Teaching Lean in Estonia – Tallinn University of Applied Science

One of the greatest parts of my job is to be able to see how people learn and how they start to see the world in a different way when they get exposed to new, counterintuitive ideas. In this post I’m sharing a recent experience in to Estonia teaching a three-day workshop on lean design & construction and collaborative decision making at the Tallinn University of Applied Science (TTK). I was honored by the invitation and opportunity.

Estonia is a very small country in terms of population, only 1.3 million people. I could witness how beautiful it is. The historic center is very impressive; you can feel that you are in the middle age while there; and food was great!

I was happy to find out that the TTK University is committed to teaching lean to their students, and that the Estonian Group for Lean Construction (MTÜ ETET) is a youthful, academically alert and active organization. I learned that TTK University invites a leader from the global lean community every year; it was my turn this tenth year of the program. I was happy for the opportunity to spread the word, and also nervous to make sure I was providing a new vision to the third-year students of the project management class in the school of civil engineering.

The first day I was warned that these students are not usually talkative, and that they were hard to engage. However, quite the opposite, the students were fully engaged, asked lots of questions, reported that they learned through simulations, and understood that the obvious is not that obvious.

The second and third day were equally rewarding! They were able to experience the frustration of failing at coordination through the Villego simulation the first day; and the next day they were able to improve by using Last Planner® System concepts. They learned the basics of lean process design through the Parade of Trades and the airplane production simulation. They learned key communication for action practices; such as what does it mean to make a promise, to make an offer, and be aware that we can do those moves when we want to. On the third day they learned how to have conversations for decision-making and move to a resolution by applying the Choosing By Advantages (CBA) methodology.

At the end of the third day we were exhausted, having worked hard – it was completely worthwhile. The students learned much, and I’m appreciative of the thoughtful notes from teachers, the dean, and students; and the new friends I made.

Most importantly students were inspired, and some of them will decide to follow a lean construction career because they were able to see its value, and the opportunity to change the way construction is traditionally managed.

Thank you TTK, for the opportunity and for a wonderful three days!

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