I had the privilege recently of helping to teach lean to a group of university leaders. I had great fun assisting with the first day of class, when we introduced basic lean concepts. However, when my instructing partner and I looked at our plus-deltas from the day (comments about what the participants valued, and what we should change), there were some sticky-notes saying “too much material” and “went too fast” and “too much to remember.” Even though we had paced the day rather slowly, as I thought, it caused us to wonder whether we needed to restructure the day – or had we just not taught effectively?

On the second day, we got into Value Stream Mapping. As we went through the material, topics from Day 1 kept popping up, as you would expect. By repeating the concepts and giving specific, education-based examples, we were able to build a lot of momentum around the purpose and usefulness of Value Stream Mapping. The plus-deltas on Day 2 showed that most people enjoyed putting the concepts to work around real-life examples.

By Day 3, when we used examples of frustrating processes to create Future State maps, the group was in full swing. They were coming up with so many ideas to remove waste and reduce delays and hand-offs, that we were hard-pressed to keep them from going right out and implementing their suggestions. (“Wait, you don’t have enough feedback from the front-line workers yet!!! Remember, it’s JUST an exercise!!!”) The evaluation included many “plusses” and only a few “deltas.”

What made the difference? We introduced just as many new concepts the first day as we did the second and the third. But by incorporatingthe toolsthat we’d already introduced, as we brought up new ones, we gave the group practice in “trying on” the lean approach in different ways, and finally we let them loose on real-life examples.

This experience made it clear to me that I shouldn’t be judgmental whenpeopleneed to hear things more than once, in order to incorporate and integrate the concepts. I’ve seen many learners become anxious when they’re overwhelmed with new terminology; but on the other hand, there are always some “drivers” in the audience who aren’t satisfied unless you’re covering each slide in about 30 seconds. It’s interesting that each group seems to have its own pace of learning. In the educators’ group, we may have gone a little too fast at first, but then they hit their stride on the second and third days. It was fun to watch the light bulbs turn on and the enthusiasm kick in!

As usual, for every day that I’m giving instruction, I learn just about as much as I teach. Hooray for the educational process!

About the Author