Webinar Preview: From Lean Theory to Practice in Libraries and Beyond

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I'm really excited to host and moderate the latest webinar in the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement Webinar series, which will be presented by my friend Elizabeth Chase from the City of Frisco, Texas.

Elizabeth is a librarian and Material Services Manager for the city's public library. I've had a chance to visit with her in their previous library location (where they implemented Lean methods to improve the flow and circulation of borrowed and returned items). I also had a chance to recently visit their new library facility where they were able to start with a blank slate — and Lean design principles — to design an even better (and more flexible) process flow.

She also does Lean Six Sigma training for other Frisco city departments.

Elizabeth and the City of Frisco also had an opportunity to collaborate with Toyota's TSSC group in the improvement of their COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic.

She'll share applicable lessons learned that you'll want to hear about, whether you work in a library, a city government, or any other setting.

One City's (and Library's) Lean Story… Abridged

Join us for a look at how one library's practice of Lean introduced a city to its benefits and informed the design of the 5th largest public library in Texas, a 158,000-square-foot library (in a repurposed rocket factory).

Covering everything from creating a Lean training curriculum to specific examples of applied Lean fundamentals – with a detour into Vaccine site administration – this webinar has something for everyone interested in continuous improvement and/or libraries.

Attendees will be able to ask as many questions that dive into specific details as time allows.

You can register here:

Lean: From Theory to Practice

If you can't attend, we'll email you a link to the recording.

Here's the quick preview:

Preview Video:


Transcript:

Mark Graban:
Hi, welcome to the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement podcast. I'm Mark Graban, a senior advisor with KaiNexus, and today we are doing a quick preview of our next webinar, our upcoming webinar. It's going to be on April 24. It's titled Lean from Theory to Practice: One City's and One Library's Lean Story, Abridged. It's going to be presented by Elizabeth Chase and you can register for that webinar.

Mark Graban:
Look for a link in the show notes or you can go to KaiNexus.com. If you're hearing or watching this preview after April 24, you'll be able to view the recording of that session. So again, KaiNexus.com webinars. Really happy to be joined by the presenter for the webinar here for the preview, Elizabeth Chase. Elizabeth, hi.

Mark Graban:
How are you?

Elizabeth Chase:
I'm fine, Mark. I'm doing well.

Mark Graban:
I'm excited about the webinar. I know you have a lot to share. You've been kind enough to let me visit the library and see the progression and the improvements and the approaches that you're using there. So I know we're going to hear a lot about that in the webinar. Before we talk about what you're going to be presenting, tell us a little bit about who you are and your background, if you would.

Elizabeth Chase:
Oh, sure. I am the material services manager at the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas. I have been with the library for 20 years now, and for the last kind of ten, I've kind of been involved with lean initiatives in the library and the city overall. So my two real passions in life are librarianship and lean, at least professionally. I like to talk about books a lot, too, so we won't go there because we might never end.

Mark Graban:
I know there's a lot of lean books on the shelf behind you, I imagine. Was there a book about lean for libraries that helped you get started?

Elizabeth Chase:
Yes, that was one of the first ones that we came across by John Huber, Lean Library Management. That was very helpful to us because it translated the general principles into things that were very applicable to libraries specifically. So that was definitely a valuable book. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
And I think there'll be a lot to learn in the webinar for people who are not helping run a library. I mean, these are transferable approaches, both the theory and the practice. So I'll definitely encourage people to tune in for anyone who's faced with the whole situation of, hey, but we don't build cars. That's, that's certainly true. In a library, right?

Elizabeth Chase:
Yes. Applying lean in the service industry. Absolutely. That's another one of my favorite books, Toyota Way to Service Excellence, I think it's called. And part of what we've done here is create a lean kind of certification program for city employees.

Elizabeth Chase:
So we've gone through kind of that. We'll cover that in the webinar as well. But yeah, so I think it's applicable not just for libraries, but for anyone in the service industry and anyone looking to kind of create either an informal training program or just kind of spread the word and spread the practice of lean within their organization. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
So I know there's going to be examples in the webinar of thinking of the physical flow of books and other items. It's fascinating to see and the opportunity that you had to not just apply lean processes to your, at this point now, old former library building. But I know what you're going to have to share about designing the new library is going to be really interesting and I think really helpful for people that are thinking about their own physical space and layout. Is there a little preview that you could give kind of about that element of process improvement versus. Okay, we get to do a new space.

Elizabeth Chase:
Yeah, that was really exciting. And one of the things that was really valuable, Mark, John Huber's book, his last chapter, is like designing lean into your buildings. When I talk about 5S in our, the lean class that I teach to city employees, you know, I point out the point of 5S is really to create a space in which your processes can be successful. It's about creating the perfect environment to make your processes successful. And so that's really how we applied, you know, lean, when we were thinking about converting a 158,000 square foot former rocket factory into a library was, how do we design this to make sure that the work is as easy as possible for our staff and that we can make things flow well and we can reduce steps as much as possible in a building this large.

Elizabeth Chase:
So absolutely, I think there's a lot to do with just the things that we thought about as we were designing the building instead of. And how can we make things work once we're in the building? Yeah.

Mark Graban:
And then I think one other thing you'll be able to touch on in the webinar. Speaking of, well, hey, we don't build cars. A vaccination clinic is also not building cars. And again, I'm thankful that you helped me come and visit something that you put together in collaboration with this kind of local but well-known automaker, yes.

Elizabeth Chase:
Well, I honestly had nothing to do with the setup for that. But I was the day before the City of Frisco's vaccine clinic opened. And it was a wild and hairy ride, to be sure. You know, it was one month between the time that the powers that be at the top of the city reached out to one of the fire chiefs and was, like, “Put together a vaccine clinic.” And the day we opened to the public.

Elizabeth Chase:
And yes, the day before, I was called and told to show up, Toyota is going to be there to help. And so literally the day before we opened to the public, the fire department and Toyota and I are all kind of meeting and starting to look at how do we make this, this well-designed place, you know, converted Sears. It was an empty Sears building. Work well for even better. So that was definitely a highlight career point for me, working with TSSC out of Toyota.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, it gives a new, new meaning to the phrase fire drill, I guess. Forgive me, free gaff for that. Sorry. But I'm glad you're going to be able to share some of the lessons learned there. It was really, really great to see in person.

Mark Graban:
For those who don't know, Frisco, Texas is right next door to Plano, Texas. And Plano is where Toyota's new of what, seven years ago. I think North American headquarters is right there. So I'm sure you have a lot of Toyota employees living in Frisco and coming to the Frisco Public Library.

Elizabeth Chase:
I certainly hope so. We'd like to see everyone here. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
Well, again, we've been joined by Elizabeth Chase, her webinar. Again, she'll be presenting on April 24 at 1:00 Eastern. Lean from theory to practice: one city and one library's lean story, abridged. So it's a great story.

Mark Graban:
I hope people will tune in again. Look for a registration link in the show notes, or please go to kyanexis.com webinar. So again, Elizabeth, thank you in advance for the webinar. Thank you for doing the preview here today.

Elizabeth Chase:
Thanks for inviting me. I'm excited.

Related Article:

Lean Transformation: From Theory to Practice

Lean principles have long transcended the manufacturing floor and found their place in various sectors, including the public and non-profit areas. Among these, an interesting implementation story comes from unlikely places – cities and libraries. Here's how one city and one library's journey with Lean provides valuable insights and inspiration for organizations seeking efficiency and improvement regardless of their field.

Introduction to Lean in Public Services

Lean thinking has historically been associated with manufacturing, specifically in the automotive industry. However, the principles of eliminating waste, improving processes, and maximizing value are universal and have been adopted by many organizations, including public services such as city administrations and libraries. The adaptability of Lean principles to various industries is evident as organizations aim to improve service delivery and maximize resources.

Public service entities are increasingly turning towards Lean to improve their operations and service quality. The integration of Lean into public services is not just about cost-cutting but also about enhancing the customer experience, be it citizens or library patrons. Embracing Lean methodology helps streamline processes, reduce delays, and eliminate non-value-adding activities, which can significantly contribute to higher customer satisfaction and better resource management.

A City and Library Embrace Lean

One compelling story of Lean transformation comes from Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas, where the adoption of Lean principles has been underway. The journey of the library and the city administration in integrating Lean into their management practices showcases that these strategies are not exclusive to the private sector but also thrive within the framework of public institutions.

Within the public library context, the Lean approach targets efficiency in material services management and overall library operations. Incorporating Lean into the library system not only benefits the library staff by creating smooth, standardized processes but also improves the patron's experience by providing faster, more reliable access to library materials and information. This transformation demonstrates the flexibility of Lean practices and how they can be tailored to fit the unique needs of library services.

Resources for Lean Learning in Libraries

For many libraries and cities seeking to adopt Lean methodologies, finding the right resources that cater to their specific environment is crucial. One key resource that has proved useful to Frisco Public Library is John Huber's Lean Library Management, a book that translates general Lean principles into actionable strategies for libraries. This resource has been integral in making Lean concepts accessible and relevant to library management.

Books and materials specifically aimed at applying Lean in non-traditional settings provide essential guidance for organizations embarking on their Lean journey. They facilitate the understanding of Lean tools and principles within the context of the public sector's goals and challenges. This understanding is vital for leadership and staff alike, as it aligns Lean transformations with their service missions and the unique demands of their work in public service.


The adoption of Lean principles by the Frisco Public Library and its material services manager, along with the city of Frisco, demonstrates the universal applicability of Lean thinking. This story serves as an inspiration and a learning tool for other entities in the public sector. Whether they are seeking to optimize their processes, improve customer service, or simply find more efficient ways to operate, the principles of Lean offer a tested pathway to achieve those goals.

Lean Training Programs for City Employees

Comprehensive educational initiatives, such as the Lean certification program implemented for city employees, bolster the successful application of Lean principles within city administrations and libraries. By offering formalized Lean training, employees become versed in Lean methodology, enabling them to recognize improvement opportunities within the public sector's diverse range of services. Certified training programs have the potential to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring that Lean thinking becomes a fundamental part of the organizational fabric.

These training initiatives cover essential Lean concepts, such as value stream mapping, workflow optimization, and the well-known 5S methodology, which focuses on maintaining an organized, clean, and standardized work environment. Emphasizing the practicality of Lean tools equips employees with the skills to not only enhance their day-to-day operations but also contribute positively to the larger mission of public service excellence.

New Space, Lean Design

The transition from theory to practice is further exemplified in initiatives to design physical spaces with Lean concepts from the ground up. The challenge faced by the Frisco Public Library in converting a significant space, specifically a 158,000-square-foot former rocket factory, into an efficiently operating library is a testament to the adaptability of Lean principles.

Using guidance from expert resources such as the last chapter of John Huber's book that focuses on integrating Lean design into buildings, the library transformation project aimed at optimizing the new space. By applying principles such as 5S, the objective was to create an environment conducive to the effective execution of library processes, thereby minimizing unnecessary steps for staff and facilitating a better flow of materials and services.

The process of designing a new library offers profound insights into how public services can leverage Lean thinking to shape their physical environments. The goal is to minimize waste in the movement of items and personnel, streamline the delivery of services, and ultimately provide customers with a seamless experience. This experience underscores the importance of considering Lean principles not just in processes, but in the very architecture of public spaces.

Anticipating the Future of Lean in Public Services

As public services continue to evolve, the potential applications for Lean methodologies expand. Lean's adaptability ensures that it can meet the changing needs and challenges inherent in the public sector. The expansion of Frisco Public Library and the city's embracement of Lean thinking highlight the enduring relevance of these principles.

The development of physical spaces with Lean in mind speaks to a broader trend of conscious, user-focused design in public services. By placing the needs of employees, citizens, and patrons at the center of planning and implementation efforts, public institutions can not only foster efficiency but also engender environments that are more responsive to the needs of their communities.

The ongoing success stories emerging from cities and libraries serve as valuable case studies and benchmarks for other public service organizations considering a Lean transformation. As they look to the future, these institutions embody the proof that Lean principles are not just beneficial but essential in delivering effective, high-quality public services in an ever-changing world.

Innovative Public Health Initiatives Through Lean Collaboration

In the increasingly dynamic landscape of public health, the City of Frisco made an exemplary move by marshalling Lean principles to rapidly set up a mass vaccination clinic. Utilizing a space that was once an empty Sears building, city officials, with the aid of a local fire chief, demonstrated the power of Lean thinking in responding to critical health emergencies.

This initiative represents a stellar example of how public services can adapt Lean strategies traditionally associated with manufacturing–like the ones used by Toyota–to their contexts. In less than a month, a multifunctional team, including experts from Toyota's Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC), transformed the sparse retail space into a well-organized and highly functional vaccination center.

By incorporating Lean concepts, city officials optimized the flow of people through the clinic, ensuring a smooth experience for both patients and healthcare workers. This endeavor highlighted how cross-industry collaboration can lead to powerful synergies, propelling city services to new heights of efficiency and efficacy.

Expanding the Scope of Lean Principles Across Public Services

As the public sector continues to grapple with complex challenges, the narrative of Frisco exemplifies the importance of expanding the application of Lean principles across various public services. The success story does not end with the vaccination clinic; rather, it marks the beginning of a broader movement that can revolutionize the efficiency and responsiveness of public services at large.

  • Diversified Applications: The flexibility of Lean methodologies means they can be adapted and applied to a multitude of public service operations, from waste management to administrative processes.
  • Lean in Education: Schools and educational institutions can also benefit from Lean by streamlining administrative processes and improving the allocation of resources, which can ultimately enhance the student learning experience.

Fostering a Lean Culture in Public Servant Training

The commitment to Lean principles can further be ingrained through systematic training and development programs for public servants. By embracing a Lean culture within their work environment, public officials can continuously work towards incorporating efficiency in every aspect of their service delivery.

  • Professional Development: Providing Lean training sessions can equip public servants with the techniques and mindsets necessary to instigate change within their departments, thus improving public trust and satisfaction.
  • Lean Leadership: Cultivating leadership that understands and champions Lean philosophies ensures that these methods are championed at all levels of the organization, leading by example and inspiring innovation.

Building Resilience Through Lean Problem-Solving

At the heart of Lean is a problem-solving ethos that encourages resilience and adaptability–qualities especially pertinent in times of crisis. Public service organizations embracing this ethos can respond more quickly to emergencies and unexpected events.

  • Scenario Planning: Implementing Lean tools can assist in developing robust scenario plans, preparing cities to handle different potential crises with agility and confidence.
  • Innovative Solutions: Lean inspires unconventional problem-solving that can result in more effective, often less costly, solutions to the challenges public services face.

In conclusion, the story of Frisco's vaccination clinic reaffirms the valuable impact Lean methodologies can have on the public sector. The community-driven initiative, corporate partnerships, and the city's commitment to continuous improvement serve as a blueprint for how other public services can achieve exceptional performance and public satisfaction. By integrating Lean's principles, training public servants in its methodologies, and sharing their successful implementations, cities like Frisco pave the way for a new era of public service excellence, shaping resilient communities ready to face tomorrow's challenges.


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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.

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