Lean Learning Value Stream: Applying Historical Lean Manufacturing Principles in Today's Teaching, Learning, and Design

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

When working to achieve student learning outcomes, do you struggle to deliver material efficiently?  Scaffolding methodology alone doesn’t always ensure the achievement of results.  What method would improve the process?  Lean thinking is the anchor.  In this discovery session, participants learn the application of lean principles in multiple educational settings.


From an educational perspective, I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, a Master’s in Business Administration from Central Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Adult Learning and Education from Michigan State University. After teaching two years in the public schools, I started my career with General Motors in 1984 Product Engineering for Buick Motors Division. With GM, I held several leadership positions within Supply Chain Management, Business Operations of Laboratories and Experimental Production, Engineering IT Systems and Processes and Engineering Design and Release. In addition, I served as the Assistant Project Manager for the GM Powertrain Laboratory Project, which included co-locating and training 600 Engineers along with the construction of a state of the art Propulsion Laboratory with a budget of $463M. My last assignments within GM included assisting with the sale of Opel, Campus Operations management and Business Operations Change Management consulting. I retired from GM in August of 2017 and worked briefly for Apple just to experience the culture of the organization. I currently work as the Business Program Director for Baker College Undergraduate Online and as an adjunct professor in Business. In terms of research, I continue to study the role of inner conversational learning and storytelling and how it contributes to the maturation of leadership capabilities. I have recently become interested in understanding how lean concepts can be used in higher education and hope to further these ideas within my role as Program Director.

Extended Abstract

Historically, lean thinking applied to the manufacturing environment.  Coming from automobile engineering, I have used these ideas and processes in multiple projects, including workflow development and process reengineering.  But, when I retired from engineering and joined the educational workforce, I began to see various opportunities for lean thinking and waste (unnecessary elements) throughout the education realm.  What does it mean to apply lean thinking in education?  I started with this question.  I went back to my past to create my future.  I used my teachings from W.E. Deming, John Shook, and James Womack and introduced them to educational theorists Leo Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner.  What emerged was the Lean Learning Value Stream©, an innovative concept that provides educators with a new lens for teaching, learning, and instructional design.

It is somewhat easy to review workflows in higher education, highlighting areas of waste and opportunities for process improvement and efficiency.  At first, this is where my attention went, improving and standardizing curriculum development workflows and making processes leaner and more efficient.  But, how can lean ideas be applied to teaching and learning?  A lean process provides maximum value for the customer (the student) by delivering a product (learning) in the most efficient manner, absent of unnecessary resources (waste).  When performing research on lean thinking within education, I found very few ideas of lean application to support teachers and trainers.

So how can an old concept be applied to today’s teaching, learning, and design framework?  Starting with the end in mind – focusing on the customer (student) and working backward, where are there opportunities to reconfigure the learning?  When you review your previous discussion threads, lessons, assignments, do students receive value?    Are there more efficient ways to utilize feedback for continued maturation of ideas and critical thinking?  This session focuses on providing you a new approach for enhancing student value.  If you are looking for an original method for your toolkit, please join this interactive session, where you will see first-hand how the Lean Learning Value StreamÓ applies to the virtual and physical classroom.

Level of Participation:

This session is interactive and structured, much like a lean manufacturing workshop.  Participants assemble a “product” using assembly line principles.  In teams of six, participants receive instructions on flow and time.  Once the first round is complete, groups develop ideas for how to be more productive and efficient.  Areas of waste and new ideas for streamlining the learning process are generated to ensure the team meets customer requirements.  Translating results to the classroom, as a group, we will brainstorm how to utilize these same ideas to create a Lean Learning Value Stream in your class.

Session Goals:

Participants will walk away with a new method to apply in multiple learning and design activities.  Also, participants will be able to discuss opportunities for improvement in their lean value streams by assessing past and current discussion threads, assignments, tasks and curriculums.  Lastly, attendees will leave with practical ideas for implementation of the Lean Learning Value Stream to achieve student learning outcomes and customer value.