Guest post: Global lessons from the Applied Lean Leadership Conference

Katie’s note:

Today’s post is written by Arnout Orelio, a Lean healthcare practitioner from the Netherlands. 

Arnout Orelio
Arnout Orelio

The inspiration for this first guest post on my blog is based on connectivity and shared learning. Two of the main intentions behind starting this blog were to connect to a broader community and share what I’m learning – and to engage in dialog to learn from others. I’m happy that my writing has resulted in both, as evidenced by this first guest blog post.

I haven’t met Arnout in person (yet!), but I look forward to when we are able to do so. Arnout and I met through this blog and have shared thoughts in this blog’s comments and on social media. We share a mutual passion as Lean practitioners supporting transformation in healthcare and for seeking out learning opportunities however we can.

Arnout told with me that he has been learned a lot from my blog, especially from my conversations with Isao Yoshino, a retired 40-year Toyota executive who has become a friend (and mentor) of mine over the past 18 months, and my posts about continuous improvement (kaizen) in healthcare in Japan.

Below are Arnout’s reflections from the Applied Lean Leadership Conference from January 2016. The views expressed in the post below are his. I hope you enjoy learning from Arnout’s experiences at the conference as much as I have. 

Guest post – Applied Lean Leadership Conference

by Arnout Orelio

Why this write this post?

For more than 20 years, I have tried to learn how to improve, while teaching others along the way.

Reading Katie’s humble blog, I have discovered many things about myself. Among others, I feel like my learning is too slow and that I’m judgmental towards senior leaders when I don’t see that they are taking as much action about quality and safety as I think they could.

Listening to a podcast of Geoff Woods, The Mentee, I came to the conclusion: “I need a mentor, like Mr. Yoshino, that Katie was writing about”.

Not only did Katie provide me these lessons through her blog blog, she also opened the opportunity to meet Mr. Yoshino!

In one of her posts, she said that Mr. Yoshino would be speaking at an Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference, organized by one of her colleagues Skip Steward. The Applied Lean Leadership Conference would be held in Janaury 2016. I applied right away!

This guest blog post can be seen as small thank you note for Katie for sharing what she has been learning by sharing my takeaways from the conference.

The Theme – Networking and Learning

My strategy for the ALLC and this blog post, was given to me by Susan Warner, Mercedes Benz, Alabama. During the conference she said:

“Networking is a great way of learning”

So in this post I’ll tell you about some of the people I met and what I learned from them.

Why attend the Applied Lean Leadership Conference?

If it weren’t for Katie, I would never have considered attending the Applied Lean Leadership Conference.

The conference organizers didn’t target me, in the sense that there was no international marketing of any kind. In fact, I was the only one (besides Mr. Yoshino) who took an intercontinental flight to get to Tupelo, Mississippi.

And the conference was organized by the AME, an organization focused on manufacturing, and I am mainly in healthcare.

So why did I go??

When I looked at the conference website, the program and the people looked awesome! It included both manufacturing and healthcare. The Monday program alone was well worth the trip and money, even all the way from the Netherlands. AME conferences are great value for little money!

One day of learning, years of inspiration

On the Monday before the actual conference, as I had anticipated, the gold was presented.

Strategy Deployment and A3 Process

The day started off with a workshop from Mr. Yoshino on Hoshin Kanri (also known as strategy deployment) and how it relates to the A3 process.

Quality Circles at Toyota’s

Next we went on a tour to the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi (TMMMS), where they produce the Corolla. It was like driving trough a symphonic orchestra.

This site visit included a presentation from two operators who shared what they had learned and achieved while they were a part of a quality circle. Both the depth of their analysis as well as the results from their team’s improvement efforts were astonishing. They saved almost half $1 million per year for the company and 1.1 gallon of fuel per year for the customer. This was all done in their own spare time!

Lean lessons from NUMMI – the human dimension is the most important

Mr. Yoshino at the Applied Lean Leadership Conference (photo credit: Arnout Orelio)
Mr. Yoshino at the Applied Lean Leadership Conference (photo credit: Arnout Orelio)

Back from the site visit to TMMMS, I went back into the room where Mr. Yoshino was holding another session. And since he got more time this session, there was a lot of extra valuable information. He presented the NUMMI case: the joint venture of General Motors and Toyota.

In the early 80s Mr Yoshino had been responsible for the training that led to the startup and amazing turnaround of an old, poorly performing GM plant into a world-class facility (NUMMI) in only one year. One of the first people he hired to make this project happen was John Shook, currently the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute (and one of the other key notes of the conference!).

Later that afternoon and far into the evening, I got to meet both John Shook and Mr Yoshino, who presented the NUMMI case in more detail together. Like I said, they took this one facility, with the same people (!), from the worst to the best GM plant in one year!

The secret, John Shook shared, was that:

“The change was in the social design of the work.”

In the discussions afterwards I asked Mr Yoshino: “why didn’t GM learn (the right things) from NUMMI?”

His answer?:

“Because they only learned the visual part. Like with an iceberg, there are many things (89%) under the surface, invisible. Especially the human side was not learned.”

The conference day lessons: kaizen always

Keynote speakers like Mr Yoshino, John Shook and Patrick Graub (TWI institute) mixed with an audience eager to learn, making the conference itself very valuable.

I learned that this eagerness to learn (from the Americans) is what ironically made the Japanese industry (including Toyota) world class, surpassing the USA (and Europe) in many areas.

So never think you are already there.

The secret according to Scott Martin, Manager Quality Control, TMMMS is:

“everybody, everyday, everywhere, kaizen.”

Post-conference Training Within Industry workshop

For those of us who wanted to eat the whole elephant and keep learning, the after the conference additional workshops were offered. I selected the one on Training Within Industry (TWI). You should too, if you ever get the chance.

TWI is one of the best thought through methods I have ever been taught. Each step has an specific function and purpose. The three parts (Job Instruction, Job Relations and Job Methods) are very well documented and are easy to follow. Learning to teach TWI takes only 5 times of 2 hours each (of fully standardized training).

TWI is the cornerstone of the lean system and no system will last without it in place. Toyota is still using this method (in its original form!) to train everybody in the company.

The number one thing I learned

Although there are many more things that I learned at APLL conference and from Mr Yoshino and his stories, the number one thing I’m taking from this event is how Mr Yoshino approaches his “students”.

Mr. Yoshino supports his student, listens and listens, to see how he can help. He is an actual servant leader.

His advice (and therefore my advice to you):

“Wait. Keep on listening. Be open to anyone who needs help”.

What do you think?

So to finish this blog: What are you working on? And how can I help you? Let me know and I’ll find a way.

Any feedback on this blog is most appreciated (you can provide them below) and I’ll let you know in the comments how I applied it.

About Arnout Orelio

Arnout Orelio is a senior Lean coach and owner of “De Verbeterpraktijk” (“The Improvement Practice”), a Lean consulting practice based in the Netherlands dedicate to healthcare transformation. Trained as an engineer. Arnout started his career in the automotive industry (Mitsubishi, Volvo) were he learned first hand the principles of modern production management. In 1999 he joined a Lean consulting firm where he specialized in lean management as a consultant, trainer, coach and mentor.

In 2005 he formed a team at that firm to promote and spread lean thinking in Dutch healthcare. At the same time Dutch hospitals started their first experiments with lean, many of them under his company’s guidance. From 2007-2010, in his role as partner, he was responsible for the team that led lean transformations in healthcare, services and office environment.

In 2010, Arnout founded “De Verbeterpraktijk”. Its mission is to create World Class Healthcare. We support organizations, like (academic) hospitals, clinics, rest homes, practices, etc. You can connect with Arnout on LinkedIn, Twitter, and via email (arnout@deverbeterpraktijk.nl).

You too can learn more from Mr. Yoshino

ToyotaRedKatie’s note: If you want to learn more leadership lessons from Toyota, I’ve written about Mr. Yoshino’s philosophy of coaching and leadership in earlier posts. You can read these through the following links:

Katie Anderson
About Katie Anderson 118 Articles
Lean thinker and coach. Passionate about developing people. Healthcare change agent. Living in California again after 18 months in Tokyo. Writing about lean and leadership.
  • Charles Intrieri

    I took away: “Wait. Keep on listening. Be open to anyone who needs help”. In other words; “Pay it forward”, daily. I could not agree more.

  • David Rasmusson

    Thanks for sharing the Shook “social design” quote. Having a couple of successful lean implementations among so many attempts, I and varying colleagues would ask ourselves, “why doesn’t this work more often?” After the usual landing on ‘top leadership commitment’, or ‘insufficient vision’, etc., etc., the resolve was to do pre-work before a lean engagement around social analysis.
    With a social analysis in hand, organizational dysfunction can be made social or functional–wired correctly. Once social disfunction was addressed, lean transformation flowed.
    I learned about this back in the 80s, although I didn’t apply it because I and my colleagues hadn’t made the association; we were busy walking down the professional and competency maturity path, trying to get leadership engaged, management committed, thought-leaders the vision, etc.–the path on which I see so many others floundering.
    My first exposure to this was by a mentor and boss, who also introduced me to several readings, including Organization by Wilfred Brown. Thankfully, there are such readings for the more complex field of healthcare written by associates of Brown. If interested, a couple are: Hospital Services by Elliott Jaques; and Hospital Organization by Ralph Rowbottom. These describe the transformation of the NHS, and outline the approach taken in transforming one of the most complex organisations in the world.

  • Dave – thanks for the book recommendations. I’ll add them to my list!

    The social element is the most important. How do we develop others? And how are we developing / changing / leading too?

  • I see this blog as a small opportunity to pay it forward. And Arnout’s contribution as well! Thanks for your comments, as always, Chuck.

  • David Rasmusson

    What is, by and large, the social ambient of Japanese society within industry (and healthcare in particular)–the social order or those unstated and underlying rules that govern, that set context to everything? Liker submits that in Toyota it’s about people and their development. But what about people and their development? Is it simply that principle or value? What causes it to be about people and development? Soley a conscience decision? What drives structure? What’s that “air” that is breathed in all the time yet not noticed; the fertile soil underfoot that affords improvement to grow? Light & energy, atmosphere, water, gravity…these taken-for-granted elements are the frame in which life is possible. In industry, organizations and regulations and law are, in part, that framework, which makes up a social structure.
    Perhaps such questions are for sociologists to consider. Maybe I’m straining too hard. I don’t mean to make your blog my forum for such likely out-of-scope dialogue. If, however, you notice things so related (e.g., new year clean up) please continue to post them. Thanks.

  • Dave – I always appreciate your thoughtful questions and musings. They get me thinking. I don’t have the answers to the questions you pose, but I will ponder them and keep them in mind as I continue to explore and learn. Thank you for sparking more thinking!

  • Arnout Orelio

    Thank you, Charles!

  • Arnout Orelio

    Thanks Dave and Katie, for the discussion. ” Social design ” as I understand it, is a method to design the work in a way that is human and brings out the best in people.

  • Karl M Hoover

    Arnout (and Katie), Thanks for the guest post on your take aways from the ALLC. I’m adding “Wait. Keep on listening. Be open to anyone who needs help” to my leader standard work this week! Thanks much, Karl

  • Thanks for the comment, Karl. Yoshino’s words of wisdom are many. When I spend time with him I’m always scribbling down comments as I don’t want to miss the golden nuggets. I’m appreciative that Arnout shared some more great lessons from Mr. Yoshino, and others, from this conference.

    Side note – I just heard that the organizers are looking to schedule another one this fall – should be another great one!