May 2014

Lean Innovation

When you hear the word “innovation” what do you think of?

New technologies, products, and processes are being launched at an increasing rate.  They seem to come and go on a daily basis.  In the past half dozen years, a number of books from innovation gurus have emerged linking lean thinking to the process of innovation.

If you think about it, the lean philosophy fits just about any process and lean tools can be used in endless combinations depending on the industry and situation.  Lean thinkers are adding new tools and approaches to creatively address the peculiarities of new industry applications so it was only a matter of time before lean and innovation came together…

Most of what I’ve learned about innovation came from Doug Hall, former product developer at P&G, founder of the Eureka Ranch (Innovation consultant to fortune 100 companies), former judge on TV’s American Inventor, and developer of the Innovation Engineering System. What I like about the Innovation Engineering system is how it was built around the teachings of Dr. Deming with value to the customer, quick cycle Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA), and the “go see” principles that are central to lean thinking.
In short, the Innovation Engineering System follows a disciplined approach with PDCA at its center while funneling ide
as through three phases:
  1. The Create phase focuses on developing as many ideas as possible. Diversity and creativity of cross-functional teams are critical to increase the number of ideas and time-tested tools are used to stimulate creative thinking.
  2. The Communicate phase helps the owner refine their ideas by forcing them to clearly articulate and pitch their ideas in terms of the benefit to the customer. Understanding the customer perspective can take the form of “go and see,” interviewing, and survey research.
  3. The Commercialize phase includes testing ideas with customers to gain their feedback, developing inexpensive prototypes, financial estimates, and addressing issues and unknowns that can kill a project. Hall’s “fail-fast, fail-cheap” mentality is necessary to let go of or modify ideas that lack customer interest. In Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup, Ries referred to this as a “pivot.”
New products don’t stay new for long.  Competitors bring alternatives and knockoffs into the market and before long even protecte
d ideas become commodities.  For this reason, a continuous funnel of ideas must be kept flowing into your innovation pipeline. For more information on developing your Innovation Engineering pipeline, contact your local Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) office.

 Richard Wolin, Director of Training Services
MMTC-North Region at Northwestern Michigan College
1701 East Front Street; Traverse City, MI 49686


"Argyris, Deming and Transformation - Our Values in Action Will Transform Us" by Our Vice Chair, Dennis Sergent

On March 4th this year, Dennis Sergent presented his paper "Argyris, Deming and Transformation - Our Values in Action Will Transform Us" at Fordham University in New York City as part of the 20th Annual International Deming Research Seminar (see photo).  This was co-sponsored by the Fordham University GBA, the W. Edwards Deming Institute and The Deming Cooperative.

In addition to his role as the MLC Vice Chairman, Dennis has been a long time student of W. Edwards Deming and Chris Argyris, a Harvard Sociologist.   His study of transformation in organizations has brought him to understand much of W. Edwards Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) and the synergies between the work of Deming and many other thinkers, such as Chris Argyris.  Their work resonates strongly in philosophy and themes on transformation.  Like many philosophers and social scientists, Argyris has perspectives about organizational transformation through understanding systems, the people in them and the power of shared purpose.

"It was a humbling experience to participate in this seminar and speak on these synergies between Deming and Argyris.  To speak before so many experts and authors of research about quality, productivity, ethics was sobering.  To be able to speak before the Deming family, the former chairman of the FCC and these experts was a peak of my professional life.  And it was quite fun to learn from the numerous other speakers and share something with them that they did not know." 

"My thesis was that as leaders, we must transform ourselves to demonstrate skilled, competent action toward our common aims with our teams.  In the context of these numerous areas of Argyris’ observations, it seems that we can transform organizations by transforming ourselves first.   In his practice and writings, Argyris provided us hard evidence of Deming's points and provided actionable solutions that we can use with all of W. Edward Deming’s writings, philosophies and practices to make a difference in our work and the work of others."
Anyone in the MLC who would like to get a copy of the research or the slide deck on this can download them from the MLC website or contact Dennis directly.

Lean in Action 

The Henry Ford Health System’s journey of continuous improvement and commitment to providing high quality, safe care, and services is ongoing.   Under the overarching umbrella of PDCA, Lean principles and tools are critical to our process improvement efforts.  Lean principles and methods align well with the system’s “can-do” philosophy and are evident in daily operations as well as in focused improvement projects.    We are working to build capacity throughout HFHS through a variety of educational programs offered through the HFHS University.   The one-day Lean  Leadership Boot camp and the two-day Henry Ford Production system Lean training program  continue to be extremely effective in spreading the lessons learned, the philosophy and practice of Lean throughout the system.    In addition, the Process Management Optimization (PMO) program being taught at HFMH follows the PDCA cycle, and incorporates Lean, Six Sigma, and other proven change management   principles over the course of the training.  The approach includes classroom sessions, hands-on exercises, mentoring, and application of learnings to real world projects. The concept of A3 thinking and documentation is spreading – process improvement efforts begin with focused charters and include root cause analysis, value stream mapping, stakeholder analysis, and A3 reporting.  Production control boards, visual cues, and standard work are being integrated into daily operations. Clinical and operational policies are developed based on best practice and standardized across the system. Additionally,   Lean principles and tools are being utilized in the launch of our system wide electronic medical record (EMR).   Key stakeholders are engaged in the rollout process to ensure that the product, a fully integrated EMR meets their needs and expectations.    We recognize that we are continuing to evolve and while we have made great strides in our journey, we have a long way to go, and much to learn and we are truly excited about our future.   

Hosting an Event

If you should ever be approached by a MLC member … or if you have ever entertained the thought of hosting an MLC Event at your organization, but stopped and asked.    What is in it for us?  I can answer that question for you.    We hosted the first annual MLC Healthcare Summit in 2012 and we are very glad we did.    Yes, it took time to plan and coordinate, but the MLC volunteers were there to help every step of the way and it was well worth the effort.  Hosting this all-day conference allowed us to showcase our new education center as well as the great work that our clinical and operational staff are doing to improve the quality and safety of the care we provide.   As sponsors of the event, we were able to extend an invitation to attend the conference to a number of staff members at no cost to them, a benefit that was greatly appreciated.  Staff and other participants, saw our leader’s commitment and involvement in the session as a demonstration of our growing commitment to continuous improvement and learning.   

Perhaps an 8-hour session is more than you want to commit to right now, but consider hosting a half-day session sometime in the future.   The MLC facilitates monthly workshops at various locations throughout Michigan.   They are typically held on a Friday afternoon and are 4-hours in length.  While the speaker dictates the size of the audience, based on the nature of the event, they usually range from 20 – 40 people.   Sponsoring an event, by providing meeting space and snacks (optional) highlights your organization, as well as reserves  up to 6 free registration spots (a $300 value) for members of your staff.    A member of the MLC Event Planning Committee is always available to coordinate the arrangements and address any concerns you might have.    
 If you are interested in hosting an event this year or have questions about the logistics and benefits of being a host site, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Vera Szram-Senyk at   
Kate Sweeney at

We look forward to working with you!   

Upcoming Events

Lean 102 - June 11, 2014 in West Olive

Annual Conference - August 7-8, 2014 in Traverse City

Lean 103 - September 24, 2014 in West Olive

If you have an idea for an event or would like to host an event, please email our Event Commitee co-leads at & Thank you!

Click to Register Now
Michigan Lean Consortium 2014 Annual Conference!

---People: The Heart of Lean--
August 7-8, 2014
Traverse City, Michigan


If you attended the Michigan Lean Consortium Annual Conference in the past, you know this is a great opportunity to network with colleagues, share experiences with other lean leaders and learn new approaches to drive the Lean journey at your organization. Click here to see photos from past year conferences.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will be another keynote speaker along with Mike Rother! You won't want to miss them!

We are heading to the Brys Estate for a winery networking event on Wednesday, August 6 at 6 pm. There will be an additional small fee to attend. Stay tuned for more information. You can visit their website for more information on the location:

If you have not attended in previous years, we hope to see you at the 2014 conference. It promises to be even better than ever! Plan now to join us at The Hagerty Center in Traverse City and watch our website and newsletters for updates.

Hotel information with special MLC rates now available! Click here to visit our website for more information!
Stay tuned for information on our PRE-CONFERENCE Kata Workshop on August 6 in Traverse City lead by leaders in the Kata philosophy! Plan now to attend!
Volunteer Spotlight

Since 2008 Theresa Coleman-Kaiser has been a leader in Michigan Technological University’s Lean journey.   The effort has grown from two inaugural kaizen events facilitated by an external sensei to a sustainable, campus-wide continuous improvement practice lead by the Office of Continuous Improvement, currently staffed with a full-time manager and three part-time student employees.  Their work is supported by 24 trained Lean Facilitators who volunteer to assist departments across campus with improvement events and 11 Lean Implementation Leaders who practice day-to-day continuous improvement as departmental leaders in various departments.  The Office of Continuous Improvement reports to Theresa, who is also an active Lean Facilitator and Lean Implementation Leader herself at Michigan Tech.

Theresa became aware of the MLC in 2012 when Michigan Tech hosted an MLC event on their campus.  Later that year she appeared on Debra Levantrosser’s radio show, The Leaning Edge, to talk about Michigan Tech’s Lean journey.  She officially joined the MLC in 2013 and participated in the annual conference by presenting a break-out session on Leadership Standard Work.  She has continued to stay connected with the MLC by volunteering as a Lean Greenbelt Coach in the fall of 2013 and by facilitating improvement work on the Michigan Department of Education’s scoreboard metrics which just concluded in March 2014.

Theresa has been at Michigan Tech for 15 years and is the Assistant Vice President for Administration responsible for Human Resources, Campus Police, and a variety of Auxiliary Services departments. She holds a Bachelors of Business Administration degree from the University of Iowa and will be completing a Masters of Business Administration degree at Marylhurst University this August.  She lives in Calumet with her husband, son, and golden retriever Deuce.  When she finds time away from work and studies, she enjoys backpacking trips and is particularly fond of Isle Royale National Park.

The Leaning Edge
The Leaning Edge Radio Show, led by MLC Co-Founder Debra Levantrosser, airs every Friday and Saturday on the Michigan Business Network. Recent guests include John Boulahanis, Phil Chase, Rebecca Bilot and Mike Vallendar. 

Tune in on Fridays at 11 am, 5 pm, 11 pm and Saturdays/Sundays at 5 am, 8 am, 1 pm, 6 pm, 11 pm. You can also listen to and download past episodes on the website. If you are interested in being a guest on the show email Debra at

Please note that hits on the radio show determine whether or not it stays on the air. Thank you for your support. Please listen and email the station with your positive feedback if you love the show!


Welcome New Members!
Name Title Organization
Aaron Simms   Daimler AG
Adam Miller Component Engineer Detroit Diesel
Richard Mandle Engineering Supervisor Daimler AG
Chris Lemanski   Daimler AG
Paula Cole Engineering Supervisor Daimler AG
Darryl Bryson   Daimler AG
Elaine Throckmorton Business Process Analyst General Motors
Christine Robere President United Way of the Lakeshore

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