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Lean Collaboration

By Richard Wolin, Director of Training ServicesRichard Wolin

One of the things I enjoy most about Lean is the community of learning culture. People from different organizations and even competitors are generally willing to share their best practices, insights, and experiences of continuous improvement. In northern Michigan, the Lean Learning Consortium hosted by NMC and MMTC-North is a demonstration of that willingness. With over 70 member organizations, many open their doors to share how they tackle problem solving, production challenges, inventory management, employee engagement, and a host of other best practices. The synergy that comes from many divergent minds looking at similar problems helps to increase the prosperity of our entire region.

The last couple of years, I have been invited to be a judge for a regional First Robotics Competition (FRC) at  Traverse City Central High School and each time I am inspired by the 14 to 18-year-old students. Their willingness to collaborate and cooperate while at the same time competing shows what true and fair competition can achieve and results in superior products and innovations. To describe this approach the FRC coined the term “Coopertition.” What I observed directly at their gemba (where the work is done) was high school students sharing knowledge, parts, and their own hands to help a competitor get up and running, repair, or improve because they seem to realize that improving everyone’s work, drives each team to get better. Take any sport as an example, you get better when your opponent is better. In the spirit of Toyota who shares their knowledge directly with competitors, the NUMMI joint venture with GM as one example, many organizations are beginning to realize that sharing their best practices, becoming more transparent, and raising the game of those around you is a sure way to raise your own game.

Richard Wolin, Director of Training, MMTC-North region at Northwestern Michigan College
1701 East Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686

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