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Pawley Lean Institute

Pawley Hall, Room 460K
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-4542

Learning Enrichment Activities

These activities are resources for educators to reinforce Lean and related concepts learned in a classroom setting. Each category offers a lesson on a concept including its definition, an example and a structured activity.

5 Whys

What is 5 Whys Problem Solving?
The 5 Whys Problem Solving technique is a simple process to follow to solve any problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five times is a good rule of thumb), to peel away the layers of symptoms that can lead to the root cause of a problem. This strategy relates to the principle of systematic problem solving. 

Proper uses of the technique:

  1. To help identify the root cause of a problem
    • A root cause is the most basic reason, which if eliminated, would prevent reoccurrence.
  2. Provides a framework for a team to work through a more complex problem
  3. To solve problems as they occur

Improper uses of the technique:

  1. To emphasize the person or blame: turning the 5 Whys into the 5 Whos
  2. Making it a tedious, desk intensive project

Activity Procedure: Write down the specific problem.

  1. Writing the issue helps you formalize the problem and describe it completely.
  2. It helps a team focus on the same problem.
  3. Always describe the current condition.
  4. Use data where possible.
    • Example: Overall customer complaints are up 50%.
  5. Ask WHY the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem.
  6. If the answer provided doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem that you wrote in step 1, ask WHY again and write that answer down.
  7. Loop back to step 3 until the team is in agreement that the problem’s root cause is identified. 

Case Example: Problem Statement: Your company was unable to get the customer’s product request to them on time.

  1. Why were you unable to produce the product on time? Because the equipment failed.
  2. Why did the equipment fail? Because the circuit board burned out.
  3. Why did the circuit board burn out? Because it overheated.
  4. Why did it overheat? Because the air filter wasn’t changed.
  5. Why wasn’t the filter changed? Because there was no afternoon preventative maintenance shift scheduled to change it.

What is the 5S System?
The 5S visual management system is designed to create a visual workplace – a work environment that is self-explaining, self-ordering, self-improving. A good 5S condition is a clean, well-ordered workplace that is the foundation of improvement.

Principles of the 5S System:

  • Sort (S1) – sort out what you don’t need (when in doubt, throw it out). Use the “Red Tagging” tool to identify unneeded items during the sort phase of 5S. Take the red tag items to a removal location. Anyone can plead the case for the item to stay. The team makes the final decision. Listed on the red tagged items:
    • Item classification
    • Item ID and quantity
    • Reason for red tagging
    • Work section
    • Date
  • Set in order (S2) – organize what’s left so as to minimize wasted motion (a place for everything, and everything in its place). Keep in mind how to place machines, storage shelves, equipment, etc. to reduce the waste of motion.
  • Shine (and Inspect) (S3) – Nothing raises a team’s spirit like a clean, well-ordered workplace. This involves:
    • What to clean
    • How to clean
    • Who will do the cleaning
    • How clean is clean
    • Develop checklists of what should be cleaned
    • Cleaning responsibilities and schedules should be prominently posted
    • 5S stations should be set up and stocked with cleaning supplies
  • Standardize (S4) – maintain the good condition by applying standards for S1 to S3.
    • Remember that the best standards are clear, simple and visual.
    • Effective standards make the out-of-standard condition obvious.
    • Example: an office equipment board tells us
      • What equipment should be there
      • What equipment currently are there
      • Who has taken equipment and when they will return it.
    • Sustain (S5) – ensure that 5S develops deep roots through involvement. 5S must belong to each team member through:
      • Promotion and Communication (report boards, contests, 5S core group)
      • Training

Benefits of 5 Ss:

  • Problem identification: spot abnormal conditions quickly
  • Standardization: one way, one place, one level of cleanliness
  • Waste elimination: reduce walking, waiting, searching, etc.
  • Morale: less clutter, darkness and frustration


  • Use wall charts instead of computers for group communications. Wall charts or schedules involve the team and compel action. Computers lack public interface.
  • The Detroit Zoo uses elephant paw prints to visually direct visitors to various animal attractions. 

5S Game:
This is a powerful way of demonstrating the benefits of organized workplaces.

  • Break into teams.
  • Each team is to build the same house from two different boxes of parts.
  • The first box has unclear instructions and a disorganized set of parts (to which the 5S methodology can be applied). The second box has clear instruction and an organized set of parts.
  • Build two houses with legos, one from each box.
  • What have we discovered?
Dialogue Sessions

What is Dialogue?
Dialogue is deeply intuitive; sensing self and sensing the group. It raises the bar for innovative communication. How? Check in with yourself; listen for the “music.”

When is Dialogue Appropriate?

  • Complex issue that needs to be explored
  • Issues we care about
  • Issues that affect strategies, future, etc
  • Desire for deeper connection and community
  • To explore structural source of behavior and results

When is Dialogue NOT Appropriate?

  • Need for quick decision
  • Need to converge, reach agreement
  • Non-strategic decisions

Guidelines for Dialogue:

  • Recognition and suspension of assumptions
  • Spirit of inquiry and openness
  • Deep listening to self and others

Example - A dialogue session would be useful to discuss teacher/student relationships.

Rules in Dialogue:

  • Speak to the “center” of the group, to the “common ground” not to a particular person.
  • Speak from the “I.”
    • “My experience is…”
    • “The thought that comes to me is…”
    • “As Alan spoke, I found myself thinking…”
  • Allow silence of at least five seconds between speakers (that’s one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.) – silence often signals that people are thinking.
  • Allow other people’s words to sit without rebuttal, judgment or embellishment as they were spoken.
  • Receive and digest the observations and feelings of others without analyzing, judging (negatively or positively) or fixing.
  • Speak only when you feel compelled. If it’s already been said, it has been said on behalf of us all. 

How to Listen During Dialogue (or anytime):
(Senge, et al., 1995, p.391)

  1. Stop talking – to others and to yourself. Learn to still the voice within. You can’t listen if you are talking.
  2. Imagine the other person’s viewpoint. Picture yourself in her position, doing her work, facing her problems, using her language and having her values.
  3. Look, act and be interested.
  4. Observe nonverbal behavior, like body language, to glean meanings beyond what is said to you.
  5. Don’t interrupt. Sit still past your tolerance level.
  6. Listen between the lines for implicit meanings as well as explicit ones.
  7. Speak only affirmatively while listening. Resist the temptation to jump in with an evaluative, critical or disparaging comment at the moment a remark is uttered.
  8. To ensure understanding, rephrase what the other person has just told you at key points in the conversation. Yes, I know this is the old “active listening” technique, but it works – and how often do you do it?
  9. Stop talking. This is the first and last because all other techniques of listening depend on it. Take a vow of silence once in a while. 

Tools in Dialogue:
All participants sit in a circle, either on the floor or at a table so that they can see each other.

The facilitator also sits in the circle and completely reviews the rules that will be followed throughout the session. The “check-in” begins where the facilitator, using a “koosh” ball explains how he/she feels about participating in the session. The facilitator then hands it to each person around the circle. Participants can only speak when they have the koosh ball. They can say “pass” if they don’t want to share.

Once everyone has checked in, the “problem” is explained. Thoughts are shared only when participants have the koosh ball. They indicate when they want it by waving a hand. The session may last as short as 30 minutes or as long as an hour. The facilitator keeps time and makes sure all stay in a dialog mode not a decision making mode. At the end, everyone must “check out” by sharing how they felt about the session. 

Topic: Diversity in the Classroom

  • It is one of the most important issues educators face in classrooms today.
  • How do educators deal with it?
  • What is missing when dealing with different cultures?
  • Remember, the goal is to come to a better understanding of a topic, not to make a decision.
Hoshin Kanri

What is Hoshin Kanri?
A strategic planning process to establish high agreement and align people in a common direction with agreed upon methods to improve. Planning asks where are we going and how are we going to get there?

The Hoshin planning process provides focus by being rationally developed, well defined, clearly communicated, monitored and modified based on continual feedback. The Hoshin process is systematic and standardized.

Hoshin = a course, a plan, an aim Kanri= control, administration, charge of

Why apply Hoshin Planning?

  • To learn
  • To improve as individuals and as an organization
  • To compel renewal and reinvention
  • To ensure high agreement of all individuals involved in the project
  • To ensure that insight and vision are not forgotten or ignored once the plan is implemented

Key elements

  • Mission statement
  • Goal setting
  • Defined roles
  • Communication
  • Monitoring
  • Feedback
  • Adaptation
  • Continuous improvement

Hoshin Methodology


  1. Create a mission statement in order to articulate clearly what needs to be accomplished. A clear statement of purpose is vital to the Hoshin planning process.
  2. Identify critical issues.
  3. Establish objectives and set clearly defined goals.
  4. Define everyone’s role and responsibilities.
  5. Create process performance and business fundamental measures.
  6. Establish a timeline for when planned activities should be completed.


  1. Implement the plan.


  1. A Hoshin plan has a systematic and standardized way to measure progress.
  2. Information is collected and analyzed in order to ensure that the planned events are occurring.
  3. Discover any differences between the expected and actual results.
  4. Monitoring progress is the key to Hoshin planning.


  1. Causes for any differences in the desired outcome versus the actual results are identified. Continuous review is necessary for continuous improvement.
  2. Problems are discussed.
  3. Corrective action is determined.

Activity: This activity is to be used at the beginning of the term in order to achieve high agreement of members among each team for the class project.

  1. Save chart to your computer.
  2. Insert the project name and desired task due dates.
  3. Download to Moodle.
  4. Divide class into teams and instruct them to go to Moodle and save and complete chart. The chart is in table form and information can be easily imputed.
  5. Allow 2-3 hours for the teams to complete the chart.
  6. Obtain a copy from each group to track their progress according to task completion dates.
  7. Post on Moodle for teams to use weekly to document and track progress, critical issues, problem solving and corrective action results.

What is Leadership?
The ability of an individual(s) to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.

Aspects of a Leader Include:

  • Defines what the future should look like; establishes direction.
  • Aligns people with that vision.
  • Inspires people to make it happen despite obstacles.
  • Produces change, often to a dramatic degree.
  • Has the potential to produce extremely useful change (new products customers want or new approaches to labor relations).

Leadership is… moving people towards the ideal state.

Leadership is not… a position or rank. Look for it at every level. 

The 21st Century Leader Profile:

Personal History

  • inborn capabilities, childhood experiences, job and educational experiences

Competitive drive

  • levels of standards
  • desire to do well
  • self-confidence in competitive situations

Lifelong Learner

  • willingness to seek new challenges – out of the comfort zone
  • humble self-reflection and willingness to reflect honestly on successes and failures
  • aggressively collects opinions, information, and ideas from others
  • has a tendency to listen to others
  • willing to view life with an open mind
  • capable of dealing with an increasingly competitive and fast-moving economic environment

 5 Levels of Leadership Hierarchy:

  • Level 5 Executive – Builds enduring greatness through personal humility and professional will.
  • Level 4 Effective Leader – Catalyzes pursuit of clear vision, stimulating higher performance standards.
  • Level 3 Competent Manager – Organizes people/resources toward efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.
  • Level 2 Contributing Team Member – Contributes to achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting.
  • Level 1 Highly Capable Individual – Contributes talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits. 

Level 5 Leaders:

  • Embody all 5 levels of leadership hierarchy.
  • Channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.
  • Ambition is first for the institution, not themselves.
  • Displays modesty, are self-effacing and understated.
  • Are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results.
  • Do whatever it takes to make the company great.
  • Plow horse, not a show horse. Are not necessarily brought in from the outside.
  • Look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.
  • When things go poorly, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. 

What Makes a Level 5 Leader?
Humility + Will = Level 5 

Activity: Dinner for Eight

  • Facilitator asks, “If you could invite any one leader (dead or alive) to dinner, who would it be?”
  • Facilitator asks participants to recall all of the characteristics of leaders presented and think about who they would invite.
  • Arrange participants in groups of four (4).
  • The facilitator explains that each group will host a dinner party for 8.
  • Each person in the group may invite 1 leader (dead or alive) to the dinner party.
  • Everyone in the group must come to consensus on who is invited.
  • The facilitator goes around the room and asks each group who they will invite and why.
One-Piece Flow

What is Continuous/One-Piece Flow?
It refers to the concept of moving one work piece at a time between operations within a work cell – uninterrupted in time, sequence, substance or extent.

What are the benefits of continuous flow?

  • Reduced waste in waiting, inventory and transportation
  • Less overhead in managing because:
    • It is more stable and predictable.
    • Lead times are reduced.
  • More responsive to customer needs, particularly as they change volume or mix

Case Example: Mary went to her doctor for nagging shoulder pain. The doctor saw her one hour after her scheduled appointment time. He could not make a diagnosis so he sent her to a specialist (at a different facility). The specialist sent her for x-rays at another facility even though Mary suggested an MRI. The x-rays revealed nothing. The specialist then sent her for an MRI (back at the facility that performed the xrays). A couple of weeks later, a diagnosis was made and Mary scheduled physical therapy for the following week and picked up her prescription for medication at the specialist’s office. This process took 6 weeks.

Solution to Case Example: Mary went to her doctor for nagging shoulder pain. Her doctor saw her at her scheduled time but could not make a diagnosis. The doctor referred her to a specialist (in the same building) where an MRI was performed (in that same building) at Mary’s request and with the specialist’s approval. The diagnosis was made and treatment was communicated via phone. A prescription was called in to her local pharmacy and physical therapy was prescribed and sent to a physical therapist in her network agreed upon by Mary. This process took 3 weeks – better, but not “ideal.”


  1. Structure every activity.
  2. Specify and simplify every flow path.
  3. Keep the flow simple and waste-free simply by letting it flow.
  4. The connection between consecutive operations should be so clear they can see each other – allows for better material flow.
  5. Clearly connect every customer (Mary) and the supplier (doctors/therapists/pharmacy).

If you can’t get one-piece flow, can you get two-piece or three-piece? Continually move closer to the ideal state. 

Activity: Batch Processing vs. Continuous Flow Processing
The human mind likes batches! This exercise will show which process is faster. The faster process yields the benefits we discussed (recall benefits). We have envelopes that need to be stuffed, sealed, stamped and labeled. Divide into pairs or teams.

Individual or Group #1 Process in batches:

  1. Stuff letters into envelopes
  2. Label envelopes
  3. Seal envelopes
  4. Stamp envelopes

Individual or Group #2 Process one-at-a-time:

  1. Process one envelope at a time – include all of the steps identified.

Which process is quicker? One-at-a-time production is quicker and easier, even if it is counterintuitive! Can it be applied to all processes?

Team Building

What is Team Building?
Team Building refers to the process of establishing and developing a greater sense of collaboration and trust between team members. A group itself does not necessarily constitute a team.

TEAM is a Unit Which:

  • Totally (effectively) and
  • Efficiently
  • Achieves the
  • Milestones

Ingredients for the Successful Team:

  • Selection of participants
  • Establishing visions, goals, mission and or/objectives
  • Distribution of workload
  • Timetabling
  • Balancing skill-sets
  • Allocation of roles within the team
  • Metrics
  • Harmonizing personality types
  • Training on how to work together
  • Self-assessment to gauge its own effectiveness and thereby improve performance

Skills Needed for Successful Teams:

  • Listening – to other people’s ideas. When people who are allowed to freely express their ideas, the initial ideas produce other ideas.
  • Questioning – ask questions, interact and discuss the objectives of the team.
  • Persuading – exchange, defend and then ultimately rethink ideas.
  • Respecting – treat others with respect and support their ideas.
  • Helping – help one’s coworkers, which is the general theme of teamwork.
  • Sharing – creates an environment of teamwork.
  • Participating – all members participate. 

Team Development Model: Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing-Adjourning
All phases are necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results.

Forming – The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, agrees on goals and begins to tackle tasks.

  • Sharing knowledge of this model is extremely helpful to the team.

Storming – Different ideas compete for consideration.

  • Team addresses what problems they will solve and how they will work independently and together.
  • Tolerance and patience of each team member and their differences needs to be emphasized or the team will fail.

Norming – The team adjusts their behavior to each other as they develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid.

  • Members begin to trust each other.
  • Motivation increases.

Performing – High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or need for external supervision.

Adjourning or Mourning– This involves completing the task and breaking up the team.

Activity: Widget Company Survival

  1. Facilitator asks participants to recall that “selection of participants” is an important ingredient for the successful team.
  2. The problem: You are the Widget Company, Inc. Your company is failing and will close its doors in 3 months unless something drastic happens. All of your salaries, jobs and lives are dependent upon the decisions you make in the next 30 minutes.
  3. In order to run this company and keep the doors open, you as a group need to choose:
    • President/CEO
    • Vice President
    • Manager
    • 3 Employees

It doesn’t matter what jobs you held – it’s crisis mode.

Rules and Tools:

  • Each team needs a timekeeper.
  • Each person will talk for 5 minutes and describe what they have to offer to the job they are best suited for – NO INTERUPTIONS!
  • The groups have 2 minutes to ask questions of that person speaking.
  • When each person has had their turn, the group must vote on who will take each position.
  • A decision must be made for each position.
  • The exercise must be completed in 35 minutes.
  • Debrief the activity.
Value Streaming Map

What is Value Stream Mapping?
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a paper and pencil tool that helps you see and understand the flow of material and information as a product or service makes its way through the value stream from “door to door.”

The Value Stream:

  • Map the flow of the work.
  • Find ways to speed it up or reduce costs, work in progress (WIP) or complexity.

Elements to Map for Clear Understanding:

  • Material flow
  • Information flow
  • People flow

What are the Benefits of VSM?

  • It helps you visualize more than just the singleprocess level.
  • It helps you see more than waste. It helps you see the sources of waste in your value stream.
  • It provides a common language for talking about processes.
  • It makes decisions about the flow apparent, so you can discuss them.
  • It ties together lean concepts and techniques and helps you avoid “cherry picking.”
  • It forms the basis of an implementation plan.
  • It shows the linkage between information flow and the material flow.

Example: Using VSM for mapping core Human Resources processes forces the business leadership team to decide on the future service delivery model – to what extent should the business adopt a self-service approach, what tasks will be performed by HR specialists versus local generalists, etc.

Implementing Value Stream Mapping:

  1. Identify a specific value stream or process to be improved and its boundaries (beginning and end points)
  2. Identify the customers served by the value stream and their various needs and wants. This is known as customer value.
  3. Map the value stream (similar to flow charting the current state of a system or process), including:
    1. Each individual process and its order
    2. The time it takes for each action (processing time)
    3. The time it takes between each action (wait time)
    4. Amounts of WIP
  4. Study the value stream to find the largest wastes of time and WIP.
  5. Brainstorm to map an ideal value stream – one that creates the least amount of waste possible or creates throughput (output or production) in the least amount of time.
  6. Create and implement improvement plans.
  7. As you study the current and ideal value stream maps, improvement ideas seem to clearly stand out.
  8. Measure the improvement made from attempted changes.
  9. Either standardize the new process or start again. 

Example Format:
step 1 – wait – step 2 – wait – step 3 (Determine value added steps and non-value added steps.) 

Activity: Every process has a value stream.
This activity will teach you how to value stream map a process. Remember to include the three elements when mapping: material, information and people flow. As a class or in teams, value stream map the U-Scan check-out process at a grocery store utilizing the steps listed.

Debrief the activity:

  • Discuss current and ideal value stream maps.
  • What are the value added steps and non-value added steps?

Think about processes at work! What processes may be good candidates for value stream mapping?