New Book Coming

I am thrilled to announce that my newest book is nearing completion.   The editor is quickly wrapping up the last changes and corrections.    The book will focus on applications of lean in the office.   Watch this site for updates and announcements on the publish date and availability.




Duke’s Coach K’s Secret to Leadership Success

Duke’s Coach K’s Secret to Leadership Success.  This is a worthwhile read.   I often use the story of coach K in my lean workshops.

The Menlo Experience – Bringing Joy to Work

I recently visited Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, MI.  It was a fantastic experience.  I had heard Menlo CEO Rich Sheridan speak at a LPPDE conference last year, and as soon as I heard him, I knew that I should go and visit this amazing organization.

Menlo Innovations is a company that develops custom software for other companies and organizations.  It is named after another innovative organization… Thomas Edison’s labs in Menlo Park, NJ.   It is a relatively young company at just 14 years old, but it has been recognized and awarded many, many times.  They are a small company compared to many others with about 60 employees.  But they have created a breakthrough in software development.  And besides their revolutionary development practices, they have transformed their culture.    You can read about this company in the book written by their CEO, Rich Sheridan, who was also our host for the day.


Joy Inc. by Menlo CEO Richard Sheridan

He talked to extensively about the principles to put Joy in the workplace.  They have hosted 300 companies just this year who have traveled to Ann Arbor to see Menlo first hand.

Here is a list of the Menlo awards in the past two years.


  • WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™
  • Inc.’s 5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America (Inc. Magazine)
  • 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For – Metro Detroit
  • When Work Works Award (formerly known as Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility)
  • Michigan Economic Bright Spots (Corp! Magazine)
  • Gold Breastfeeding Friendly Award (Washtenaw County Breastfeeding Coalition)


  • Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Flexibility (When Work Works)
  • Leaders Everywhere Challenge (Management Innovation eXchange)
  • Technology 200 (Lead 411)
  • The Washtenaw Soul Award (Washtenaw Indie Awards – Think Local First)
  • Michigan Economic Bright Spots (Corp! Magazine)
  • WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™, Community Voted Top Practice: Integrity
  • Silver Breastfeeding Friendly Award (Washtenaw County Breastfeeding Coalition)

They have changed the way I thought about space, visuals, the development process, and the culture of work.

They have mastered agile software methods and applied many, many concepts that could be called “lean” in their workplace.

Every week they go through a development cycle, or what would be referred to asa Rapid Learning Cycle in Product Development or a Sprint in Information Technology

That means that each week they plan, create unit tests, write code in “pairs”, run thousands of units tests, perform QA testing, and review the software with their clients.   That is a one week development cycle!  They do this as a common practice every week of the year.

That is significant.   Most companies go through very long development cycles that take weeks if not months.

They do all of this in a 40 hour work week, and they do it without anyone working any overtime.  They don’t use email internally and have practically no internal meetings.

How they do it would take pages to describe.  I highly recommend reading the book.

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love

.   So for now, here is their story in pictures.

They go through a weekly planning game where the content of the projects are planned out for the next week.


The Planning Game

The space is open, but works very well and has less noise than you would imagine. (There is a hard floor, but lots of sound baffles in the ceiling above the lights).


The big open room at Menlo

The individual workers reconfigure the space by moving the light weight aluminum tables, and they do so every week per the needs of the project work.

They use visuals on all the walls and columns to show planned work and the status of work. They have the ultimate Lean Office.

They work using a method called “paired programming” to enhance quality and speed learning.


Paired Programming

There is one scheduled meeting per day.   A stand-up meeting that everyone participates in.


Meno Standup Meeting

It happens each morning at 10:00 am and lasts for no more than 15 minutes.

Here the team doing the work is meeting with the customer/client to review the development from the last week.  The space was reconfigured on the fly for this purpose.


The customer is at the keyboard… not the programmers!

There is so much more to write and tell about.  Everything is quite different: How they estimate and plan.   How they use High-Tech Anthropology to uncover user behavior and requirements.  How they use artifacts in the workplace to signal and trigger activities.  How they cross train and move from project to project every week.  How they have broken down towers of knowledge.

I suggest you make the effort to read about it, go and hear Rich Goebel or James Sheridan from Menlo speak, or even take a trip to Ann Arbor, Mi for one of their tours.

And yes… they do allow babies and dogs in the work place.  Here is Rich Sheridan petting Rusty who is a very friendly dog!


Menlo CEO Rich Sheridan pets Rusty.

Speaking for all of us have gone and seen the environment, I know that we are all eager to “run the experiment” to put Joy in our own workplaces.


MRT: Applying Rapid Learning Cycles to Development – Webinar

Here’s a chance to find out how implementing rapid learning cycles will increase speed and innovation in your development process.   Please join me for a Management Round Table webinar, April 17, 2014.

Applying Rapid Learning Cycles to Development

In this session, you will:

  • Learn about the Steelcase lean journey and applications of lean in development.   Understand lean program objectives and the framework for implementation.
  • Explore how rapid learning cycles can be applied to development from the earliest concept phases and throughout development.
  • Close knowledge gaps earlier and speed up innovation in the development process.
  • Learn how rapid learning cycles go hand in hand with innovation methods.
  • Learn how to start planning your lean product development implementation.

How to Design for Speed and Simplicity

Guest post from Bart Huthwaite

How to Design for Speed & Simplicity

Quick time-to-market comes from getting the small things right.  Here is a check list to follow:

  1. Smaller is better.  Keep your product team small, typically no more than 6-8 members.  And make sure all know the importance of product speed and are totally committed to it.  Communication is faster when fewer are involved.
  2. Get the “Big Picture” first.  Don’t start without a clear “end-in-view” and a strategy for getting there.  Build your strategy on the strategic values which will make your product or service a long term winner.  Your team members will be able to make decisions faster.  Strong “buy-in” to a team’s game plan encourages faster response time when crises arise.
  3. Work in parallel.   Parallel work compresses product launch time.  Constantly work to build confidence and trust, thus encouraging early understanding and commitment of these parallel teams.
  4. Avoid “sand bag” solutions.   Sand bag solutions are those which slow down a new product effort.  These can include specifying a new, untested manufacturing process, launching a product with an untrained sales force and implementing a new CAD system the same time you are developing a new product effort.  These kinds of innovation are best done “off-line,”  and are only inserted into the product development cycle when they are fully proven.
  5. Create a “Team Efficiency Charter.”  Identify and agree on the characteristics of a highly efficient new product team.   Good product teams build standards of excellence and then adhere to them.
  6. Measure both product effectiveness and team efficiency in “real time.”  Product effectiveness is how well your product is attaining its goals.  Team efficiency is how well your team dynamics are working, such as the speed decision-making and follow-through.  Fast track product teams keep a stop watch record of everything.
  7. Think ahead.  Develop your product in three generations.  This helps your team anticipate the future.   I call this technique “step”, “stretch” and “leap.”  This helps you prepare for future shifts in technology, competition and marketplace changes.  This helps you avoid “re-inventing the wheel.”  Only insert new technology into your product when risk has been reduced to a minimum.
  8. Get management involved and committed at the early concept stage.  Management buy-in “up-front” reduces your team’s fear of failure.  Do this beginning at the early product concept stage.
  9. Be time driven.  Never start a meeting or a task without first setting a specific time to finish it.  And stick to your guns.  Avoid trying to get the entire job done in one sitting.  Shoot for 80% and then come back to the issue later.  Iteration is a hallmark of effective design teams.
  10.  Let us know how we can help.  LEAN Product Design is our passion. Contact us to learn about our onsite programs to help you.

Dump PowerPoint – Physicists, Generals, and CEOs agree

This week National Public Radio (NPR) Alan Yu had a fascinating report.   In it he sites top level scientist and leaders in both the military and business who are boycotting PowerPoint presentations for communication and  information transfer.

A PowerPoint slide is projected on a screen prior to a lecture at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress computer hacker conference in Berlin.  Adam Berry/Getty Images

A PowerPoint slide is projected on a screen prior to a lecture at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress computer hacker conference in Berlin. Adam Berry/Getty Images

A PowerPoint slide is projected on a screen prior to a lecture at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress computer hacker conference in Berlin.     Adam Berry/Getty Images

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider noticed that the transfer of information was hindering communication.  All of the communication was one-way.   The report quotes one of the scientists:

“The use of the PowerPoint slides was acting as a straitjacket to discussion,” says Andrew Askew, an assistant professor of physics at Florida State University and one of the organizers of the forum at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.”

The scientists were discovering that instead of a two-way communication, everything was one-way.    In one-way only communication, people in the audience typically zone out and often tune out.

And this is not only true in scientific circles, PowerPoint is being thrown out at the top levels of business and in the military.  The NPR article goes out to state:

The CEOs of Amazon and LinkedIn have eliminated the presentations from meetings. In his recently published memoir, former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates calls PowerPoint slides “the bane of my existence in Pentagon meetings; it was as though no one could talk without them.”

So, what is happening is that people are noticing that something happens when PowerPoint or other multi-slide presentation modes are used…people become disengaged.   And when they disengage, meaningful discussion stops.  This is ultimately a time waster.  And even if there is meaningful content in the presentation, it is missed, overlooked, or just not heard.

Danger exists if key information is skimmed over and not taken into account.   One such event has been documented in numerous spots, and this NPR article notes it as well: the potential failure of the o-rings at low temperatures on the space shuttle solid rock boosters was actually known and in a NASA report.   But the presentation of the data was not made clear or presented in a form to delay the launch of the shuttle.  This resulted in the tragic events that we now call the Challenger disaster.

So if PowerPoint isn’t used in scientific reviews, board rooms, and at the strategy table, what takes its place?  It is interesting that the military said only maps and charts can be used.    What they are getting at is that the information has to visible and easily understood.

The visual presentation of information on a single page is the key.


In lean, we favor one single page of information on an A3 (approximately 11″ x 17″) size sheet of paper.   This single page houses all of the information about the topic.

The A3 forces the author/presentor to:

  • Keep it to one page
  • Be concise and make decision on what to show or not to show
  • Show their thinking
  • Favor graphics, charts, and graphs over text
  • Refer to the document when speaking

The A3 document helps the audience:

  • Focus in on the information that is important
  • Know what information to point to when asking questions
  • Know where to look in the future to recall and reference the information
  • Have confidence that the key information is being communicated

There are multiple documents that can be converted into an A3 format.   Status reports, project plans, proposals, decision documents, etc. These are all potential candidates.

The A3 format is particularly powerful for communicating new knowledge that is gained during the research and development phases of projects.   So the A3 becomes a very important tool in Lean product development.

In all of these cases, it is important to ask for the A3 style document instead of PowerPoint.  Or better yet, demand it!

So, throw away your PowerPoint, and start communicating on a single A3 page.

Trademark discovery leads to rename to Lean Development Excellence blog

I recently was alerted to the fact that two words lean and design when put together is protected.  “Lean Design ®” is copyrighted and patented by Munro & Associates, of Michigan.


Of course, many brands have a trademark.  Everything from famous colas to a very famous mouse from a certain theme park.  Trademarks are a part of business today.   And, they can remain in effect basically indefinitely, as long as the company that owns the trademark continues to keep it registered.  Newly registered trademarks are valid for 10 years.  Trademarks can be renewed for additional 10-year terms, and there is no limit to the number of times a trademark can be renewed, as long as use of the mark by its owner continues.

In order to comply with their trademark, the name of this blog has changed to Lean Development Excellence.

You will find that many of these entries on this blog have been change to remove the words and replace them with other words or phrases.  So  you will find phrases like:

Lean product design

Lean healthcare design

Lean process design

Design for lean development

Design for lean manufacturing

Lean development


All of these have been used where appropriate to avoid the trademark issues, but also to better describe the intent of the entries.

Finally, the Wikipedia article has now been changed to Design for lean manufacturing, which more accurately reflects the nature of the article.

I hope the readers of the blog find the changes helpful and ultimately more helpful for describing the topics shared on this blog.

Lean Development Excellence Featured Product: Smartphone Physicals

A Lean Development is ultimately a disruptive innovation, which means it dramatically changes an industry, effects all consumers, and generates new product families.

In this blog post, I’ll examine a remarkable way that smartphones are being adapted for use in medicine in ways that optimize value for the patient, and drive out wastes from the healthcare system.SmartPhone Physical

Ever imagine that your smartphone would take your blood pressure from the comfort of your home?

Or can you envision getting your blood sugar readings instantaneously on your iPhone?

Have you ever thought that your doctor would do an ECG or ultrasound on an iPhone right in his or her office?

It sounds like an instrument that Dr. Bones would use in Star Trek from his medical room on the Enterprise.  But that science fiction is now becoming a reality.  The future is here today!  These things are being done today, and will become common place in a few years.

“How long will it be before we’re all having our own smartphone physicals every one or two years?  Devices such as the body analysis scale, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and ECG are already in use as teaching devices in med schools and by some patients, and some early adopting clinicians are using them in daily life. TEDMED speaker Eric Topol has been integrating smartphone-based devices into his practice over the last few years and most recently used his AliveCor to diagnose a passenger-in-distress on an airplane as well as the CellScope Oto to visualize Stephen Colbert’s ear drum on the “Colbert Report.”  See TEDMED

SmartPhones are bringing new value to medicine.   The Smartphone used in this way brings new frontiers to the doctor patient interaction.   Here are the values that are optimized:

  • Tests can be done immediately.
  • The results are accurate.
  • The doctor’s diagnosis can occur in nearly real time.
  • Instant readings can help save lives.
  • The patients data can be saved for future comparisons and progress.
  • The patient can own their own improvement program with instant and continuous feedback on  progress

According to Eric Topol, a pioneer in the field of smartphones used in medicine, this new technology will disrupt the health care system and drive out wastes.     Smartphones used in this way will help to reduce unnecessary tests, or bring the tests directly to the patient.    Medicine can become personalized, and there will not be a need to do mass screenings.     Furthermore, drugs can be properly and accurately prescribed based on real-time data from the patient.  Here are the wastes that are driven out of the healthcare system:

  • Costly procedures are replaced by a low-cost or no-added-cost procedure
  • Patients no longer need to travel to the tests, the tests go to the patient
  • Medications can be calibrated based on the needs of the body
  • Mass screenings can be replaced by targeted tests for the individual

As more of these devices are available and more and more tests are possible from the smartphone, your next physical very well might be a smart phone physical.   The result will be a more thorough physical, with more test and feedback given directly to you as the patient.  And the costs of the tests will be lower, if not eliminated completely.

So, enter the brave new world of Lean Development, where disruptive innovations bring new value and eliminate wastes.

SmartPhone Pulse

Lean development for Florida Wesley Chapel Hospital


Lean development is credited in another hospital design.  This one is Florida’s Wesley Chapel.

“The team relied on research and lean principles to address design of the patient rooms, patient units, emergency department, clinical laboratory, surgery, and sterile processing, with special attention paid to work flow, adjacencies, optimization of staff time, and functional tasks. Throughout the facility, large windows offer natural light and views, while multiple gardens provide spaces for family, patient, and staff respite.

The greenfield site itself posed particular challenges since one-third was deeded wetlands. Florida’s wetlands preservation laws required multiple reviews with many government agencies. HuntonBrady worked with the civil engineer to create a three-phase site plan to demonstrate how the hospital could grow and make best use of the site, while minimizing impact on current operations. For this reason, departments most likely to expand are on the first level and have exterior walls.”







Waste Prevention

Annual Health Physical: Lean by design


I recently attended my annual check-up and physical by my primary care doctor.   A number of things seemed different this year.   My doctor knows me quite well, and he knows about my professional interest in LEAN.  So he was excited to talk about what has changed.  My experience as a patient was completely different this year, accelerated by a grant to implement LEAN in his office.   If you are a health professional and want to delight your patients, take this piece of advice.  Go Lean.

So, what did the experience look and feel like for the patient after the implementation of Lean?  From the minute I walked in the door, I experienced many improvements.

1. No delays or queue.

There was no waiting at the front desk.   All of my records are now on the new EMR (Electronic Medial Records) system.   No copies were needed of my insurance card.  No questionnaires to fill out.   Only one quick form to sign for HIPAA.

2. No waiting once checked in.

I sat down in the waiting room, expecting to wait for a few minutes.   I had just signed my HIPAA form and was preparing to bring it to the front window, when the nurse called me in, “Timothy?”   At first, it didn’t register.

“Timothy?” she called again.

“Ah, was that Timothy you called?”, I replied.

“Yes,  Is that you?”

“Ah …Yes. I still have the form they asked me to sign.”

“No problem she said, I’ll take it.”

No wait time.  No division of duties.  Pretty smooth so far.

3.  Improved Flow

I noticed that the flow path to the room had improved.  Now the scale and height gauge were right on the way to the room.   “Umm, do I need to take off my shoes?”   “No it’s fine” said the nurse, ” We just need an idea of your approximate current weight.  It’s up to you.”  (No over-processing here.)

Well, I did take them off knowing that I had put on a few pounds since my last visit.  (1o pounds to be exact – It’s been a long winter in Michigan).

4.  Work area ready for the patient (5S)

On the way to the room…. the nurse stopped…there were 2 rooms to choose from.  She had to decide where to put me!  Obivously there is good flow in this office I thought to myself.  No waiting for a room.  The room was ready and everything was laid out for the physical.

5.  Excellent training and standard work

She went through the regular questions.  Everything was on their new computer system.   No paper records, only electronic records.  Very well done I thought.

She took a little time with the system (just a few seconds) and apologized since she was new.  “How new?”, I asked.   “Oh, I just started on Monday.”  Well, obviously they had standardized the work and training for her, because she was very efficient.  She then took my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, etc.   Everything went into the computer.   Then she said, “The doctor will be right in.”     So I picked up my smartphone to check my email, and before I had a chance to read one e-mail, I heard the doctor outside the room.   Then a slight knock, and there he was.  Wow… No waiting for the doctor.

6.  No rework

The doctor already had all of my information in his computer.   Everything done so far; my weight, my blood pressure, the questions I had answered, etc. ….they were all on his screen.

7.  Connected to Suppliers

When I asked my doctor for a refill on my prescription.   He said with a smile… “This is the part I love!”   He clicked a few buttons, and said, “There… it is sent to your pharmacy.”    Literally in a matter of seconds my prescription was sent to the pharmacy.

8.  Focus on the customer

My doctor spent nearly the whole visit dealing with me.  He went over everything connected to my health.  My family life, my exercise routine, my diet, yes… even my sex life.

9.  No waste

As the visit neared the end.  He said, “we are trying something new.”   Your billing is all handled in the room.   So after he left, a member of the office staff came in immediately to the room and went over the final bill and co-pays.   Everything was completed in a few seconds, and I was free to go.

10.  Total customer experience across the value stream.

I had to know… was my prescription really ready?  Will the pharmacy be as efficient?  So I went directly to the pharmacy after the appointment.  And yes.   The pharmacist had the prescription waiting for me.  And when he saw me come in, he brought my prescription to the front counter.  I was in and out of the pharmacy in a matter of 5 minutes.

So LEAN in Healthcare can make a huge difference in patient experience.   Congratulations to Dr. Terrence Wright and the staff of his office.