2010 lean summit 002

Meet a lean groupie. I love to learn and share experiences that I hope will benefit others. The current learnings? Tips for putting on a great conference plus some emerging themes from the lean community—all from the perspective of this LEAN COMMUNICATOR™.

For the fourth March in a row, I traveled to the annual Lean Transformation Summit, sponsored by The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). This year, I joined a sold-out crowd of 355 LEAN thinkers (150 were repeaters like me) from 20 countries.

As usual, LEI conducted a commendable conference. The speakers were insightful. We had sufficient breakout time and receptions to meet participants. And LEI continues to pay attention to important conference details: meeting format and logistics.

The changes in this year’s Summit reflect the new times we live in. The swag from past years was gone. LEI had set our expectations for this in advance by reducing this year’s conference fee plus providing discounts for early registration and returning participants. (Very thoughtful!) We did get our own copy of the Womack on Lean Management DVD.

The conference was also greener. LEI also eliminated the conference carrying case filled with paper. Instead, we received a spiral notepad with the outside back cover doubling as the program agenda. (Very clever!) We had the option of downloading the conference materials to our laptops or printing them out before we came.

As for themes, these five were prominent this year:

  1. Little is the new big thing. By focusing on small improvements, you can get traction, gain momentum and start to build up to bigger, lasting change. (The new book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, also advocates starting small. The Heath brothers further suggest finding the “bright spots”—those who are having initial success with the change—and figuring out how to replicate their actions elsewhere in the organization or community.)
  2. Continuous improvement is crucial. Several speakers spoke almost exclusively about their commitment to continuous improvement and their ensuing successes. By accumulating improvements, you again are able to sustain your actions and reduce deterioration rates. (The acronym “CI” was tossed around a lot, which is jargon to most everyone outside of the conference room.)
  3. Sustainability is key too. Stay committed to what you’re doing and get better at it, rather than trading it for a new shiny object or program, during these tough economic times. This theme has been evident in my work for awhile too. For example, the CEO of one of my client’s advised him and his communication team: Go deep, not broad. No new programs or initiatives for awhile. Let’s master and sustain the ones we’re now working on.
  4. Reflection time is underused and underrated. Taking time to reflect will result in a positive payback. In our fast-paced work environment, we tend to concentrate more on doing than thinking, especially reflecting on our past experiences. Yet, taking time to review our past actions can bring out valuable insights that can give us good guidance. For example, one speaker talked about examining past initiatives that started every time a new CEO took office. When he became CEO he decided to stick with ongoing efforts rather than start something new, especially since the organization had just started to reap benefits from the current effort.
  5. Personal confessions are now part of some lean speakers’ repertoire. Some made an emotional connection with the participants by sharing some personal tidbits with us, which also was a refreshing change. Who knew one lean leader prefers Hondas over Toyotas, even before the Toyota recalls?

As for communication learnings from the Summit, read the guest post I wrote for Mark Graban’s www.leanblog.org, Expanding Horizons of Communication . For my observations from last year’s Summit, check out Lean Transformation Summit Leads by Example.

Meanwhile, it’s back to work for me as I don’t know what else is expected of a lean groupie. Any ideas?

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