By Tom Weathers, Landis Construction Co., LLC; Director of Purchasing & Systems Innovation — 2022 LCI Congress Chair
Learn by Doing, From Those Who Do
This seemingly simple tagline is a highly effective approach for driving professional growth. It’s also the theme for LCI’s 23rd annual Congress this October in Phoenix, Arizona. Let’s unpack this theme a bit and explore the opportunity at hand.
Learn by Doing
Lean learning is not a straight path. It is a continuous effort to enhance your current playbook by honing a variety of collaborative skills while developing useful habits.
Lean enthusiasts often leverage a PDCA cycle for learning and improving. Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust your way towards better best practices. It’s a cycle for continuous improvement that never ends and often leads to better and better Standard Operating Procedures, forming the basis for future improvements.
Everyone sucks at it in the beginning. There are exceptions, but most of us struggle to gain traction with Lean initiatives at first, only achieving that through persistence, resilience, and continuously practicing the Lean habits and behaviors we seek to master and model for others.
Lean inherently begs for wider engagement with your team and other project stakeholders, and so Lean deployment is often undercut by human factors such as varying degrees of enthusiasm, learning styles, egos, turnover, misconceptions of Lean tactics, and lingering apprehension among many stakeholders. LCI is our ally in that struggle, our resource for Lean learning and peer-led knowledge-sharing. LCI is the only organization whose sole focus is improving project results for the industry as a whole through the use of Lean methodologies.
LCI Congress offers us an opportunity to engage with a broad community of passionate professional learners, all struggling to overcome the same chronic challenges. You’ll gain valuable insights you can put into action immediately. For many, this starts with Learning Day (October 19th), a mix of engaging workshops and hands-on simulations where role-playing and detailed training bring Lean tactics and techniques into focus.
Don’t underestimate the potential for learning between sessions. Some of the best insights come from both the planned events and random encounters. At LCI Congress you can participate in a Lean Coffee, meet with allied vendors in the Exhibit Hall, or read up on project stories in the Lean gallery. It’s a low-pressure environment for networking with presenters, coaches, and other industry professionals. The more you do and interact, the more you learn.
[Learn] From Those Who Do
It will take a village to transform our industry, an industry entrenched with siloed expertise and fraught with miscommunication and mistrust. Not to mention the challenges posed by a diminishing skilled workforce. The Lean transformation is more than any single company or organization can undertake alone. For the past 23 years, LCI’s yearly Congress assembles a village of Lean enthusiasts, champions, and coaches from across the US (and beyond), focused on leveling imbalances in Lean competencies and improving project outcomes for all industry stakeholders.
I count myself lucky as a beneficiary of this yearly pilgrimage. I describe Congress as a firehose approach to learning, and yet somehow I always walk away energized and ready to leverage new insights. Here are a few gems that stand out from my past Congress experiences:
Do you have time for a Live Lab? Hint: the correct answer is yes. Live Labs are brief high-impact sessions where peers demonstrate a specific tactic or technique that earned them a spot in the lineup. This year, Live Labs are offered during the “Core Program” October 20 & 21 (Wednesday and Thursday).
Have you taken a Gemba Walk lately? During Congress you can “go to the work” to see Lean in action and meet seasoned Lean leaders who walk the talk. These tours often include job site trailers where the visual management part of Lean is on display. If you sign up for one (Friday, October 22), be sure to think of a few open-ended questions to ask during your walk. The hardest part is selecting which project you’ll go see from the four options in Phoenix.
Let’s not forget about the keynote speakers! They are always a reliable source of inspiration at LCI Congress. This year, I look forward to learning from Dennis Doran and General Stan McChrystal. Here are some takeaways I gained from other Congress keynotes in recent years:
While Congress can feel a bit like a firehose approach to learning, it’s also a prime opportunity to expand your network of Lean enthusiasts, coaches, and trainers. A real win is meeting one or two professionals you can call on when taking your next steps back home. PRO TIP: Share your Lean goals with another peer at Congress and commit to future check-ins to foster accountability for your professional growth. Or better yet, connect with one of LCI’s Communities of Practice for more peer driven accountability and knowledge sharing all year long.
Go Slow to Go Fast
One word of caution… It’s common to return home from Congress eager to download all of your new Lean knowledge and hit the ground running with your team, but they’ll likely revolt if you do. Share your vision and inspiration but focus on smaller milestones and goals to begin with. Celebrate small wins. Take the time to win hearts and minds to support Lean initiatives. Continue honing your own Lean competencies. Continue learning-by-doing your way to bigger wins and breakthrough results.
So, what lessons stuck with you from past Congresses? And what do you hope to learn at Congress this year?