Saturday, February 2, 2013

Crazy learning of LEAN

Last March, I went through mediation training through the Dispute Resolution Center.  After six days of training, I thought my head was going to burst.  Last week, I went through LEAN training designed specifically for higher education, presented by colleagues from Fuller Theological Seminary and this time, my head did burst.


I am not one for gimmicks and whatnot but I was quite excited about this training.  I had the chance to hear a preview of it earlier in the year and it sounded promising. 

So I got on a plane.  It takes a whole lot to get me on a plane.  But I did it, trading single digits, sleeting rain, and ice for 75 degrees and sunny.  Someone has to do it. 

And from the start to the finish, I just kept learning.  Great presentations, fabulous discussions, opportunity to practice what we learned.  Incredibly generous people sharing knowledge, experience, and time with all of us in attendance.  It was wonderful. 

My favorite part?  Mr. Potato Head. 

One of our trainers asked for a volunteer.  I volunteered.  I volunteer for anything.

Task 1.  She handed out parts of Mr. Potato Head to individuals around the table. My task was to assemble Mr Potato Head by going to each person with the parts.  I was annoyed.  It wasn't efficient.  It took me 1 minute and 45 or so seconds to assemble Mr. Potato Head.  Never mind that his stache was on top of his head. 

Task 2. I could assemble Mr. Potato Head any way I wanted.  So, with the timer going, I directed everyone on one side of the room starting at one - the big potato that would soon be assembled as my colleagues in line passed him down, each putting a piece of Mr. Potato Head together.  I was at the end of the line, cheering on my colleagues. 

Guess what?  Mr. Potato Head was assembled, better than I had done him the first time, no stache on his head, everything in its right place.  And the time?  37 seconds. It was a magnificent team effort.  We all made the process better.

LEAN works. 

And the ongoing part ...LEAN is continuous improvement.  On the way home, I thought of ways to improve my time with the Mr. Potato Head exercise. 

I wasted valuable time having colleagues line up 1-10.  The assembly of Mr. Potato Head wasn't dependent on the previous pieces.  They were independent events.  All that each person needed to know was where his/her piece needed to go. I could have shaved a few seconds off the time. 

I am competitive like that. 

Now that I am back, having braved the sunshine and blue skies of southern California in January,  I am excited. I have a full brain, anxious to apply what my wonderful and generous colleagues have shared. Really, truly can't wait to get started. 


Heather Kinzie said...

Deirdre, you are spot on. LEAN works...I have been a LEAN practitioner for years now and love the concept, love the simplicity of it (although the metrics part makes my head explode...let's be honest about that!) and love that we can see and enjoy INSTANT benefits!

Enjoyed your post...and look forward to reading more of them!

Deirdre Honner said...

Heather, thanks for the note! I love the analysis part but the diagramming dulls me to bits. :)

I have used LEAN in my kitchen and my basement too.