Posted by: Knightbird | July 9, 2013

National Congress of American Indians Workshop

 With the issues caused by the Sequester in Congress, many Tribes have experienced funding problems. Added on top of the recession that started in 2008, and from which we are still recovering, the funding problems are having a substantial impact on services. Faced with this nationwide impact, NCAI put together a panel to discuss “Tribal Operations & Business During Tight Times.” I was honored to serve on that panel. My title was “Finding Value Through Lean Thinking in Indian Country.”

In a very short presentation, I shared the story of the lean transformation I presided over while I was Executive Director at Chugachmiut. As I struggled with implementing the 14 points articulated by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, we built a culture of respect, and one that allowed us to recognize problems and defects without anger or blame. My knowledge increased with every mistake I made, and I let the audience know that. I spent most of my time on how to build a culture of respect.

The remaining time I spent on the tools of continuous improvement. I asked the audience whether they believed it was possible to improve a process by 1600%. Most were skeptical. The example I used was posted on my friend Mark Graban’s blog, and very clearly showed more than a 1600% improvement in preparation of food boxes for distribution to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York. The staff improved the time it took to prepare food boxes from 3 minutes on average to 11 seconds. You can do the math. Lean did the improvements.

I also shared a couple of examples from my own experience with significant improvements.

The message was clearly received. Approximately 10 tribal leaders sought me out after the presentation to learn more. I shared my PowerPoint with each of them. Indian Country can benefit enormously from the adoption of lean thinking in their tribal and business operations, and I hope to spread the practice in the next 5 years.

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