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SmartFinds is a web-marketing agency with over 20+ years experience in the Internet industry. As a full service, broad competency and experience agency we are able to become our client’s strategic partner managing all aspects of the digital presence, technologies and vendors.

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.

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

Learning Implementation for leaders – Six Best Practices (Part One)

As a learning leader, learning implementation or bridging the gap between what happens in the classroom and on the job, requires a keen understanding of job requirements as well as a firm understanding of best practices. Ed Emde, president of Wilson Learning Corp, offers his 6 best practices in an article that appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of the newsletter.[1] The following are the first three of these practices: Link to Business Strategy. With clear linkage to business strategy, learning organizations can get support and active involvement from the organization’s other leaders. As an example of a successful liaison of learning with business strategy, Emde cites DuPont Pioneer’s sales force under the direction of Kent Carpenter, Pioneer’s sales training manager. Carpenter’s training team provides expert learning technologies, skills and tools to a sales force consisting of several small business owners. “Our training is always about meeting a business need,” states Carpenter. “Identifying the gap in existing knowledge, skills and abilities needed to drive performance provides the important link that delivers useful learning.”[2] Lean learning works on the same learning implementation principles. Identifying the gap is the first step in detecting any area in offices, factories and workplaces where improvement can increase efficiency, effectiveness and sales—thus enhancing the all-over lean [...]

By | 2017-05-02T12:53:11+00:00 May 2nd, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning Implementation for leaders – Six Best Practices (Part One)

Internal advisors may be the key to effective learning

Internal advisors, or fellow employees and staff members who are only a few paces ahead of the learner, may be the solution to effective learning for any type of organization. If your business or enterprise depends on scheduled seminars and trainings for instilling operational excellence, usually you will feature an expert to lead the sessions. Randy Emelo, chief strategist at River, a mentoring and social learning software company, writes that the Buffalo Grove, Illinois branch of US LBM [1] scheduled three-day Lean Six Sigma[2] training events four times a year at the University of Wisconsin.[3] These training events were so successful, reports Amy Brown, director of learning and development for US LBM, that participants asked for ways to stay connected with each other afterward. Brown notes that “every time people go through classes, they still need to reach out afterward to people who speak the same language. Learning leaders at US LBM realized there was an opportunity for them to continue employees’ development through the use of mentoring and social learning software to support peer learning groups.”[4] This resulted in internal advisors becoming experts through a layered process of event attendees sharing the new information with their peers. This type of social networking empowered the [...]

By | 2017-04-25T16:25:11+00:00 April 25th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Internal advisors may be the key to effective learning

Learning from mistakes: A Lean look at the April 9 United Airlines fiasco

Although learning from mistakes can be a painful lesson for any organization, any competent CEO or management team knows that whenever anything goes wrong, taking corrective measures against repeat performances must be their first order of business. United Airlines passenger Dr. David Dao may have suffered multiple injuries on an April 9th overbooked flight when he was forcibly ousted from his seat to accommodate UA employees, but the airline was by far the biggest loser. This single incident cost United a billion-dollar stock fall, a badly bruised company image or brand that includes everything from major Internet and mainstream media humiliation to ticket refunds, further investigation… and worst of all, the torrent of angry outcries from every corner of the world: “Shame on you, UA!” In the Information Age, there’s no way to bury mistakes like these. Taking a page from lean and lean learning, how can UA repair the damage—and more important, prevent future repeat performances? In his recently published book, Powering the Lean Enterprise: Fundamentals of Lean for Super-Charging Your Company & Your Life, Bill Artzberger, Lean Learning Center’s managing partner with over 25 years of experience in real-world senior management, states: “The goal of lean is to identify and eliminate [...]

By | 2017-04-20T11:57:22+00:00 April 20th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Learning from mistakes: A Lean look at the April 9 United Airlines fiasco

Cognitive Science and Performance Learning

Cognitive Science makes the important distinction between performing by rote and proactively using performance support tools such as lean learning’s PDCA checklists, flow diagrams, lean transformation roadmaps, and 5 why decision trees and lookup tables. “Too often, learning leaders make courses when the information doesn’t have to be in the head, it just needs to be on hand,” writes Clark Quinn in “The Cognitive Science behind Learning” article that appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of newsletter. Quinn is a leader in the field of Cognitive Sciences and head of Quinnovation, a company that applies technology and strategy to analysis of how people think, work and learn. According to Quinn, in order to develop learning skills, one has to be able to retrieve and apply information to the type of problems that learners face in performance situations. The hands-on approach, e.g., on the factory floor or in the laboratory, gives learners an opportunity to retrieve stored information coupled with appropriate knowledge and skills to create contexts that resemble the performance situation. In other words, says Julie Dirksen, principal of Usable Learning and author of Design for How People Learn (Voices that Matter): “Learning leaders need to know more, to do more.” To train in sales, states Quinn, [...]

By | 2017-04-18T12:00:03+00:00 April 18th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Cognitive Science and Performance Learning

Tips to Assure Quality and Reliability when Bringing Prototype Fasteners to Production

As a manufacturer of products recognized for long-lasting quality, Huron Automatic Screw Company offers clients tips on how to approach finding the right manufacturer. In a general sense, there are three things that are most important when choosing a manufacturer: quality of product, turn-around time, and communicative accessibility. Quality and turn-around time are obvious things to consider, but having a clear and convenient line of communication is often overlooked, even though it’s just as important as the others. Building a strong relationship with your supplier opens the opportunity to specify precise requirements for prototypes. Bringing a prototype to production is a substantial part of a business plan, meaning that choosing the right manufacturer plays an imperative role in the process. Consider Local Manufacturers Many suppliers make the mistake of taking prototype production overseas after finding that overseas suppliers will offer a lower price. Though this is often true, it’s important to realize that you are likely sacrificing things like quality and ease of communication and collaboration. By partnering with a domestic manufacturer, you can feel more confident about the manufacturing quality and labor standards you’re provided. Also, communication errors become much less frequent. Developing such a close relationship gives the added [...]

By | 2017-04-11T15:15:14+00:00 April 11th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Tips to Assure Quality and Reliability when Bringing Prototype Fasteners to Production

The Cognitive Science behind learning

According to Clark Quinn, a leader in the field of Cognitive Science and author of Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age, if we can understand the Cognitive Science behind learning, we can change learning practices for the better and impact outcomes. As director of Quinnovation, a company that applies technology and strategy to analysis of how people think, work and learn, Quinn claims “it takes a real understanding to discern the difference between learning and the folk psychology that most people wrongly follow.”[1] In lay person’s terms, Cognitive Science is a catch-all term for understanding all levels of human behavior, from neural to social. According to Quinn, often learning programs give priority to learning styles and opportunities even when these programs have already been demonstrated to have little practical value. Here’s where the application of Cognitive Science behind learning comes into play, and where lean learning practices take a front seat. At the neural level, learning is about strengthening the connections between certain neurons. “It’s safe to say that neurons that fire together wire together,” states Quinn.[2] Activated neuron patterns deliver certain ideas and thoughts and neuron links are strengthened when several patterns are activated together. Quinn points out that the learning [...]

By | 2017-04-11T15:07:44+00:00 April 11th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on The Cognitive Science behind learning

Why change is difficult

If you’ve ever wondered why change is difficult, consider how many times you’ve heard the adage, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” Take a company with a stellar management team, outstanding line of products and enviable bottom line. Maybe the issues calling for change are subtler than those we can easily point to. Could this company actually be staring at obsolescence or even bankruptcy a couple years from now? In a January 5, 2012 article in The Atlantic titled “What Killed Kodak?”, author Jordan Weissmann points out that Eastman Kodak, “the camera company,” was always at the head of the pack until the digital revolution came along. Although Kodak valiantly tried to keep up with its competitors, it seemed to be fighting a losing battle. Finally, in 2012 it was forced to file for bankruptcy. When the company emerged again in 2013, change was imperative. “How do you come back from the brink and rebuild? That's the question Jeff Clarke, who stepped into the role of Eastman’s CEO in March of 2014, asks himself every day,” writes Nina Zipkin in a May 10, 2015 Entrepreneur podcast blurb. States Zipkin: “The company restructured and placed new emphasis on ‘imaging for business.’" Weissman commented in his Atlantic article that “Kodak fits the classic profile of [...]

By | 2017-04-04T13:31:15+00:00 April 4th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Why change is difficult

Are the requirements for learning and change part of your onboarding process?

Learning and change are two necessary components of a lean company’s onboarding process for a new employee.  If lean learning is defined as an ongoing journey toward personal and professional improvement, then every new employee will soon be familiar with the adage that “at the end of every success is another obstacle waiting to be perceived as yet another learning opportunity.” Change, or the ability to pull yourself out of your comfort zone to reflect on each of the company’s procedures even when no problems may be currently apparent, is integral to lean learning. “The continuous improvement mentality is critical for sustainability; employees must be empowered to challenge and continue looking for ways to improve and make their processes better,” writes business consultant Mercibel Gonzalez in a blog article about lean learning and change. “Training and having a client immersed in the whole process is critical to start shifting the mentality towards continuous improvement,” states Gonzalez. “Our work as consultants is just the start of the change chain. There are always forces of change in action… so to remain competitive clients need to adapt and continue evolving. “As part of our work we teach and train the operation on lean concept application,” says Gonzalez. “Giving them [...]

By | 2017-03-19T20:49:39+00:00 March 28th, 2017|Lean Learning Center|Comments Off on Are the requirements for learning and change part of your onboarding process?