Blog Archives

My Kids’ School Eliminates Waste in Cafeteria

It’s that time of year again when I spend a day working at my kids’ school.  It is always a lot of fun to be with the kids in their classrooms and help with activities.  Every year I learn something new from a visual management perspective or from some other aspect of lean.  The school is not “using lean” but there are always elements of it around.

This year I noticed some small improvements that were great ways to element small amounts of waste that would add up over time.  One example was the placement of the silverware in the lunch line.  It used to be the first thing in the line so every kid would grab one of each piece of silverware before choosing their lunch and knowing what they would actually need for their lunch.  Now the silverware is the very last thing in the lunch line.  The kids can choose their food and then pick the appropriate utensils.  This eliminates the cleaning silverware that was never used, saving time in putting silverware away as well as possibly reducing the number of dishwasher cycles needed to clean the dishes.

A second small improvement I saw had to do with reducing food waste.  As part of the lunch, students get milk in cartons, yogurt cups or other food items that are packaged.  In years past, if the student didn’t want it they threw it in the trash.  At the same time, other students might want an extra milk or yogurt and would have to pay extra for it.

Now the school has the “share table”.  It is a small table where students that don’t want their milk carton or packaged food item can put it on the table for other students to eat.  If another student wants an extra milk they can ask to go to the “share table” and pick an item.  Less food in the trash and less cost to parents of kids who want a little extra.  What a great idea!

It is amazing at all the learning that I still get every year I go into my kids’ school.  We can learn ways to reduce waste and communicate visually anywhere.  We just have to keep our eyes and minds open.

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Book Review: Agile Kids

This is my first book review on the website.  I was contacted and asked to review the ebook.  It is a good book and a quick read with great visuals.

Name of the Book:  Agile Kids

Authors: Shirly Ronen-Harel &  Danko Kovatch

Publication Date:  May 2012

Book description: what’s the key message?

Shirly and Danko have spent several years working in hi-tech industry learning and implementing lean and Agile concepts.  They saw a practical use for these concepts at home with their kids.  Through their experiences, Shirly and Danko learned ways to implement these concepts with their kids in order to clearly define the work that needs to be done and show progress made towards completing the work.

Shirly and Danko discuss how to use visual task boards and daily update meetings as well as practical advice on how to get everyone involved.  They covers everything to make the process work; the tool, the roles and responsibilities of the parents and children, how conduct a daily meeting as well as a reflection (retrospective).  Shirly and Danko cover all three P’s (product, process, people) in describing the concept usage at home.

Shirly and Danko state they are not child psychologists.  This is a way they have found to positively engage their children in the work that needs to be done around the house.  They have found it to be fun, interactive and it drives responsibility among their children showing how lean and Agile can be used at home.

What are the highlights? What works?

Shirly and Danko do a great job of bridging lean and Agile concepts from the workplace to the home.  Even with no lean or Agile experience, the concepts can be understood.  The book gives great step-by-step instructions in how to go about implementing the task board, the roles and responsibilities of the parents and children as well as the daily meetings and reflections.

The pictures that are included as examples area a great help as she steps through the process.  Shirly and Danko give a true sense of what the outcome can look like and how it would work.  The reader can follow the process and implement the ideas they have outlined.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

Sometimes the book teeters between being for someone with a lean and Agile background and being for anyone.  A few times technical terminology is used.  Later Shirly and Danko give the reader typical everyday terminology for the same thing.  One example is using the term “backlog”, which is common computer and data terminology, to describe the list of “to-do’s” or “tasks to complete” that is easier for everyone to understand.

It would be helpful to have a Table of Contents to enable readers to find content in the book quickly.  There is good reference material but the reader will be flipping page-by-page through the book to find something specific.

This is an ebook.  I have a copy in .pdf format.  I transferred the file to my Kindle 2 in order to read easily at home.  It was very difficult to read on my Kindle.  The font was extremely small, the great summaries were not readable and the pictures are harder.  After three chapters, I had to read the file on my computer which was great.  The pictures and graphics were vibrant and easy to see and the font was very readable.  I know .pdf is not the normal format for a Kindle file, but Kindles are made to read .pdfs and this is the first time I had this trouble.  It may work very well on a Kindle Fire that has color.  I have not tried.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

If the reader is someone who has lots of lean and Agile experience, the concepts are basic and easy to understand.  It shows how the concepts can work at home and is easy to translate to work at the office.

If the readers do not have any lean or Agile experience, the concepts are laid out simply so anyone can understand and try to use them.  It can help a parent at home or be used to understand how to implement the concepts at work.

Don’t Drain the Learning Ability Kids Have

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a blog post by David Kasprzak from My Flexible Pencil.  It was a great post called Born to Learn: Cognitive Science, Learning, & Education.

The post introduced me to 21st Century Learning Initiative organization that started the Born to Learn site.  I think it is a really interesting and original approach to educational leadership.  The video below is from the Born to Learn website and was part of David’s post too.  It is very good.  I had to post it here also.

Learning is a key aspect of lean.  We should always be learning about our processes, our work, our company, and ourselves.  As we learn we are able to use this new knowledge to help improve any area we are working in.

Born to Learn is about getting back to experimenting and learning from a hands on perspective.  From the time we are very young we are taught things but given few opportunities to learn and develop in areas that are of interest to us.  My son is 6-years-old and has mastered any Lego set you can put in front of him.  It is amazing to watch him work, but he has interest in using tools.  Of course, he is too young to be playing with saws and the like, but a few times I have taken him out to the garage and let him drill into wood blocks and use screws to fasten them.  This is great but I’m not always in the mood for this and he wants to do it constantly.  A couple of weeks ago, we found an Erector set.  The are hard to find in stores, but now he can use small tools and screws to build trucks and the like.  It is more of challenge than the Legos and allows him to continue to learn.

Now, that is a good example but I’m not always thinking of his learning as I tell him to sit still and don’t touch, etc.

I really like the premise of Born to Learn.  Giving kids the experiences to learn and not just be taught something.  I am the type of person who can see something and pick up on it but until  I do it I don’t truly learn it.

How can we continue to give kids learning experiences and not drain that curiosity as they turn into teenagers and adults?