Giving back your Lean know-how to your community

How experienced Lean teams donate their time and skills to make a difference.

I’ve recently read a great post about donating KAIZEN™ on one of my favourite Lean blogs, evolvingexcellence.com. It referred to an article in The New York Times about how Toyota employees donated their time, know-how and experience of KAIZEN™ to make their local soup kitchen more efficient.

This great YouTube clip also tells the story very well with great practical examples.

Toyota’s engineers went to work. The kitchen, which can seat 50 people, typically opened for dinner at 4 p.m., and when all the chairs were filled, a line would form outside. Mr. Foriest would wait for enough space to open up to allow 10 people in. The average wait time could be up to an hour and a half.
Toyota made three changes. They eliminated the 10-at-a-time system, allowing diners to flow in one by one as soon as a chair was free. Next, a waiting area was set up inside where people lined up closer to where they would pick up food trays. Finally, an employee was assigned the sole duty of spotting empty seats so they could be filled quickly. The average wait time dropped to 18 minutes and more people were fed.


In New Zealand we also have many worthy NGO’s and other charities that are serving our local communities. Well-meaning and hard-working people who don’t necessarily have the required skills, systems and equipment often struggle to run these organisations with limited resources.

Several organisations in New Zealand are applying KAIZEN™ or Lean in their own organisations. Those of us who are applying KAIZEN™ in our own processes can  also make a big difference if we volunteer to plough back our KAIZEN™ knowledge to support our own local soup kitchens, charities, etc.

Furthermore, imagine the impact that KAIZEN™ or Lean thinkers can have as School Board of Trustee members, Local Community Board members, Local Council members, etc.

Apart from serving our communities by helping them to become more efficient and productive, there is also an added bonus. The best learning comes from doing.  By applying our KAIZEN™ thinking to different processes outside our familiar day-to-day work environment we will enhance and deepen our own understanding of the KAIZEN™ philosophy and techniques.

The key take-away for me is that the usual financial donations are obviously required, but it is not necessarily the best way and it certainly should not be the only way to support fund-raising charities.
 

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