Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thoughts on Lean..

When I watched the video "Toast" for the first time, I realized that the way my house is set to function is exactly that, "Lean at Home". Toaster next to the fridge, bread by the toaster, washing dishes while waiting on the toaster, etc.. People sometimes think that lean principles are out of this world, but many of us already follow them at home. I enjoy watching HGTV and always appreciate how they organize cluttered spaces. Designers are thinking lean while creating a more organized and eye-pleasing rooms. I'm sure many of you do the same. While there is so much lean surrounding us in many ways, why is it such a challenge to implement it in office or shop floor? Doesn't it seem like common sense? Well, common sense is not as common. If it was, everything would makes sense to everyone the same way. This becomes much more difficult when a group of people from various backgrounds and experience are assigned to come up with improvements. People have different ideas on organizing a workspace, for example. As a lean leader, how do you get people to agree on improvement ideas when you are assigned to get the job done and make a difference in a short period of time? I see lean leaders/facilitators/implementers like designers on HGTV. A designer must listen to the client, learn about the current state and client's desires/requirements in order to develop the future state. This is similar to what lean leaders do. Learn about the current state/process by conversing with process experts. On the day of the lean event, the leader who is already familiar with the current state has most likely formulated some ideas to improve the process. During brainstorming sessions, the leader/facilitator asks a lot of questions to team members and directs everyone to think about lean principles while developing ideas. The goal is to reach the future state by getting the team involved and making sure that the team own those ideas. Surely, a lot of back and forth and tweaking happens after that, but eventually, the leader's job is to reach the goals as well as satisfy the team similar to what a designer would have to do in order to please the client. As a lean leader myself, I strongly believe in initiating valuable discussions among team members during an event and ask questions in a way that the right answers will eventually come out of team members. I prefer them saying it rather than me enforcing it on them. By doing so, people eventually agree on what makes sense, that is, lean thinking...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Theory of Constraints for Healthcare Improvement

Understanding the system and identifying the weakest link to focus improvement efforts is a sensible approach for healthcare improvement. If anyone has any experience in this methodology in healthcare, feel free to reply to this blog and share your experience.
Here is a link that caught my interest today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ASQ Influential Voices - Raising interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

ASQ CEO Paul Borawski writes in February's blog: "How can we, those who understand, use, and love science and technology, pass it along? For those outside of the U.S., how is STEM taught and encouraged in your country?". When I was in elementary school, math and science were not my favorite subjects. I had a hard time understanding the logic. I have always been a top student throughout my school years, but something had to happen to change my views on math and science in order to keep it that way. My parents did a great job in encouraging me and my sister to do well in school without enforcing it on us. My father graduated from the top rated technical university in Turkey so he definitely loved math and science. He is one of those people who can hold hundreds of phone numbers in his memory for years! In 6th grade, I was challenged even more in math class as it was getting harder to comprehend. I was feeling upset about this so I approached my parents for some help. My father said to me, "If you give me an hour of your time, I guarantee you will get it", and that's exactly what happened.  That "one hour" changed everything for me. I was also lucky to have great math teachers in later years. My father's love and passion for math and science led the way for me to become an engineer and I thank him for that. His teachings were simple and easy to understand. There is no benefit in complicating math in early stages of education. If children get the basics right, everything else will make more sense.

I had the opportunity to attend senior year in high school in the U.S. and I witnessed the challenge students were facing in math and science. I asked myself why there is a lack of interest. Again, the answer that I found was that students were missing the basics. What I decided to do was to help students and start tutoring on basics. I pretty much continued to do this throughout my college years. Remembering the past, one of my friends ended up getting A's in college algebra after a couple math sessions. I strongly believe that if teachers can simplify math for students, there will be more interest. Also, showing students the magic of math surrounding our lives, will encourage them to pass it along to their classmates. If a student is good in math and science, why not ask him/her to volunteer in tutoring other students? That way, passion and knowledge is shared and students' confidence elevates.

University of North Texas, where I graduated as an engineer, hosted a great program called DC BEST during my undergrad years. Students from different schools in the area compete against each other by showing off their creations "robots". You won't believe the level of teamwork, excitement, passion and creativity coming out of these young students. As their website states, " Engineers and other technical professionals from local industries serve as team mentors who advise and guide students through the design and construction of their machines". Isn't it a great way of encouraging younger generations in math and science and preparing them to become the next superstars of engineering and technology?

The future of STEM is promising. As parents, teachers, mentors and professionals, we can do better in developing technical skills among younger generations by focusing on the basics and keeping it fun!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The effectiveness of pre- and post-decision analysis while making major organizational changes. This is a great case study that can benefit all improvement professionals. The importance of stakeholder involvement for or against the change and validating the results by quantitative metrics is emphasized.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Effective communication

From manufacturing to healthcare..

Soon, I will be transitioning from manufacturing to healthcare. I've been interested in healthcare for a while due to its growth and improvement potential. All of us are patients at some point in our lives (may be multiple times) and we all look for an excellent patient care in hospitals, clinics, doctor's office, etc. Whenever I visit a healthcare provider, my eyes notice the areas of improvement and I sometimes suggest some ideas to the personnel. Do you do the same too? There is definitely a competition between hospitals and they all want to be the best healthcare provider. In order to achieve this and stay that way, strong emphasis on continuous improvement is put in place across all levels of the organizations. The environment is much different than in manufacturing, but regardless of where it is, a process is a process and it can be improved. Improvement tools developed for manufacturing are now widely utilized in other industries. The challenge is to find the right tools for the right application. I usually favor an integrated approach where different methods and analysis tools are available and applied interchangeably depending on the situation. Whatever works mentality. However, at a higher level, it is a must to have a defined strategy and structure to the continuous improvement approach. I'm looking forward to the new chapter in my career and continue to "lead the change" for the better.