EC 055: Engaging Staff and Volunteers – Deconstruction and Reuse Conference

In this podcast, I share the audio from a presentation I gave to the Deconstruction and Reuse Conference in Pittsburgh, PA on October 29, 2019. The conference was setup by the Build Reuse (formerly Building Material Reuse Association). I was invited to speak based on my work with reuse organizations like ReStore and The Rebuilding Center. I also presented a Lean overview webinar with them for Lean Portland.

In this presentation, I give recommendations to organizations on how to engage their staff and volunteers in process improvement, using the following techniques:

  • Daily huddles
  • Andon
  • Teach 8 wastes (overview)
  • Go to gemba
  • Improvement time
  • PDCA
  • Coaching
  • Standard work
  • Check sheets
  • 2 second improvements

You can watch the video below to see the slides that accompany the presentation.



Brion (B):  Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming. How many of you have heard about Lean methodology? Okay, good. What I want to talk to you about is a system that’s based on that, those principles, and how that can be used to engage your staff, your workers, your volunteers in coming up with ideas where they can start to implement some ideas instead of it being put on the supervisors or managers for being responsible. I’m going to walk through a little system and see what elements of this already exists in your organization, and maybe which ones you can maybe consider adding or enhancing the way in which you do it. I’ve got a couple of videos to show as well.

I’m Brion Hurley. I run a consulting business in Portland Oregon called Business Performance Improvement. I also have a group that I work with in Portland, that’s called Lean Portland, and our group is a volunteer organization of practitioners like myself. I spent 18 years in aerospace, and most of that time was just learning and understanding these concepts and tools on what large corporations are doing around improvement work. But as I started going further in my career, I started realizing that these concepts work for a lot of things; not just big companies looking to save money. They actually work as well for environmental problems and social issues, and so that got me really interested in sustainability and nonprofit work. There was a group in Portland just kind of getting started where we were trying to teach these concepts to nonprofits who maybe can’t afford their own consulting or training. So I’ll talk to you about my work with Rebuilding Center – many of you have heard about them – Habitat restored a couple of locations in Portland. Another group is called Free Geek and they actually refurbish electronic equipment – computers, laptops, monitors, mobile devices – and then another group that kind of touches on some of this but people with barriers to employment, there’s a group called Relay Resources in town that I did a little work on as well.

Also related to that, for-profit groups, there’s a wallet manufacturer I was working with that was trying to be zero waste and sustainably sustainable, a company near Portland that takes clothing that’s been returned and tries to stitch it up and repair it and resell it, and Republic Services has trash and waste management. A lot of those things all fall under this umbrella of kind of a different way of looking at operations that is maybe in the reverse of what I’m used to and that’s been kind of a learning curve, so I’ll share some of those examples as we go through. And if you have questions feel free to interrupt.

I just want to hit on a couple of things about Lean and the pillars of the concept and then talk about what are the action plans to go and kind of build out the system because if you just have it be sporadic, it’s going to fall apart and it needs to be structured in some way. You don’t have to have super structure, but you have to have something there that people can understand when I submit an idea, this is where it goes, and if they don’t like my idea, there’s a feedback loop that I understand. It’s not going into a black hole somewhere.

The current state, maybe you’re overwhelmed with so many ideas from your staff and volunteers that you don’t know what to do. Sometimes that’s the problem. Usually, it’s the other one is no ideas or not many ideas coming in from your teams. Maybe you’ve got a lot of ideas but you don’t have time to make the improvements because you’re still busy keeping up with the day-to-day stuff. Maybe you’re not able to see or identify or find all the problems that are going on or you’re not sure how to fix them or which ones to start with. And so there’s a lot of challenges I see in organizations about these types of questions.

We’re going to just start off with a video. I think that’s the best way to explain. I found this group in New Orleans, called St. Bernard Project, who has actually gotten consulting work from Toyota and we’ll talk about Toyota here. This, I thought, would be most related for this audience and gives you a little bit of an idea of what they’re doing.


Female Speaker (FS):  Did they pay for Toyota for that training?

B:  I don’t think so.

FS:  Is that the kind of training that you buy for it?

B:  That’s a good question. I don’t know how they operate. They do some government work, they do some nonprofit, and they also help their suppliers. It started off, originally, as a supplier development program, but I think it’s pro bono. They usually give them eight weeks at a time. There’s another video I’ll show tomorrow in the workshop that all gets into more detail on some of the tools. But they’ll do eight-week projects and then I’ll go in because I know they worked with them for a couple of years and so they have a rotate people through, and so it’s kind of like a development program for those people as well. But they’ll partner with certain organizations, but I think it’s pro bono.

And I don’t work for Toyota. This is just they’re probably the best-known company that’s doing process improvement and the one that’s been most successful. They’ve had a very successful run. They’ve had the challenges but they’re kind of the model for improving processes. It’s kind of like they self-impose a rigor around how they make improvements every day. One of the things they mentioned in the video was continuous improvement – every day, people making small improvements. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, huge investments in new systems and IT and capital equipment and things like that. It’s little things everybody can do to make the process better. But the piece I want to focus on here is respect for the people, which is the other pillar, in that we don’t just impose changes on the people. We engage them and bring them into the fold and let them be part of the solution and bring up the ideas so that, when we rollout these changes, they’re clamoring for these ideas because it was theirs or they were involved in that process.

The other piece of that is teamwork is that we work together. You can’t have isolated improvements that cause problems for someone else or another part of the department or to your customers. Go and see is another concept where you have to go, physically, with your own set of eyes and look at the problem. You can’t decide things in a conference room or in your office; you have to go out and talk to people who are experiencing the problem and say, “What’s going on? Tell me what’s happening here. Show me what’s going on here.” That shows a level of respect that says, “You’re the expert. You tell me how things are going,” versus, “I’m the manager, I’m the supervisor; I’m going to tell you what you need to do to fix it.”

Ask why. A lot of questions, not just at the symptom level but really get it down into what’s the process that broke down. And then focus on that process and not the people so we’re not assigning blame. We assume people are here because they’re trying to do a good job and let’s start with that premise. And then if we find out someone is struggling and they’re not trying or they’re sabotaging the process, that’s different. But most of the time, people are here to try to do a good job; it’s the processes that are getting in the way or lack of processes. And working together; not in silos. So again if I push my work to somebody else, that’s not improvement. You just created a bigger problem potentially, so you’ve got to look at the whole process all the way around.

These are the pieces that I feel like make up a really good improvement and engagement program, so I run through these at a high-level here. The first one is a daily huddle. How many of you have some kind of a daily meeting at the beginning of the day to recap? A few of you, great. I’ve got a little video to show. This is an example in healthcare, but I think they go through the structure and the simplicity of what they’re doing to give you an example of what a good structured, organized huddle would like. Maybe you’ll pick up some pointers if you’re already doing it or maybe you’ll get some motivation to try something like this.


B:  Does that look like your huddles? Well organized, streamlined, everyone standing, quick? Good. There may be some opportunities there. The reason that I bring up huddle is because that’s the first opportunity to kind of talk about the day before, which is maybe hectic and a lot of things happening and there are issues going on and you don’t have time and you’re just trying to get through the day and get through the struggles of the day. Then the next day is your opportunity to kind of reflect back and say, “Why did we struggle so much? where did we have the breakdown? Is there something we can do better next time?” Sometimes we forget to go back and talk about that; we’re just ready to jump right in the next day. But this is our opportunity to first bring up those problems and say, “You know what? this has been an annoying, ongoing thing. We should really decide to go tackle that and go work on that issue.”

To me, this is a good place to recap the previous day and say what’s coming forward the rest of today? Can we do anything to mitigate the potential problems that are there? and they’re already looking ahead like, “We usually get about eight beds and we’re down to two, so we’ve got to figure out something. We don’t want to get caught off guard and be scrambling in the afternoon in trying to get these beds ready.” So that was starting to get a little more proactive, and that was the other piece of this. So kind of reflecting on the previous day, how did it go, but also looking ahead. So that’s a good starting point and that’s the first thing I would recommend is having those meetings to kind of get ideas and feedback.

Another principle is called Andon, which is how do you alert somebody when there is a problem. A lot of the companies that I’ve worked with or done tours of who do high-volume manufacturing, they have light systems and some of them are audible systems. And so when you hear a certain music playing, that says that certain department needs to come help out and so just by the sound, you can say, “That’s me.” Whatever you’re doing, you drop it and you go attend to the frontline worker is struggling at the time for whatever reason – whether it’s too many people in line or whether there’s a huge delivery coming in and they’re overwhelmed. But what does your alert system look like? how do you signal problems? maybe it’s walkie-talkie, maybe it’s a phone call, maybe it’s cell text, but you should have a system where when you are stuck or need help, how do you quickly escalate that problem and get attention to it so someone isn’t struggling and suffering through that.

It could be a flag system. We would use different color flags and they just pop them up and you can walk by and say, “There’s a red flag. What’s going on? what you need help with?” and the support team would come in and jump in. So it could be lights, it could be audible – this is a cord. Actually, they pull a cord in a vehicle assembly line and any operator can stop the entire line. When they feel like there’s a problem or a concern, if they find something that’s out of place or in the wrong spot or there’s a defect or an error, they can stop the entire assembly line and everybody stands and waits because what they don’t want to do is proceed and create more problems and create a bigger mess later on. They’d rather stop it frequently than find out, at the end of the day, that they’ve got a huge mess to deal with. Any questions about Andon system? Does anyone have a system they feel is a pretty good alert system or is it just kind of yell out for help?

Male Speaker (MS):  We use walkie-talkies.

B:  Walkie-talkies, yeah, I’ve seen that’s pretty commonly used and that works too. And then maybe just having some rules or some guidance for people that say it’s okay to ask for help and that’s good and we want to encourage that. We don’t want people to be overwhelmed trying to be a superhero when the customer is suffering or waiting too long. So just making sure it’s okay to ask for help and then having enough walkie-talkies and knowing when they should be escalating and bringing up the need for help. Anybody else? anybody have a kind of system? yeah?

MS:  We have a bell system. When our receiving department runs out of flat parts, to bring stuff out into the store, so there’s literally a doorbell back there that they’ll press and that alerts our store staff to bring over parts.

B:  That’s good. Or even just like any kind of audible things, sometimes just the hose that makes a little ding sound, like at a gas station, just to kind of signal somebody’s out there. They don’t want people to wait, or there’s an issue. So think about what that might look like.

Then, as we start talking through it, rule one and two is start to learn what does inefficiency look like, what we would call, the term is, waste. There’s an acronym called TIMWOODS which describes the different types of waste in the process and I’m going to dig deeper into this in tomorrow’s workshop in the morning. Anytime you see moving and transportation, we have to ask is that the best use of our time right now? Is there a way to bring things closer? Do we have to move things? one of the things that I notice a lot is a lot of touching, multiple times, of certain items and maybe creating a new pile, and then moving it over a little bit to make room for something else, and then shifting it a little more to a spot. That’s a lot of motion and movement that maybe, if there’s a better structure in place, we don’t have to waste so much time rearranging the deck chair, so to speak.

Inventory is an indicator of where problems might be. When you see a backup of supplies or you see a pile of something, to me, my first thought is there’s a problem over there because we’re not able to handle that volume and it’s stacking up or piling up. So when I look for inventory, I look for potential problems. Barriers into the flow or bottlenecks in the process. So you see a long line of people waiting to check out, that’s a barrier. Something is missing – we don’t have cross-training, we don’t have the right staffing at the right time of day, we had people off doing something else instead of working with the customer, we have a backlog of supplies that aren’t getting dealt with. So inventory is a trigger that something might be going on that we can dig into.

Motion, just excessive movement of things. That could be in your workspace, it could be at your desk, it could be I’ve got to click through 10 different screens to get to where I want to or I’ve got to download this file and convert it to three different formats before I can get it into the usable format that I need, it could be I have to jump seven different screens. Every time where you’re thinking this is keeping me from getting to the actual task I’m trying to do, then there’s an opportunity that motion is in the way. So you just kind of look and say why am I keep going back and forth at this point? why don’t I bring it closer to me?

Waiting – for information, waiting for decisions to be made, waiting for help, waiting for a question to be answered, waiting for someone to come back from their break, waiting for someone to come back from vacation – that’s should all be triggering an idea of why is this causing a problem in our process? is there something we can do about it? not everything you can solve right away, but you just start to notice that this keeps happening. This is something that should be addressed.

Over-processing sometimes is really interesting. This is going above and beyond what your customers actually care about. So you think you’re doing a really good job and you’ve put all of these fancy bells and whistles on your process and maybe you do some extra processing on your items, but your customer doesn’t notice or care about it. And so all the time you’re spending doing something that is not valuable to your end customer, you have to ask why are we doing that. If they don’t care about it, why do we take the time to care about it? and so you’ve just got to go back and, again, talk to your customers and say, “Do you want this extra level of detail? do you want it bundled in a certain way or not? If we’re spending an extra five minutes per item and you don’t care about that extra work that we did, we should stop doing that and free up our time to go do something else that you do care about.” Or maybe it’s changed and so we’re going to stop doing this and we’re going to start doing this. You have to have a dialogue with your customers and not just say, “They’ll like this.” Make sure, ask them. And that changes over time, too; it doesn’t stay static. What used to be not very important now becomes important and what used to be important is no longer important anymore, so your customers, they keep changing, unfortunately.

Overproduction, working on something before it’s needed. You’ve got plenty of items already out on the floor and you realize that someone is in the back trying to fix another item that you don’t even have room for, and yet, we’re short on some other supplies and nobody is working on those items. So we’ve got a mismatch of resources and the right time, so how do we get the right thing done at the right time? if you say, “Don’t work on that now. We don’t need those; we do need these over here,” and how do we get that coordination going so we’re not processing and handling things that we don’t need to be handling right now.

Defects and errors, mistakes, that also holds up your process quite a bit. Obviously, it means you have to fix it and do it over again and maybe your customer is the one that finds it, so that’s not good. That’s a big one that causes all kinds of other inefficiencies in your process.

The last one is do we have the right people in the right jobs. Maybe we have a mismatch of skill sets and the person who’s really good with customers is in the back, and the person not so good with customers is out in front and one person is really good at marketing but they’re not doing marketing work and someone else is really good on the computer and they’re fixing of items. Maybe that’s not the best skill set fit and maybe they’re going to get frustrated and then end up finding other work somewhere else. If you can just realign with the resources and get them in the right seat, maybe they’ll have a better experience, they’ll be more productive, they’ll like their work better. So these are the types of things we’re looking for.

MS:  And training is a part of that, too, right? That’s what you do with your training programs.

B:  Right, yeah. And so what is your strategy and planning around training people? one of the key things for waste is having flexible, well-trained people to be able to jump in when the customer ebbs and flows with what they want. Of course, you can’t control when the donations come in or when the requests come through, but if you have well-trained people with lots of different skill sets, that’s very valuable in a Lean system because we can put people in the right seats to fulfill that immediate need. You see that at grocery stores. Something gets backed up and someone comes out from stocking shelves and they run up and they check-out someone. That flexibility is really helpful when you have these ups and downs in your customer needs.

Talk about this idea around going to the workplace, it’s called the gemba in Japanese, and it’s go to where the work is actually being done, interact with the people doing the work, and that’s where you’re going to make improvements and solve problems. First of all, it’s showing respect to say, “I understand what you do. I’m seeing what you do. In fact, you should show me the steps you’re going through.” Because I’ve heard a lot of people say, “My manager or supervisors, they don’t really know my job or know what I do exactly,” so this is a first attempt to kind of go out there. Once people feel like you understand what they’re doing, they’re going to be more open to giving ideas and feel more valued. That’s a big barrier for people to make improvements is they’ve got to feel like their idea is going to be listened to. So you’re building trust and that I care about you, I care about the work you’re doing, and I want to hear the ideas you have. So whenever you’re trying to decide about something, think about I need to go physically go look at it myself.

MS:  I have a funny story. When I go to my production workshop, sometimes I’m in such a rush to get through to the task at hand, I forget some of the absolute basics, which is like saying hello to everybody. One time, I did this and one of the guys said something to the supervisor, “Why doesn’t Jesse say hi to me or anything?” So now, every time, I make this big, huge deal and everyone loves it. I’m like I go in and practically hug everybody and then come through the shop. So it means a lot to folks that you actually go in there and say hello.

B:  I think people get frustrated. Even though they love the work, they might enjoy the position or the organization, it’s nice to be recognized and know that I’m a person and people aren’t paying attention to me. And you can have fun at this too; it doesn’t have to be all serious.

Another barrier I’ve seen is not any time dedicated to make improvements. You can have ideas all day long, but if you don’t have time carved out to actually make the improvements, when are we going to get these things done? sometimes just the authorization that says you are allowed a certain amount of time in your day to work on improvements, make your processes better, make that form simpler, create a training program for the job you do, make some visuals in the area, color code that shelf. Whatever the idea is, you need to give people time to actually work on these things and say, “It’s okay. We know that the investment of an hour is going to pay for itself over every day or every week or every month. We’re going to get that money back and it’s an investment in the time.”

So my suggestion is 10 to 15 minutes a day or at least an hour a week of just getting out of the process and working on the process; not buried in the process. Because there’s always going to be stuff that needs to be done, but if you’re never having time to fix and improve the process, people will always be struggling with that process. This will build over time as you start realizing this is working and we’re getting some real benefits here, you can even bump that number up. But first, just kind of get the idea that it’s okay for you to take time out to make the process better, so you’re authorizing that team to make improvements. Does anyone have anything like that you have time allocated officially?

MS:  [Discusses experience of shifting his start time to allow time to work on special projects]

B:  That’s great. That’s just trying to get, in some way, kind of aligning your time with when you can actually get the work done and kind of balancing your schedule to match when you’re available to do that kind of work. But also thinking next level is when can I make that paperwork process more efficient, and during that time, do I have a little bit of time carved out to say why am I sending out these reports to people? are they actually reading these reports? Are they opening the file I’m sending? I’m spending all this effort on it. If no one’s opening this file, why am I doing this? that’s the quickest way to save time and be more efficient is stop doing stuff that nobody looks at or cares about.

Some people have done a little test and they say, “I’m not going to send out that monthly report and if nobody contacts me, that’s a good sign that maybe no one is looking at it.” If your information is really important, someone’s going to be like, “Where’s that report at? I’ve got to finish my piece.” If no one contacts you – and I’ve had this many, many times happen – people realize. It’s kind of disappointing at first, but then they realize why aren’t they looking at it? Go talk to them and find out and they might say, “I can get this somewhere else already,” or, “It’s not providing me what I need,” and then that’s a good discussion to say, “What can I do to make it useful for you?” So maybe it’s just changing what you do, or stop doing it because they don’t need it anymore, or maybe you can do a little bit of it that they do like and then add more things that they don’t have that they would like to see, and you might still save time and give them a more valuable solution to what they’re looking for. So you just kind of have to keep challenging these things and say is anybody using this information.

Also, start to get people in the habit of thinking through what they’re improving. This is a common approach called the Plan-Do-Check-Act or Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. A lot of people jump to this, “I’m just going to start doing a bunch of stuff,” and we want to take a little step back and say why are you doing that? what problem are you solving with this action? You want to rearrange the way which material gets handled when it comes off of a truck. Great. Why? what’s the current problem that you think this is going to solve? Let’s make sure that we understand the problem first before we just throw out solutions to the problem.

And then what are you going to actually do first and can we try that out on a small scale without buying a bunch of equipment and finding out that it didn’t work? what can we do very simplistically to test it out first? then let’s do it and then let’s go back and look to see did that work. Did what we decide and implement, did it actually work or not? and sometimes we find out it didn’t work or it did or it’s hard to tell – we don’t really have good data or we don’t have good information to know that, but that’s good to at least have that discussion and say, instead of just trying a bunch of things, let’s stop and reflect on what we did. Because maybe we’re on the right track, we just need to keep tweaking it, or maybe it actually backfired and got worse. And actually, that’s okay. We’ve got to let people feel like they can try things and it fails and it’s not a bad thing because if people are afraid of making improvements, they will shut down and they won’t bring up ideas because it’s too risky. We need to let people feel comfortable with trying things out and failing; that’s how we learn. So you’ve got to create that culture where people are okay with bringing forth ideas and trying it and, if it doesn’t work out, we learned something. We learned that that doesn’t work, or at least in the current way that we’re doing it. Maybe we need to tweak it a little bit.

And then the final piece is adjust. What did we learn and what do we do next? do we keep going on this path? Do we try something different? but this is just a simple framework to get people thinking about it instead of just rushing in and just trying a lot of things, it’s let’s think through this a little bit in a more structured way. Not as a barrier, but just as a thought process around how we make improvements. What I see a lot is a lot of Do, very little Planning, hardly any Checking back to see if it actually worked, and then it kind of stops with one idea and it should be continuous, ongoing improvements over time.

The other piece of this is if you are the manager or supervisor of the area, your role is going to change. If you are the one that gives all the solutions, you will continually be overwhelmed with a bunch of problems and they’re going to expect you to come up with the answers. For this to work, for this to scale, you have to switch that and say you’re no longer the problem-solver; you are the coach and you’re developing a team of problem-solvers. You can’t have one person in the organization running around making all the improvements. That will not scale and you’ll burn out that person. But if we have a whole team of people going around making improvements and developing their problem-solving skills, that’s what’s going to scale up.

So how do we switch the current improvement people to coaches, to not say yes or no and be an authority on it, they say, “That’s a good idea. What can we do to try that out? what’s currently going on here? what’s the current problem?” So there’s a series of questions and in turning around this methodology, but it’s the type of questions to go through – what’s your target condition? Where are you at right now with that? “We want to have this whole driveway cleared off by the end of each day. We want to have everything put in so we can close the doors.” That’s the target. “Where are you at today?” “Most days, we have three or four pallets sitting outside.” “Then what are the obstacles and which one are you going to start with to try to attack?” “It’s these type of items that really are a big barrier.” “So what are the type of things that you’re going to try out?” “I’m going to try and do this first.” “Okay. When can I come back and look to see what you did and let’s talk about it?” “Probably, it’ll take me until the end of this week, so maybe next Monday.” “Great. Next Monday, I’ll stop back and we’ll look at what you did.” There was no that’s a bad idea/that’s a great idea; it was just let me talk you through the questions you need to ask yourself so that, eventually, if you get people in the habit of, “I know what questions are going to come at me. I’m going to start having answers for these.”

Because the first time you do this, it’s going to be like, “I don’t know that. I’m not sure. Let me get back to you.” So you’ve got to switch from solving the problems for people to coaching them on how to solve the problems themselves. It’s going to be a struggle and it’s going to take a little bit of time, but in six months or a year, you’ve got a whole team of people that are able to think through, logically through, their problems and try out ideas. Some will fail, some will go amazingly well and that’s was going to help build excitement about their job is I get to control and change my job if I don’t like how it’s going instead of this is what I’m stuck with and it’s frustrating and there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s where people really start to enjoy their work and they come in the next day and say, “I was thinking about this last night and this is the idea came up with. I think this is going to work.” Now you’ve got an engaged workforce.

At the foundational level, too, is do we have a process in place today to do that work? Is there a standard way of doing the job? It got mentioned a little bit yesterday, in the UDBS, I think it was, that program, said they document a lot of steps on how to do the job. Even though they’re getting nonstandard material, they have structure around how they’re doing that. The basis for a lot of problem-solving is, first, is there a process? a lot of times the answer is, “No, it’s just something we kind of on-the-job trained, but everyone does it their own way.” So the first step is let’s develop a process and then if we have problems, we come back and say did we follow the process and it didn’t work, which means the process might not be good enough and we need to change the process, or did we not even follow the process?

so the heart of this is if you don’t have a standard way of doing work, how can you improve on it? one of the quotes is, “If there’s no standard, there’s no improvement.” Because what are you improving? there’s no structure there. It doesn’t have to be super-detailed; it just has to be a standard method – when we do this, when we put things away, this is the order and steps in which we do it and we train everyone on doing that. And if we find out that’s not a very good process and it doesn’t work very well, we change it and we train everybody on the new way we’re going to do it. But at the foundation level, just say is there a process and if the answer is no, then instead of trying to complain about it, let’s just make a process and establish one. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s a starting point for improvement. Does that make sense?

Another thing you can say is, “I don’t know. How often is this happening?” Because when we’re trying to decide, we’re always balancing what is the biggest problem, and sometimes the answer is we don’t know. You can use stuff like this, a check sheet, to capture data about a process and say how often is this problem happening where we’re missing the signature on the form or we didn’t get the address written down or the paperwork is not filled out correctly? if the answer is, “I don’t know,” maybe we can do a little tally sheet and every time that happens, just make a little mark. At the end of the week, we’ll count up all the marks and the ones with the most problems, that’s the problem we’ll start with. Then we can look at it and say, “Eighty problems this week? holy cow, I had no idea it was that bad. That should be our number two issue, behind this other problem we’re having.” But if we don’t have data, sometimes it’s hard for us to figure out what’s most important. So one of the questions you can ask your team is can you start collecting some data on that so we can judge how bad it is? you say it happens all the time. What does that mean exactly? let’s collect that for a couple of days or a week and let’s find out for sure. Does that make sense?

MS:  How do I get my employees to collect data?

B:  They have to know that the data is going to be used for something. I see a lot of data that was set up but there’s no feedback or loop back to say, “What did you get today? what does that data say?” As soon as people feel like no one is looking at the data, it goes to garbage really quick – either it stops being done or it gets really messy and inaccurate very quickly.

MS:  The example you showed in that video with I guess it was the nurses gathered around that huddle board, they knew there was value to that data because they were going to discuss the next morning, so that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

B:  It’s the reinforcement that says someone is looking at it because I’m going to get asked about it. If it’s like I’ll start collecting this information the no one gets asked about it, they’re going to stop collecting it. Because it takes time to collect data and it takes time away from doing work, so it’s got to be important, they feel like it’s important and efficient.

FS:  And not only sharing that you’re going to follow up on it, but a little bit of the reasoning of why you want it. Like we pay a lot of money for trash disposal for emptying dumpsters, and so I impressed upon one of my employees that I want to empty those less because we spend this much here and if we didn’t do that, we could have money to maybe buy a new this, which would help your job. And so I asked repeatedly where we kind of not audit the trash, but just, every day, check and see how much was in there and, once I explained a little bit that there’s a real cost and this is why we want it and [inaudible 00:47:51].

B:  Yeah, the why is really important. Another thing is just kind of figure out ways that it makes it easy for people to collect the data too. One of the drivers I worked with, I just said, “Text me the number of bundles you pick up and about the value think you picked up and I’ll put it in the spreadsheet for you. You just text me at the end of each day. If that’s easiest for you to collect it, I don’t mind doing that part of it.” Because it’s just a temporary data collection anyway; we’re not building a whole system out. So pieces of paper and notepads and stuff like that, that works really well. And if we decide there’s value to that data, we could maybe formalize it a little more. But initially, let’s try to get something and figure out how big of a problem it is.

I’m just going to show a quick video, and this will be in the link, but it’s just how simple to make improvements. This guy, Paul Akers, says, “Two seconds. Save two seconds, that’s it.” That’s the barrier he set for his team, which everyone was like, “I can figure out how to save myself two seconds.” Then the key thing, though, is he says, “And then share what you did,” so it’s the communication. It’s not so much what the improvement was, it’s that you’re sharing it. He really likes doing it with video with his team because then people will watch the videos, because they’re fun to watch, and then they’ll get inspired and say, “I can do that,” or, “I can do something like that.” And so that’s what builds the culture around people seeing the excitement around, “Did you see what so-and-so did over there in the lumber area? did you see what so-and-so did in the checkout area?” So it shares and communicates out what’s going on and then it gets people excited and builds that culture.


B:  So just to recap again, this book, Getting Home, is the story of that St. Bernard Project and their journey through adopting some of these principles around Lean. This is a book that I’ve been compiling together with other resources, like myself, who have worked in industry and now are doing some nonprofit or government work and how we’ve gone through that. There’s like eight chapters in there. All this goes to the nonprofits, but just kind of capturing our thoughts and ideas around how we could work with organizations.

The main thing, though, is there are maybe companies local to you that are applying Lean or Six Sigma or other process improvement methodologies that might be interested in having you attend a free class with them or maybe they come out and would help you with some of your processes. There’s local consultants, like me, that could do some of that work if you reach out to them. There’s also colleges and universities with industrial engineering programs that have a lot of these principles in their training material and in their coursework or they have a Lean program. So look for some of the local resources and say, “I learned about this at a conference. I want to learn a little bit more about what this entails because I’m trying to get some people to work with more sustainability type of things and introduce these concepts a little bit more.” And again, tomorrow I’ve got an hour and 45-minute workshop to go into more of the principles and some of the tools around that. So these are some things you might consider adding and check against your current program today. Any questions?

MS:  I have a question about the daily huddle. We actually do a morning meeting, a five-minute meeting, but there’s been an internal debate versus should we break that meeting out into departments and have separate meetings with kind of specialized like that or have one, inclusive meeting for the whole group?

B:  Definitely by area, I don’t know how many people are in the area. But I’ve seen it both ways – maybe they’ll do a weekly, everybody get together and be on the same page, but each team should have their own area. If you have at least five people, I would say you need your own team probably, so that what’s happening in that area is focused. Some of the groups will do an escalation where they’ll have each team has a huddle and then key things that need to be escalated will go to the next level of management, depending on your organization, and then even all the way up to the top management of the company within an hour or two. It’s an escalation process of within two hours, we know about every major issue from each group and then, if it gets to them, it means they need to address that issue; it’s beyond the team’s ability to solve that problem. So they use that as an escalation process too, so that might be something you can look at too.