Fisher Senior Lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is breaking down a recent week in the life of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program. Stay tuned this week for more. 

Lynn Kelley, VP of continuous improvement at Union Pacific, recently challenged students with two really interesting questions:

  • If complexity is so bad from a lean perspective, why is it prevalent in our organizations?
  • And why is simplicity resisted?
Lynn Kelley Union Pacific

Lynn Kelley, at a recent COE women’s leadership forum.

Lynn’s presentation to our MBOE students focused on the criteria behind the success and failure of lean implementations. From her current position and previous role as process improvement VP for Textron, Kelley offered up suggestions on how to develop, execute and sustain strategy.

But back to those questions. Kelley offered up this explanation: The tools we learn in continuous improvement can help us simplify processes. But continuous improvement is fraught with pitfalls. I’ll close with a few of those she listed:

  • We make continuous improvement overly complicated. In other words, “Just do it” becomes a long project.
  • Our solution might end up adding complexity or bureaucracy.
  • Our measurement of the initiative’s process might add complexity or bureaucracy.

Beyond being a great process improvement coach, Kelley has worked regularly with COE in the past through its women’s forums, helping our members fight the unproductive competition that often arises among women in the workplace. She’s pictured in this post at a recent COE forum.



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