MLC Blog

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

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  • Wednesday, July 08, 2020 5:36 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    Do you belong to a community of practice (CoP)? You may, and not even know it! A community of practice is a group of people informally bound by shared expertise and a passion for a joint enterprise.* At the MLC, we’re constantly developing CoPs for people who are involved in Lean, quality, and continuous improvement efforts in healthcare, legal, manufacturing, academia, non-profits, human resources, government, and utilities, and we’re open to your ideas for new CoPs. We’ve made it easy by developing standard work and sharing best practices across communities.

    At the core of the work we do, we leverage our knowledge of continuous improvement using Lean principles for the benefit of our organizations. Belonging to a CoP can be an important part of your personal Lean “knowledge management” system. Whatever your position is, you can benefit from the knowledge and networking you’ll get from participating in a community of practice. As a result of my engagement with colleagues at other organizations, I’ve had new opportunities, sounding boards for problems I encounter, and friends who support me. Through my communities of practice, I’ve learned about resources I wouldn’t have found on my own and had helping hands keep me from stumbling into pitfalls I didn’t know about. Sometimes, it’s only my friends in my CoP who can celebrate a success with me, because others don’t always understand how hard something was to do!

    There aren’t any rules about how a CoP should function. As a group, you can meet at a cadence that works for you. Your group can decide if you want to pursue projects, provide training to members, share stories, collaborate, and/or celebrate success. In the MLC, our CoPs develop a charter that guides the activities of the group, but this is a living, breathing document. The group can choose to modify it at any time.

    Let us know if you want to join an existing community of practice, or start a new one! We’ll connect you.
    *Communities of Practice, 1999, Wenger & Snyder, Harvard Business Review

    Ruth Archer
    MLC Board of Directors

    Technology & Social Media Liaison

    Learn more about the MLC's Communities of Practice!

  • Thursday, June 06, 2019 6:02 PM | Andi Barajas (Administrator)

    DeWitt High School students in Jeff Croley's Creative Leadership: Opportunities for Social Innovation class learned how to create a process map for a 5 Why Root Cause Analysis. Chuck Wynn, a Specialist for Operations Excellence at Emergent BioSolutions was a guest instructor for the day of April 1, 2019. Chuck is well versed in Lean management, overseeing quality in the manufacturing division of Emergent BioSolutions (a Lansing area based biotechnology company). 

    DeWitt Students Presenting on Bullying Going Unaddressed in Schools

    Photo: DeWitt Students Presenting on Bullying Going Unaddressed in Schools

    As the result of a Kaizen Blitz activity from last year, Chuck learned of the work of the Creative Leadership class - thanks in no small part to the Michigan Lean Consortium email newsletter! After several communications and a meeting, we decided to collaborate together to teach a problem solving method to Jeff's students. It has long been a goal of mine as a MLC member to expose high school students to ideas of Lean Management. What better way than to have a professional such as Chuck work directly with students to provide a basic overview of some Lean concepts? 

    The day of Chuck's presentation went exceedingly well! After a 12 minute presentation (Chuck had a student time him: how appropriate), that detailed the fundamentals of a process map to help identify the order and relationship between variables of a problem (along with the highly relevant example of the Flint Water Crisis). Students were instructed to identify a process that either currently is producing positive or negative results. The goal of a process map is for students to develop disciplined system thinking to find solutions to problems or maintain a successful status quo.

    DeWitt Students using Lean Tools to explore the problem of Bullying Going Unaddressed in Schools

    Photo: DeWitt Students using Lean Tools to explore the problem of Bullying Going Unaddressed in Schools

    Here are the steps students were required to follow:


    1. Pick an event (a problem; a result that was not expected; or something that went very well that you’d like to repeat.
    2. Create a high-level “5-Why Chain” — no less than 5; no more than 7—to identify why the event occurred.
    3. Create a branched Cause Map – do a “deeper dive”, going into as much detail as needed to identify all 1)the factors and  2)their interactions that contributed to the event.

    Students were divided into groups of 2-3 to create their process maps. Some of the events they selected were:

    1. Homelessness
    2. Suicide Prevention
    3. Problems with the school's drinking fountains
    4. School related stress

    DeWitt Students using Lean Tools to Explore the Idea of Empathy

    Photo: DeWitt Students using Lean Tools to Explore the Idea of Empathy

    Jeff and I circulated throughout the classroom to assist students. It was interesting to see the variables and their sequence on the maps. We encouraged/challenged them to think more deeply regarding the underlying factors of some variables that they failed to consider. Students were engaged and excited to visually represent relationships between variables. Upon completion of the task, students presented their maps to the rest of the class. Chuck pointed on how the students made assumptions that may or may not be true regarding their issue or problem. Students left the class that day feeling good about the activity and that it was well worth their time! Many thanks to Chuck Wynn, Jeff Croley, and the MLC for their support in making this event a reality.

    Jason LaFay

    DeWitt High School/DeWitt Creativity Group

    Learn more about Lean Tools!

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