Every year, Southland Industries encourages employees throughout the company to participate in a monthly video challenge. Employees demonstrate how they have been inspired to implement lean concepts into their workflow and workplace. Each month is given a theme and submissions must clearly communicate the reduction or elimination of waste, focus on customer value, demonstrate continuous improvements, and capitalize on knowledge of our people and partners. In addition to monthly winners, a grand prize winner is nominated to attend the annual Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Congress.

As Southland’s 2016 Lean Video Competition grand prize winner, I traveled to attend the LCI Congress event in Boston, Massachusetts. After registering and receiving a brief description of the event, I headed to the east coast. I had never traveled that far east before, so it was a bit of an adventure for me. However, thanks to my project engineer, Caitlyn, I had a flight booked, and the Uber app ready. The airport was a bit of a hassle as I have a large knee revision and going through security was a nightmare. Nonetheless, I arrived to a rainy day in Boston, jumped on a blue line CTA and headed for the city. I was able to register that Sunday afternoon, receive all of my handouts, and realize I was one of 1,300 attendees.

The first morning of the conference, I ate breakfast at an empty table. Rather than sit with my Southland peers, I decided to stray away in the hopes of meeting new people. This turned out to be a good tactic that I was able to utilize the remainder of the week. I met a wide range of people that I would not have interacted with otherwise.

My first class lasted all day and was called Kata Management, a Toyota-based management method. We had people from all over the country and beyond, including Turkey, Finland, and Mexico. We were broken into six groups, assigned various roles, and were given tiles similar to dominoes. The task was to create a pattern that toppled the dominoes while repeatedly reducing the activity’s time. To improve the process, two coaches roamed the room and offered advice to improve the process continuously. I found it interesting that few were unfamiliar with Kata as a martial art discipline, which requires continuous improvement for rank advancement.

Throughout the week, I met with others at breakfast and began to realize how big of a commitment Southland has made to being lean on our projects. Many of my peers illustrated our company’s commitment to lean by only attending a few days of the conference, instead of a full week, which I found to be inspiring.  There was a fair amount of people at the event who commit their time to helping other companies become lean, with an even larger number of attendees from across the country looking into lean and its benefits.

On Tuesday, I attended a pull planning and last planner class. Although I have done a lot with both of these processes, there were many in the class with little to no experience. The class was very well done and we completed a pull plan for a small job.

I was most interested in Wednesday’s keynote speaker, and he did not disappoint. He was a former Navy SEAL who worked under General McChrystal fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Now he works with a coaching business to deal with structure and changing demands in businesses. We were given a book on his topic, and I found it interesting how a rigidly structured organization, like the military, is able to adapt to constant changes. This really opened my eyes to the parallels between construction and the military. Both are all about logistics, chain of command, timing, and having the right people.

Friday’s Gemba Training was a high point for me. It was structured around Toyota’s continuous improvement system, which is based on observations and asking questions to understand a workflow. The process helps identify and solve issues in a collaborative manner and identifying who can create value for the customer.

Overall, the best speaker of the week was Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist and amazing speaker who showed the breakfast group how to change how you think and respond to situations. He promotes a system called The Happiness Advantage, which is also the title of his book. It was definitely a worthwhile week, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I look forward to implementing the new tools and processes I learned at LCI into my work and lifestyle.



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