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Tuesday, September 01, 2009 - Pawley Institute and AASP present their first webinar
The Association of Advancement Services Professionals (AASP) and the Oakland University Pawley Lean Institute presented a “Lean Thinking” webinar Wednesday, August 26 from 1:30-3 p.m. with speakers Dr. Shannon Flumerfelt, assistant professor at OU and director of Lean Thinking for Schools at the Pawley Institute, and Robert Saunders, director of Development Information Services at OU and treasurer of AASP.

Moderated by Beverly Brown, graduate assistant at the Pawley Institute, this was the first webinar for both AASP and the Pawley Lean Institute. Saunders suggested to the AASP Board, given the current economic conditions, that the Pawley Institute and this topic would be the perfect way to kick off the association's webinar offerings.

The webinar was well attended with participants from twenty different states and two Canadian provinces. There were 48 registrants from colleges, universities, consulting firms and other organizations.

“Participants indicated that they found the seminar to be thought provoking, and they enjoyed the case study presentation,” Flumerfelt said.

With Flumerfelt as the first speaker, attendees became familiar with the basics and history of Lean thinking, the power of mental models, the benefits of storytelling and visual management, the definition of value and the various forms of waste.

“They learned that it can be done,” Saunders said. “It’s not difficult; it just takes effort.”

According to Flumerfelt, the business case for Lean has been established over the past 50 years of implementation in helping organizations to achieve sustainability and deep levels of organizational development.

“I thought it was great,” Saunders said about Flumerfelt’s presentation. “I thought she did a great job putting the history of Lean together, but I know what was discussed was just the tip of the iceberg.”

He added that Flumerfelt made the concepts easy to understand and talked about service-based Lean versus manufacturing.

Saunders presented a detailed case study of Lean in advancement services with the Lean transformation of the Gift Accounting office at OU. The process looked at procedures in detail and got rid of non-value added waste.

“The sessions were interactive and participants were able to ask questions, play learning games and provide feedback on various concepts,” Flumerfelt said.

According to Saunders, making employees a part of the process of fixing things is important because morale goes up.

“Employees working in Lean cultures are active in problem identification and problem solving, and enjoy their work,” Flumerfelt said.

Lean provides venues for continuous improvement and brings clarity to steps in processes that should be eliminated or changed because they consume time, energy and money that don't produce value.

“Lean is relevant in these times of scarce and scarcer resources because the system of Lean thinking and Lean tools enables an organization to understand what is of value and what is waste,” Flumerfelt said.

With OU receiving less money from the government, Saunders emphasized the need of having more work per person by reducing wasteful activities and replacing them with value-added activities, which allows OU to avoid hiring additional staff and producing future expenditures.

“You have to find ways to do more with the staff you have,” Saunders said.

Process problems such as unnecessary interruptions, providing more than what is needed, toxic levels of verification and a lack of priorities in daily tasks are examples of ways that Lean can bring forth immediate tactical solutions, Flumerfelt said.

Also, strategic problems such as disconnections between what is planned or intended and what is implemented or accomplished, a lack of understanding of the root cause of an ongoing problem or set of problems, and mixed priorities are examples of ways that Lean can contribute to cultural development for long-term solutions.

The majority of attendees rated the webinar as either "outstanding" or "very good" in a post-webinar survey administered by the Pawley Institute.

“If Lean thinking will help us get through the tough economic times, just think what it can do for our [organizations] when things return to normal!” commented one attendee. “[Lean principles] are very important everywhere, but that is not always recognized...One happy byproduct of the bad economy is that it is forcing us to consider these methods...”

AASP is an international organization that provides education, professional development and networking opportunities to its members and promotes the professional status of advancement services in the philanthropic community.

The Pawley Lean Institute is designed to benefit OU students, local schools, businesses, non-profits and industry by sharing the concepts and practices of Lean learning via OU courses, student labs and projects, and training workshops.

For more information, visit the AASP or Pawley Institute websites.