A journey of personal continuous improvement through Lean Certification

Posted By: Chad Vincent, Director of Lean Manufacturing, American Railcar Industries on November 06, 2018

Chad Vincent, Director of Lean Manufacturing, American Railcar Industries

Chad Vincent is the director of lean manufacturing for American Railcar Industries (ARI) in Saint Charles, Missouri, where he leads the Lean Enterprise Program for the organization. He is a Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE), Certified Manager of Quality/Operational Excellence (CMQ/OE), Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB), and is Lean Bronze Certified (LBC), Lean Silver Certified (LSC) and Lean Gold Certified (LGC). In this guest blog post, he reflects on his personal lean journey.

Early in my career as a young engineer, I approached problem solving with a rigid method of thinking, believing there was only one best way and that should be the approach one always takes. I had a similar belief when it came to my own personal development.

Since then, I’ve come to understand that I was so focused on succeeding, I wasn’t willing to take a risk. I was limiting myself to my “safe zone” with a path of least resistance. By relying on the skills and knowledge I already knew to be successful, I wasn’t allowing myself to learn and grow.

Specifically, I wasn’t embracing the fundamental element of the scientific method: Experimentation. It is through failed experiments that we learn.

While I was applying continuous improvement of processes and value streams development in my job, I didn’t realize that I was missing so much in my personal growth until the process of earning Lean Certification. This pushed me to assess my personal development. That’s when it hit me: My lack of free experimentation was constraining my development.

In 2010, I earned Lean Bronze Certification. I was already operating at the Silver, or Integrative/Value Stream, level of application, but I wanted to earn all levels to demonstrate my personal development. I obtained Gold Certification earlier this year. Over the last eight years, I’ve grown more as an individual than I did in the 15+ years prior – primarily because I’ve learned from the many failures I have experienced by fully embracing scientific thinking in my personal development.

Because of the Lean Certification, I began questioning myself more. I broke free from feeling that I had to know everything and embraced the fact that I don’t know everything. It was refreshing. Living like the key to success was to never fail can be very stressful.

I sought out other lean practitioners. I wanted to hear about their stories of successes and failures and how they got through them. I no longer listened just to hear lean “war” stories. I was now asking myself what I had learned from the stories. I was listening to gain a better understanding of my own approaches and how they were alike or different and how it could influence my perceptions.

My lean journey will never be over. It’s a continuous process of applying lean principles, finding ways to experiment, and allowing myself to experience failures. The fun part is that failures make for better, and often more humorous, stories. The journey of personal continuous improvement is much more enjoyable now than what it was many years ago --not because I’ve come so far, but because I’ve found a much better way to travel and many companions to share the journey along the way.

I believe the transformation in my own journey is the result of the Lean Certification process. It really pushed me to think about my personal development through the lens of Plan, Do, Check Adjust (PDCA). It also taught me where I was failing in my development and what changes I needed to make in my approach.

The Lean Certification process has made me a better experimenter. I now seek out ways to make changes in my personal sphere to learn more about how I am evolving as a practitioner, leader, coach, and mentee. I plan with the goal of learning, not as a roadmap for success or achievement. In the past, I would ask myself the question, “What certification do I need next?” After completing the Lean Gold Certification, I found myself saying, “I’m done learning, what is my next experiment?”

To learn more about the value of Lean and Lean certification, download a copy of our complimentary white paper, Lean In to Continuous Improvement.

Tags: "American Railcar Industries", "Chad Vincent", "continuous improvement", lean, "Lean Bronze Certification", "lean certification", "Lean Gold Certification", "Lean Silver Certification", "personal development"