Learning About Lean, Kanban, Six Sigma, and Kaizen

A few months ago, a friend of mine recently asked on LinkedIn if anyone had any information about Six Sigma certification. It caught my eye, not only because a friend asked, but also because I’d recently come across a conversation on Reddit about Six Sigma, which got me thinking about the concept of kaizen, which is Japanese for “continuous improvement”. Following this path further, I learned more about the connections between kaizen, Six Sigma, and Lean. Six Sigma appears to be one way to implement Lean, which appears to be the way to implement/interpret kaizen*.

NYC Lean/Kanban Meetup, June 2017

Cut to the NYC Lean/Kanban Meetup, which I attended in June to learn more. Unfortunately, it was the last of the season, until September, but they have an ongoing weekly morning get-together on Fridays at 8:30 AM.

https://www.meetup.com/nyc-kanban/

Event Recap

The event was meant to recap a recent series of meetups on Lean as well as a planning session for the next year/season. The talk was interesting, but it’s clear that I’m an n00b. I picked up a few names, book titles, and resources, listed below.

People

Book

During the speaker’s recap, he mentioned a book title, This Is Lean. The book can be found at www.thisislean.com.

A video on ThisIsLean.com explains more about the book:

Radio

The speaker also mentioned a This American Life episode on NUMMI, a GM + Toyota manufacturing partnership. Interestingly, I also found an article disputing the TAL episode, although I think that might be more due to a pro-union POV than actual criticism of the article.

Storymapping

After the speaker’s presentation, we got together to talk about a few ideas for the next year. The table I joined was on story mapping, which someone had suggested as a topic. I joined this table because I wanted to learn more about story mapping. And a few other people at the table didn’t seem to know exactly how the person who suggested it could use it in the example she provided. But, eventually, we eliminated other choices and figured out how it could work. So, it will be a topic next “year”, after the summer break, and I hope to learn more. Although it’s meant to be used in Agile, I guess you could use it even if you don’t work in Agile.

Resources:

Story Mapping Tools: 

  • Cardboardit.com – https://cardboardit.com/
  • Feature map – https://www.featuremap.co/en

Certification

Also, in chatting with someone there, I learned that there is Scrum Product Owner certification that you can get in 2 days. I found a session in Saint Paul, MN, and that one is $1,095 per person at regular price. There was an option to filter for discount only, but I’m guessing it will still be several hundred dollars.

Implementing Kaizen Without Knowing It

As a side note, I used to own a book called, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. (There’s also a summary of the book’s contents on YouTube, by someone unrelated to the book and the author.) But after getting through the audiobook of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I sold it to The Strand.

Incidentally, “tidying” (and cleaning) is another cultural efficiency practice from Japan, which I first learned about on Japanology Plus. It might not be as respected in business circles as kaizen or Lean, but it appears to be very much a part of Japanese culture.

Even though I gave up the kaizen book, I have been using the concept of small changes and small steps. One instance of this is trying to learn new languages with the Duolingo iPhone app, by focusing on just getting through at least one lesson a day. I hope to post my progress on LinkedIn, once I get to 25% in any language.

Also, in chatting with someone there, I learned that there is Scrum Product Owner certification that you can get in 2 days. I found a session in Saint Paul, MN, and that one is $1,095 per person at regular price. There was an option to filter for discount only, but I’m guessing it will still be several hundred dollars.

Implementing Kaizen Without Knowing It

As a side note, I used to own a book called, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. (There’s also a summary of the book’s contents on YouTube, by someone unrelated to the book and the author.) But after getting through the audiobook of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I sold it to The Strand.

Incidentally, “tidying” (and cleaning) is another cultural efficiency practice from Japan, which I first learned about on Japanology Plus. It might not be as respected in business circles as kaizen or Lean, but it appears to be very much a part of Japanese culture.

Even though I gave up the kaizen book, I have been using the concept of small changes and small steps. One instance of this is trying to learn new languages with the Duolingo iPhone app, by focusing on just getting through at least one lesson a day. I hope to post my progress on LinkedIn, once I get to 25% in any language.

Event: UX Camp 2017, New York City

On June 24th, I attended a one-day unconference, called UX Camp. I heard about this through Meetup/email. I’m not sure what I expected, but I did hope for more hands-on workshops.

Sessions Attended:

Dance as cultural exchange

Using Dance for Cultural Exchange: This was presented by Ana Milena Aguilar-Hauke. I thought it was really smart and innovative, but only 2 people showed up to learn about this which is a shame. We could use more cross-cultural exchange these days. Her idea came from her experience living in Germany and the United States from the perspective of someone of Colombian descent. Her idea was to use salsa, which is a fun, easy to learn dance, to might help people interact with each other.

You can read more about this project on her website.

Kanban discussion list

Independent UX (More of a pow-wow/thought exchange): Helpful, especially for people who are managing their own work as an independent or seeking to. We used voting and Kanban boards, which I hadn’t heard of before, to go through ideas. I got that recruiters really take away your ability to earn more money because they’re skimming off the top. And, I learned that other UX professionals are experiencing the same portfolio headaches that I am.

I’ve since become interested in learning more about Lean and Kanban, which I’ll talk about in an upcoming post.

Some of the work we were doing for the design sprint workshop.

Tips on Design Sprints: I kind of wish I’d skipped this because, apparently, a really great talk that confirmed many of my job hunting suspicions was going on that I missed and probably would have enjoyed. But on the other hand, it was a hands-on activity like I wanted and it gave me new ideas to think about.

Agile to Tri-Track: This was presented by Dave Malouf. To be 100% honest, as soon as I walked into this one, I wanted to walk out. Unfortunately, I was sitting at the front of the room and had walked in a few minutes late. I didn’t understand what he was going for with this talk, or what anyone other than the speaker would get out of it, or even, really, what the speaker would get out of it. But, my biggest disappointment with this talk was that the speaker didn’t seem willing to accept new ideas when challenged with alternative approaches.

Systems Thinking: I went because I wanted to learn about systems thinking. It started off OK. But I noticed that there was one specific moment where he lost me and several other people. One person left, I mentally felt myself check out; another guy started checking his email. And, although he asked for feedback, I felt rude about providing this criticism in a public setting. It just needed to be shorter and get to the point faster.

Portfolio Discussion: This was helpful and vindicated some of the concepts I’ve been thinking and writing about when it comes to what UX managers look for (or don’t look for) when reviewing portfolios. My strategy now is to include information about an unexpected challenge I experienced and what I learned on the job.

 


All Photos

Event: The Art of VR at Sotheby’s

On June 23rd, I attended The Art of VR event, held at Sotheby’s. It was billed as “A 2 day curated VR exhibition featuring: Studio premieres, theatrical & brand case studies, studio exhibitions, hands-on demonstrations.” I signed up through Eventbrite.

Virtual reality has certainly advanced from Second Life. Now there are headsets and immersive devices. The tickets were somewhat expensive but I went to the event, anyway, because I didn’t have that much experience with virtual reality; I thought it would be a good way to jump in. I spent time trying out VR at the different booths, then spent time listening to the talks, which were pretty good.

VR Booths and Hands-On Demonstrations

Many works were commercial, intended to demonstrate the graphics capabilities of a type of computer, to promote a film, or for some other commercial purpose. In my opinion, VR for entertainment purposes automatically comes across as a bit insincere, unless the provenance of the work — where it comes from, how it was produced, who produced it and why — is known because it can help the audience get over their skepticism.


Photos from the Galleries

There were also a number of artworks, and so far I think it works best for art experiences. The mechanics of the experience are incredibly intimate, yet it remains very public – which describes how art is experienced, as well. But, trying VR can be an intimidating activity. You have to get over feeling embarrassed for looking stupid with these giant geeky goggles on your face while other people are watching. And, as a panelist later mentioned, VR can be clunky and clumsy, even in an artistic setting.

Despite my initial embarrassment, I participated as much as I could. I enjoyed the experience and learning about VR.


Discussion Panels

I’ll admit that I initially wasn’t compelled to visit the floor where the discussion panels were being held. But once, I did I was very impressed. The president of the VR Society led at least 2 panels I listened to; he’s a very good moderator. The two discussions that impressed me most were a discussion on medical uses of VR and a discussion about a cinematic experience, called “Lincoln in the Bardo”.

Photos from the panel discussions

Discussion: Medical Uses of VR

On the far right (partially off-camera), is the surgeon moderating the discussion and presenting his use of VR in surgery. The man to the right of center is the psychiatrist.

One of the discussion panels was about medical uses of VR. Overall, this was the most impressive topic discussed or demonstrated for me.

  • Surgery: First, a neurosurgeon described how he used virtual reality to help him remove difficult tumors in the middle of a patient’s head. He showed how, due to the tumor’s location, historically the surgery left people disfigured and possibly blind or deaf. (The images were not attractive.) With VR, he showed, he’s able to more accurately and precisely navigate around major arteries and nerves, to minimize the intrusiveness of the surgery using orthoscopic surgical tools to minimize long-term damage and scarring.
  • Mental Health: Next, a psychiatrist described how he used VR to simulate settings for PTSD patients, to help them overcome their disorder in a controlled setting. For example, he can simulate Iraq for war veterans. He also showed how VR can be used to help patients manage pain, specifically burn patients. Pain, he explained, requires attention. If you can distract patients from their pain, they will experience pain relief. His example was showing a burn patient experiencing an ice world.
  • Medical Education: Finally, a medical artist showed how he used VR drawing tools to augment his work. I don’t entirely remember everything about his discussion, but his work sounded very interesting. And it seems like a type of art that is completely overlooked.

Anyway, the medical talk was very innovative and I’m glad to see this new technology being used in such important ways.


Discussion: Lincoln In the Bardo

“Lincoln in the Bardo”. The director is on the far left. The NYT VR director is 2nd from left. The VR Society president is on the far right.
Another impressive talk was a discussion about Lincoln in the Bardo, VR experience. This experience was a collaboration with the NY Times. It sounds like it was a pretty intensive project, so although I didn’t see it or write about it that much, don’t underestimate it, especially if you’re into cinematic VR experiences.
Lincoln in the Bardo

In this immersive narrative short, President Lincoln pays a nighttime visit to the haunted cemetery in which his beloved son has just been laid to rest. Based on “Lincoln in the Bardo,” the new novel by George Saunders.

You can possibly view it in 360-video on nytimes.com if your browser supports 360-video. I also found a link on YouTube if it doesn’t. It’s produced for a VR headset, so it won’t be the same if you don’t have a headset (I don’t).


Sotheby’s Art Gallery: BUNKER

Somewhat related to the VR event, Sotheby’s also had a pop-up gallery, called BUNKER, “which since 2014 has featured artists who collaborate with technology to create code-driven sculpture, augmented reality and virtual installation”. I took some time to check it out. There weren’t that many projects, but here are few projects I especially liked.

One that was really clever used the cassette frames and an audio output. Since it was using headphones, a video would have only caught half of it. So, I didn’t capture it at all.

The installation will be at Sotheby’s until July 20, 2017.