Rachel Yoder is an assistant project manager at Kraus-Anderson. She recently facilitated her first Lean Coffee meeting at KA and talks about the group, and how Lean thinking is shaping her life and KA’s culture.
Q: Talk a little about your own journey into Lean. What was your first exposure to Lean Construction?
A co-worker stopped by the office early this summer and asked if I had time to join them for Lean Coffee, and I was hesitant to go (as most industry professionals would attest, time is valuable and limited)… but I am glad I did. I have been hooked ever since. It is inspiring, refreshing and motivating to attend these meetings. The ideas presented are all interesting and pertain to everyone in the room in one aspect or another.
There is typically such a diverse group, that you are bound to leave with additional perspectives and opinions – and you want to/need to promote change. Individuals are inspired, have a vision, create a plan and commit to an action. It is exciting to be a part of that. My first month, I believe I made a commitment to each topic discussed, one of which was to read The Speed of Trust. That book open my eyes to my personal life, my professional life, and my own self- reflection. To think about how my life has changed, because of a few simple changes I have made on a daily basis, because of a book, because of a meeting, because of an invite… is pretty remarkable.
Q: How has KA’s Lean Leadership Group and/or Kyle Woody and/or the Lean coffees helped you develop your understanding of Lean?
RACHEL YODER: I have taken the Lean Construction courses offered by KAU, and that is an enormous amount of technical information put out in a small period of time, extended over several months. Incorporating that into a project can be overwhelming. Seeing some of those techniques used in the Lean Coffee, helps familiarize you with the concepts, makes it seem manageable and gives you the drive to want to put what you’ve learned to use. Kyle Woody lives and breathes Lean Leadership. His energy and enthusiasm for it is contagious. He welcomes ideas, provides direction – only while making you find the solution on your own, and encourages anyone with a vision or goal. He has been a huge influence in the cultural shift of the company, and as facilitator of Lean Coffee he has taught respect for people and continuous improvement.
Q: How have you used Lean Construction approaches in your work?
RACHEL YODER: This is new to me, I just facilitated my first Lean Coffee last week. I have since started to do a plus/delta into my weekly progress meetings. I am taking little steps to incorporate the strategies and techniques into my management style. I am starting a new project next spring and hope to have a better handle on the Lean Construction process at that point and integrating the methods into that project from the start.
Q: The Lean Coffees are open to and attended by KAers in all roles- not just project management functions. How does that cross-pollination of ideas serve the group?
RACHEL YODER: Every individual sees things from their own perspective – no two people have the same approach, attitude, position or frame of reference. Lean Coffee allows for an open discussion on an array of topics, and the ideas that surface during the conversations help each person broaden their views. The collaboration, for lack of a better word, is inspiring. It for one, brings optimism to the table about the new open/collaborative work centers/space of the new KA Headquarters office.
Developing a sense of community
Two, introduces us to our co-workers, individuals we may never have had any contact with previously, who have such wonderful ideas and helpful suggestions. Three, it is educational, the simplest of subjects – can inspire the best conversations, you walk away from each meeting with something… it may be helpful on a project, something you can incorporate to make your job or life easier or better, or just knowing something new about the person sitting next to you. It all matters, it is all important and it is rewarding. It is developing a sense of community among the employees at Kraus-Anderson, a camaraderie if you will, relationships.
Q: The discussions cover a wide range of topics. Would you select a couple as examples and share some findings or action items that have come out of the Lean Coffees?
RACHEL YODER: Here are some of the topics from our last Lean Coffee:
KA Initiative Groups – What groups? Who leads them? How do people get invited, chosen or volunteer if interested? How is information put out to the company as a whole?
Small Projects – Incorporate into a service/warranty group? Acquiring work, making commitments, developing relationships…IMPORTANCE. Billable time – issues
Recognition – Are we incorporating this into our day? When do we recognize outstanding work… After an excellent interview? After the project is awarded? During the construction process? Smooth close out? Why aren’t we supporting each other – praising one another – saying thank you or good job – why isn’t information put out when we are awarded a new project?
Q: What led to your desire to facilitate the most recent Lean Coffee?
RACHEL YODER: To be completely honest, after going through the Lean Construction course… you feel so motivated to implement what you learn, but you don’t know where to begin. There are so many advantages and value that comes from Lean Construction practices, that it is foolish not to give those benefits to the Owner, and the stakeholders. It is just a huge, no enormous, leap to take initially… so this just seemed like a more manageable step to get my feet wet. At Lean Coffee you are among fellow employees, so there is a level of comfort when getting up in front of the group. Also, anyone that has previously facilitated the meeting is overwhelmingly supportive and beyond helpful. (And it is possible that I had an excuse to bake and share treats with friends!)
Q: What was that experience like? Plus/Deltas?
RACHEL YODER: Plusses: Practice public speaking, facilitating a meeting, meeting fellow co-workers I had not met in the two years I have been with the company, great turnout (I personally walked around the office to extend an invite the day prior) Deltas: There is nothing I did not take away as a benefit from that experience.
Q: What’s on the horizon? What are your goals for your Lean journey?
RACHEL YODER: Actually – I did mention above how I would like to start incorporating Lean Construction practices into my projects. But I am also currently pursuing my graduate degree in Construction Management. I will be taking the Lean Enterprise courses from the University of St. Thomas and using that certification in my thesis at the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Overall I feel like my Lean journey will strengthen my relationships, assist in my projects and advance my career.