Founders of the Lean Portland volunteer group talk with practitioners from Charlotte (NC) and Jacksonville (FL) to provide a brief history of our group, along with recommendations for how they could set up their own volunteer group where they live.

You can also listen to the podcast:

Attendees: Maria Grzanka, Brion Hurley, Veronica Andrade, Ernest Mayer, Charisse Chinchar, Kathleen Sharp, Matt Horvat, Bret Matthews


Brion (BH): Thanks, everybody, for joining. We should start with some introductions, go round real quick, and then I would just keep it open, pretty flexible, and just chat about some of the work that we’ve done over the years to get our Lean Portland group set up, and then if you have questions about what you’re thinking of doing maybe in your city or how we could assist with that, I think that would be great.

I’ll start. I’m Brion Hurley. I think I’ve met everybody. I moved to Portland about seven years ago and there was an existing group already that Matt Horvat had set up. After about a year or two, I think we started to get a little more organization with the group and had an Unconference. That’s where ended up meeting, I think, Maria, were you at that first Unconference we had, and Earnest and Matt? I think Bret was there too. That really got us going towards more organization, and we’ll talk about that a little bit more.

And then about three years ago, I went from working at a company in Portland to going out on my own as a consultant, so that gave me a little bit more flexibility to do more volunteer work than I had in the past. That’s been my goal is to try to take what we’re learning here and try to spread that to other cities. I think that’s how we all connected. I’ll hand it over to Maria.

Maria (MG): Hello, everyone. I’m Maria Grzanka, here in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been here for 20 years and I don’t remember what year that Unconference happened.

BH: I took some notes. I think it’s 2016/15?

MG: It must have been before that.

Ernest (E): I think it was more like 2015.

MG: Somebody that I used to work with sent me an invitation to this Unconference and I was, at the time, an internal Lean consultant at a large logistics company. It was a pretty challenging role, and so I was looking for other like-minded people. Went to the Unconference, we started talking about how to grow and organize the group more, and so I got involved at that point, still involved on that front, and did some of the volunteer consulting projects over the last few years. I left that role as an internal consultant, went on to some change management in that company, and then left two years ago to start my own consulting independently here in Portland. That’s where I’m at right now.

BH: Maria’s the one running our group now.

MG: The logistics, yes.

BH: Which is a lot of it.

MG: Pressing the buttons, link up the Zoom.

BH: That’s a big role. Ernest?

E: Quick introduction. I came from Arizona, I moved up here to the Portland area about eight years ago. I finished a second degree, my first degree was in manufacturing engineering. I spent 25 years in aerospace, computer science lab manager, and I got an industrial engineering degree in 2012 and got hired at Providence. I’ve been working at Providence for eight years in a number of different capacities, mostly doing Lean Six Sigma projects, running the training programs for the Oregon region, developing and implementing a daily management system for the Oregon region in the system, where we’re currently implementing after the 25,000 or 30,000 employees in the system here, in addition to doing more jack of all trades stuff like developer work and things like that. But mostly the Lean and Six Sigma things and the heavy involvement in the region and change management and teaching some of the change management certification courses the most…with those things. My passion is really in healthcare and with the front-line people. Lean Portland, yeah, we met. Kindred spirit, huh?

MG: Absolutely.

E: We met at that first Unconference and, for me, it was love at first sight. I stuck with Lean Portland through this way and done a few projects with them and we’ve developed this whole thing. I don’t know if you guys remember Matt was doing it with us and I think Brion. A person I knew from college, Todd Adams, out on the East Coast, he’s starting up a nonprofit group like lean Portland out in the East Coast area also. I think it’s near Washington DC somewhere, so we talked with them for a while and I need to catch up with him and see how he’s doing.

BH: Yeah, that would be good. I think I’ve heard of that. Matt, are you back on?

Matt (MH): Maybe. Can you hear me this time?

BH: We can, yeah.

MH: Hi, Veronica and Kathleen it looks like.

BH: And Charisse, yeah.

MH: My name’s Matt. I was, like maybe a lot of us, an internal process improvement person for a healthcare company. And I guess I saw a model from an external consultant who had a group of his clients get together to- I think he was creating some mind-meld where clients were learning from each other, and he was getting his business going, you know what I mean, but I wasn’t in that spot. I still wanted the social aspect of it, though, because I’d just relocated to Portland and didn’t know anybody, so we start a happy hour, and then we started a volunteer project, and we just kept at it doing that, and this group has just continued to grow and develop over 10 years. It’s definitely been a fun outlet to do some good in the community and meet like-minded people. The hard part about process improvement is, unless you’re in a big firm with a big team, usually, like a small clinic that needs one or two people and you just don’t have a big community, so this has been a way to find friends and now all these guys are like my best friends.

BH: You did healthcare for quite a few years too.

MH: Yeah, and now I’m actually working for an insurance company doing process improvement work.

BH: Great. Bret?

E: Nod your head if you can hear us, Bret.

BH: We can’t hear you if you’re talking.

Bret (BM): You can’t really have a Lean Portland gathering online without 10 minutes of technical issues. Although, I think, since COVID, Maria, you’ve streamlined us to be really successful in this venue.

BH: That’s true. If you can connect, Bret, just pop in and interrupt and we’ll give you a chance. Bret was early on with Matt in getting the group set up and doing some work. How about, Kathleen, do you want to go next?

Kathleen (K): Sure, I’d be happy to. Hi, everyone, and thank you for making the time on a Friday afternoon to talk to me. I am relatively new to the Charlotte area, but I’ve been involved in healthcare for about 30 years. I’m a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and working with Atrium Health, which is about 70,000 employees. I’m an internal consultant process improvement geek for them, and go all over the system. We have a commitment in the organization. One of the things that attracted me to come here is they’ve got a commitment to serving the community and we have an expectation of so many volunteer hours. They actually get paid by Atrium to do that volunteer work and they do it on Atrium’s time and Atrium’s dime. I think we have an enviable launching point and connection to a lot of the services in the Charlotte area that need help.

I’m just very interested in how you got set up and the nature of the projects that you’ve been able to do and how well that’s been received by the participants as well as the recipients in the different charities. But again, thank you so much for taking the time to help me understand more about what we can do here in the Charlotte area.

BH: Great.

BM: Good morning. Can you guys hear me now?

BH: There you go, Bret.

BM: I got this new little headset. The long story is I got this new little headset and I’m trying to figure it out because I’ve got three different computers, a phone, and another thing that I keep trying this on. I think I finally found one that works, which is nice because I’ve got a financial call next Tuesday with corporate, so now I know how to use my headset. It’s going to look a lot better than just sitting there. Anyway, I started with Lean Portland with Matt in I want to think like…

BH: It’s like 2012/2013, I wrote down, for Friends of the Children.

BM: Was it? Okay. Way back then. That was our first project and that was really cool. What I’ve found out, for me, I’ve always been an organizer and straightened things out and make things make sense, and so it was really cool when I met Matt the rest of the team and they were on that same page. Working with them was very cool and I learned a lot of things. Hopefully, I brought some to the organization too. Now I’m a General Manager for a dirt company basically. We make potting soils and growing medias, so that’s my regular full-time gig. So I get to organize the production and manufacturing for different facilities here in the US.

BH: You’re a little busy right now, huh?

BM: Yeah. I’m running out of everything. It’s amazing. Yeah, it’s off the charts and I’m running out of raw materials too, so it’s something else. We’re growing. What really interested me was I used to have a plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, right off Tuckaseegee Road, just up from downtown a little bit, so it was kind of cool. I had a Plant Manager there that didn’t know anything about Lean manufacturing. She was brand-new, right out of school, and we hired her to be the Plant Manager, and she got her feet wet actually doing manufacturing with Lean in Charlotte. It’s just kind of cool. It’s like full-circle. I think that’s about all I’ve got.

BH: Cool. Thanks, Bret. Charisse, do you want to the next? We’ll stay in Charlotte.

Charisse (C): Okay. There we go. Can you hear me now?

BH: Yes.

C: Good. My name is Charisse Chinchar. I’m a Process Engineer at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which is basically a suburb of Charlotte. All of us Process Engineers are working from home right now, so I’m also kind of a stay-at-home mom/homeschool teacher, but I’m not getting paid for that job. I met Brion many years ago when we were both working at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and that’s where I got my Lean certification and my Six Sigma Black Belt certification. I’ve been doing process improvement all my career, known Brion a long time, followed his career across the country and back or wherever you are now. He tapped me to say that there were some people in Charlotte that were also interested in this, so I’m just here to see what it’s all about and how I can get involved.

K: You’re helping you build the team right out of the gate.

C: Yeah, sure.

BH: Last but not least, Veronica?

Veronica (V): Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for your time today. I’m really excited to you’re your whole story. I’m an Industrial Engineer. I’m from Ecuador. I moved to Houston about five years ago and, before that, I was working on the oil and gas. I did that for about five years. I’ve always been in process improvement, and then when I moved to Houston, I started my healthcare journey, like many of you guys here. I worked for Texas Children’s Hospital for about two years, and then I recently relocated to Florida. As I moved here to Florida, I started volunteering and I wanted to stay within healthcare with volunteering, and I found Volunteers in Medicine, which is a volunteer-driven clinic. I started volunteering with them and, suddenly, I started doing fun, really good projects that I really enjoyed, related in process improvement. And then one thing led to another and I was like maybe I could just do this and have other nonprofits benefit from this idea I thought I was reinventing the wheel, and then I found Brion that had already gone through the process, so I was very excited to speak with him and learn where the next steps of getting this to grow because, for now, it’s just been me working on this. So thank you so much.

BH: You’re in Jacksonville, you said?

V: Yeah, Jacksonville, Florida.

BH: Okay, perfect. Cool. I was just going to do a high-level overview and then maybe I’ll have Matt and Bret chime in on the early part before my time, and then we can just talk about some of the groups we’ve worked with. I don’t know how much time we’ll have, but this won’t be the only time we could do this. We can have another meeting later and go through more details as well. This is the history I wrote down just because we always forget these years.

I wrote down that 2011 that the LinkedIn group was created by Matt, and I think it just started slowly populating people who were joining the group. And then it looks like 2012 to 2013, Bret and Matt worked on the Friends of the Children nonprofit project, and you could talk a little bit about that project. When I moved to Portland in 2013, I think I found the group and joined in, and then about 2015, I think that’s when Tom Cox started organizing us together to take this group. Because I think we had gotten to 200 or 300 people in the group by then, so he was like we should probably do something with this group. I think there had been a couple of years since you had any projects going on.

We had this Unconference where we get everyone together and just said what would you like to do with this group? is there some things we can do? some people were working with nonprofits again and reaching out, others were working on some kind of organization to the group and strategy and stuff like that. Then I think we slowly started adding in one or two nonprofits each year. We started with Social Venture Partners, and then we added the Rebuilding Center, I think we added Free Geek after that.

We had another Unconference in 2016. That’s what started our happy hours. Every month, we started doing in-person happy hours and we’ve continued those through this year. It looks like 2017 was Free Geek and Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, and then 2018 we added the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Portland. We also started doing some free workshops, Intro to Lean, Intro to Six Sigma, Behavior Change, Personal Kanbans, some one-off workshops, and then the recurring ones with the Intro to Lean and Intro to Six Sigma.

That’s a real high-level story, and then I guess the last year or two, we’ve been doing some hosted events online. Like this year, we had a couple of presenters come to the happy hour. That was a little bit different. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ve done one-off, a couple of things this year with COVID. We went and watched a farmers market that implemented a drive-through system and it gave them some ideas around that, and we went to a food bank and gave them some tips on maybe COVID things they could do, really more about engaging their employees and what changes to make and where there were risks and concerns at. We’re still going a bit slowly.

MG: And also the schools. We went to Vancouver Public Schools and lead a 5S project in a couple of the lab classrooms there.

BH: That was just a couple of months ago, right?

MG: Mm-hmm.

E: We’ve got some ongoing work with Youth Progress.

BH: Yes. Has that continued this year?

E: Yes. Nick and I have been emailing back and forth a little bit here and there, and we’re going about ready to start it up. We may pursue some kind of virtual method of doing it, but they’re about ready to get back down to it.

MG: And the whales. The World Cetacean Alliance.

BH: Yeah, we have one new person in our group that has a connection with a worldwide organization that does work with… What was it called, cetacean?

MG: Cetacean I think. It’s like a scientific name for whales I guess.

BH: Whales and dolphins and porpoises and those type of animals.

K: I’m a dolphin lover. That really sounds exciting.

MG: I think that’s one thing. Kathleen, you asked about how do we engage with those community partners. So far, it’s mostly been one of us, part of the core team or people that are hanging out for a while, will go, “I really like to work with whales and I have this connection at the World Cetacean Alliance, so I’m just going to reach out to them and see if they want some free consulting.” Brion, I’ll let you add. Brion is our master recycler and the connection to places like the Rebuilding Center and Free Geek, that are both accept donations and then resell them, clean them up and resell them in some form or another.

BH: I basically had met people who worked at those nonprofits at other events and then I was like, “That sounds like cool work that you do. Here’s what I do and we have a group that can volunteer if interested.” Rebuilding Center, the Executive Director had a little bit of process improvement background, so he was like, “Yes, please come in and help,” and so that was easy sell. The other ones we had to pitch, and there’s been a couple we’ve had a lot of people interested in helping the nonprofit and they’ve just been not quite sure what exactly they’re getting yet, and so we’ve had multiple years of trying to get them involved because we’ve had people in our group that said, “I really like that nonprofit and I want to work with them.” So sometimes it’s instantaneous, and sometimes it’s really long and drawn out.

K: Food insecurity is a major problem in Charlotte pre-COVID, and of course, it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. We have a number of food banks and charitable organizations to help feed Charlotte that are really suffering right now, so I think we have internal interest in helping with supporting that work. We have a great relationship with Habitat for Humanity. And I’m speaking as far as the organization I work for, but I’ve also been a long-time volunteer with Habitat and different food banks.

That’s great to see such a long list and varied list. I love the idea of an Unconference. I think that just automatically sparks some curiosity and people will want to know what that is. When I first moved here, because I was trying to connect with other Lean and improvement minded folks that also want to do something in the community, and I went on the MeetUp app and there was a Lean Coffee, but they haven’t been active in over two years and they don’t respond to any- I’ve reached out to every individual on that list, which is a little over 200 people, and no one has responded to me, so finding the folks. So thank you for finding Charisse because at least I’ve got one connection already.

The healthcare organization I was with, Wells Fargo has hired a number of our folks recently, so I do have some other contacts at Wells Fargo that I know have good Lean skills and also are charitably minded. But what other venues did you used to try and attract people to the group?

MG: I’ll say Matt’s kitchen table. For a while, before we start doing the regular happy hour, we would meet, every other week I think, at Matt’s house and he would make a soup for dinner, and we’d sit around the table talking about what kind of nonprofits we wanted to help and how things were going and how we might reach out to people.

BM: I’m trying to think of the nonprofit. There’s a nonprofit organization, we put a notice out to them and we asked if anybody wanted some help with the nonprofit and we got a bunch of stuff. We had to put out, actually, like little applications and things, and we would interview. We went around and we interviewed different nonprofits to find out which ones we wanted to work with.

BH: I think that was the Nonprofit Association of Oregon.

BM: That could have been it, yeah.

MH: No, that was Community Nonprofit Resource Group. It was just some random, I think tech-focused social network where nonprofits were getting some education. But, yeah, it was kind of hard to start this whole machine up, but once we broke the ice by sending that newsletter like you said, Bret, it’s been as much or more work than any of us could ever think about actually doing in our volunteer time.

BM: True story.

BH: Did you do anything to grow that LinkedIn group, Matt?

MH: Nope. Not a single thing. Posting updates. When we would do a project, we would try to capture some success stories or do some photos or do some real basic social media stuff, but outside of that, it’s been very organic. And now there are a lot of recruiters in there and people posting jobs and people who want to move to Portland or join the group. It’s been a nice resource, I think, for people to stay connected.

K: That’s good.

BH: That is a thing that has attracted people to our happy hours is people out of work or looking- they have time to volunteer, but they’re also really looking for some leads on job opportunities too, so we do post stuff on there because there are people looking to change jobs and also move to the area or maybe find some employment.

K: Have you registered the group from a tax status?

MH: Yeah. I mean, I created an LLC, mostly just to protect the brand, and that also allowed us to start a bank account, but it’s just a sole proprietorship. But that’s it, and we figured, as a group, we’re trying to be very egalitarian, and we made this semi-informal agreement, like if bank account ever gets to $10,000, we’re going to have to do something more than just make this Matt’s company. That doesn’t make sense to how we behave. But trying to be a 501(c)(3) or finding some umbrella organization was kind of a hassle to manage, so we haven’t really gone that route. We do have a really convenient benefit overlay option for corporations registered in Oregon, so we are a Benefit LLC, so that’s kind of nice, but that’s it.

MG: I’ll add to that, but that didn’t happen until very recently, maybe two or three years ago. A lot of this stuff before that…

BH: 2017, 2016? 2017 I think.

MG: There’s a lot that you can do. They were all just scrappy volunteer projects to begin with.

K: With your volunteers and your memberships that are doing this, they already have they’re either running their own business or they have other jobs or they might be somebody that’s in the job market, how challenging or difficult or easy was it to coordinate the timing that the nonprofit needed them for? Did you have a big enough… Because what I’m trying to think through is how big do I need to have the group before we start offering…

BM: I think that’s really just a communication thing. You just need to talk to whoever shows up, and that was kind of the thing. You just had to see who showed up and then try to find out what level of interest they had and what kind of time they had available. And like Friends of the Children, we did some things on the weekend, we also did some things during the week. I’m just thinking. It kind of changed depending on who was working on.

MH: If I could add, we’ve just gone a lot of repetitions and iterations. We’ve tried hard to do this senior consultant and junior consultant model because there seemed to be people who could actually manage a client engagement, who had enough experience in consulting to interface with the executive director and make a plan, or at least manage that relationship, and then there’d be people who want more experience to like, “I want to learn how to run a 5S event,” or, “I want to come and clean up and get my hands dirty in a nonprofit and fix up and learn about data collection methods,” maybe who don’t have any training in Lean but are interested, but they’re not ready to manage a consultant relationship or client relationship. Our limiting factor was the number of people who could manage a client relationship, and then it was semi up to them to figure out next steps and get organized.

MG: I think that’s a good point. It became the limiter was the people that could engage with the client because we had more people that wanted to volunteer to gain experience, and then there was us that were engaging with the client, but then we didn’t have anyone to take care of all of the back end stuff too, so that became a capacity issue. This year, I think we’ve done a lot more defined 5S projects because that’s a really easy way to… There’s a clear start and end time. There’s a clear ask for volunteers, we need you for this many hours, it’s going to start here, you can sign up for this, this, or this. If you have experience with 5S, that’d be great. If you don’t, we also just need hands to move things, so we’ll teach you when you get here.

K: That’s great.

BH: I think that’s been the thing we’ve tried to switch over from is we were kind of treating it just as coaching, but some things just kind of dragged for years and we would struggle to get to tangible activities where were actually fixing and improving things. And so, yeah, I think this approach of trying to focus something down into a small event, it’s not going to be a full kaizen at all. They’re not even able to commit to that kind of time either, so it actually works out well if we can do half-day type of activities or split it up into… The other one we did recently at Free Geek was we did two or three hours for one day, and then we came back for two or three more hours, and those were later in the day, 4 or 5 o’clock to 6 or 7. That kind of worked in their schedule and it was targeted and focused and we kind of scoped it to one little area and that seemed to work really well. When we were just talking through a whole transformation, it just seemed to kind of really struggle to make progress.

I think we also were finding it difficult on their end to commit to the involvement. We were asking for the next meeting and they would get back to a couple of weeks later, and we’d lose progress and have to start over. I thought, at first, it was going to be our bottleneck that was going to be the issue, but I feel like it’s more been the nonprofits who have been the one slowing down the progress. They don’t have the time or commitment to be with us as often as we think we should be meeting.

K: I’ve found that to be true even without doing a Lean help. I’ve often worked with teenagers and college students on different projects that they can do, and oftentimes, it’s the organization that struggles with being able to work with us to coordinate when folks can do different things. Just to be clear, I’ve not done any of that here in Charlotte. I’ve been very selfish here in Charlotte so far.

MG: There’s a lot going on right now.

K: Yeah, there’s a little bit happening in healthcare. That’s certainly true. Retention of your folks. It sounds like, to me, this is right in my heart space. Have you had any challenges or any landmines I need to be aware of as far as retaining good folks, not burning them out so that they’re continuing to contribute, or has that not been an issue for you?

BH: We’ve had the group here involved, even at various times, in and out of activity, so I would say who I invited here was probably core people who’ve been around multiple years, but I’d say all of us have had ups and downs with our involvement. The core team varies, and then the volunteer group or the people wanting to be involved varies even more, so it fluctuates a lot I’d say. If we get someone who’s with our group for a year, that’s pretty good. Usually, we’ll get a couple of months of involvement, and then they get a job or something happens in their personal life or they change jobs and now they’re other overwhelmed. So, yeah, it does vary a lot.

I think having that commitment of a core group of people. I would say if you have four or five people that are really excited about this, that will fight through the ups and downs and be there, I think it’s got a good shot. If it’s just you, it could be really limiting. I think having a team is really helpful to keep things moving so at least there’s at least two people who are pretty actively involved keep things going.

K: I’m thinking it’s going to be important that I connect with folks that not only know Lean, but they’ve been in the Charlotte area for a while because I don’t have all the connections yet, so I’m not familiar. I’ve gotten myself connected with the food pantries, but there’s a lot of other work that needs to happen that I don’t even have on my radar yet.

How did you go about deciding on the content or the approach you were going to use for training so that you had… Charlotte is a banking town, so we’ve got a lot of healthcare, we’ve got a lot of banking. Both service-oriented industries, but they come at Lean from different approaches. Is that something that was decided by the steering team or did you have an education workgroup if you were going to teach something?

MG: Kathleen, the thing, I think, that works for us, and I think this addresses the question of retention too, is we’re not that formal. We don’t do anything that formal as you would in a company. I think I was kind of joking but not really about Matt’s kitchen table because I think, for the core team, it’s more of a social connection that brings us together and, because of that social connection, we keep showing up because we get something out of it, and because we get something out of it socially, we’re motivated to go do something out in the community, and then the volunteers and whoever changes. Our training that we do, it’s super basic. I think someone was like, “I’ve got these slides that I’ve used before,” and we probably just threw those up there, but we all came from different industries, too, so we could add our own input to, “That wouldn’t fly where I work. Let’s change that,” but it was done in a kind of social collaborative way.

E: One of our great strengths as a team doing this together is, on the one hand, having just an innate feeling of a standard of excellence in what we’re going to do. Because of that social and community aspect, we all grew to rely on each other, to ask questions and learn stuff, we built a lot of trust with each other, and so we all bring our own approaches. As we did projects, smaller or larger projects, that may be on the edge of our experience, one or more of the other of us could always fill that person in, so it not only expands our experience but gives a better quality experience for the client.

The other thing that we’ve done that they haven’t mentioned is we’ve done a lot of these one-off or longer partnership things. Maria started working with Free Geek and did some things, and Brion was there with her, and then I came to do some Lean daily management system implementation with them, and Maria was doing some other things, so Brion and I worked together on it, and then I brought in a couple of people. So you see how this kind of moved around, so rather than come in and step on what’s done before, I got an opportunity to see how Maria engaged with them and how Brion engaged with them, and I was like, “That’s pretty cool.”

I feel like the senior consultants are in the best position to learn more from each other because we know more because we have this community, whereas we give other people the opportunity to come in and start from zero and learn some things. But their capacity to learn how to do this is limited by their knowledge and experience where I feel like I had a good enough base of experience that I could kind of see what Maria, Brion, Bret would do and how they would approach things. I’d be like, “Wow, I just learned a lot.” It just benefits us and everybody and it benefits the community and it benefits the client.

And then that whole idea that I just talked about right now is what we came together for. That’s what we do, and so if you end up with a core group of people that keep on showing up, it’s because they’ve got that passion and you’ll develop a community, and then you become more than the sum of your parts, which I feel Lean Portland is right now.

K: That’s awesome. Thank you for taking me through that journey. I always try and look for where there might be things that we can do to make it more attractive or smoother and understanding. I think, being new to the area, I’m not sure what any of the pitfalls might be, but the joy of doing volunteer work is you’re contributing out even if things aren’t exactly perfect, so I didn’t know if you had this playbook that you were giving your volunteers and say, “This is how we do it.” I love hearing that people have the flexibility which is going to engage them to use their approach and you’re learning from each other.

BH: I’ll just add that the workshops are put on by whoever wants to teach them, and then they’re going to run through formal slides and training that is pretty solid. But if Maria does the Lean class instead of me or Kjell, she’s going to do a different slide deck. But it’s still going to be called Intro to Lean and she’s going to give her own examples and her own slides and her own visuals and stuff. It’s going to be fairly similar, but there’s a lot of unique things about it as well. Whoever wants to teach it is free to go teach a workshop, we’ll promote it and share it, but there’s no standard template that everyone’s using because we’re all not comfortable with each other’s slides and can do a better job with stuff we are comfortable with and can flow it in a way that works for us.

We’ve actually been really haven’t done a ton of training for the groups we’ve worked with. It’s a lot of coaching mainly. I’d say most of them have not gone through a formal training, and I think that’s something that we were pushing for a little bit, but it was just almost easier to kind of walk them through it as we work through. It was so hard to get them together, we didn’t want to waste the time with the training. We thought we could do better just working through a problem.

MG: Just jump in.

K: I’m a believer that that’s the best way to learn Lean anyway. You learn it by practicing it. That’s fantastic.

BH: Veronica or Charisse, do you have any questions too?

V: I’m just trying to think how I’m going to make friends here to get them involved and create that core group that seems so important.

BH: How did you approached the nonprofits you’ve worked with already? you just joined as a volunteer?

V: Yeah. For one, I joined as a volunteer, but I actually offered process improvement work. Since it’s a volunteer-driven clinic, they have a wide variety of type of volunteers that they accept, so that kind of played in my favor. And so I started getting involved, and then actually, with COVID, they started struggling with having enough volunteers, like administrative volunteers, because tons of them I want to say it was about 94% of them had to stay home because of being older, so they couldn’t be exposed, and then it was just down to me and a couple more people, at one point, just being the only ones administrative volunteers.

That point kind of was a turning point where, hey, we really need process improvement because we can’t be wasting so much time. We don’t have the resources anymore. So that really opened the door for me to start working on projects, and they really loved it and now it’s like, “Why weren’t we doing this this way for so long? were we crazy?” And so now they’re very interested in doing more projects and working on that.

And then I tried engaging a couple of other nonprofits, but they seemed interested, but I never was able to close it. They were like, “Yeah, we have some ideas,” and then it’s like… Silence. I never was able to concrete any other projects, so that’s why I was wondering because, for me, it was just this other way of becoming a volunteer through the organization. But just reaching out and pitching, I haven’t been so effective.

BH: It’s been very hit or miss too, and there’s a lot of follow-up, so I think that is… I think starting as a volunteer is a great way because then you meet people and they meet you and you can understand what they’re doing. You can say, “Hey, this is my experience, and I think I could help you with this, and this, and this specifically,” so I really like that approach. But like I said, we’ve had hit or miss success with just reaching out directly and offering that. It really depends on the person we connect with.

V: And how do you offer it? You straightaway say consultant services or do you go into more specifics?

BH: Maria posted a video. Sometimes we’ll send out that video from Toyota with the New York Food Bank. Sometimes that’s a way to get them familiar kind of with what we do because most of them don’t know what Lean is or process improvement too much. A few have some background. We’ve done a couple one-hour trainings for their board or their management team as a way to try to explain what we do, and that seems to work well if we can get to that seat at the table to do that with them, but yeah, a lot of times, we’ve heard nothing back or can’t ever reach anybody either.

V: So just keep at it I guess?

BH: Like I said. Any luck with that other group, the Community Excellence?

V: Yeah. They really didn’t answer and then I really didn’t try so hard because, after I went through their website and understood their model, I believe that they are very linked to a university and their projects are linked to a class with either the business school or the industrial engineering. I kind of don’t want to be linked so much to a semester. It would be a completely different approach, so after understanding that, I didn’t really insistent so much on them to responding. But I will definitely follow back to figure out what they know or if they’re interested in maybe working something different.

BH: I would say LinkedIn too. Just scroll through and find Lean people or Six Sigma people and just ask if they want to get together and get organized.

V: Okay. Just networking has been hard now with COVID. Before, you could just pop into a networking event, a happy hour, but now it’s weird.

BH: Maria also posted when we would do free workshops, they were posted in either Eventbrite… Actually, all of those were done in Eventbrite, and that gets some organic traffic for people looking for general events in the area when they’re in person, and then we did the happy hours in MeetUp.

MG: It used to be in MeetUp, and then we’ve moved those Eventbrite.

BH: That would attract people to our training and happy hours. Happy hours brought in quite a few people with that common interest to meet us and talk. We’re still getting new people showing up to the virtual happy hours too. That’s been good.

MG: The other thing I was thinking, too, is like local chapters of other professional organizations to kind of recruit for your group. I know Brion and Ernest are part of the IISE. Is that the right acronym?

BH: Yes.

MG: The local chapter of that, and I don’t know all of the other engineering societies that are out there that might have an active local chapter.

BH: We also do PMI. We have May from the PMI group that’s been, and Valerie as well.

MG: And agile. We have a very active agile group here in Portland, but there’s a national one too that I think has local affiliation, Agile Alliance.

K: This is great. I’ll be stalking all of them. I also wrote down ASQ, for the American Society for Quality.

MG: The OrgDev people, Organizational Development, they’re usually have some adjacency to continuous improvement.

BH: That’s true. I think we even talked about working with the Organizational Development Group because they were kind of doing slightly different things, but they had some applications for nonprofits and they were doing some pro bono work too, but we never did connect with them. But we did look at their application forms and their questions and things like that. They were doing something kind of similar.

K: I’d be very interested in seeing what you’re using as far as, so that we can learn quickly, the application forms, the questions you’re asking.

BH: That was done on the first event Matt and Bret talked about, and we talked about doing that again, but we actually haven’t used that for most of them. It’s been just meeting people, finding if there’s an interest, and saying we’ll come do a little training for your team, and then let’s see if you’re interested in going forward. That’s been most of the engagements.

E: Don’t discount the power of just kind of keeping at it. A lot of times, people will see some social posters, some meeting or something like that, and it’ll just pass through their radar. But if they see it over and over and over again, the first three or four months, the first three or four times, you might get nobody, but if they see it over and over again, they might be like, “I recognize that,” and then now they’ve got a changed perception of it because they just see it enough times that it must be something if it’s happening every month. So just keep at it.

BH: Think about what we can do to help. If you put on an event, we can be part of that or we can help promote that as well. I know we’re running out of time here, and we can also set up another call later and continue the discussion with there other questions you think about, but I thought this was good as a starting point.

MG: You can join us for one of our meetings. It’s really late. We don’t do it until 6 PM here, so 9 PM your time.

K: That’s great.

C: There’s about 40 or so process engineers that work for Wells Fargo but are in the Charlotte, Fort Mill area, so I could certainly share this information with that group and see if there’s interest and get even more people involved that way. Just let me know. If I had some kind of a form or flyer or something to share, that would be helpful.

K: Why don’t we get together, and I’m comfortable with sharing contact information, and we can put together a plan. Because we’ll have folks from Atrium and if you’ve got that deep a pool at Wells Fargo, I know Bank of America has some folks, and Lowe’s has a number of folks up here.

BM: You can always check LinkedIn. Look at people we’re connected to, maybe start a LinkedIn group for yourself, bring people in that way.

BH: You can invite them from there. That’s how I found out Charisse is in Charlotte. I didn’t even know until I did a search on my connections in Charlotte. I’m like, “Oh wow.” Let us know how we can move forward and help you out.

MG: Feel free to reach out to me, too, for anything. Nice to meet you, Veronica.

V: Nice to meet you, everyone. Thank you.

K: Thank you. Bye-bye.

E: Nice to meet you guys.

K: That’s awesome. Thank you all.