October 2014

Lean is Not Process Improvement 
Multiple Choice:
Which of the following is NOT synonymous with lean?
a.    A culture
b.    A mindset
c.    Process Improvement
d.    A philosophy

If you read the title of this piece, you’ll know the answer is C. Why then do so many people think they are the same? Maybe it’s because improving processes is a tangible way of ‘seeing’ lean in action. Maybe it’s because one person said they were synonymous and it spread like wildfire. How could something so wrong be so prevalent in the minds of people?

Don’t get me wrong, process improvement is certainly a big piece of the lean pie but many people forget that the REST of the pie is needed in order for the ultimate in process improvement to take place and be called lean.  

The other necessary elements to complete the lean pie are:

•    A coaching style of leadership: Can you restrain yourself from giving the answers and direction that might be appropriate and let people figure out things for themselves with subtle guidance? Can you encourage people to step outside their comfort zone?
•    Acceptance and encouragement of experimentation: Can you simply ask ‘what did you learn’ or ‘how can this be improved’ if an experimental change to a process does not work? Can you be patient and allow the team to try new ideas?
•    Not blaming others (even if they did make an error): Can you refrain from pointing the finger? Most people know they did something wrong. Instead of rubbing it in, help them recover. I haven’t met the perfect man or the perfect woman yet.
•    Creating a safe environment in which team members can discuss problems and show red on a status report: Can you listen, not interrupt then ask challenge and learning questions about how to move forward?
•    Ability to see and address waste: Can you do a waste walk (virtual or physical) and see waste? Can you see waste in your daily life outside of work? Can you show the waste to others and convince them to help address them?
•    Deploying priorities and measures throughout the organization at every level: Can everyone on your team explain how their job affects the measures and vision of the organization?
•    Promotions based on the use of, creation of and demonstration of all the above elements: Do you promote people based on these criteria or just based on whether they achieved their annual goals? Or because they are politically astute? 

The next time someone uses ‘lean’ and ‘process improvement’ synonymously I challenge you to be a change agent and address it. If no one ever addresses it, the misuse of the phrase will continue. I suppose there are much worse things in life than to use these as synonyms but over time this will change the meaning of lean and the culture, mindset and philosophy may be lost. 

-Debra Levantrosser, Co-Founder of the Michigan Lean Consortium

Lean in Action 

The John and Marnie Demmer Center for Business Transformation was recently established by a significant gift to assist Michigan manufacturing businesses transform into lean, agile global competitors, increasing their presence and profitability in domestic as well as global markets, and opening the doors to new employment opportunities for Michigan workers. Through the Demmer Center, The Lean Apprenticeship Program provides MSU graduate and undergraduate students with the opportunity for “hands-on” learning by working on high-impact lean projects with partner organizations.  For more information, contact Jim Manley or Kristin St. Marie.

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

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Volunteer Spotlight

Victoria Lacasse is currently a Senior at Michigan State University and is studying Comparative Cultures and Politics, with a specialization in Muslim Studies at James Madison College. She also serves as a Resident Assistant on campus at Shaw Hall, a Student Assistant at the Demmer Center for Business Transformation and the Vice President of Communications for the MSU chapter of the Student Michigan Lean Consortium. Victoria has been working with the MLC for nearly two years now, and hopes to see many more Michigan students becoming involved in the next few years! 


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Upcoming Events

2014 Annual Healthcare Symposium: Lean Strategies in Transforming Patient Care - October 10, 2014 in Muskegon

Lean 103 ELGA Series - November 7, 2014 in Burton

Benchmarking at Amway - November 21, 2014 in Ada

End of Year Event - December 5, 2014 in Troy

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"Lean Leadership for Healthcare"
Ron Bercaw, President of Breakthrough Horizons

This presentation covers the essential elements of lean leadership for transforming a healthcare organization. The presentation begins with an understanding of deploying a lean strategy to create world class improvement in performance and culture. A road map for lean deployment from standing up your infrastructure through sustainability and spread follows. The presentation closes with an understanding of avoiding unnecessary risk in the transformation journey and an understanding of the leadership behaviors and attributes necessary to ensure success.

Breakout Sessions will include:

Breakout Session 1 Option #1: “Lean Transformation Model: Implications for Beginning and Sustaining Lean in Enterprises.” by Lester Sutherland, Sr. Lean Six Sigma Coach

Breakout Session 1 Option #2: “Supply chain improvements: moving from the model line to hospital wide implementation” by Amy Sequeira, Performance Improvement Training, Education, and Yokoten Manager, Kristin Hurt , Process Engineer and Registered Nurse, and Ryan Adams, Process Engineer, Spectrum Health Systems, Grand Rapids

Breakout Session 1 Option #3: “Lean Daily Management: Leadership in the Gemba” by Jamie Klimp, Process Management Consultant and Eduardo Osorio, Process Management Consultant

Breakout Session 2 Option #1: “Leveraging Lean Management in Healthcare: the System, Tools and Teacher” by Margy Dayton, RN, Senior Process Excellence Consultant and Heather Toppen, Senior Process Excellence Consultant , Mercy Health Systems, Grand Rapids

Breakout Session 2 Option #2: “Leveraging Lean Process Improvement Methodology to Enhance Patient's End of Life Care” by Brian Vander Weele, Senior Process Engineer, Spectrum Health Systems, Grand Rapids

Breakout Session 3 Option #1: “How To Use Lean Principles to Overcome A Broken Paradigm” by Cynthia Seaver, Certified Six Sigma Black Belt & Lean Expert and 2014 MLC/Mercy Health Hackle Hospital HealthCare Symposium Planning Committee Member

Breakout Session 3 Option #2: “EPIC Reinventing Efficiency: Changing organizational culture one step at a time” by Christopher Kamarada, MDOC Dental Reporting LEAN Team Manager and Jeffrey A. Taylor, DDS, MDOC Dental Reporting LEAN Team Leader, Michigan Dept. of Corrections

The Day will Conclude with a Presentation:
“Waste not, want not - conducting a Lean assessment” by Todd Sperl, Lean Coach, Lean Fox Solutions and Jeff Nagy, Critical Access Hospital Consultant ,The Rybar Group


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