Waterloo hosts a two-day Lean seminar and projects fair for employees

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

On May 9th, Human Resources at Waterloo hosted a Lean seminar titled “Creating a Culture of Daily Continuous Improvement in Higher Education” and a Lean projects fair for employees. A Lean workshop for leaders and executives was held on May 10th. The seminar and workshop were led by Karyn Ross, co-author of The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations.

Ross presented on the importance of creating a deliberate culture of daily continuous improvement by using creativity and divergent thinking. “Hope is not a strategy,” said Ross. Organizations can pursue purpose by setting targets based on their vision and mission. To address problems for daily continuous improvement, organizations need to identify gaps between their current state and their goals. “Doing changes thinking. Not the other way around…,” she stated. Creating a culture of daily continuous improvement requires changes in our day-to-day behaviour to build discipline and stamina for acting in new ways.

Photo of Kimberley Snage, Karyn Ross, and Kenton Needham

Kimberley Snage and Kenton Needham with Karyn Ross


Flow, a term that describes the ability to work effectively by obtaining all the information you need up-front, was also presented. This allows processes to be more efficient and effective, leading to fewer mistakes, less time wasted, and happier customers. In small groups, seminar attendees were able to work through this process, share their experience, and ask questions. By aligning creativity, culture, and flow, organizations will be able close gaps to targets and fulfill their purpose.

The Lean Projects Fair was attended by more than 100 employees interested in learning about Lean initiatives happening in other departments at Waterloo. Departments who showcased Lean projects included the Sustainability Office, Plant Operations, Housing and Residence, Office of the Provost, Human Resources, IST, Registrar’s Office, St. Jerome’s, and the Library. The University of Guelph also attended to demonstrate how Lean has been applied in other higher education institutions.

On May 10th, representatives from the University of Waterloo and other organizations, including Bell Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, McMaster University, St. Mary’s General Hospital, and many more, attended the “Leading Lean in Higher Education” workshop for leaders. The workshop was led by Karyn Ross and she presented on the 4Ps of the Toyota Way to Service Excellence (Philosophy, Process, People, and Problem-solving). Leaders can use these techniques to set organizational vision and targets, check on progress towards goals, and develop employees’ creative and critical thinking abilities.

Lean experts Doug Wotherspoon from Algonquin College and Theresa Coleman-Kaiser from Michigan Technological University were also in attendance to discuss Lean in leadership. All attendees then participated in a coaching and problem-solving workshop.

To learn more about Lean, please visit the Lean at Waterloo website. Case studies of Lean projects and initiatives across campus are also available. If you would like to be included on the email list for future Lean events at Waterloo, contact Raghda Sabry.

Take a look at the image gallery from our Lean seminar and projects fair: