Lean Resources for Educating Yourself and Others

Here are some free resources I use to help educate my colleagues and myself on Lean concepts, principles, and tools. In general, a good process is to share an article, webinar, or podcast with your group, then set up a time for a group discussion about it. If you're uncertain about how to structure the group discussion, try the "What, So What, Now What" liberating structure format.

After a shared experience, ask, “WHAT? What happened? What did you notice, what facts or observations stood out?” Then, after all the salient observations have been collected, ask, “SO WHAT? Why is that important? What patterns or conclusions are emerging? What hypotheses can you make?” Then, after the sense making is over, ask, “NOW WHAT? What actions make sense?” https://www.liberatingstructures.com/9-what-so-what-now-what-w/

Below are my recommendations:

  • Karen Martin has a lot of great webinars with accompanying slides on tools like process mapping, A3s, huddles (daily management systems), and 5S, and also Lean thinking and Lean leadership. I refer to her daily management systems webinar often! https://tkmg.com/webinars/

  • The Gemba Academy has some wonderful podcasts. In particular, there's an excellent series on practical problem solving -- podcast numbers GA 060, 063, 066, 072, 084, and 087. https://blog.gembaacademy.com/podcasts/

  • The Lean Enterprise Institute has terrific blog posts by Lean thought leaders, and you can search on them by topic, so that makes for a great resource as well. You can subscribe to their posts, so they show up in your email box. I especially enjoy the posts by Katie Anderson on getting out of the habit of telling, developing better habits with A3 thinking, and practicing routine personal development. https://www.lean.org/LeanPost/

  • I also subscribe to Mark Graban's blog. He focuses on hospitals, but there are many similarities between hospitals and universities. He uses a lot of current news examples and talks metrics. Be sure to look up his post on the emergency alert system failure in Hawaii and better process metrics using a Starbucks example. https://www.leanblog.org/

  • Think Reliability will help you develop your skills in root cause analysis, which is foundational to problem solving. They have a lot of resources for you to explore: https://www.thinkreliability.com/root-cause-analysis-tools/

  • A great resource for learning more about quality concepts, tools, applications, and technical terms is ASQs "Learn about Quality" page: https://asq.org/quality-resources/learn-about-quality For example, click on "affinity diagram," and you'll see what it is, how to use it, and some examples, too! For their list of only tools, go here: https://asq.org/quality-resources/quality-tools

  • Not free, but very relevant, is Bill Balzer's book, Lean Higher Education 2nd edition (2020), It's an excellent starting place for people new to Lean HE, for an individual or group book study, and you can rent the kindle version for $15-$20 depending on how long you want it. There is a Companion Guide for individual or group study.

Ruth Archer, PhD
Director of Continuous Improvement
Michigan Technological University