MLC Blog

Welcome to the MLC Blog! A blog fueled by the Lean and Continuous Improvement Community!

  • Thursday, July 01, 2021 7:29 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

     You guys! We are beginning to plan in-person events for the fall of 2021!

    This is such a big step toward getting the MLC “back to normal”. Over the years we have hung our hat on the amazing networking and relationship building opportunities that we have been able to offer in addition to Training and Education. As you well know, that has been a struggle when the world went fully virtual. Buckle up, we believe that is going to really change very quickly!

    With that said, our ask for Event Team volunteers will be ramping back up. I have really struggled over the last 18 months trying to figure out how to use the volunteers who have already committed to helping the MLC Events Team. If you have felt left out, I apologize! Virtual events did not tend to need a lot of help. As we transition back to in-person, that will change. To our current resource team (and you know who you are!), expect to hear from me soon! If you are thinking of becoming a MLC Events volunteer, there are a couple of service categories we look at: Event Planner – This is someone who is willing to take an idea and run with it! We do have Event Planning Standard Work, so you would have some structure to follow. We give you the seed of an idea and you take it from there. Event Volunteer – This is for folks who are not interested in the extra work of planning, but love being on-site (brick and mortar or virtual) to do event kick-off, break out room lead, etc. Coffee Chat Planning Lead – This person would organize the Coffee events and work with Coffee Chat volunteers to execute them. These are all fantastic roles and are so fulfilling. You will meet the best people and be a part of changing lives.

    If you are interested, please reach out to me and I will have a 1:1 discussion with you to see what you are passionate about and where we can use your talent! I cant wait for that first event where I get to see everyone’s smiley face IN PERSON!


    Dave Kippen

    MLC Events Team Coordinator

    Volunteer for the MLC!

  • Tuesday, June 29, 2021 2:05 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    We miss you!

    This past year has certainly been a long road for all of us and we are deeply grateful to our MLC membership community who stuck with us as we navigated virtual events. We also know that building a Lean network and learning through interaction are highly valued benefits of an MLC membership. Therefore, this summer, we are bringing back regularly scheduled coffee chats and we will look forward to holding these coffee chats in person as often as possible.

    We will kick off the summer with a Lean Coffee Chat on July 16 at 9:00 a.m. in Ann Arbor (location to be determined), hosted by MLC Board Member, Lauren Wisniewski.

    The MLC is committed to expanding our Lean networks throughout regional communities and we invite you to volunteer to host a Lean Coffee Chat in your area as well!

    Please reach out to if you are interested in hosting a coffee chat.

    We look forward to seeing you in person and having meaningful conversations that will inspire and brighten your day!

    *Our priorities will be the safety and comfortability of our members as we seek out coffee chat locations. Per current guidelines, masks will not be required, but we encourage all who have underlying medical issues, those not yet vaccinated, and those who feel uncomfortable for any reason to continue to wear them.

     Lauren Wisniewski

    MLC Board Member

  • Friday, May 28, 2021 10:19 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    One of the questions I get asked frequently by my clients…how can I reduce the cost of training? I have a few recommendations!

    1. Leverage learning offered by organizations where you are a member. You are already paying a membership, so use the resources provided and often the organization has received a significantly discounted rate. MLC has great learning offerings with some exciting options coming up in the near future! Take a look at some upcoming workshops to see if they meet your needs!
    2. Take a look at LinkedIn Learning. For $59.99/month, you gain access to a TON of learning offerings. I did a quick search on ‘lean’ which returned 791 results! If you are just starting your lean journey, 325 are beginner level! Intermediate had 259 results and Advanced had 37! If you pay for the year in advance, you get a 20% discount :)  
    3. Create a book group. Books are an inexpensive way to build knowledge and discussing in a group helps make the concepts come to life and how they might quickly be applied at your company!  A few quick suggestions: Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann, The Flow System: The Evolution of Agile and Lean Thinking in an Age of Complexity by Nigel Thurlow, 2 Second Lean by Paul Akers.
    4. Look at local college / university offerings. The MLC has partnerships with many Michigan academic institutions, in fact there is even a Community of Practice! Check with their local offerings or even get in touch with a MLC member of an academic institution to brainstorm ways they can support your organization's learning needs. Perhaps an intern that is a whiz at Lean in the classroom that could come in and help you make some quick wins?!

    Training doesn’t have to be expensive. Get clear on what skills/capabilities you need, then get creative on how to build that capability. Need a little bit of extra help to get you started? I am always willing to spend 15 minutes discussing with MLC Members! You can schedule time with me on my OnceHub and select “Your Problem / 1 Solution.”  

    Becky Andree

    MLC Board Member

    CEO of Vertical Leadership Consulting

  • Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:47 AM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    The MLC has updated their mission statement to better fit their new board, member suggestions, and the changing times.

    "Engage, connect, and develop people and processes in continuous improvement and Lean initiatives to positively impact Michigan."

    Learn more about the  MLC at our About Us page.

  • Thursday, April 08, 2021 11:42 AM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    The Events Committee is working on standardizing our offerings to help our membership know what to expect all throughout the year! Thanks to all who filled out the survey, that helped us shape our path forward. Here are a few things you can expect to see take shape very soon:

    • A repeatable “large event” cadence. We understand how important it is to be able to count on some of our favorite events happening at certain times of the year. The Annual Conference, the Healthcare Symposium, and the Grand Rapids Summit are the 3 major events that we plan on standardizing and offering at the same time each year.
    • A repeatable monthly events cadence. Our initial target will be one Gemba event, one Learning event and one Coffee Chat per month. This will help us curate content to fit those different events rather than relying on “whatever comes in” as ideas. Very proactive and thoughtful.
    • A focus on different levels of knowledge. We heard loud and clear that we have not made much of an effort to have events related to folks who are new or just beginning their Lean journey. We plan on fixing this! We plan on equally distributing events in 3 categories: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced levels of Lean. It will not be perfect, but a focus will be made to achieve a better balance.

    These changes are very exciting and I hope all our membership will see value in these changes. Bringing knowledge and networking to Lean practitioners in Michigan is what we want to achieve through MLC events. I hope you join one or all of the upcoming amazing opportunities that we will offer!

    Dave Kippen

    MLC Events Team Coordinator

    To learn more about MLC's events, visit the Events and Learning page!

  • Wednesday, April 07, 2021 6:30 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    What I find so powerful and so valuable about Lean are the core concepts: seek to continuously improve and focus on respecting others throughout your improvement actions. These concepts are not business related strategies that apply in certain settings. They are human values that can be applied in any setting, work or otherwise.

    My own path of coaching Lean within the nonprofit sector has allowed me to explore new territories while seeing just how universal Lean principles truly are. The majority of those with whom I have been in contact in the nonprofit sector are completely new to Lean or have only a vague understanding of what it means and how it applies. The continuously incredible part to me is how inherently aligned Lean thinking and nonprofit sector work can be. Nonprofits have empathy ingrained in their missions and a focus on serving others is what often brings nonprofit professionals to work everyday. Nonprofit professionals also often wear many hats, being the grant writer as well as the volunteer coordinator and on the marketing team, for example.  So, being able to cut down on waste and streamline operations is critical to help nonprofits thrive. The core concepts of Lean often live in the heart of a nonprofit organization. It is just a matter of introducing the tools and formal methods through language and strategies that fit for the nonprofit environment.

    I am fortunate to have learned Lean backwards. I saw the outcome of an incredible personal Lean transformation and used that inspiration to work my way backwards through books, practice, and finally, formal training. That backwards method showed me the powerful difference the Lean can make on a person’s everyday activities, relationships at work and with loved ones, impactful leadership, enjoyment and success at work, as well as the ability to solve any problem. There is an expansive array of Lean tools and resources to help reach a continuous Lean practice. The important point of these tools, however, reaches back to the core concepts. The tools are the how of the concepts, but what matters most is that those concepts are ingrained. In my work with nonprofit organizations, I am constantly thinking about and adjusting the Lean language around the tools in order to help those who I serve understand the core concepts.

    Whether you are new to Lean or a well-seasoned expert, there is always more to discover, more to share, more learning to be inspired by. Sometimes even stopping to reflect upon what you have already learned may bring the greatest insight. Or perhaps shifting your mindset to be open to another new idea may make all the difference. Whatever it is, I hope you feel the welcoming and wonder of Lean as I do.

    Lauren Wisniewski

    MLC Board Member

    President of Rise Consulting, Co.

    Start or advance in your Lean journey with one of our training events!

  • Thursday, March 18, 2021 12:06 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    We are excited to announce organizational changes to the Michigan Lean Consortium Board of Directors. Tony Hayes has decided to step down from the Chair position. We cannot thank Tony enough for all of his hard work and effort leading the Board this past year. He has been an outstanding leader and role model for MLC. We are proud to announce that Katie Labedz has accepted the role of the Chair position. Katie previously was responsible for strategy on the Board. Katie comes to the MLC with over 20 years of Lean experience and previous experience being on the Board of Directors for other non-profit organizations.

    Vanita DeJesus has accepted the role of the Vice Chair position! We are excited to continue to work with Vanita in this new capacity as she continues to bring new and exciting ideas to the MLC! Mike Wiserma will end his term as Vice Chair in August 2021. Lauren Wisniewski will work with Vanita to be responsible for membership. We thank Lauren for her willingness to take on this new role.

    We are also pleased to announce Josh Foster has accepted the role of the Treasurer position after Richard Love departed earlier this month. We thank Richard for his time and assistance on the Board. We are actively executing our transition plans and appreciate your continued support of the MLC!

    Katie Labedz

    MLC Board Chair

    Learn more about the MLC Board of Directors at the BOD Bio page!

  • Monday, February 15, 2021 12:15 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    When an organization decides to implement Lean, the starting place is usually with a few processes.  It is assumed that the ‘right’ behavior will just fall in line as processes are implemented.  Organizations that focus primarily on process and minimize or ignore behavior end up facing various obstacles and realize that culture and leadership behavior can make or break a Lean initiative.  Do any of these sound familiar?

    • “I don’t have time to record on a daily management board.”
    • “The problem-solving board takes too much time.”
    • “We don’t have time for a Kaizen, I need everyone working to meet customer shipment requirements.”
    • “The standard work is unreasonable, it takes too long to get the line started up.”

    Leaders will need to learn about Lean and the components.  They also need to know what to do differently to ensure success for themselves and the organization.  If a leader has been with the organization for a decade or more, they likely have years of old habits to unlearn.  A Lean system needs strong “Lean management” to implement and sustain, to ensure there is a focus on the process and the results. 

    A common mistake is assuming if you design the right process, it should always run as designed and produce consistent results.  But the real world, isn’t that idealistic.  The more complex the process, the more attention and adjustment is needed as you implement and run Lean processes.  Leadership behaviors need to be aligned to ensure attention and iteration.  Because without it, an organization risks loosing the Lean momentum that was the crucial reason for the change in the first place.  

    Often leaders are rewarded by the organization (recognition, advancement, and feedback) by knowing the right answer, fixing a problem immediately, and dictating tasks to complete.  This behavior and approach is often associated with being a hero or a firefighter.  The organization can count on that leader to solve a crisis and keep things moving forward.  But McKinsey points out that there needs to be a fundamental shift to asking questions, finding root cause, and connecting tasks to organization purpose.

    A shift from the left to the right, isn’t easy.  The behaviors on the right require a leader to trade in the superman cap or firehose, a role that has been reinforced, rewarded, and provides an adrenaline rush.  Leaders have to develop new skills to engage the workforce, know what questions to ask, and champion Lean processes by linking individual work to organization results. 

    When I designed Lean Leadership development programs it focused on behaviors that would be needed to support Lean processes as they rolled out.  It wasn’t a gradual shift, there was no nudging.  It was a series of skills/behavior training that were aligned with the roll out of specific Lean processes.  For example, when visual management boards were rolled out, leaders were also trained that every interaction with an employee had a personal and practical need.  Leaders learned how to listen when an employee was resistant to the visual management board and to “hear” the practical need (understand, adjust expectations, etc.) and the personal need (heard, understood, respected, etc.).  Leaders were learning the new behaviors right along with the new Lean process.

    If your organization is struggling to sustain Lean efforts, it might be time to step back, and be a behavior detective.  What behaviors are rewarded?  Are those the right behaviors to reward?  What skills or behaviors do leaders need to do differently to maximize Lean efforts? 

    Becky Andree

    MLC Board Member

    CEO of Vertical Leadership Consulting

    Learn more about advancing lean leadership.

  • Monday, January 25, 2021 3:09 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    Wow!  2020 is gone, and it was uniquely dramatic for every one of us.  The disruptions in our lives ranged from inconvenience to upheaval to loss of loved ones.  Within the MLC, we had to shift our emphasis to online interactions, which have their own advantages, however the high value of live events with great networking, which I know you all value the most, had to be put on hold.

    As a new beginning, I want you to enjoy this year in your life with a new MLC experience.  As we progress through 2021 with the eventual taming of COVID through vaccinations, the light at the end of the tunnel brightens.  You have much to look forward to from the MLC in 2021, including:

    • A planned live August Annual Conference in Traverse City
    • Sponsored Lean training from the Sergent Results Group and the Northern Michigan MMTC as part of our new Resource Network
    • Energetic new Board members who are dedicated to bringing new value to you.

    I now have been the MLC President for 2 ½ years, and as it has been an enriching experience.  However, I find myself wanting to explore other avenues in my life.  So, effective January 31, 2021, I respectfully resign my position with the MLC.  I wish each one of you continued success in life.

    Best Regards,

    Al Woodliff

    Community Member

    Learn more about what the MLC is providing in 2021 on our Events and Learning page!

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2020 3:24 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    Congratulations to our 2020 MLC Distinguished Service Award Recipients. The MLC Board of Directors usually honors the recipients during our annual conference. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions we were unable to gather at a conference and recognize these amazing volunteers in person. 

    Here are some comments that came in during the application process:

    "Eric is a doer and can be counted on to help where needed; though humble, he has given his time and talents continuously over a long period of time. He spends many hours volunteering and has provided complementary space for the Lean Healthcare Symposium."

     "Greg shares his passion for Lean with others, mentoring them on CoP Lean in Legal best practices. He is reliable and enthusiastic, ready to provide feedback and improve. Greg always asks how he can help, and is an outstanding collaborator."

    "Tony has an enthusiasm unknown to mankind for the MLC. He volunteers for the MLC in dog years. Tony is a past board member and is currently an advisor to the MLC Membership team. Tony continues to share his MLC knowledge and Lean thinking strategies to help to grow membership."

    Thank you 2020 recipients for sharing your time and expertise with the MLC. 

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