Sunday, June 9, 2013

The JUNE Lean Champion of the Month-John Peterson

Leading an organization through a "lean journey" is not a job for the weak of heart. The goals are clear enough. Create as much "flow" as possible by learning to see and eliminate non value added activity in as many processes as we can get our hands on. The lean tools seem simple enough. Play with them a few times and most of us (even me) get the hang of it. If we can stay with it, we can create a culture of ownership and be about as recession -proof as you can get (2008 is a case-in-point for me and my company). To do it, a few brand new processes need to be set up, and pretty much everyone has to learn a new set of routines (kata). There are no shortcuts. You can't order people around. People "buy-in" for real at their own pace, and sometimes it takes years, or decades to get every single person on board. You can't simply go fix other people's processes, because that is the definition of disrespect. Mission impossible?

Enter the seasoned lean champion. Enter John Peterson of Ulbrich SpecialtyStrip Mill (Wallingford, CT). I promise you, if you spend even five minutes with John, you quickly understand what the word passionate is all about.  This guy NEVER mails it in. Here are the top 5 reasons John is my "Lean Champion of the Month" for June.
1. John is a passionate learner-he is not at all new to lean. He has been at this since the 80's. He has taken Acme Composites from worst to first. He is incredibly good at it. His thirst for knowledge might give you the impression he's new at this. He has made continuous learning part of his standard work. There aren't many lean texts that he hasn't read, and whenever I see him, he's reading two at once. He is always interested in visiting others to learn from what they do well, and also willing to bring them in to show people what he's doing.
2. John is a passionate teacher-one of the most important roles of lean champion is to teach. We have a responsibility to teach people everything we've learned, go learn some more, then teach it. The ultimate goal of any company is that they be considered a learning organization. John has brought together a group of people who meet regularly for the specific purpose of learning together.    
3. John finds real joy in other people's growth-he is never happier than when someone at Ulbrich closes their first A3. (52 different people have led and closed 74 A3s in 5 months this year). Think about that, 74 steps toward flow, and John has worked with all of them, helping them through the PDCA process right through the closing. Often, he will exclaim to me, "you should have been at Joe's closing! You should have seen how proud he was."  Nobody is excluded from John's program. He works with people on 1st, 2nd and 3rd shift.
4. John is patient and resilient-Anyone who has done lean realizes that every day is not FUN. Change management is not easy. People buy in at their own pace. People get frustrated at times. You need a steady hand and an understanding that tomorrow is another day. As lean champion, some days you are the hammer, and some days you are the nail. As a seasoned lean champion, you know this and take whatever progress you can get.
5. John is highly respected by his "customers". I have the honor to work with the great people of USSM, helping seed new projects and move existing projects along. These people are extremely good at what they do. There are more people there with >20 years experience than any company I know. John is very much respected by these people. His approach is one of empathy and servitude, and he is a fierce proponent of them, and they KNOW it. 

I think the last line sums up my admiration of John Peterson..."lean" is about PEOPLE, not tools!!

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