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2019 Kick-Off Event: Sustaining Lean Change Interactive Session

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Feb. 21, 2019

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February 22, 2019
MLC Kick Off Event

March 21, 2019
NuCraft - Kata, Visual Management, Gemba 

March 22, 2019
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August 7-9, 2019

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From Our Members
Small Change, Big Result – Tip from a Local Restaurant
By Murray Sittsamer, President of The Luminous Group
The Luminous Group is a Michigan-based resource helping organizations improve quality, productivity, and profitability.

While waiting to meet a coworker for lunch recently, I struck up a conversation with the manager of the restaurant. He shared that he had recently been promoted from Kitchen Manager to the Restaurant Manager.
As a manufacturing process consultant, I was curious to know how he perceived the difference between managing a busy kitchen (process-focused) and managing a bustling restaurant (customer-focused). The manager, a self-proclaimed “people person,” answered that although he really enjoys working at the front of the restaurant and talking with customers, he has still been brainstorming procedures that might improve productivity back in the kitchen.
The plate was not pretty
The friendly manager went on to describe a problem that he and his kitchen staff regularly faced. When a dish would be plated, garnished, and served to a patron, there was no standard in place for the presentation of a dish. If two people at the same table ordered the same entrée, their plates often looked completely different.
“Customers would ask if their order had been incorrectly fulfilled,” he explained. “Sometimes they sent their dish back to the kitchen.” A standard had never been implemented to direct and verify the meal plating process.  It became apparent that patrons were dissatisfied with the inconsistent presentation of their meal.  With this new knowledge of complaints, the manager offered the challenge to his colleagues in the kitchen.  The problem was quickly solved and held in place via standards (included sample photos) of the desired plating presentation for the various meals on the menu.
There’s a process to approach the problem
When we work with clients facing recurring quality problems, we start by identifying the processes through which the client creates their product and the quality standards the client has set for its workforce. Before jumping to the conclusion that a quality problem is the fault of an employee, we consider management’s role in the problem. For example, there could be many explanations for why a component is missing from an assembly or the wrong quantity of a product is shipped.  Understand that there is a surface cause and an underlying root cause of these problems.
The surface cause is specific to the problem and might be found with some observation, investigation or tracking (e.g. “employee had the rice hidden under the fish”).  But there are typically only three systemic root causes to any quality-related problem.  These systemic issues must be addressed in order for your workforce -- and you -- to get the best result.  The three underlying root-causes are:
  1. No standard was set for how to perform the work, plate the meal set-up the machine, etc.
  2. The standard set is incorrect or is not optimal
  3. The standard wasn’t followed
Process and Standards determine results

Process is easy to create, usually not difficult to learn, but hard to perfect.  In the manufacturing industry, there are many things to control to get everything right the first time. Parameters that are not optimized leads to scrap (e.g., leaks, flash, poor welds, test failures, etc.) and potentially costly customer issues.  In healthcare, errors lead to infections, readmissions or worse.  In education, suboptimal standards and policies that aren’t enforced lead to variation, lower performance levels, and conflict.  Every industry suffers when essential standards are not in-place.
Apply this tip yourself and share with others
You may not be running a restaurant, but you can certainly borrow the meal plating idea from the restaurant manager. When a work quality standard does not exist, establish a standard. When a standard is not delivering positive results for you or your company, study the problem and improve the standard.  And remember that when front line employees are involved in defining standards and understand the impact of work not performed correctly, they are much more likely to follow established processes and rules.
The next time you encounter a quality-related problem in your company, try this yourself.  You might find that setting standards where they are missing or unclear, will improve outcomes. Your colleagues will appreciate the clarity of your expectations and your customers will certainly appreciate the result.
Murray started The Luminous Group in 1999 and has been an MLC member for over 8 years. He can be reached via
Member Feature
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Our very own MLC Chair, Rob Pease, works at Nucraft in Grand Rapids. They will be hosting an event in March that focuses on Kata, Visual Management, and Gemba. Stay tuned for more details! 

In the meantime, learn more about Nucraft: 

For 74 years, Nucraft has worked with customers to create inspiring conference rooms, private offices, and training spaces. Every day, Nucraft serves customers with imaginative solutions that integrate technology and furniture in new and inventive ways.

Founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1944 by George W. Schad, Nucraft's early days were built upon an idea to craft solid walnut Chippendale office accessories, such as coat racks, letter trays, and wastepaper baskets. These served as a complement to elegant office desks from manufacturers such as Stow Davis.

*I apologize for the typo in the previously sent newsletter that stated Rob was the President and not Chair.
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