Started off the morning kind of groggy – day two is always harder. Had breakfast and an interesting conversation with David Meier (apparently a big name in the Lean world). He worked at the Kentucky Toyota plant for many years and now he is a Lean consultant. He was doing a presentation on implementing Lean in hard times. He was a very nice guy and we seemed to have very complimentary viewpoints. It made digesting the breakfast that much easier…
The morning got started with a session by a guy from Gorton’s seafood (the frozen fish filet guys). It was mainly manufacturing related stuff, but it was still pretty interesting. It was impressive to see how much money his and some of these other companies have invested in making the Lean transition. They must have paid a gazillion dollars in consulting fees. I say that in jest, but it was obvious that they were incredibly dedicated to making Lean work at their companies. It gave one pause when you stopped to think about it. Obviously change doesn’t come easy – that’s no surprise, but it was rather dramatically illustrated here. There was a lot of talk about practices backsliding and having to do a lot of work to make them stick.
Then we had a breakout session presented by Group Health. That presentation was REALLY impressive. They are doing a bewildering number of amazing things there. Just incredible. It was especially interesting to me because I had worked for them as an Agile consultant back when I was at SIQ. It was great to see how far they had come. They even brought along their information radiators (If there is one thing these guys do very well, it’s information radiators). It really was one of the highlights of the conference.
I saw a few new information radiators:
- Kamishibai board
- Kaizen board
And I still haven’t figured out what they are talking about when they refer to “Water Spiders”…
Then I followed that up with a visit to see the Lean dentist! This guy had used Lean techniques to improve his dental practice. He was all self taught and it was very impressive what he had done. It was another great presentation (so good that I recorded the whole thing with the tiny little video camera that they gave us for the conference). He also gave away a draft copy of a book that another guy was writing about his experience.
The afternoon was finished up with a presentation by Jim Shook. He is one of the big thought leaders behind the LEI. He worked in Japan for Toyota and now of course he is a consultant (see a pattern here yet?). He gave a great presentation – this is a guy who has an incredibly deep understanding of Lean and the history behind it all. It was great to hear him speak (And we got another book on the history of Lean – I got a lot of books out of this conference). After he was done they wrapped up the conference and that was it.
Two days is just about the right length for a conference like this. My brain is full and I need some time to let it all sink in. This conference does a good job of giving you a nice exposure to multiple disciplines attempting to implement lean. I’d recommend it highly. There is also a conference that focuses explicitly on Lean Product Development – it would be much more specific to the kind of work we do (Poppendieck is speaking at that one). I got to know the chairwoman who is running that conference and it sounds really good. Not this time though – perhaps next year.