Lean in a Danish School
A blog reader from Denmark, Peter, emailed me about a school that is applying lean and “Japanese production philosophies” (no kidding). The original article is linked, but it's in Danish. The photo is from a second article on the same topic. Thanks to Peter for the translation! I really like the application of reducing wasted time so that teachers can spend more time on the “value added” activity of teaching students… the same idea applies in healthcare or other service settings: reduce the waste so the provider can spend more time with the student/patient/customer/client.
“There was something about Lean that got me thinking. I bet we can also use that here,” so says Kirsti TornÃ¸e. If she was the boss of a smaller production company, no one would have raised an eyebrow. In fact they would probably just shrug and think about how late she was [in thinking about applying lean].
But Kirsti TornÃ¸e is the manager of the kindergarten Kastaniebakken in BirkerÃ¸d. Here parents deliver their little angels each day and the thought of improvement through Japanese production philosophies seems far fetched. And then again maybe not:
“The typical statement in child-care is that we do not have enough time for the children. When we get a new job assigned to us, the time is taken away from the children. But the idea in lean is precisely to reduce the wasted time, and make better use of the time you have.” so explains Kirsti TornÃ¸e.
That was the reason why, that before the summer holiday began, she contacted Tom Sander Kierstein, who is the CEO in the consultant community “Network Providers”. He was ready for the idea from the start, and together with another consultant the two of them sat down and formulated a pilot project in lean in Kastaniebakken. The headline became “Better and more time in the kindergarten Kastaniebakken – We can with lean-thinking”.
“We feel a bit like pioneers, and professionally it has been very exciting to use the tools we know from other businesses in a children's institution.” Says he[the consultant]. At the center of the project stood the employees and their positive acceptance of lean.
“We need to have a more humble attitude toward the employees. That is why we quickly defined a goal for the employees that went to the tune of adding more of the “great” time to the children. It was slow administration and tiresome routines that needed to be eliminated.” Says Tom Sander Kierstein.
It quickly turned out that the employees were turned on to the idea, and then the consultants began to pull the lean tools out of the hat. There was discussion about the principle of pull, continuous improvement, 5S, flow and value-stream-mapping. Often the elements were given new names, but Tom Sander Kierstein reveals that the employees were the machines and the children the products who moved through the institution throughout the day. An example of value addition could be when the children were out for a trip to the forest, or when an employee read to them.
The employees have done a very precise study of the time spent, and the first measures have already begun to manifest in Kastaniebakken. They have gathered the various notice books, and put them in one place, and the parents have been given the task of “writing in” their children when they are present in the kindergarten. It is also here that the kindergarten places all their information, on a single big board. Information to the specific “groups” but also common information for everyone there. The employees have become better at prioritizing being with the children and that means fewer breaks in the “great time”.
The first part of the lean-project ends in the spring of 2006 but before long, Kastaniebakken is to move to newly built “facilities”. Here it would be good opportunity to think lean into the design before the new kindergarten is built. In BirkerÃ¸d, already at this stage other kindergartens have also expressed interest in lean on kindergarten-level.