of many of my previous vacations, however this time it wasn’t. A couple of weeks before I was set to leave for vacation, I called the car rental company Hertz and became a “gold” member which was quick and easy, and not to mention free. Being a gold member opened a whole new door of perks. I didn’t have to wait in any lines or deal with any sort of messy paperwork. Instead, I simply stepped off the shuttle at the rental car location, looked up at an electronic board to identify my name and stall number and simply walked to that parking stall. Once I arrived at my car, the trunk was open and the keys were in the ignition. Needless to say, I was thrilled with this efficient service and it took less than 10 minutes from start to finish and I was out on the highway enjoying the beginnings of my vacation. By signing up for the “gold” membership not only did I have an easier and faster experience, but I did not require any further help from Hertz employees which in turn helped to streamline the experience for them as well.

Lean Parking Ramp – I bet you think I’m going to say the parking ramp was lean because the entrance and exits were completely electronic and required no parking assistant and while this is true, it goes quite a bit deeper. The parking ramp I utilized was equipped with a fairly new technology known as “Park Assist.” Ok, I’m just going to say it, I love park assist. Any large and busy parking ramp could make their customers much happier with the help of parking technology. Park Assist features little green or red lights which are illuminated on the ceiling directly above the path where cars drive. If a parking spot is open the light will illuminate green, but if the spot is taken it will illuminate red. This type of technology increases more effective parking but also enhances safety. Instead of drivers constantly trying to look side to side while driving looking for the next open spot, all the driver needs to do is look for an illuminated green light and pull into the corresponding parking spot. Wow, this was impressive. Parking ramps can be pretty dangerous as there always seems to be people bobbing in and out between parked cars. This technology allows drivers to keep a greater focus on driving safely, but also helps them to find parking spots quicker.

The implementation of lean into daily life and travel has led to some monumental improvements which have helped to make once dreaded tasks much more palatable, and maybe even actually enjoyable.

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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