February 2015

"Do you REALLY Value Employees?" by Dave Kippen

Every company claims to “value their employees”, or that “employees are our biggest asset”. Those words are easy to say, but the actions are much harder. If you walked into a company that touted those tag lines, what would you expect to see?
By implementing many of the philosophies that are part of Lean Systems Thinking, we are trying to take those words and put them into real actions in our businesses, hospitals, government offices and everywhere else that we want to do great work. There are several things that anyone should be able to see, touch and feel when they walk into a company that is TRULY trying to make strides to becoming the best in the world:
You should visually see a system that captures employees ideas for improvement. EVERY employee has ideas that can make the company better. The hard part is to get those ideas out of the heads of the employee! Sometimes employees have had ideas that fell on deaf ears and are now hesitant to share anything. One or two managers can never have as many good ideas as a hundred employees!

You should see a leadership team that is shoulder to shoulder with employees, asking questions about the way we do things. Not because they think that the current system is bad, but because they truly believe that tomorrow CAN be a better day than today. These leaders are actually more “coach” than “boss”. Coaches get the best out of everyone, bosses often bring out the worst. These leaders believe that 95% of all problems are process related, and it is up to them to build processes and not blame people.

You should see metrics that the employees can easily understand. How did we do yesterday? What is our goal for tomorrow? This month? This year? How can we expect any employee to improve anything if they do not understand the goals? These metrics should show us where our problems are. And in a Lean System, PROBLEMS ARE LIKE GOLD! We want to see problems! If we hide everything that is bad, we will never force ourselves to fix it.

You should see standards. Everywhere. Standards drive performance. Quality standards. Process standards. These should be easily identifiable and extremely visible in the areas that our folks are doing their work! 
Standards ensure that we all understand things in the same way. It takes the guesswork out of everything. It takes all our personal feelings and interpretation out of the decision-making process.

Last, and most importantly, you should see employees that are happy and actively engaged in their work. If you ask an employee on the floor if their ideas matter, or if they receive regular feedback on what they do well, the answer should be YES! 

It’s impossible to change the “culture” in any company.  Culture is not a thing. It is the sum of all our actions and behaviors.  It’s impossible to say how long it will take to change enough of the actions and behaviors to build a company that looks like the one from the bullet points above.  It is a journey. It is never fast enough, but when everyone sees the goal and has an open mind, you will get there much faster!

Calling All Young Professional MLC Members!

We are looking to form a Michigan Lean Consortium Young Professional Group so that we can network and talk about unique challenges facing young professionals.  This is in the beginning stages and we’re looking for ideas and suggestions!  If this sound like something you want to get involved in, please contact Christine Muscat ( or Lauren Stewart ( for additional information! We look forward to growing this group in 2015!
Holly Plaga will be taking on the role of Project Committee Chair for the MLC.  As many of you know, Holly has been involved in various roles with the project committee for over two years.  Holly is an Operational Excellence Leader within the Dart Container Corporation, based in Mason, Michigan. 

Holly has a background in Six Sigma, Lean, and Industrial Engineering, which she has used to help facilitate the Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement process throughout the country.  Holly has provided technical guidance and management of continuous improvement initiatives to a number of companies in a variety of diverse industries, including Automotive, Defense, Pharmaceutical, Health Care, and Finance.

Holly is a graduate of Michigan State University  and is both a Certified Lean Leader, and Six Sigma Black Belt.

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. 

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!



If you haven't already, Like us on Facebook and Linkedin for continuous updates!

Also... we are currently looking for volunteers for our committees! We are looking to start a fundraising committee as well. If you're interested, please reply to this email.

If you are interested in having us feature your company's lean journey in an upcoming newsletter, please reply to this email as well. 

Upcoming Events

February 27: How to Stop Whack A Mole Safety Management in Lyon Township

March (TBD): Lean for Government/Safety
May (TBD): 4th Annual Healthcare Symposium in West Bloomfield

August 12-14: 2015 Annual Conference in Traverse City

If you're not a member, don't forget most events are cheaper if you join and pay as a member! Share this with your colleagues who might be interesting in the MLC!

If you have an idea for an event or would like to host an event, please email our Event Commitee Leader Dave Kippen at Thank you!

Click to Register Now

Lean in Action: Emphasis on Global Business Excellence by Amway

Enterprise Excellence team moves Amway onward and upward.

There really is strength in numbers. Consider Enterprise Excellence (e2), a team of just 15, that has certified more than 250 business improvement consultants (and Kaizen Promoters) that globally support Amway employees across all job functions. The team helps groups identify opportunities for increased productivity, greater capacity and improved quality and safety.

“We strategically partner with Amway teams to enable powerful results,” says e2 Director Alan Simpson. “By providing business improvement leadership through boundryless teams, we can deliver breakthrough solutions and enhance enterprise capabilities.”

Agility, stability, efficiency, higher profits – whatever the need, e2 answers with tailored service programs, empowering employees to stretch their thinking by designing improvements that align with their strategic goals, which in turn support our Business Excellence strategic pillar. 

Lean Maturity Assessment enables leaders to evaluate their organization’s strengths, weakness and improvement opportunities. The rigorous nature of this program generates a plan that becomes a blueprint spanning multiple years. The Buena Park Nutrition Value Chain achieved improvements in RTQ (a measure of how much product moves through the factory meeting requirements without intervention) and RTD (a measure of how much product moves through the factory on schedule). Over a three-year period RTQ improved from 75% to 90% and RTD improved from 19% to 80%.

Business Improvement Program is a repeatable series of steps that achieves goals and opens the door for a business area to thrive. Teams master Lean Six Sigma tools and the discipline to self-guide and monitor productivity going forward. A shining example is Amway Japan’s ‘Do-Less-Better’ program, where 18 Kaizen Promoters are being trained to eliminate wasteful practices and create process efficiencies. More than 70 improvement projects are slated, and all Kaizen Promoters are seeking Yellow Belt certification.

3P Program paves the way to flawless execution of people, products and process by achieving an optimized work flow, reduced capital and inventory and increased process efficiency. A typical initiative produces more than 30% improvement, as seen in the Spaulding QA labs, whose 3P created a revolutionary way of designing new labs that resulted in $740,000 in capital savings and shortened lead times from 15 to 5 days.

Talent Development Program introduces Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques to develop human capital – a key pathway to achieving business excellence. 

Here in Ada, e2 is working with Amway North America (ANA) on Perfect Launch, an initiative that blends the Business Improvement and Talent Development Programs to drive economic value for Amway and distributors – and with great success. 
“Perfect Launch is driving sustainable improvements,” notes ANA Managing Director Jim Ayres. “Our cross-functional team identified and contained 290 ‘failure points’ in the way we serve IBOs. The number of service-related issues has gone from two pages to just one issue per week and several team members have committed to earning their Yellow Belt certification.”

You are receiving this email because you are a member of the Michigan Lean Consortium or you have attended one of our events. If you no longer wish to receive emails from MLC, please click on the unsubscribe link above and you will be removed from our mailing list.