Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Lean for Social Innovation: A Look at Impact

This post is the third in our Spring 2016 series that explores how the Toyota Production System (TPS) philosophy “people are our most valuable resource” is applied in real time at The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) by students in MIS 3535 Lean for Social Innovation. Posts include the opinions of thought leaders and Babson student perspectives.

As we enter our third year working with The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), we wanted to share their perspective on this lean journey. We sat down with Cheryl Schondek, VP of Food Acquisition and Supply Chain there to see how this experience has impacted her work and any advice she has for organizations looking to align their culture with the Toyota Production System (TPS) philosophy.

Would you first briefly describe the GBFB and its continuous improvement/lean journey?

We have been working with Babson for the past several years and now the warehouse team looks forward to the time when the students will be on site to offer support and solve a problem and improve on a current process. It has been a positive experience for the GBFB as the outcomes from the projects are useful with tangible results that support our mission to End Hunger Here and our ability to distribute over 54 million pounds of healthy food throughout eastern Massachusetts each year.

It’s been a great experience. My favorite project was the focus on the Market Place: the area where our agencies can look for product that may not have been on their shopping list.  The goal was to create a more organized, well-balanced path for the client with the additional benefit of increasing more food through that relatively small section of the warehouse. It worked; the students were engaged, the clients embraced the change and the warehouse team will still comment on the success of the process.

How have you encouraged experimentation and feedback among your employees?

The GBFB is always looking for feedback. Whether it be face to face or in the form of an email, we welcome feedback, ideas and input from the team.  In fact, there is a small mailbox mounted on the wall in the warehouse adjacent to the time clock and team member lockers with sheets of paper and a pen asking for feedback from the team. The box is checked weekly and the ideas are reviewed at the weekly meetings.

How have you acknowledged or rewarded experimentation and continuous improvement?

Just recently, a team member who was working on the shipping dock reached out to his supervisor, regarding a proposal on food distribution to the agencies.  Currently we load the shipping area in a certain pattern based on the timing of the agency arrivals.  Due to many not being on time, he suggested a different pattern for loading.  The idea was tested and is being considered for implementation.  We welcome input and will continue to listen to our team.

What advice would you give to other non-profit leaders and COOs that want to embark on a continuous improvement journey?

I would advise others to participate in this journey; the outcome will be positive and your culture will transition to one of a focus on continuous improvement.