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Upcoming Events:

Gemba Walk at Menlo Innovations on January 27
2nd Kata Practitioner Day in March
2017 Healthcare Symposium on May 19
2017 Annual Conference on August 2-4
Happy Holiday Letter from Chair

Dear MLC Members,

The year 2016 is about to draw to a close and as your Chair of the MLC Board, please let me give you an update on our progress.  I’ll do this by asking and answering three basic questions for you.
  1. What are we trying to accomplish?
In early 2016, the previous Board of Directors decided to revisit one of the fundamental practices of continual improvement and Lean by demonstrating our respect for people and working towards stability in our finances and operations of the Michigan Lean Consortium.   The present board continues to develop our organization to improve how we fulfill our vision and mission Develop and support lean systems thinkers to transform Michigan’s organizations and economy.”
To that end, we decided to engage more directly with MLC members at our events, to solicit engagement, feedback and to develop future volunteers and leaders.  We also decided to move our board meeting minutes to the website for virtual access, openness and transparency to members.  We also started to document policies and determined we needed to revise our by-laws, so we walk the talk of Lean and Continual Improvement.
  1. How will we know that a change is an improvement?
Learning and improvement in organizations can only be achieved when we engage fully with our team and our customers.  The MLC Board considers members as both team members in the management of the organization, and as customers.  Your membership and participation revenues deliver more than money, but also your feedback and a growing relationship with you. Our aim has been to demonstrate our values in actions to engage you as members and customers who are expert in the job you want the MLC to do for you as you develop and grow in your career.
We think that increased revenues are an outcome of more individual and organizational members, as well as more corporate sponsorship of the MLC.  We think that these are the outcome of more clearly demonstrating the value of our MLC events to you as individuals and organizations alike.  To understand that cause, we’ve begun tracking renewals and participation at events as early indicators of improvement in value and growth.
  1. What changes can we make that will result in improvement?
Aside from developing more open dialogue in person and on the web, we have acted to define our values as an organization and to define what you value in the MLC events.  At the Annual Conference in August, we shared a copy of our Hoshin plan for 2021 and the MLC Team solicited your feedback on our values, your values, the plan and on the conference.  Let me commend the event team for rapid response to address your ideas for improvement, including a simple thing so vital to productive meetings, bigger coffee cups!
We’ve also done more subtle, but still important things this year to build stability.  We changed our language from Events “Committee” to “ Events Teams”, we have updated by-laws that inform our policies and practices, which we’ve pulled together into one place, and we have begun to develop standard work for all things that we do with volunteers.   
In 2016, we’ve begun to map our MLC system and create value stream maps of our critical processes.  We have developed a scorecard and dashboard to track our improvements and progress in the Hoshin plan and we’ve shared it with you on the MLC website.  We also disbanded the projects team due to inactivity and created and field-tested two customer sites with RAPID Improvement events that will be exclusive to sponsoring organizations.   
For our 2017, let me tip you off at coming attractions, we have begun development of three new programs, first a leadership development program, second a web app to speed your access to MLC benefits. Programs, tools and templates, and third a development to recognize people that have made progress as practitioners of improvement using the principles of Lean in teams.  Look for more news in the coming months, more importantly, let a Board member know if you would like to help!
We recently lost a valued board member, Phat Tran and gained a new valued board member in Jeff Bankowski.  We will continue to engage with you in systems thinking to reframe how we help you in your organizations and in your personal journey. Our initial results indicate a growing financial stability; we now have enough revenue to meet obligations without resorting to using Board member credit cards. 
We have also had a recent increase of requests for the MLC to provide coaching, consulting and training help to other organizations and new interest in MLC organizational membership and sponsorships.  We take these as good signs and remind you all that one of the great benefits and values of MLC events is that opportunity to network with potential customers, suppliers or team members for continual improvement and Lean expertise.  Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the MLC is not here to provide free consulting to members or sponsors, nor are we here to take business away from practitioners, or endorse any particular expert or consultant.  Our job is to make a safe place for you to learn and network with others to develop your knowledge with those other MLC members.
The highest order role we fulfill is in our MLC mission as we design learning and improvements with you.  We hope to engage you to think and act differently, and share your perspectives with us as we do the same.  We aim at a shared and common purpose of responsibility to improve the MLC system and welcome your help and feedback to out aim, vision and mission.


Dennis Sergent
MLC Chair
We would like to welcome Brad Brown to the Events Team!

Brad says: Thanks for allowing me to learn, grow and share with the Events Team! I look forward to furthering the mission of the MLC and providing some great learning opportunities for our members. 
Brad Brown is a career firefighter with over two decades of experience, currently serving as the Captain of the Planning Division and lean champion for the City of Grand Rapids Fire Department where he has embraced the use of data-driven decision making. Having a lifelong passion for learning, Brad has recently completed a four-year executive fire officer program at the national fire academy and holds a Master’s degree in Executive Fire Leadership. He has presented numerous times over the past several years for the Michigan Lean Consortium, The American Society for Quality and the Center for Public Safety Excellence. When not learning or working, Brad spends time on the family farm with his wife, two young children, and way too many animals.
Now announcing another keynote for the 2017 Annual Conference: John Lehman, Grand Rapids Fire Department Chief 

John Lehman's career in the fire service spans more than 30 years. The majority of his professional experience was earned in Aurora, Il. With the Aurora Fire Department. He Graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Fire Service Management from Southern Illinois University. Before retiring as Fire Chief in January 2016 , Chief Lehman served his community in a wide variety of roles with the Aurora Fire Department. As Fire Chief , he was responsible for more than 200 personnel and directed fire service operations in a city of 200,000 residents. Fire Chief Lehman joined the Grand Rapids Fire Department in June of 2016 and his wife Rebekah and 4 daughters reside just east of the city. 
The MLC By-laws have been amended, and the new version has been updated on the MLC website.  As members, we hope you have interest and develop familiarity with the By-laws that provide the foundation for MLC governance.
After a review of the By-laws at the May 2016 Board meeting, several outdated and inconsistent sections were identified.  Thus, the charge to convene a sub-group to develop tactics and a timeline for a By-laws re-write was given. 
A working group of Clarke, Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Rob Pease, and Rich Wolin was formed and asked to report back to the full board for direction and feedback.  Between August and November, the group met 1-2 times per week to thoroughly review and propose amendments to the By-laws.  Updates on progress and the opportunity to provide feedback were given on a bi-weekly basis to the full board.  In addition to substantive content, editorial and formatting improvements and overall organization and flow were addressed.  Procedural and standard work elements were removed from the By-laws and will be housed separately.                     
The Board moved to approve the amended By-laws as submitted at their November 10th meeting.  Any Bylaws changes require a unanimous decision by the full board which was fulfilled in subsequent voting.
To learn more about the MLC Board and your Board’s activities, you can view meeting information and Board documents by clicking on the Virtual Board tab of the MLC website after you log in.  All Board information is available to the membership and all members are welcome at Board meetings.
Lean Leadership
Leadership is one of the aspects of business that has different meanings and utilization for everyone.  It is hard to describe and relate to without common experiences.  The focus of lean, doing processes better, cheaper, easier, faster, and safer for the customer, allows for a direction and commonality for everyone to relate.  The question becomes how to implement.  

Using the Toyota Way book by Jeffery Liker and his description of the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) provides the pathway for leadership in a lean environment.  Under principle 9, we are tasked with growing leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others[1].  The theme of leadership at Toyota is the two dimensional model of bottom-up development and in-depth understanding of work.  By laying the groundwork for this long-term vision of the organization, the team members will produce lasting competitive advantage, longevity, and long-term success.  Liker describes a Toyota leader as seldom giving orders but mentor through questioning.  The goal is to building a learning organization and culture.  Several ways this is accomplished was through:
  • Focus on long-term purpose as a value-added contributor to society
  • Never deviated from the principles of the TPS
  • Lived and modeled themselves around the TPS
  • Worked their way through the organization doing detailed work
  • Continued to go to the gemba
  • Saw problems as opportunities to train and coach team members
In your experience, have you implemented this approach to change or improve your organization’s culture, grow leaders, experienced long-term business success?  What worked for your organization?  What didn’t work for your organization? 

Contact me at so we can develop a lesson learned report to help everyone in the Michigan Lean Consortium community.

Gary Kapanowski, CLSSMBB and Certified Lean Bronze professional

[1] The Toyota Way, Jeffrey Liker (2004)

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