Lean learning, JIT education, or trial by fire

Was reading Jim Womack’s latest newsletter yesterday from LEI (linked newsletter content is blank right now, there was a snafu sending out email newsletter also, will probably be fixed later).  In it he discusses the challenge of developing lean leaders, both in the “real world” and through the education system.

Where do the lean managers (the Sandersons in John’s book) come from who can teach the rest of us traditional managers (the Porters) to manage in a new way? In sum, how do we all learn (or relearn) to manage so we can manage to learn? Books are a great start, but how do we learn through practice (the only real way to internalize new methods), particularly when our boss is stuck in outmoded ways of managing?

teacherIt really got me thinking about how I learn, and when I have done my best learning.  When have I gotten the most VALUE in my learning process?  In some respects, I think of my best learning as the “trial by fire” method of learning.  I learn best when pressure demands that I learn something new.  I consider myself to be a lifelong student–I love learning and I’m always doing it.  But no longer in a classroom.  Enter…

Just-In-Time Education

Today, I don’t learn something unless I need it.  As soon as I need new information (customer demand), I find a way to get it (through suppliers, like the Internet, books, friends, etc.).  This provides me with the highest value possible out of what I’m learning.  What does this eliminate?

  • Overproduction/obsolescence: I no longer learn things that “expire” or I never use.  I would guess that probably 99% of what I learned in college I no longer use (or have never used, for that matter).  This isn’t necessarily a problem with the education system as much as it is a statement on: I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up!  Now I learn things relevant to the task or situation at hand.
  • Rework: ever learned something, only to have to learn it again when you actually needed it?
  • Inventories: having a ton of information just sitting around in your head taking up space.
  • Extraneous “motion”: spending a whole lot of time learning things that are providing value to me as the “end product”.  I was a great test-taker.  I’m not saying this to brag, the reality is I could apply formulas to situations on a piece of paper and get a correct result.  But I didn’t understand squat about how this formula had any bearing on reality.

Womack discusses the shift in lean education from “batching education”, which I’m sure causes the afore-mentioned problems for other people also, to developing lean leaders:

Peter has converted a classroom-based program teaching abstract operations knowledge in big batches into a gemba-based learning process in an organizational context.

How do other people do their best learning?

By |2009-01-23T12:27:57+00:00January 23rd, 2009|Life, People|0 Comments

Leaving an impact on Stupid, Ace, and Meathead

Cannon gave me a D-, and it was honestly the best D- I ever recieved. Godspeed Lars. The education world will miss you.

–From Larry Cannon’s on-line guest book.  Hard to believe a statement like that could be heart-warming.  If you knew my high school physics teacher Larry Cannon, it would make sense, though.  He passed away a little over a year ago, and tomorrow his on-line guest book comes down.  He was a great person.  And an outstanding educator.  He accomplished the seemingly impossible: making physics fun to learn.  Here’s another tribute:

Dear Cannon Family, please accept our condolences on the loss of your father. All three of my sons had the honor to have Mr. Cannon for a teacher. Not only was he an inspiration and mentor, he had a great sense of humor. He was the only teacher that could get away with giving his students nick names and the students would love it. He fondly called the boys "stupid, the ace, and meathead". Our family truly respected him and will always appreciate his dedication and memory.

By |2008-07-15T08:46:36+00:00July 15th, 2008|Life, People|0 Comments

For the love of learning

I suffer from a problem.  I love learning.  And I love learning about anything.  Which puts me in the over-used category of "jack of all trades, master of none."  My knowledge probably generally goes very wide instead of deep.  At least not as deep as I would like.

I love programming and solving peoples’ problems with software solutions.  That’s why I’m in the business I’m in.  I love learning about marketing and sales.  I love learning about better lean manufacturing practices.  And now learning about those in practices in healthcare.  I love learning about the latest technologies.  The latest business trends.  I wish I had time to learn more.  There’s just not enough time to soak in all the good stuff that’s out there.

Here is some of the good stuff I read:

On business: Tom Peters

On sales: Bill Caskey (although really I listen to his podcasts more than read his blog)

On lean: Evolving Excellence, Get Lean and Prosper, Lean Blog

On technology and trends and more: Guy Kawasaki

On marketing: David Armano

I suppose I should add a "blog roll" on my page that includes these…seems to be the common way to give props to your favorite blogs.

By |2008-07-10T09:55:13+00:00July 10th, 2008|Business, Life, People|2 Comments

Micro-interactions with customers

David Armano has an excellent post on "micro-interactions" with customers on his blog.  I am often amazed how companies and/or people do not realize the impact their encounter with you, even a small encounter, will have on gaining your trust for further interactions.

My friend recently took a coupon to a franchise restaurant to buy his family a meal "to-go".  Although the coupon was valid for each paying customer, they would not honor the coupon because the rest of his family was not present (they were at the park waiting for Dad to bring the food).  My friend proceeded to cancel his order and will now not be eating there ever again.  Should remind you, on a smaller scale, of the Disney story above (go read it if you haven’t already).

On the positive side of things, I always take my car to Pella Car Care.  Why?  Because every time I call, they know when I’m calling what cars I drive…when I have my car serviced, they take detailed pictures of what they saw as they repaired my car and explain the service they have provided…and they smile when I walk through the door!

By |2008-07-06T21:05:53+00:00July 6th, 2008|Business, Customer Service, Life, People|0 Comments

Stop and smell the roses

Would you stop to listen to a musician who commands $1,000 per minute?  Really?  For the answer on how over 1,000 other people responded read this absolutely fascinating article.  Pretty interesting snapshot of our culture, our busy-ness, our priorities, and our appreciation for beauty.  Allow yourself some time…the article is not brief.

The article also references Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out of Balance), a movie which I was just thinking about the other day.  I had seen it in college, so I Googled it and lo and behold it’s available online for viewing.  Check that out here.

Also, my good friend Patrick posted this (below) recently that’s definitely worth seven minutes of your day.

By |2008-05-23T13:34:28+00:00May 23rd, 2008|Culture, Fun, Life, People|0 Comments

The Incompetence Ratio

…in America must be really high.  Some businesses count on it.  Credit card companies thrive on it.  They are hoping that people are so incompetent that they will not be able to pay in a timely fashion and can collect more money in the long run.  They are hoping for people who are bad stewards of their money so that they can collect more in interest.

What reminded me today of "Incompetence Ratio" is the text message I just received on my phone.  "Redbox free MONDAY night rental."  At the end of the message it said, "Fwd to friends."  Giving stuff away for free?  Crazy?  Nope, they just have faith in the incompetence ratio.  They know that if they get the message out to enough people, there will be enough people in the mix to not return their movie the next day…hence, having to pay $1 for every day late, and for some people who lose their DVD or completely forget about it…a $25 "you-own-it" policy.

By |2008-04-14T10:40:18+00:00April 14th, 2008|Business, Culture, Life|0 Comments

Tom Peters getting real

Tom Peters has interesting insights.  Yesterday’s blog entry and included "book" is no different.  He has called his "book" (that’s not a book) "Excellence for ‘The Rest of Us’: A ‘Book’ for ‘Real People’, Working in ‘The Real World’ in 2008".  In it, he contrasts what business "gurus" (like himself) often focus on compared to the reality that most of the world of people lives in.  He focuses on the "realities that determine what I call ‘the missing 98 percent’—that is the messy ‘human reality’ ‘on the ground’ that is the essence of success or failure in getting things done."

Here’s a sample of how he compares the guru advice versus the real world (RW):

Guru focus: Totally “new rules for a new game,” dramatic new “management tools” that “change everything.”

RW: Most of us are learning new things, but nothing that’s particularly “revolutionary” as we labor mightily (full time) “just” to “get stuff done,” improve relationships, find good folks and keep ’em by showing appreciation and respect, and providing opportunities to get ahead.

I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s already interesting…check it out!

By |2008-03-19T10:12:12+00:00March 19th, 2008|Business, Life, People|0 Comments

Alltop: do you really like staring at a magazine rack?

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t.  Guy Kawasaki (author of one of my favorite books, The Art of the Start) recently launched, which he has branded as "the online magazine rack" for information from the "top publications and blogs".  I’m sure in a lot of circles (okay, maybe most circles), there has been zero buzz about Alltop (I guarantee my wife, my friends, my dad, my in-laws, general public have never heard of it…I would venture that no one I have been in contact within the last week has heard of it).  In the world of bloggers and technologists, there has been much discussion, and of course if you subscribe to Guy’s twitter-feed (what in the world is twitter?) you would know that just about every other tweet has something to do with Alltop.


Does this picture look interesting to you?  This is "push" not "pull"

…then you might like Alltop.  If being inundated with information and you like "browsing" then Alltop will provide a great place to browse and start getting information.  Alltop gives ("pushes" from a consumer standpoint) all of the latest headlines from around the Internet.  The "magazines" are arranged into categories and sub-categories (like work, living, people and within those maybe career, food, and egos).  If you don’t really know what you’re looking for, this might be helpful.  However, the "magazine" most useful to you may not be available on this "magazine stand" because the information for "sale" is being determined by the magazine-rack owner.

The people that probably most need Alltop don’t know about Alltop

Referring back to the people I mentioned that don’t know about it–my wife, dad, general public, etc.–these are the people that are less inclined to use some kind of RSS aggregator to subscribe to blogs.  Understanding blogs and the technology and usefulness behind them is not easy for this group of people.  They could benefit from finding this magazine rack of headlines from different blogs to start finding useful information.  However, since all of the buzz (as far as I can tell) about Alltop mostly exists within the community of bloggers and people that are already living in "this world", then the people that need it the most are still missing out.

The people who know about Alltop probably don’t need it

Guess who’s talking about Alltop the most?  The people that have been featured on Alltop!  Wouldn’t you?  I suppose I might have a completely different opinion about Alltop if I was featured on it.  However, I would surmise that generally these people do not need Alltop because they are probably already to subscribing to the information most relevant to them.  I can’t imagine any of them would actually spend much time "browsing" the "magazine-rack" at Alltop.

I want the stuff delivered to my front door: "pull"

I contend that people who still want the information delivered to their "front door" will still use RSS aggregators.  I want to subscribe to the information I want ("pull") and not have to fish through everything else to get what’s most relevant to me.  I don’t want 200 magazines dropped on my doorstep everyday that I have to waste time fishing through to find the things I’m interested in.

When would I use it

Okay, having said all that, there are instances I would use it.  Old-school instances would be like the old days of going to the public library or accessing some other reference material.  For example, if I suddenly took an interest in cooking, I would probably start at to find some useful information.  However, I would never make my browser homepage.  I would find the sites most relevant to my needs and then subscribe to things I would want updates on.


If you normally spend a lot of time at the airport or on a street corner staring at the endless choices of publications available, then Alltop is your online substitution.  If you are busy and want to use your limited time to get information most relevant to you, then stick to your preferred method of subscribing to online resources.

By |2008-03-17T11:19:56+00:00March 17th, 2008|Culture, Innovation, Life, People, Technology|4 Comments
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