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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Greenbelt Spring 2010 Kick-off

Another busy week with the launch of Greenbelt class spring 2010 Vancouver!

With 22 people involved in this class of Vancouver Greenbelt, the first module promises to be full of action and energy.  People from all across North America (Vancouver, Calgary, San Francisco, etc) arrived this week to be part of the Greenbelt kick-off module 1.  They will continue onto module 2 and module 3 before they graduate from this intense but highly-rewarding program that creates true lean champions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congratulations Natsuko and Desmond!

Congratulations to Natsuko and Desmond!

Our former Toronto intern Natsuko just got married over the weekend!  A few of LSI staff were able to join this wonderful celebration in not-so-warm Toronto (-5 degrees that day).  Natsuko and Desmond looked beautiful and truly happy!  

Thank you David Meier and Mike Hoseus!

Thank you David Meier and Mike Hoseus

It was another great Executive Certification Event here in Vancouver last week, with Toyota Way co-authors Mike Hoseus and David Meier.  Focusing on Lean Talent and Lean Culture, David and Mike delivered an outstanding session on how to develop people, culture, and environment that take into account key lean principles.  Next stop?  San Diego with David and Mike in December 2010 - please join us!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lean Culture & Lean Talent Executive Program Live

Lean Sensei is proud to host a truly special two-day Executive session in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada with two of the top authors of Toyota Way books: Mike Hoseus and David Meier.

Blogging live, these are some shots from David Meier’s speaking engagement going on right now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blackbelt Class of Spring 2010 Launched

We are excited to launch the Blackbelt class of spring 2010, consisting of some of the finest lean thinkers!  The kickoff module started with a complex, puzzle-like "plate" game, followed by an intense lean assessment at two separate companies.  Next stop?  Lean Supply Chain for module 2.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Greenbelt Toronto Graduation

Congratulations to LSI Toronto Greenbelt class, which just finished off the final module last week!  Special Congrats to Denis, Rickhi, and Jennifer who finished in the top 3 (in that order) and took the LSI Greenbelt medals!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Toronto Greenbelt Final Module

Blogging Live in Toronto!
We are at our Greenbelt final module in Toronto. Great presentations are being delivered and the class is open to learning new ideas.

One participant said." I now use lean principles in everything. I apply lean priniciples when dealing with my family, my kids, even my parents. It's changed how I live."

Here are some photos, uploaded practically live!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ryoko and LSI

We hope Ryoko will remember Vancouver and LSI even after she returns home.  Perhaps a short video - showing some of her career highlights at LSI - will help her remember the good times here in Vancouver.

Thank you Ryoko

Ryoko in Executive Program in Vancouver

It’s been almost three years since we first met Ryoko Morita. Of the 50 candidates we interviewed that day, she was our favourite. After completing three stages of interviews she was eventually hired. She was by far the most confident and capable person in this group of interviewees and her talent and dedication proved to be a great fit for Lean Sensei.

But as is often true of many bright, talented people, she had a long term plan. She would be happy to join our team as long as we understood that her plan was to return to her home country, after three years in Canada. With a fiancé (actually boyfriend at the time) eagerly awaiting her return, and her heart still attached to the beautiful country of Japan, it was understandable that we would part ways at some point. At the time, we didn’t think too much about it - three years seem like an eternity.

Ryoko in Singapore Executive Program

Well, three years have passed. The time has arrived for Ryoko to move on to a new chapter in her life in Japan. With her fiancé, Hidetaka, now anxious for her return, Ryoko will soon be thinking about her upcoming marriage and a new career.

Ryoko with her fiance, Hideki

As we reflect on her time with us, we are glad for the opportunity to have worked with Ryoko for the last few years. Lean Sensei is better for having known her and worked with her. She has been an integral part of our team and we have shared many good times together.
Ryoko and LSI team

We will all miss Ryoko but we also know that this is a defining moment in her life, and we are excited for her. A whole new future lies ahead and it will be a fulfilling one as she reconnects with old friends, makes new ones and embraces the many exciting opportunities ahead of her.

At LSI Japan Lean Program

So it is with bittersweetness that we say farewell – but not good bye - to Ryoko because we know that our paths will cross again in the near future. As she prepares for her last day on March 26, 2010, we want to send her on with our warmest and best wishes. She certainly deserves the best.

Her friends at LSI

The only regret I have is that I wished we could have somehow convinced her fiancé to move to Canada!

Thank you Ryoko for the wonderful memories and for your contribution to LSI. You’ve blessed our lives and we are richer because of your time with us.

David and Hilda

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calgary Lean Greenbelt Graduation!

Calgary Greenbelt Wraps up!

Thanks to all the support from our clients in Calgary and surrounding areas, we are delighted to graduate yet another world-class Greenbelts from the Winter Class of 2010!  Energized and passionate, this class of lean greenbelts are ready to tackle any lean projects, now that they have had 10 days of intensive lean training and kaizen experience.  Congratulations!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Greenbelt in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

Our ever popular Greenbelt program, now in its 8th year, is growing! In addition to offering the program here in our hometown, it is also being delivered in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and now Tulsa!

It may seem unusual to select Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the location for our first US "public" Greenbelt (we have done private Greenbelt programs in various parts of the US in the past), but there is a simple reason for our choice – a nucleus of lean energy in Tulsa, thanks to the passion ignited by a small company called Tulsa Tube Bending. Headed by Brad Frank, Tulsa Tube Bending has turned this city into a lean mecca.

With a drive to succeed and develop people, Brad has rewritten the history books when it comes to the best way to navigate through the lean journey. Perhaps one of the most impressive lean companies I have ever seen - regardless of the size - Tulsa Tube Tubing helped convince us that Tulsa is where our first US Greenbelt should be launched.

Thanks to the vision of Brad Frank and his long-time mission to get Greenbelt kicked off in his hometown, this dream became a reality last week.

Andrew McFadyen, our executive coach, did a superb job to launch this milestone Greenbelt. “A tough week, but great people and great teams", says Andrew.  A big thank you goes out to Tulsa Tube Tubing (especially Brad), to everyone who joined our inaugural US Greenbelt, to our LSI staff who supported it, and to Andrew for making the first module so successful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jim Womack's insights

A couple of weeks I received an excellent newsletter from Jim Womack and thought that I can share it with you all.... straight from Jim's mouth:

Dear David

Only a month ago I wrote about going beyond Toyota. And in light of the last month's events, I suppose that must seem prescient. But actually it wasn't because I wasn’t writing about Toyota. I was writing about the path ahead for our Lean Community.

I want to continue that thought process this month, based on your feedback to my request for responses. But first I do feel a need to pay brief attention to the current situation by suggesting that we all keep two points in mind:

As I said last month: Toyota will be fine. I believe that around the turn of this century the company made a very human error by deciding it wanted to become the biggest auto maker quickly, a goal of no interest to any customer. Then it worked backward to do what it took to rapidly become the biggest, surpassing the "do not exceed" speed that every organization has on its instrument panel.

By stomping on the gas Toyota briefly lost touch with the core values and rigorous methods that had worked brilliantly for solving customer problems over the preceding 50 years while permitting Toyota to prosper. The result has been some bumps in the road to the future. And there are likely to be further jolts in the near term as every journalist, regulator, legislative committee, and trial lawyer in every country pores over Toyota's product safety performance.

There's not much to be done about that. But what Toyota can and will do is hansei (critical self reflection) and organizational rework to get back to basics and move on. This requires root cause analysis and testing of countermeasures that will seem agonizingly slow to outside observers. But surely we have learned that quick fixes based on incomplete knowledge with no rigorous testing aren't durable. So let's all be patient. (And, let's hope that government regulation becomes a robust, consistent process as well.)

Emotional heijunka is really useful in a crisis. It's amazing how the media oscillate effortlessly between over-the-top-praise and outlandish criticism of companies. Toyota wasn't quite as good as many thought and it isn't nearly as bad as some now believe. But within the Lean Community emotional gyrations of this sort are as distracting as the failure to level demand (that is, to practice heijunka) while managing any process. So let's all calm down and get back to work on our own problems in creating lean enterprises while Toyota deals with its problems.

There. I feel better. Now I can talk about something more important. This is your responses to my challenge last month to share your concerns about where we go from here in the Lean Community. I received more than 300 thoughtful replies, totaling more than 300 written pages, from respondents working on the shop floor to the executive suite in a wide range of industries across the world. I'm deeply touched and deeply grateful.

We will soon find a way to make many of these responses available at (while guarding the privacy of the respondents.) But the volume and length of the responses has caused me to miss my deadline for getting this done before this month's e-letter. So as a short-term countermeasure I would like to summarize the important themes I heard from you about the most important challenges for us to tackle together:

Theme Number One: Not one of you thought that what we need is more tools or new technical knowledge in order to move ahead. And no one suggested experiments in this area, even though I'm sure we will discover and need to test at least a few new tools over time.

Theme Number Two: Many of you identified confusion about the meaning of lean as a barrier to progress in your organization. (I confess that I was surprised.) And you tied this in part to the endless stream of strange words - all Japanese except takt, which is German - that have become "lean speak". (Again I was surprised, but for different reasons that I will explain below.)

Theme Number Three: Most of you suggested failures of management at the top, middle, and bottom of your organization as the most important challenge you face in creating a sustainable lean enterprise.

Theme Number Four: Many of you argued that teaching methods employed in most firms don't effectively teach either lean thinking or the proper use of lean tools.

Theme Number Five: A number of readers pointed to the disconnect between lean thinking and the incentives used in many firms (for employees and suppliers) to judge and motivate behavior.

I also asked you to suggest experiments we might try and then share the findings to discover a way beyond these challenges. As it turned out, you were better at identifying challenges than proposing experiments, but I actually expected that. Let me therefore suggest a series of experiments that address the challenges listed above. 

Experiment Number One: Let's declare a moratorium on new tools unless and until we can develop a management context for sustaining each tool. That's an easy experiment!

Experiment Number Two: Every organization needs to agree on standard terms that express its key methods and management principles for creating ever more value for customers with ever fewer resources. ("Creating ever more value for customers with ever fewer resources" is, by the way, all I have ever meant by "lean".) And it is not at all clear that these need to be standard across the Lean Community. Can we do some research on what language the most successful organizations have utilized and think further about whether standardization on language across the Lean Community is a useful path?

As for strange, Japanese words: I have used them precisely because they have no meaning in other languages. I helped choose "lean" as an overarching term 23 years ago and soon discovered that the many pre-existing meanings of this word in English created endless confusion. So when I discovered that there were Japanese technical terms available with no existing meanings in English or other languages I jumped at the chance to use them. Maybe I should have chosen a term for lean from Esperanto instead! But what is done is done, so a more practical task is to research how organizations can reach agreement on their own lean language and use it consistently.

Experiment Number Three: Let's focus on improving the methods for teaching senior managers how to set clear, stable priorities that guide lean implementation. Many organizations have tried hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) but few have made it work. Why? And what can be done to improve results?

Let's also do research on methods that can help middle managers deploy strategic initiatives and solve problems that arise every day in every organization. We are already embarked on a vast collective experiment on doing this with A3 analysis, but as advocates of the method rather than observers of what actually happens. So let's do some C and A together to complete the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, so our movement won't always be long on exhortation and short on analysis of results.

Our experiments should also extend to finding ways for front-line managers to create stable, robust processes that can reduce the management overburden (muri) of constant chaos. Everyone knows about the concepts of standardized work, process capability, equipment availability, and flexibility to deal with demand variation. But hardly anyone seems to be able to apply these concepts sustainably. Why is this? What can be done?

Experiment Number Four: How can we apply lean methods to the teaching of lean itself? One of Toyota's recent problems has been training thousands of new employees each year in a way of thinking and acting that is very different from what they learned in school or in previous jobs. And many firms face crises when they try to spread lean concepts from their initial points of success to the whole organization or try to merge with or acquire other firms. What have we learned about the best ways to teach lean and about inherent limits on the rate of learning? (Knowing these would set a natural limit on the rate of expansion and provide guidance on whether proposed mergers and acquisitions are practical.)

Experiment Number Five: One of the most difficult challenges for lean practitioners is reconciling the logic of lean with reward structures, for individuals as well as departments and for other businesses along shared fulfillment streams. Failure to address this problem usually leads to zero- or negative-sum point optimization, yet few organizations seem to have found a way to eliminate this problem. What is the root cause? And what experiments can be tried to show convincingly that there is a better way?

I will try to refine and prioritize these ideas for research, again with your feedback. And I will try to find ways we can jointly conduct experiments to clear the barriers in our path to creating lean enterprises in every industry in every country. This may be a lot work before we are through, but surely it will yield significant value for the lean movement.

With best regards and leveled emotions,



James P. Womack

Founder and Chairman

Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.