The Journey Begins...

Two recent Lean Office Champions reflect on their experience

By Lynn Geiger and Matt Schwarze Geiger-Schwarze

The latest Lean Office Champion class just wrapped up earlier this month, and NMC Training Services was excited to have two new employees in the class. Matt Schwarze joined Training Services last summer and works in business development. Lynn Geiger joined the office in November as an assistant trainer. Both knew a little bit about lean but were extremely eager to become lean champions like all of their coworkers!

We sat down with Matt and Lynn at the culmination of the six-month course to get their take on all they had learned and to gain a bit of insight into their experience for future students. Read on to find out what they had to say …

Matt Schwarze

Favorite lean tool: I like improvement Kata. Having the end goal in mind but focusing on the little steps to get there. It allows you to celebrate the little wins and keeps people coming back for more! Our class slogan was, “Lotta Kata!”

Best part of the class: Definitely the site tours. Visiting the host companies and seeing how they operate and what they make. Northern Michigan is full of awesome companies. Get out and see them!

Most difficult part of the class or biggest frustration: Implementing the various lean tools … in an office full of lean experts!

How will you be impacting Training Services with the knowledge you gained in class? Fresh (Millennial) eyes and ideas.

Takeaways from class: You’ve got to be coachable – be able to take constructive criticism and focus on continuous improvement. You have to let people come in with their fresh minds and ideas.

Why do you think lean is commonly referred to as “a journey”? Because it’s never done. You are always wanting to improve, wanting to get better. You are never satisfied.

What is the best thing to bring to class? An open mind.

Favorite classroom activity: Rotating flipcharts and catchball.

Finish this sentence: The most surprising thing I learned in class was … that Armor Express’ bulletproof vests are made of plastic bags and they save lives!

A success in class I am particularly proud of: Graduating on time...a new concept for me.

Lynn Geiger

Favorite lean tool: It’s a tie between Poka Yoke (error-proofing) and 5 Why Problem Solving. I’m a former reporter and I absolutely love asking “why” until I know exactly what is going on.

Best part of the class: The group dynamics and the community we created. I’m really going to miss not seeing my classmates twice a month.

Most difficult part of the class or biggest frustration: A lot of the activities require “on-the-spot” thinking and that is hard for me. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing.

How will you be impacting Training Services with the knowledge you gained in class? By moving past just identifying problems and moving into the experimental stage of possible solutions.

Takeaways from class: First, tiny changes or improvements that don’t seem like much on their own but can really add up to make a big impact. Second, don’t determine solutions before understanding the full scope of the problem. Third, there is no harm done in at least trying something. It may work, it may not. Perfection never happens on the first try … or the fifth, for that matter.

Why do you think lean is commonly referred to as “a journey”? Because there will always be an improvement to make.

What is the best thing to bring to class? A sense of humor.

Favorite classroom activity: Brainwriting.

A success in class I am particularly proud of: Learning the role of a facilitator so I can perform in this capacity for a future lean project.

Finish this sentence: The most surprising thing I learned in class was … that there are so many, many possible reasons for mistakes!

The next Lean Office Champion class begins September 13, 2017, and runs through February 21, 2018. Register HERE. The manufacturing version of this same course begins September 14, 2017, and runs through February 15, 2018. Register HERE. Contact Matt Schwarze at mschwarze@nmc.edu for more details.

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