The Lean Learning Center was founded in 2001 to address the gaps and barriers that are holding back companies from successful and sustainable lean transformation. In addition to the advanced curriculum, the Center has developed a learning environment designed specifically for adult learning utilizing techniques that include discovery simulations, case studies, personal planning, and reflection – ultimately engaging people at a deep and personal level. We bring our unique lean understanding in creative ways to executives, managers, supervisors, change agents and front-line employees. The Lean Learning Center is a Troy, Michigan-based organization that helps organizations transform themselves through lean tools and methods.

Trust in the Workplace Starts at the Top

A good leader knows that trust in the workplace is one of a company’s most valuable assets. Ken Blanchard, Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, is quick to point out, however, that trust in the workplace doesn’t just happen by itself. It must be cultivated from the top down, by the company’s leaders. In Blanchard’s article titled “How to Build a High Trust Workplace,” that appeared in the March 2017 edition of CLOmedia’s Chief Learning Officer, Blanchard cites Horst Shultze, one of the retired founders of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, as a stellar example of a trust-building leader. During the years when Schultz was still one of the company’s executives, he established a special program for the employees. After they had completed their training, Shultze set up a $2,000 discretionary fund for each of the employees. The money was to be used to solve a customer’s problem and employees were not required to report the details of how they spent the money. Eventually, Shultze collected many heart-warming anecdotes that demonstrated employee trust and loyalty. One of his favorite stories was about a business executive who was a guest at the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton hotel. After leaving Atlanta, he had to fly to Los Angeles [...]

By |2018-04-10T17:29:02+00:00April 10th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Trust in the Workplace Starts at the Top

Seasoning Your Learning Fare with Cross-Generational Mentoring

Cross-generational mentoring is an excellent way to keep your Lean company ahead of the curve. Ken Blanchard, Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, a highly respected leadership coaching organization, attributes much of his success to cross-generational mentoring. In the May 2017 newsletter, Blanchard reminds us that “given the accelerating pace of change, people can be great at what they’re doing today and be out of business tomorrow.”[1] Blanchard, who is now in his late seventies, chose Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a 33-year-old former Twitter executive, as his co-author to write One Minute Mentoring. How many septuagenarians today would attempt to use Twitter effectively without asking a younger computer-savvy person for help? Blanchard’s classic Lean statement is worth memorizing: “The only job security any of us has is a commitment to continuous improvement.”[2] Many Lean organizations have already learned that cross-generational mentoring is basic to Kaizen, or ongoing improvement. Although the younger generation can deliver the “wings”—futuristic versions of Lean’s strategies and techniques—without the older generation’s “body” of tested and proven results, the work remains both incomplete and unsubstantial. One of the key elements of Lean Learning is flexibility. Commitment to perceive the value of change when necessary automatically builds [...]

By |2018-06-03T09:02:09+00:00April 3rd, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Seasoning Your Learning Fare with Cross-Generational Mentoring

How important is a manufacturing apprentice program?

If a manufacturing apprentice program is not one of the items on your company’s list of potential improvements, after learning about its many advantages you may wish to consider implementing one. In last week’s blog, we quoted Tooling U-SME Learning and Performance Improvement Leader (LPI) John Hindeman’s six reasons for starting a manufacturing apprentice program, as outlined in an article that appeared in the February 8, 2017 Tooling U-SME edition. Previously, we pointed out that college and other programs of higher learning may give students a textbook education, but before they’re ready to go out in the world and earn a living, first they must acquire practical skills and workplace experience. Advanced degree or certification programs are often costly; the media is filled with stories about college graduates over their heads in student loan debt long after becoming successful well-paid professionals. For most young people with limited financial resources, on-site apprentice programs certainly seem like a preferable option. According to Hindeman, upon discovering that apprenticeships lead to better employees, many high-performance companies implemented their own in-house manufacturing apprentice programs. The following are the final three reasons for starting an apprentice program: It seems highly impractical to invest your time, money [...]

By |2018-03-28T13:47:20+00:00March 28th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on How important is a manufacturing apprentice program?

Should Your Company Start a Manufacturing Apprentice Program?

A manufacturing apprentice program is one of the best ways to ensure quality workplace performance. Often apprentice programs are overlooked because business owners and recruiters assume that a college education or vocational program has provided adequate preparation for their future employees. They are confident that satisfactory transition from textbook to factory floor can easily be achieved by scheduling a brief orientation and a few training sessions with the job supervisor. Top-performing manufacturing companies have already learned, however, that this assumption often leads to wasted time and money. Most of these success-driven companies have their own apprentice programs. Historically, apprenticeships were a basic requirement for most vocations, particularly if they required highly developed skills. During the Renaissance, for example, the Italian master painter Cennino d’Andrea Cennini required 13 years of training before his apprentices could move forward to the status of journeyman. In Padua, the minimum period of apprenticeship was three years.[1] Even though today’s hi-tech world is far more efficient, the same type of meticulous hands-on training with supervised practice is still a basic requirement for almost any manufacturing position. This level of performance can rarely if ever be achieved overnight. In an excellent article that appeared in the February [...]

By |2018-07-03T06:32:36+00:00March 20th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Should Your Company Start a Manufacturing Apprentice Program?

Learning is the Key to Successful Capital Formation

“Learning is the human capital accelerant of the enterprise,” writes Michael E. Echols, Vice-President of strategic initiatives at Bellevue University, in the April 2016 issue of According to Echols, a significant segment of the country’s corporate culture believes that human capital formation only includes the process of training or developing new employees. Echols contends that if recruitment and retention were added to the quotient, the country wouldn’t have such a large gap between job applicants’ skills and unfilled positions. Echols is referring to the U.S. Labor Department statistic of 5.6 million unfilled jobs at the end of December 2015. This gap reveals a serious problem in aligning job applicants’ skills with company employment needs—and here’s where learning skills comes into play, says Echols. In the past, the major reason for the gap could be traced to the scarcity of job applicants with advanced technical skills. This appears to be no longer the case. According to Burning Glass Technologies, a company which describes itself as “Developing the World’s Leading Technologies for Matching People with Jobs,” employers report a need for “soft or baseline skills”—writing, communication, problem-solving and organization.[1] This current job alignment gap provides an excellent opportunity for learning leaders [...]

By |2018-02-22T12:45:22+00:00February 22nd, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning is the Key to Successful Capital Formation

Learning Is an Ongoing Journey – Especially for Learning Professionals

Learning is an ongoing journey with a destination of constant improvement. In the workplace, Lean rules and principles are structured on the pursuit of learning that is shared, recorded and transmitted to every member of the organization. In an August 19, 2016 informal interview at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa, Adv. Kevin Malunga, Public Protector of South Africa, refers to his own learning journey as “a work in progress” and states that “he is still learning from what he does every day.”[1] In the interview, Adv. Malunga provides a number of important observations that he’s learned along the way: Integrity always wins no matter what comes in your way or is thrown at you. Progress is a process of trial and error. It is a situation of some you win and some you lose, but you keep on walking. Teamwork is important and comes from the ability to motivate and galvanise people into a team. Learn from mistakes and the mistakes of others. Embrace diversity. Differences can be a source of strength (and weakness) whether it is racial, cultural or religious. South Africa is still struggling with this, but should realise that we can learn a [...]

By |2018-02-06T14:30:32+00:00February 6th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Is an Ongoing Journey – Especially for Learning Professionals

Learning Professionals Must Be Learners

Learning is a Lifetime Pursuit for All Professionals Any professional who considers learning a lifetime pursuit will never be left behind in today’s highly competitive marketplace. This certainly holds true for learning professionals. In today’s Information Age, no one can afford to retire their brains and ingenuity if they want to stay current with their profession. The fact is, whatever you learned last year or even a few weeks ago, is already outdated. If you are employed by a forward-looking company or organization that practices Kaizen or constant improvement, refresher courses and advanced seminars are regular events requiring mandatory attendance. For Lean organizations, the learning process is an ongoing journey or adventure of discovery whose destination is constant improvement. Along the road are oases or refresher stops—seminars and workshops where shared learning takes place, or where management and staff take time to reflect on what they’ve learned. In an excellent article that appeared in the November 8, 2016 issue of Chief Learning Officer, titled “Learning Professionals Must Be Learners,” author Elliott Masie writes, “Imagine eating in a restaurant where the chef never tastes the food. Risky, right? We want our cooks to adjust, tweak and improve the cooking experience by [...]

By |2018-02-06T14:25:01+00:00February 6th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Professionals Must Be Learners

Learning Objectives Part 2: Do your learning objectives match your company’s goals?

Effective learning objectives for any endeavor start with a clear understanding of your goals. Whether your organization is launching a new product, restructuring an existing operational system or making other improvements, before taking that first step you need to know where you’re going, how you plan to get there and what your destination will look like. In last month’s article about learning objectives, we pointed out that Lean Learning ’s Transformational Road Map is one of the best tools for answering those questions and mapping your journey. Following Lean Principle Number 1, first you will directly observe your work as activities, connections, and flows. Let’s say you own a company that manufactures security systems and you are considering an upgrade to one of your product lines. At the outset, you will want to study the upgraded blueprint prototypes and create a computer simulation of a live demonstration. Have a clear picture in your mind of every step involved from the time a customer purchases the system until it is completely installed and they press the operating button. How does this upgraded product line differ from the current one? What adjustments will need to be made to accommodate modified engineering? Your [...]

By |2018-01-11T14:50:55+00:00January 11th, 2018|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Objectives Part 2: Do your learning objectives match your company’s goals?

Learning Implementation Best Practices – Bridging the Gap

“Learning Implementation best practices are rooted in common sense, yet they are surprisingly not common practice,” writes Ed Emde, president of Wilson Learning Corp, in a recent article that appeared in[1] Emde believes the reason for this is the wrong focus. Rather than recording what happens in the classroom, learning leaders should pay attention to workplace practices. Answers to the questions, “Does it work?” and “Is it successful?” are the best barometers for any type of learning implementation. This advice will sound familiar to lean learning experts. Pragmatism or results-oriented criteria are at the heart of lean strategies. The goal of any learning implementation program is to improve performance. Yet according to Emde, learning leaders often feel so pressured to install the program, they fail to observe and record its effectiveness. As a result, implementation falls short of expectations. Common excuses for failed implementation can be lack of proper support, insufficient budget, or lack of time. Emde cites Michael Woodard, GE Power Services’ global learning leader, as an example of a successful learning professional who is unconcerned about these issues. Instead, says Emde, Woodard focuses on delivering the same high-quality program content to every component of the company’s learning [...]

By |2017-05-30T12:48:42+00:00May 30th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Implementation Best Practices – Bridging the Gap

Learning Implementation – Six Best Practices (Part Two)

Learning leaders must be skilled in on-the-job implementation For learning leaders, transforming textbook learning to on-the-job implementation requires skill and know-how. In an excellent article that appeared in the November/December issue of, Ed Emde, president of Wilson Learning Corp identifies six universal best practices for ensuring effective learning implementation. In last week’s blog, we discussed the first three of these practices. Outlined below are the last three. Integrate skills and tools with work processes. Experience has shown that learning must be an organic experience. It cannot be considered an add-on to what is already practiced, but must be restructured at the outset, integrating only parts of the existing work process that are relevant. Emde cites tools and skills as “the scaffolding that supports employee learning and speeds time-to-proficiency on the job.”[1] This integration of both tools and skills must become a familiar or natural part of the culture. Some learning experts have made a practice of including tools and skills lingo in their daily communication with employees. They found that this makes it easier for recently hired employees to familiarize themselves with new terms. Lean learning takes learning implementation a step further by inculcating the workplace with meaningful concepts, [...]

By |2017-05-30T12:46:37+00:00May 30th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Implementation – Six Best Practices (Part Two)
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