Lean Transformation Summit 2018 – Highlights from Nashville

A month ago I had the pleasure of attending the LEI Lean Transformation Summit – this year held in Nashville, Tennessee! The theme of this year’s Summit: “Want better employees? Be a better employer”.

I’m honored to be a faculty member of LEI and value the opportunity to get to go to events such as the Lean Transformation Summit. This year I was again teaching a post-Summit workshop as well as giving a “Lean Talk” on Monday night.

Fallen behind, but time to catch up

I brought about 40 daruma doll, imported directly from Japan, to give to my workshop participants and others at the event!

Where has the month gone? I’ve fallen way off track from my target of two blog posts per month, but there has been good reason. I’ve been on the road for work (including the Lean Summit and a new client) and personal travel, plus just launched the new AME San Francisco Bay Area Consortium and now am gearing up to leave next week to lead a Lean learning trip to Japan on behalf of the Ohio State University.

To make up for my missed cadence in April, I’ve written two posts in 24 hours – one about the AME Consortium launch and now the Lean Transformation Summit from March.

Winners of the “Clarity First” book giveaway

Also, congratulations to Mark Smeets and Ruth Archer who each won a copy of Karen Martin’s new book “Clarity First”! Thank you everyone who registered for a chance for winning.

Even if you missed the giveaway, you can read my interview with Karen about the book and how you can bring clarity to your organization and personal life.

Stay tuned for some more author interview and book giveaways later this year.

Setting time boundaries as a countermeasure for not finding time

My biggest barrier to writing any posts the past month was feeling like I didn’t have enough time to write comprehensive posts describing some of my resent experiences and musings.

Can I write this in 60 minutes?

So in the sprit of not letting perfect be the enemy of the good (or at least something), I’m sitting down and limiting myself to one hour to write and edit a post for you about the Lean Transformation Summit (I put the same boundaries on the AME launch post).

To keep to my goal, while there was so much learning at the Summit, I’m just going to highlight a few standout moments and takeaways from my experience.

Use Tweets instead of uploading photos

Also one way to keep production time down is to insert my tweets instead of formatting many photos. Better tweeted photos than none! (ps. you can follow me on Twitter: @kbjanderson).

Now back to the focus of this post: The Lean Transformation Summit 2018 in Nashville!

Nashville rocks!

My husband and I actually went out to Nashville on Saturday and had a fun child-free weekend together to enjoy the Nashville scene! As parents of 4-year old and 7-year old boys, we don’t get a lot of time out on the town together. A great time was had by all.

We’d been to Nashville once nearly exactly 10 years earlier for a wedding and couldn’t wait to get back. It was awesome to hear so much great live music in just a few days. Plus, after walking around in  cowboy boots that I bought back in 2008, I realized it was time for an upgrade….alas my feet have grown after having two kids. I got to break them in the rest of the week.

One highlight of the weekend was going a bit further afield from the main strip and finding a local bluegrass jam session. Awesome stuff!

Lean Talks

This year I participated in the Lean Talks series on Monday night – the second time that LEI has run this experiment at the Summit (the first round last year was at the Summit in Carlsbad). Ten speakers were each given ten minutes or less to talk about a fun and engaging topic (and ideally some personal stories) to share with the group.

Sammy Obara’s talk about Japanese toilets

When I’m in Japan next week, I plan on shamelessly stealing Sammy Obara’s joke about Japanese toilets (I now realize that I’m butchering the joke as I don’t remember the actual lead in….time to email Sammy so I can tell it to my Japan study trip crew!): “What are the most important things to the Japanese when developing their toilets?…. Number 1….and Number 2”. Ha!

My talk “Getting out of the habit of telling”

My topic of “Getting out of the habit of telling” felt a bit ironic to give a talk about not telling. I tried to share more personal stories than just tell….I hope I got close to the mark!

I shared some stories and three actions that I’ve taken to help myself to lead more by asking effective questions rather than giving my opinion:

  1. Take a “Clarity Pause” (a term I’ve stolen from Karen Martin that describes a practice I’ve been doing for years) to connect with my intention in the moment
  2. Ask a question before immediately answering a question with my opinion
  3. Becoming more aware of the quality of my questions

I ended with this call to action to participants to set their own goals:

Jim Womack’s talk on “How Lean Got its Name”

I enjoyed the Lean Talks, but the only one I took some notes on was Jim Womak’s talk. It was a new story to me!

Jim shared the story of how in 1987 he and the group of researchers were trying to come up with a name to call this thing they had been observing as enabling the enormous performance difference in Japanese auto manufacturers from the rest of the world.

We all know that the name they settled on was “Lean”, and that in subsequent years there has been much discussion and debate on if “Lean” was the best name as it often has negative connotations. Even Jim reflected in his talk that while they described Lean as providing “MORE value with LESS resources by elimination of waste”, people tend to focus on the concept of “less” rather than “more value”.

Do you know some of the other options considered? I didn’t until I heard Jim’s talk.

What do you think about “Fragile Production”? 

One suggestion was to call what we know as “Lean” as “Fragile Production” because it is all about people and expresses the fragility of the system.

But as Jim said, no CEO will want to say that they are committed to “Fragile”….so the name was tossed out.

Was “Lean” the right name at the end of the day? Jim asks himself if they could have done better, but concluded that it is hard to know….and it too late now to go back and make a change.

Drinks with Shook, Womack, Orzen and Smith

After the Lean Talks session wrapped up, I found myself chatting in the back of the room with just a few remaining people including Renee Smith, Mike Orzen, Jim Womack and John Shook. I was ready to head out for some casual relaxation post Talks, so turned to Jim and John and asked them if they wanted to go out for a drink with Mike, Renee and me. They said yes, so off we went to their hotel lobby for some food and drink.

No photographic evidence exists or notes taken from our conversation, but it was definitely a highlight of the week to have such personal catch up time with these great thinkers!

Well, some photographic evidence exists….Mike Orzen and I found a selfie photo booth at the hotel lobby and snapped a photo at the end of the night. It was great to get to know Mike and I’m looking forward to exploring some collaboration together in the future.

Other Summit Program Highlights

I usually find that the key learning opportunities at events such as the Lean Transformation Summit are not just in the formal programs, but also in the conversations and in between moments to meet people and catch up with others….Dan Markovitz, Sammy Obara, Darril Wilburn, David Verble, Helen Zak, Larry Anderson, Fred Pinto, Flavio Battaglia, Tom Ehnrenfeld, Rose Heathcote, and the Genentech/Roche crew are just a few of the lean thinkers and colleagues from around the world that I got to spend some quality time with during the Summit. Thank you all for adding to and challenging my thinking!

Here are just a few other learning highlights for me from the event. There are many more, but I won’t meet my target of keeping my post writing to under an hour to get to them all!

Lean in Hotels

I went to a breakout session facilitated by leaders at a hotel in Tenerife. They had a fun interactive session that highlighted their previous current condition of managing food and beverage orders at peak times. Through Lean thinking and practices, they have made tremendous improvements across all areas of the hotel.

SMED and kaizen to speed up drink service

One important improvement was using SMED to make mojitos – from originally several minutes per mojito down to 90 seconds, and now it is at 45 seconds through small daily kaizen by the bar staff!

Demand disguised by wait times

Another improvement and comment that stood out for me was their improvement to the omelet making stations. They realized when they made improvement to the process that they had actually been disguising actual customer demand as customers were opting out when they saw a long line. So they had the unexpected problem of now having to meet increased demand.

It made me reflect on how much do we really know about actual customer demand, and how is our behavior as the service provider influencing or hiding actual demand. Good questions to ask!

A few other highlights

Other highlights and key learnings can be summed up by the Tweets I made real-time.

Time is up – and please share your reflections

My time is up to write (in fact, I’m about 15 minutes over my allotted 60 minutes), but it feels good to have finally gotten time to reflect on the Lean Transformation Summit and share my reflections here.

Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments.

See you in Houston – March 2018

It can’t beat Nashville as a location for an event, but I’m looking forward to more learning and sharing next year!

Be Part of My Chain of Learning

If you enjoyed this post and want to continue your learning journey with me, sign up for my periodic newsletter below where you’ll be the first to know about new articles on leadership, coaching, and continuous improvement, more author interviews and giveaways, and other opportunities to deepen your learning.

If you are already a subscriber, thank you!

Get The Latest Updates

Join my Chain of LearningÂŽ!

Register below for my newsletter and be the first to know about new articles, podcast episodes, and other inspiration to deepen your learning and leadership impact.

Let's grow our Chain of Learning -- together!

Related Posts



Get my free guide 3 Tips to Break The Telling Habit & learn how to ask better questions with intention.

3 Tips to Break the Telling Habit

Take my FREE Change Katalyst™ self-assessment now!

Sign up today to get a free copy of the Take my FREE Change Katalyst™ self-assessment.

Get your own copy of the 4-Box Problem-Solving Tool

Sign up today to get a free copy of the 4-box problem-solving tool.

Download My Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Framework

I want the "Leading to Learn: People Centered Practices to Develop a Culture of Learning" webinar slides!

In addition to the webinar slides, you will also be signed up for Katie’s periodic newsletter, which you can opt out of at any time.

Get the Create a Life Tapestry Art Project Instructions

Enter your email to get access to the life tapestry instructions.

How to Ask Effective Questions

All newsletter subscribers get a copy of Isao Yoshino’s tips on “How to Ask Effective Questions” from our joint session on asking effective questions. Sign up here!

Download Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn Book Sample

Dive into Isao Yoshino’s Letter to the Reader and learn from his first mistake at Toyota. By sharing your information, you will also be subscribed to Katie’s periodic newsletter to be the first to know about new articles, events, and other learning experiences!

Download a PDF of the article "If You Think Lean is Inherently Japanese, Think Again"

Sign up below and receive a PDF of the article I wrote for Planet Lean “If You Think Lean is Inherently Japanese, Think Again”!

Get Personal Improvement A3 Coaching Tips!

Develop your coaching skills to develop others. Download the Personal Improvement A3 Coaching guide!

Start living and leading with intention today!

Do you want improve yourself as a leader, coach or learner? Getting started with an intentional practice of daily reflection can accelerate your learning. Enter your email address below to download the Daily Reflection Template.

Isao Yoshino’s Leadership Credo

Sign up here and get your copy of Isao Yoshino’s leadership credo!

Learning to Lead Leading to Learn Book

Top 10 Toyota Leadership Lessons

Receive a PDF of the first top 10 leadership lessons and insights that I learned from Mr. Isao Yoshino, a leader at Toyota for over 40 years. These lessons and more inspired us to create the bestselling book “Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.”

Learning to Lead Leading to Learn Book

Access the Book Bonus Resources

Get the downloadable bonus material and additional resources referenced throughout the book. By sharing your information, you will receive access to all the bonus resources — as well as new resources as they become available.