March 2014

Important News - We are Now a 501(c)3 Organization

"Having been approved as a 501(c)3 means that the MLC can continue to focus its efforts on community education and offering unique training and benchmarking events. This is big news for us because we can also examine what this means for our fundraising efforts which may mean more opportunities for growth and program offerings in 2014 and beyond." - Debra Levantrosser, MLC Board Member

"Obtaining 501(c)3 status is a major milestone for the MLC.  This opens many doors for us to expand fundraising activities and fully realize our goals as a charitable educational organization." - Julianne Leigh, Former MLC Board Member
Leadership Standard Work

Organizations pursuing Lean have typically started by asking their processing staff to study and standardize their work. We know standard work helps us identify and reduce variation, and as W. Edwards Deming said decades ago, “If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I’d say it all had to do with reducing variation.”  
Yet most of us understand the higher you are in the hierarchy, the more day-to-day variation you tend to see in your work. After all, what is a “typical” day for leadership? For this reason, many believe you cannot standardize leadership work. But you can! 

Standardizing leadership work begins with looking at it through “Lean eyes” to see that most things have a pace, a cycle, or a natural pattern known as “common cause variation” that can be understood and used in planning. Yes, there are a lot unexpected or non-routine events known as “special cause variation” and maybe this is the biggest part of a leader’s role, but how do we know until we’ve standardized all that we can in order to understand the difference between the two. In the meantime, we go about our days “tampering” with the leadership system until we can no longer tell the difference between what is common and what is special cause. 

Start with this list of tools to set and follow a routine and you will quickly find there is more predictability in leadership roles than you would expect:
  • Set clear direction: Hoshin Planning and deployment (set annually, reviewed quarterly)
  • Establish clear business unit targets: A3s and action plans (set annually, weekly visual metrics, adjusted quarterly)
  • Create clear individual targets: individual action plans and targets (set annually, daily standard work, daily metrics, plans adjusted via Kata coaching)
  • Set a leadership routine: schedule daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual checks with an annual calendar.
  • Follow a leadership routine: Leadership Standard Daily Work checklist (daily, with possible varying routines for specific days)
  • Set a pace: multi-tier huddles (daily, 15-minutes at each tier to surfacing problems i.e. special cause variation)
  • Run effective meetings:  set agendas, ground rules, desired outcomes, and targets verses actuals
Yes, it’s easier said than done, but there’s no time like the present. Coaching and mentoring can be found through your local Lean resource. 

Richard Wolin, Director of Training, MMTC-North region at Northwestern Michigan College

1701 East Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686
231-995-2003, Office.


Lean in Action 

The GRFD Lean Journey Continues…

Brad Brown and Rob Pease are still in the early stages of their lean quest at the GRFD, but continue to make indelible marks on the landscape of their organization. Moving past the learning stage of some tools, their methodology and processes receive frequent refinement in accordance with the P-D-C-A cycle (usually a pointed and humor infused audit from each other). Several recent projects have positively impacted fire prevention practices through elimination of non-value add rework, retooled long held apparatus purchasing habits projected to save the City of Grand Rapids approximately $800,000.00 annually over the next 30 years, and increased the amount of value stream maps in use around the office. Brad and Rob wanted to thank the Michigan Lean Consortium community for supporting them in their quality endeavors and invite them to network at the Grand Rapids ASQ chapter 1001 presentation on May 8th at the Bluff Banquet and Conference Center. For more information or to sign up, please visit:

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 Larry Channel at Dragonmead Brewery and Jennie Kahn-Jacques from the State of Michigan.

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!


Upcoming Events

Gemba Walk at Zingerman's - March 5, 2014 in Ann Arbor 

Lean Series 101 - March 28, 2014 in West Olive

Toyota Kata Training - May 16, 2014 in Flint

Annual Conference - August 8-9, 2014 in Traverse City

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.

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. Registration will be open soon.

Volunteer Spotlight

Eric Walters:
Eric has worked to streamline processes and engage people at all organizational levels to create positive change for over twenty years.  He spent the first half of his career in the medical device industry, with roles in manufacturing, product development, project management, and quality management.  More recently, he has been working in the clinical laboratory and health care industries.  Eric led Sparrow Regional Laboratories to become the first clinical laboratory in Michigan certified to the ISO 9001 quality standard.  He became interested in lean while working to align the front line and management staff of the laboratory along common goals for quality improvement.
Eric joined MLC in 2012, and has been co-chair of the MLC Project Committee since 2012.  He has enjoyed developing his lean skills, while getting to know members of the MLC and the State of Michigan through MLC’s support of the State’s Good Government Office.  Eric joined the MLC’s Board of Directors in 2013, and has also been supporting MLC’s efforts to develop a training program for the SME Lean Bronze Certification Exam. 
Eric holds degrees from University of Illinois and Michigan State University, is Certified by ASQ as a Six Sigma Black Belt and as a Quality Auditor, and by ASCP as a technologist in Molecular Pathology.  He lives in East Lansing with his wife, Becki, and two children, Lucas (11) and Ella (8).  Eric enjoys spending time with his family, biking, and MSU sports (Go Green!).

Job Opening

Continuous Improvement Specialist at Strkyer in Kalamazoo (click here for more information) 
Comic Corner


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