On February 23, 1778 Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a former Lieutenant General in the Prussian Army, arrived at General George Washington’s camp in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Von Steuben was neither a nobleman nor a Lieutenant General, former or otherwise. Even his title as Baron was more honorary than having any actual reward of lands or aristocracy. Yet, this man did perhaps more than anyone else in the Continental Army to ensure that army’s victory over the British.

If somebody asked you what your company’s goals are would you have a good answer? Would you be able to tell them explicitly what you work towards each day? Chances are if you asked someone what their company’s goals are they would give you an elegant or technical response that ultimately boils down to: grow our market share or make more money than we did last year. Ok, but how? By selling anything you can to anyone who might be willing to buy it? What’s that going to do to their supply chain or production scheduling?

Lead With Respect by Michael and Freddy Balé is a different kind of Lean book than you’re probably used to. Rather than the usual philosophical tome or the ‘how to’ manuals that sit on many a Continuous Improvement manager’s bookshelf, Lead With Respect is a novel that teaches Lean principles through a story arc.

The History Channel and the University of Oklahoma have announced that they are partnering up to offer an online history class at OU next semester. The partnership is mutually beneficial to the History Channel and the university because the History Channel has archives and multi-media that the university would like to access while the university has a paying audience that the History Channel would like to tap into, as well as offering legitimacy to the History Channel’s undertaking (the History Channel would not be able to seriously offer their content online for such a fee if it weren’t tied to an academic course because people would just be content to watching it on tv). The class will be offered on OU’s Janux system, an online portal developed by the university, that allows for multi-media presentations, quizzes and tests, as well as the ability for students to interact and discuss topics with one another. The class is offered for $500 for students and $250 for “Life Long Learners” and credits will transfer not just to Oklahoma but to any university that will accept them, students will also receive a “Badge of Completion” from the History Channel. Aside from a bunch of nifty buzzwords like “groundbreaking”, “Immersive” and “competitively priced” in the History Channel’s press release, not much information about the actual nuts and bolts of how the course will work is given, which leaves the door open for everyone’s favorite past-time….idle speculation.

Recently, I came across an article about a company with which I am very familiar. I spent a good amount of time in Nappanee, Indiana this summer and can vouch for everything written in the article and more. The Aluminum Trailer Company is one of the leanest companies out there. What puts ATC in the top tier of lean isn’t just their Value Streams; and it isn’t the kanban or JIT systems they practice, or their extensive 5S or any of the other lean tools they have implemented so well.

Sorry I haven’t been able to put up any new content lately but big things are afoot. First, as you may have noticed, is a brand new website which will be a hub for our blogs, multimedia presentations and information about upcoming events that Bill will be speaking at. Secondly, much bigger and much more afoot-er is the 2014 Value Stream Management Conference that’s coming up in Chicago in November (information and registration can be found here). Make sure to register soon as space is becoming limited quickly.

Rumor has it that David Barger, CEO of JetBlue, will be stepping down soon and the sharks on Wall Street are already circling. JetBlue established itself in the early 2000’s as a customer focused airline and in that way sought to distinguish itself from other airlines, in fact, it was the only major airline that was able to turn a profit in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attacks. Not bad for an airline that was still in its infancy and given the trepidation of fliers at the time.