CDI presented at the Lean Systems conference, a workshop on “The Cost of Belonging — Ongoing Improvement Can Happen Only If One Owns The Process” at the Continuous Improvement LEAN Collaborative held August 11th in Portland, Maine.

CDI’s Marcel Gagne presented this workshop. He strives to bring the message that Cooperatives and the Continuous Improvement LEAN Collaborative are an almost perfect fit for each other in design and implementation. Marcel’s role as Chair of USM/LAC’s Community Advisory Board has helped foster a learning program that provides the venue for organizations to have employees trained as Continuous Improvement Practitioners and has resulted in a LEAN Certificate program (the only one in Northern New England). In his role as Chair-elect of the Workforce Development and Education committee for Maine’s largest Chamber (LA Metro) he has engaged in creating a partnership between the Chamber and USM in creating the “Institute for Continuous Improvement” at LAC as an economic development strategy.

The goal of the Summit is to bring business, government, academic, and service leaders from across the country to share enhanced approaches and methods for attaining greater excellence in operational effectiveness, efficiency, and value to customers, employees, and stakeholders.

In this creative economy, an appreciation for and the implementation (or ‘ownership’) of Continuous Improvement is crucial for sustainability and ongoing success. How is this accomplished? – By ownership! Ownership of issues that require constant improvement, being customer-centric and driven by the voice of the customer, elimination of waste (the benign thief that robs from all), and idea generation that must come from all and from within.

So, in this collaborative world of embracing LEAN, all must fully understand the paradigm of “this organization belongs to all of you, and you belong to it”! All this begins by owning your job. This session will highlight the principles that support the empowering of the individual by teaching them skills and establishing a supportive environment of respect for people.

LEAN fundamentally leads to owning one’s job. Cooperatives are an ideal model for employees not only owning their jobs, but taking that concept to its highest impact, ownership of the business!

Owners of organizations have a high commitment to seeing their organizations survive in the short term and prosper in the long term. Many leaders have adopted LEAN systems thinking because it has proven to be an effective business strategy to meet this goal. Yet, what LEAN leaders struggle with most often is sustaining a LEAN initiative.

To sustain this requires a long-term commitment to the values underlying the effort. The values underlying LEAN – trust, respect for people, long-term thinking, continuous improvement, valuing front-line staff as an asset to name a few – are all values that any owner can see as relevant to sustaining their business. Why? Because they give employees a “stake” in the current and future state of the company. The investment in employees represents “a cost of belonging” to the owner/company but in the long-term creates for employees a sense of ‘ownership’ of their jobs and of the organization, which is a key strategy for sustaining LEAN initiatives, meeting goals and achieving desired outcomes. This is, for example, especially clear in Cooperatives, where an organization or business is owned and run by equal owners, in a democratic fashion, each with one and only one equal share and vote.

When governance is led by a member-driven board, operations are driven by member managers, and work culture is driven by all members and other employees, this represents a classic platform where the values of ownership and LEAN explicitly come together. Ultimately employees taking ownership of their jobs are what sustain the organization. And, bosses/owners/ managers, not just other staff, need to understand this dynamic as well.

CDI’s Marcel Gagne presents at the LEAN Systems conference