Nov 23, 2010

Getting social at the AME Conference

Time to reflect on the AME conference last week. Here are a few social media musings:

Twitter: Tweeting was fun and produced some relationships that I hope continue into the future. Maybe that’s enough. AME is an audience that doesn’t twitter much, so I’m going to watch closely through the year and into the next conference before concluding it’s a trivial pursuit. @AuburnNate became a new AMEConnect twitter friend, and is convinced that twitter has untapped power for us, and he graciously agreed to join the council. You can follow @AuburnNate, @AMEConnect, and many other cool folks by searching for #AMEConf2010, and start watching for #AMEConf2011. Use the hashtag for ideas if you have them.

LinkedIn: We had about twice the usual number of new members join the Association for Manufacturing Excellence LinkedIn group. Hope they like what they find and jump in. Next year it would be nice to have more discussion questions emerge from conference sessions.

Facebook: I’m not sure about Facebook’s role in a professional organization, but I’m a Facebook Neanderthal, so what do I know? We had a few picture postings, and might have had more if I had practiced using my new smarter-than-me phone. (Note to self…kata makes perfect.) Seems to me like the AMEConnect Facebook page is a good way to share the fun and elation we pick up every year at the conference, and we did have some comments and likes from our 135 friends.

Social media in other organizations:

One person I talked to was my friend Jim Garrick, who told me that Fedex employees were getting a lot of encouragement to twitter and otherwise shout out to other Fedex employees AND customers. It sounded unusual for such an operations-oriented company and I’m dying to know more. Oddly, it was hard to find social media on the Fedex website - I ended up on the press pages. Fedex Citizenship blog Fedex on Twitter

Kevin Meyer’s Specialty Silicones is a source for his Evolving Excellence blog. He had tweeted to me that he sent five people, and I managed to meet four of them. That included Standup Cy, who fabricated the standup desk Kevin blogged about a while ago. He’s become a social media celebrity since then.

Old-fashioned in-person social networking:
Social Networking Café: Bob Hafey set up a cookies and milk reception on early check-in night for social media denizens, though most of the people showed up because they saw the word “networking” on the sign Bob had set up in the registration area. Which was fine. People looked like they were having fun, and I met folks from Uganda, England, the Lehigh Valley in PA and down the road to the Eastern Shore in MD. Next year I’d like to have a couple more gatherings. In the bag given to people attending, there was a very nice brochure announcing the Café, with other social media tips for the conference. I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay much attention to those brochures.

Not our table, but could have been
Some rights reserved by veni markovski
Meetups: We tried getting twitter followers together in the Baltimore “Dine-Around” but there were only two new guys who came for that reason.  I also tweeted an “I’m here” at breakfast on Thursday to see what would happen. @Auburnate appeared as I was chatting with a chance table-mate from Chicago. Then @MartinGHerrera from MI-Swaco in Argentina appeared. We had been trying to get together since he first started following and using our hashtag before the conference. Martin, Nate, and John quickly began to discuss how to spread lean in their companies and each went away with a new thought and new friend. Did we need Twitter to accomplish that? Maybe not, but it broke the ice. And that’s where Nate shared his enthusiasm for social media and ideas for what to do next year. Can’t wait to hear more about them.

Sessions: We had 20+ people in each of our sessions on social media/networking, which I thought was amazing considering the topics and speakers in sessions competing with us. More people were interested in marketing aspects of social media than I expected. I still think that we should focus on social media as a support to lean journeys, but next year maybe we should add a social media marketing session. We had great questions from the group. Should we try to do some webinars?

Presentation: Collaborating with AME’s Social Media Council members Jason Semovoski and Ashley DeVecht produced a much better presentation than I would have produced on my own. Wonder if they feel the same way. Regardless, you can find “getting started with social media” and “  “ in the AMEConnect SlideShare space.

Home base: We didn’t really have a spot for people to find each other. It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The too-big-and-busy booth for next year’s Dallas Conference wasn’t the right place, and the little table with AME brochures on it wasn’t prominent enough. Maybe next year we will have a space that’s just right. And tables at mealtime with visible signage. Nate thinks we can fill at least three.

That’s the social media roundup. There was also a lot to learn about lean and continuous improvement in many industries and functions, the real reason why people take a week out of their lives to go. Many say that the AME annual conference is the best place to learn and get charged up. Follow us at #AMEConf2011. The website is Tip -- everything about the Baltimore conference is in red. Everything about next year’s Dallas conference is in blue.

Nov 19, 2010

Healthcare facility, little consideration for people with disabilities

My 84 year old mother told me a story this morning. She had been to the clinic to get a vascular evaluation and had to make a six-month follow up appointment. In front of her line was a man in a wheelchair who was missing a leg. He and couldn't get close enough to the window behind which the hospital employee was speaking to him. They were having trouble hearing each other. The problem was made more difficult because of the glass security barrier at the window.

Mom stepped up and started relaying messages between the woman employee and the man. He needed an X-ray and asked if he could just have it then while he was at the clinic. It was difficult for him to get to the hospital. The woman asked how much time he had. Only an hour, because the special public transportation service made fixed appointments to pick up disabled passengers. That's not enough time, she told him. Mom says she could see his fatigue, and at her age, knew exactly how that felt. Finally, with mom's help, he made the appointment for the X-ray.

Then he asked how to get out of the office. The door was not wheelchair accessible, so mom went and helped him through it. Mom went back and the woman thanked her for helping. It turned out that she often had trouble hearing patients because she wore hearing aids. She wasn't allowed to make exceptions in scheduling, and the workstation didn't permit her to move closer to the man. She felt bad that there was nothing she could have done to make things easier for him.

After she made her appointment she left the office, and the man was still there, so she started to chat with him. He was a veteran, he said, but didn't say more.  He told her there are people where he lives who have problems like his, and that's just their life. They mostly accepted it.

While the state provides free transportation for them, they have to make arrangements the day before and must be picked up at specific times. Sometimes there are not enough busses when needed. She asked how he let the transportation service know he was finished at the hospital, and he pointed to the valet. Mom wasn't so sure about how that would work so went over and asked the valet if he had called. Fortunately, he was able to assure her that he had called for the bus and he would see that the man got his ride.

Mom had to recognize that she needed to place limits on how involved she got with people who needed help, so she made herself disengage and went home. She explained that her propensity for helping -- and I could tell you a dozen stories of other things like that she has done -- came from her family's life as homesteaders on the Nebraska prairie, where every farmer kept an extra straw mattress for someone traveling and needing a bed for the night. They helped each other at butchering time and haying time. They took turns boarding the teacher of the one-room school they had built. They all made it through the Great Depression.

How have we lost the ethic of hospitality and mutual help? How did the designers and managers of the appointment desk fail to consider the special needs of patients and employees? How did the hospital fail to have someone on hand to support people in such a situation? Is there always a prairie-reared woman in line to handle the problem?

How many ways can you think of that the clinic could have prevented the distress that these three people experienced that day?

Nov 11, 2010

Bits and pieces from the WIP file

Here's a quick list of what's been inspiring me lately:

The Lean Nation
Congratulations to Karl Wadensten and Linda Kleineberg on the one-year anniversary of The Lean Nation on radio 790 AM in Providence RI. Every day Karl interviews lean leaders from his informal and hands-on perspective. Karl has not only led an impressive lean journey at his own company, VIBCO, but has brought company presidents, politicians, and all types of folks into VIBCO events to see lean in action. Karl will be broadcasting the show from the AME Conference in Baltimore November 16,17, and 18th, plus telling his story on Wednesday, Nov 17, at 10:30.

On their anniversary show, Karl and Linda said that what surprised them both about taking a chunk of their time every day to do the broadcast is how much they learned by engaging with their guests and their call-in listeners. If you can't listen in, there are a number of podcasts on the Lean Nation website. Also check out K-Dubs Lean Nation Radio Show on Facebook.

Toyota Kata

Mike Rother
I bought the book when it first came out but only skimmed it. Then I had the chance to meet its author, Mike Rother, at the IQPC Process Excellence Leaders meeting in Chicago in September, and to be part of the audience for his keynote address. My friend Mark Rosenthal called it the best book on Toyota in -- did he say a long time, or in all time? Regardless, it's one of those books that takes several readings to begin to get the depth of what a "kata" is at Toyota and why it is at the heart of an organization focused on long term survival and the development of capable employees. Mike also is publishing a website that enlarges the book's message and places the ideas in varying contexts. I think the website is essential for getting Mike's full message.
Mike is conducting courses and workshops on Toyota Kata. He and Bill Constantino will do a workshop at the AME Conference Nov 15.  

The Remedy

Pascal Dennis
In The Remedy, Pascal Dennis continues his story begun in Andy and Me of Tom Papas and his lean journey at a fictional auto manufacturer. Now Tom has been asked to fill the role of Shusa (roughly translated as "chief engineer") for a new vehicle. In this role, Tom seeks to connect the silos of design, manufacturing, supply chain, and so on. He fights the battles most of you are completely familiar with. Being fictional characters, Tom and his crew prevail.

The book covers a broad scope thinly, where it would take 10 - 15 excellent books to explain properly. That's its value and drawback. Overall, it's a good introduction to beginning to spread lean thinking in the extended enterprise. It's not enough, but I think Pascal knows that it's just starting lines of thinking that can be continued through reading his carefully chosen references at the end.

It resonates with Toyota Kata in many ways, particularly in the principles of solving small problems continuously by building capability into the people in the organization, articulated well by Steven Spear in The High Velocity Edge (a better title than the earlier one - Chasing the Rabbit - read my review.) The three books read together would be an education right there.

Escape the Improvement Trap

This new book by Michael Bremer and Brian McKibben is a fresh look at what happens in the real world, where most organizations that try to implement some "transformational" method eventually get stuck and call it a failure. The missing "ingredients," described in Escape the Improvement Trap are customer focus, engaged people, key metrics, process thinking, and executive mindset. "I know THAT," you say. And you do. Except that you probably can't explain how to supply those ingredients in as clear and useful a way as the authors do. The book uses a combination of the fictional company and case examples of real companies to illustrate what they see as the way to avoid getting stuck in an improvement process that doesn't go anywhere.

Michael Bremer
They also do a good job with diagrams and worksheets. The one they keep returning to is a statistical "improvement maturity" curve of companies. Michael and Brian say that most leaders overestimate their stage of excellence and provide a quick estimator tool.
Michael will also be conducting a workshop on the five ingredients at the AME conference on Nov 15.

I apologize to everyone for giving short shrift to their work. Maybe readers can round out my comments with their own.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm