Guest Post: How to Have a Lean Party


Mark's note: Today's guest post is from a Michigander (I prefer that term over Michiganian, but I digress). Jon Wetzel, among other things, is very involved with the Michigan Lean Consortium and he lives very near where I grew up.

You can find him blogging regularly on a topic near and dear to my heart   – what I call “Everyday Lean” and what Jon calls “Lean for Everyone” – he blogs on that topic here.

Today, Jon shares some reflections and tips for throwing a “lean party” – no, not a party about Lean… you'll see, here is his post:

How to Have a Lean Party

I've talked in the past about how to Lean up your everyday life.   Today I'm going to talk specifically   about Leaning up those special events you might be planning .

If you are going to host a summer party you should learn to standardize it as much as possible so you have more time to enjoy your event.   A party of more than 30 people can turn into mass chaos if it's not standardized. Therefore, do what you can to follow a plan and troubleshoot on the fly WHEN things don't go to as anticipated.

Most of the work for large events is the planning phase.   My wife and I host a few large parties per year and have come up with a short list of things to consider in order to make your next event a Lean one.

1-Invitations should have specific information and a call to action.

  • RSVP by a specific date
  • Party start time
  • Time meal is served (Helps for guests to plan their arrival times)
  • Party end time (Allows guests to plan and make an easy exit)

I have received several invitations to events this year and I can tell just from the invitations, which parties are going to be fun events and which are going to be fodder for what not to do in my future blogs.   If you ask for an RSVP but don't put down a phone number…there is going to be some re-work for everyone!

2 -Checklists with completion dates and times are imperative.

Pre-prep checklists are helpful to make sure nothing has been missed and that everything gets completed.   However, dates and times are especially important when you have checklist items that are dependent upon other events chronologically.   For example, you shouldn't cut and serve the cake before you've lit the candles and sung,  “Happy Birthday”.

3-Keep your menu manageable and simplify your food choices with some old favorites.

Sandwiches of deli meat and cheese sound simple but if you're putting on a nice spread you can find yourself with many of different breads, condiments and toppings.   At our house, we recently served shish kabobs which added a slightly different flare to our event and gave us a few tasty leftovers for veggie omelettes the following morning. Also, when feeding 60 people now is not the time to try a new recipe…go with proven methods that have predictable outcomes.

For you hardcore lean people we processed the kabobs with one piece flow in a U-shaped cell which made it very easy to do.

4-On the day of the event make sure everyone knows the schedule and make it visual.

On the day of event make sure you and your helpers have the most updated schedule. (Arrivals, food, cake, presents, awards…etc).   If you want, you can even post it for your guests.   When everyone is aware of the schedule it's much easier to spend your time having fun and not wrangling people for the next activity.

5-Remember your guests are people and people have unlimited unknown variables.

This isn't manufacturing with finely turned processes and machinery.    Some of your guests will be late or stuck in construction, while others will have forgotten to RSVP and show up anyway.     You may have to shift the festivities and re-arrange the schedule.   The best part is that if you have a plan you can make adjustments more easily.

6- The most important thing you can do is a post party review to improve your future events.

Directly following the party is the best time to do this however we usually wait till the following morning during “left-over omelettes” to do ours.   This is just a brainstorming session to recap the previous day's festivities and review what worked and what didn't as well as how you can improve on the next party.   Prior to every event we pull out the “Party Check List” which contains everything from the set up of tables and chairs to the tear down of the tent.    It has all pros, cons and improvements we've learned from previous events such as:   How much ice we needed for the coolers, what menu items worked best and how much food was eaten per person. This is a valuable piece of data, that will save you time in the long run.

In summary:

When you have a lean event you plan smarter and more efficiently, your guests have a fantastic time and you get to share in the fun instead of running around and worrying about the little details

By using lean you can have a list and a plan and throw a party for 3 or 300 and still have the energy to karaoke until the wee hours of the morning.   Enjoy your next lean summer event!!

About Jon Wetzel (Full bio):

Prior to starting Lean for Everyone, I was interim President/Partner of   Scented Pens . In addition, I was employed at Asterand plc for 7 years in various senior roles including Director of Lean Six Sigma.   During my time at Asterand, the company grew from sales of $100K to $22 million and was the top performing stock on the London Stock Exchange in 2008.

I hold a BS in Biology from Michigan State University and am certified in both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Hey Joseph:
    All I can say is that the U-shaped worked the best. We did have a person that was dedicated to “tricky vegetable”. She had the best technique for putting the mushrooms on because they kept splitting in half.
    Take care

  2. Haha I must admit Joseph Dagger, above, might have a point with reference to the U-shaped method of food production, however I am guilty of the same ways of working.

    If it is the fastest, most efficient way, why do it any other way? (unless another method can be proven to be better of course).


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