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Upcoming Events:
  • July 19 - Lean Coffee Chat in Grand Rapids
  • July 19 - Webinar: “Prioritizing lean projects at the State of Michigan: Going from FIFO to Strategic Prioritization” 
  • August 8-10 - Annual Conference in Traverse City
If you have any ideas for events in 2018 or would like to be on the planning team, please respond to this email!

We have some really exciting new offerings, including the opportunity to have dinner with a board member!

Learn more about the conference, check out the agenda and sign up! If you are a member, register using the email that was sent to you for the membership rate. 
The MLC’s first student chapter has formed in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan and it is called Michigan Lean Consortium Consulting (MLCC)! According to Minjun Zhao, MLCC President and graduate student in Industrial and Operations Engineering,  Michigan Lean Consortium Consulting is a pro-bono student organization that that has successfully completed projects with many local businesses since its inception in January 2018. As a result, these businesses have benefited from our team’s creative vision and innovative approach to minimizing costs, reducing lead time, and improving service quality. In return, our team is rewarded with the invaluable experience of working with professionals and gaining insight into different industries.
MLCC is now seeking Lean project opportunities at companies in the Ann Arbor area for Fall semester (September 2018 - December 2018). Please email Minjun Zhao <> if you are interested in working with MLCC or have any questions. Click HERE to see the informational flyer.
You can learn more about MLCC by visiting its website at
Greetings MLC Members! 

My name is Brian DeVries and I am a Board member and Tech & Social Media lead for the MLC.  In an effort to continue to add more and more value to your membership, I wanted to do something with our newsletter we haven’t done before and post an article from a friend of mine in South Africa.  Tshepo Thobejane is an Associate at Lean Institute Africa and the Founder at Menjik Group.  He recently wrote an article for LIA and I liked it so much, I asked if he would be willing to share it with our group, to which he obliged!  I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.  Please pass along any feedback or questions you may have to me:!  


Brian J. DeVries
Board of Directors
Technology & Social Media Lead

Could it be that we are natural born problem solvers?

By: Tshepo Thobejane

We could debate that not all of us have the same ability to problem-solve or we may disagree on the problems that deserve our attention. Empowering employees to become problem-solvers enables organisations to succeed in their lean transformation. But before employees can become problem-solvers, it is recommended the organisation first clarify its purpose, providing its employees with a shared understanding of the problems they need to work on. This thinking and process connects strategy with problem-solving activities on the ground.
In our mission to develop problem-solvers in everyone, everyday, who tackle the right problems, I would like to explore the inherent human tendencies that potentially inhibit us from reaching our true problem-solving potential. To begin, let’s partake in some light-hearted exercises to shine a light on how our brains respond to various situations.

Exercise 1
Count the number of times that the letter F appears in the sentence below.


How many letters did you find? Most people say three, but the correct answer is six. If you didn’t get this number please look again. We struggle to find all the letters when our brains don’t correctly process the word “of.”

Exercise 2
Read out the following. Is it true?


Exercise 3
Do not read the words. Look at the chart below and say the COLOUR not the word. How fast can you complete this task?

This exercise demonstrates what is known as the Stroop Effect. Reading is a mental process that happens quicker and more automatic than analytic tasks such as identifying colours. There is conflict between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The right side tries to say the colour but the left side insists on reading the word.

Exercise 4
Which horizontal line section is longer?

The above images are known as the Müller-Lyer Illusion. Section A appears longer than section B but in reality the two sections have the same length. This illusion shows how our space perception mechanisms can lead us to make wrong judgements on the length of lines. You can use a ruler to measure and confirm that the lines are equal. But even after knowing that they are equal, your mind will still see section A as longer than section B.

To better understand how our brains work and respond, I highly recommend reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman (see LIA book review here). It’s an eye-opener.
Kahneman brings our attention to the concept of two mental processes which we use for making judgements and decisions. System 1 is the fast thinking system that is automatic and operates with little or no effort. System 2 is the slow thinking system which draws mental effort and is deliberate.
The knowledge and skills accumulated by System 1 are stored in memory and accessed without intention or effort; they are therefore used the most. The use of System 2 is minimised because its activity needs attention and its cognitive tasks are disrupted when attention is drawn away. System 1 influences most of our judgements and decisions but when it runs into difficulties it calls on System 2 to give more detailed and specific processing that may solve the problem. The automatic processes of System 1 explain the heuristics of judgement which lead to biased systematic errors under specified circumstances. The use of System 1 is the reason why most people will make errors in the above exercises without noticing. Think about the last problem you encountered. Can you remember which system was triggered first? What would you do differently after hearing about the two systems? Which system is more suitable to successful problem-solving? Check out this great video by John Shook on Thinking Fast and Slow to explain it further.  

Exercise 5
Read the following paragraph. Does it make sense?

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I have asked a number of people to read this paragraph and most people were pleased that they could read and comprehend the contents. In one way our ability to read this paragraph can be seen as a commendable feat, but is this also something to be concerned about? Let’s ask ourselves: “Is this sub-conscious process whereby the observed evidence (scrambled words in this example) is transformed to look like something we already know (familiar words) happening at other times when we least need it?” Not being aware of our fast, automatic thinking means that we are most likely to stumble at the first step of problem-solving, because our ability to accurately perceive our problems could be compromised by our System 1.

How can we use this insight?

In our learning journey to Lean Thinking, let’s be conscious of two barriers to sound problem-solving influenced by our human nature:
  • Jumping from problem to solution
  • Assuming we know more than we do
To help curb the urge to jump and assume, we encourage structured problem-solving methods (such as A3 Thinking), measurements and analytical tools that work together to use the more considered, slow thinking function and to reduce bias. Of course the task doesn’t end with the tools because leaders have a key role to play as coaches and to develop the support system for the value-adding problem-solvers.
I hope we can agree that developing problem-solvers is not an easy task. It should not be left to simply happen and grow organically on its own, but rather let’s consider deliberate, slow-thinking efforts we can make to nurture it whilst building on our natural born abilities.

In conclusion, I can only marvel at the words of the former Toyota Chairman, Fujio Cho, when he was quoted saying:

"First we build people, then we build cars". 

How does your organisation build problem-solvers? What is the role played by leadership and the Human Resource department in developing problem-solvers in your organisation? 
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We also have a new Linkedin page! Click here to connect to get job opportunities, lean articles, and new announcements! 

MLC Family,

First things first: thank you, because without you the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) would not exist! 

We have an awesome opportunity to present for this organization.  We are starting our search for a new MLC President.  The President of the MLC is the one who runs the day-to-day operations, works closely with the Board of Directors, collaborates with Team Leaders for all major functions within the organization, and manages other independent contractors and MLC contracts.  The Board of Directors provides the direction and aim for the organization with the President carrying out the mission.

Our President’s position is that of an independent contractor, so there is built-in flexibility.  The current requirement is for a part-time position with the hourly rate being negotiable; however, this position can become anything that the right person creates, as long as it aligns with our mission and supports our current and future members.  In addition to having the right skillset, our President will also need to reside in our beautiful state in order to be regularly accessible to do the work of the organization.

Our President should be a self-directed leader who can grow the MLC and cultivate innovative partnerships and opportunities to expand the reach of the organization.  The right person will be passionate about lean and comfortable facilitating, coaching, and leading our volunteer organization to make the MLC the leading lean organization in the Midwest.

So what do we need from you? Engage your network, pass along this announcement, or give thoughtful consideration to putting in an application if you are the right person for this opportunity. 

A detailed job description and how to apply can be found below!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. My contact information can be found below.

Thank you again.  We are excited for the next step in our organization’s journey.


Rob Pease

Interim President/Chair of the Board

Learn more & apply now!
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