Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September Q&E Kaizen - 9/8/2010 - social proofing personal checks

Quick and Easy Kaizens - ideas to reduce waste, save money, eliminate problems, and improve quality of life in small ways.

Before:  I would write a personal check to someone for payment and they would sometimes hold on to it for weeks or months before cashing it.   Even writing "please cash immediately" would not compel folks to quickly cash it.  It seemed that folks would cash checks at inopportune times bringing the balance of our checking account precariously low.

After: In the memo section of the check, I write,"95% of our checks are cashed in 7 days".  This message has a social proof that all but 5% of people cash our check in a week so the bearer of the check feels the pressure to conform to the group.  One of my most frequent "check holders" that I have to pay for my son's lessons cashed my check withing 6 days after using this new message.  Try it out!

  • Better cash management in checking account
  • Reduced check float time
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September Q&E Kaizen - 9/2/2010 - wait for the yellow light

Quick and Easy Kaizens - ideas to reduce waste, save money, eliminate problems, and improve quality of life in small ways.

Before: I would fill up at a local gas station and then when leaving I'd have to wait and idle my engine at the street for the light to change.  The closet exit from the gas station is onto a very busy street with a stoplight so sometimes I'd wait 3-4 minutes for enough cars to line up to change the traffic signal.

After: I'd pull into the gas station and position my car to fill up so I could see the stoplight from where my vehicle was sitting.  Since the car was off anyway, once I topped off the tank I sit and wait until I see the yellow light for the street.  At the yellow, I start my car and pull up to the intersection which is now a green light for me and go without sitting idle. 

  • Reduce gas waste from sitting idle at red light
  • Reduced brake wear from braking the engine
  • Smoother exit from gas station
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizener

Monday, August 23, 2010

Little by little...

Don't start big, start small and just keep going and you're be amazed if you just stay with it

4 years ago, I want to start producing more of my own food and storing up for the winter.  It's important to me to eat healthy and buy local as much as possible.  Here's how each year went as I started this journey:

Year one: 0 pints frozen, zero canned, small garden planted.   I learned that I should improve my gardening and look for more wild foods.

Year two: 2 pints raspberries frozen, 25 wild apples used, half garden planted with several fresh vegetables produced.  I learned that I was not raising enough vegetables to can so I would improve garden and located several wild raspberry patches on pubic land

Year three: 9 pints raspberries frozen, 5 wild apples used(really gnarly), 6 quarts of green beans frozen, half garden planted with several fresh vegetables produced. I learned that I was not raising enough vegetables(again) to can so I would improve the garden(again) and harvest local wild raspberries.  Also, I got serious about canning and had my wife purchase supplies for next year.

Year four so far: 24 pints raspberries frozen, 22 sold to local farmers market, expanded garden planted, 12 quarts of green beans canned, 17 quarts of tomato juice canned(OK-I cheated and bought some local from a farmer's market but about half we grew), 6 pints of frozen wild blackberries, 2 pints of wild mulberries.  Getting ready for a fall planting, apples have not yet come on.  We may buy more local green beans and can more and waiting on apples which we hope to can as well.

As you can see, it takes time to figure things out and improve processes but it comes along slowly.  Each year I learn more and just keep getting better.  If you approach with small steps, failures are not devastating or demoralizing so you don't get discouraged.  After all, little by little over time becomes bigger and bigger if you stay with it!

What have you done a little at a time today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kaizen is so simple even animals do it...

Continuous improvement is not as hard as you think.  The videos below illustrate that even animals can improve their processes.  Each situation requires a change in process to accomplish the creature's mission.  These critters are so focused on their end goal they naturally embrace new ways and improvements...because the mission is more important than the methods.  No attachment to old ideas or emotional baggage resisting change.  Imagine if your family or your company embraced improvement the way these animals do!  

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spy Kids Kaizen - your limits are what empowers your creativity

Awhile back, I found this great video of how Robert Rodreguiz, director of the Spy Kids films and many others, used creative ideas to solve complex filming problems.  His limited technical budget included using skateboards, thinking backwards, and a treadmill from a local academy.  This is a great video about implementing improvement ideas and making them work under constraints.  Take particular note of the fantastic quote about how limits can force your imagination to go places it has never been before at the 3:17-3:36 minute mark.  Creativity over capital!

What movie have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Hello to all my readers in Cologne, Germany!  In the land of TAKT time, it's good to know that fellow kaizeneers are improving their world a little bit at a time.   Thank you for your support.

September will be another Quick and Easy Kaizen month so stay tuned!

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession of a Kaizeneer and my hoax finding "software"

Dear faithful blog readers (all two of you),

I have a confession to make.  One of my past Kaizens(improvement ideas) to reduce unwanted hoax emails is a hoax itself.  That's correct, it's a big fat fake...but it did help reduce spam and educate people about urban legends and helped them save face.  In a sense, I fought fire with fire.  Let me explain...

There was a time on the Internet when it seemed that every other day I was getting an offer for a free pizza or Bill Gates would give me $5 dollars to forward the message.  Folks new to cyberspace checked their brains at the login screen and forwarded every $200 cookie recipe or money making scheme to everyone they knew.  Since I received dozens of these completely ridiculous messages, I went upon a quest to educate and inform people about folklore and popular myths in hopes that this nonsense could somehow be curbed.  Let's just say that confronting and exposing falsehoods via email didn't go very well.  After a number of volcanic and explosive responses that created even more on-line angst, I came up with a secret improvement idea that I want to now reveal to the world...

I invented Hoax-Finder software.  That's right, the Hoax-Finder "application" was created by DL Soft (DL-Dan Lafever).  OK, there is no DL Soft company or code that was written.  Instead, I realized that if a computer did the correction and education it would be received with less defensiveness.  So, I fought back against urban legends with one of my own.  Here's how it worked:

I would receive a bogus email about not calling the 809 area code.  After identifying that this was a myth, I cut and pasted the following text in an email and sent it right back (in italics):

HOAX-FINDER Bulletin from DLSoft
This is an automated computer reply from Hoax-Finder V2.7a from DLSoft, Copyright 2010

This software has been installed on mailbox DAN.LAFEVER@XXXXX.XXX since 12/05/1998

Your message has been identified as a hoax advisory. Email contains information that is true and false. Please check the links listed below:

Subject: 809 area code

Sent: 2/14/2006 3:14 AM EST

See: or

Tips for detecting hoaxes and urban legends:

• Look for over dramatic subject lines titles and sentences such as “WARNING!!!” “VIRUS ATTACK” or “Will destroy everything!” or “We swear it’s true” or “came from a reliable source”

• Look for lots of exclamation marks and capital letters in the subject line.

• Look for lines like "send this to everybody you know!”

• Consider the subject of the message for it's believability and authenticity

• Try typing the subject line or virus name into google and search to see if the warning is valid

• If you are not sure of a messages authenticity, consult or and check if the message is true.

Most people don’t forward hoaxes on purpose …they just fail to check the source. and are good places to fact check messages.
The MTS-ID of the original message is: c=US;a= ;p=SSFHS;l=ONTEXIND01-040405994850Z-77313
MSEXCH:IMS:SSFHS:Alverno:ONTEXBH01 7118 (000B19FF) 550 Requested action not taken: delete hoax email message.
Send educational reply.





I customized the message for the whatever the subject addressed and I tweaked the text several times to make it look like a computer generated response..but it was all me just cutting and pasting.  Suddenly, Hoax-Finder changed peoples minds so instead of ugly comebacks or silence I started getting apologies and responses like "I'm sorry and I will be more careful next time".  If anyone inquired how they could get a copy of DL Soft Hoax-Finder, I conveniently dodged the question.  Overall, the ruse worked great and stopped some serial offenders from spamming the planet with the latest version of the stolen kidney story.  However, today I am coming clean about Hoax-Finder.  It was totally made up by me.  This admission guarantees that I flunked the blogger ethics exam but I am glad to get this off my chest...or at least until I get another urban legend email and Hoax-Finder once again comes to life.
What have you confessed today?
Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tales from the family kaizen archives...

Anyone, whether they are young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated can do lean and kaizen. I just wanted to share a kaizen story my father told me over the weekend. 

My Grandpa Lafever was a young man from Tennessee with an 8th grade education. Life for him was tough growing up and even his childhood home is now underwater courtesy of the TVA.  Deciding that Indiana held opportunity, he came to the state looking for a new start.  His agricultural career began as he worked for another farmer in Wayne County Indiana.  Over time he grew more successful, became a well known farmer in the community, bought his own land, paid everything off, and had a prosperous operation with both his sons graduating from Purdue University.
Grandpa had a two row seed planter but he couldn't compete with other farmers with 4 and 6 row planters. Money was tight and Grandpa always looked for another way to do things.  His kaizen was to figure out how to improve the planting speed increasing the seed flow of the two row planter. He tinkered with the gears and the machine itself and improved it so it could plant at 12 mph instead of the normal 4 mph of a average seed planter. He also determined the optimal way of driving the tractor so the planter could operate with the same quality and results at the higher speed. His improvement didn't cost hardly anything and he could outperform a 4 row planter and match the 6 row planter performance without the expense of precious capital for new farm implements. His improvement lasted several years saving him time and money and giving me a great story to share today.
Grandpa didn't know any Japanese or had any Lean training-he just always looked for another way to do things.  It's that simple and America used to think more this way.  It's time to bring these skills and improvement thinking back to the USA instead of the pervasive bailout mindset and nanny state.  Let's empower ourselves to improve our homes, our jobs, our fun, and our families.  As I have stated before...if dogs, kids, and middle school graduates can "kaizeneer" and make things better, why can't everyone?
What have you improved today?
Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/22/2010: Checklist for a check

I have volunteered in the past to count and deposit the Sunday offering and all the counters agreed that unfolding checks is a waste of time.  We know that people do so as an act of privacy which should be respected.  I thought about how you could do both-keep the gift confidential from other church members and make it easier to count.  As a result, this is my improvement idea that I do every Sunday-imagine how much less time would be needed to tally checks if everyone did this?

Before: I folded my offering check in half before placing it in the contribution plate for privacy.

After: I place my offering check unfolded face down in the collection plate.

  • Reduce processing time by counting and deposit team
  • Eliminates unfolding time waste
  • Maintains privacy and respects the giver
What has your church improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/18/2010: The Search Party process

Before: When someone in our house would lose something, chaos would ensue because the accusations about who took it would fly.  The common refrain became, "You did something with it!" We would would argue about whom had take the missing item (OK, I was the one who usually lost things and got mad at the kids) and people got really mad.

After: We created the "search party" process.  If something was lost, we would rally everyone together, there was no blaming or finger pointing, and we would search for the object as a family with no questions asked.  We meeting in the living room and all those available would help by looking and asking the person questions to help track down the misplaced object.

  • Changed the focus from a people problem to a process problem
  • The lost item is usually found within a few minutes
  • Everyone stays calm
  • We work together as a team
  • Our family is happier
What has your family improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/17/2010: Do unto others...

Before: Didn't know sales people's name at Pep Boys and got OK service.

After: Worked on knowing staff names, introdiuced myself to the manager, took a genuine interest in the employees, and praise them to the manager when they go out of their way to help me..

  • Better relationships with sales people
  • They see me and immediately ask what I need when I come in and wait on me.
  • Reduced search time for parts and products due to improved clerk assistance.
  • They volunteer to give me coupons that I am not aware of-last time Mario gave me a $10 coupon that was not in the latest ad
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/15/10: Canine-zen

There is no excuse for people not improving when animals find easier ways of doing things...

Before:  Our dog jumped from the seat cushion to the back of the couch to view what's going on outside.  A couple times he fell off.

After: He goes to the arm of the couch and then jumps up to the top.

  • Less energy expended to get on top of sofa
  • Improved safety and less falls when jumping up
What has your dog improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/14/10: Improved Resevoir visual

Before:  Power steering fluid resevoir level hard to see due to white on white plastic letters.

After: Outling markings with a black permanent marker makes it much easier to see.

  • Easier to see fluid level
  • Can view fluid level from a distance without bending over (less back strain)
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, April 12, 2010

April QEK Kaizen 4/12/10: Use it up, wear it out, make it do...

Before: My son wanted to wash the car but the garden hose end was "customized" by an unfriendly lawn mower.  He had to go back and forth a long way to shut the water off between scrubbing sections of the vehicle and wasted a lot of water in the process.

After: He kinked the hose and placed it under the tire and controlled the flow of water between uses.

  • Eliminated 90% of the wasted motion going back and forth to turn on and off the hose.
  • Reduced water waste
  • Used existing hose without purchasing a replacement
  • Reduce teen boredom and annoyance
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/11/10: Ending discord in my garage

Before: Electrical plugs in a garage outlet would fall out with the slightest of pulling and it always happened when I was on the opposite end of the extension cord.   I estimate this running to plug back in the cord over and over wasted about 15 minutes/year.

After:  I replaced the outlet because I found that the problem was with a broken plastic section under the ground pin.

  • Saved 15 minutes a year
  • Less frustration
  • Improved safety
What did I wait so long??????  Some people say that Kaizen is nothing special and that it is common sense.  If that is true then why are there so many problems that people put up with when a small improvement would make it so much better?   If Kaizen is common sense, why isn't everyone doing it?

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen: Solar powered defrost

Before: Had to scrape the frost off my windshield in the morning.

After: Parked the car facing east.  When the sun comes up it melts the frost off.

  • No scraping off the winshield
  • Save time 
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/8/2010: Is your mechanic telling the truth?

Knowledge is power.  How do you know if it's time to change the transmission fluid or do you take the word of your car guy?  Here's an easy way to check the all the fluid conditions yourself and to see if they really need to be changed!

Before:  I didn't really know what car fluids were dirty except the motor oil because I didn't have access to a reference of new clean fluids.  I was at the mercy of the mechanic because I wasn't sure about the fluid condition.

After:  I made myself five reference vials of new radiator coolant, transmission oil, power sterring fluid, brake fluid, and motor oil.  Now I can compare the condition of the fluids in the car to see if maintenance is needed and they are in the garage next to the car for easy access.


No more guessing-I know what new fluid should look like and can compare fluid in cars

Easy access to vials for comparison

Improved quality and better preventive maintenance decisions (along with following the maintenance schedule of the drivers manual)

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/5/2010: Get to the front of the bank line

Before:  I had to go to the bank when it opened today but five people were ahead of me waiting for the doors to open.

After: Both the lobby and the drive through opened at the same time-9AM.  No one was waiting in the drive-thru so I went there and it opened the same time as the bank doors.

  • First in line at the drive-thru window with one one in front of me
  • Transaction time was 3.5 minutes
  • Reduced wasted motion having to get out of the car and to the teller window
  • Saved time
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever. Kaizeneer

Monday, April 5, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/5/2010: Keeping her car "M.I.N.T.Y." fresh...

My daughter recently purchased her first car, a light green Saturn from a friend in college.  It's a nice little vehicle that checked out well with a clean carfax, a great inspection, lots of preventive maintenance, and the service records all the way back when the car was new.  She named the car "Minty" and I decided to make an acronym out of the name so that she could have an easy checklist of things to inspect when she fills up the tank.  Since this is her first foray into auto care, I wanted her to learn from the beginning how to maintain Minty for a long time.

Before: She didn't know how to maintain and do preventative maintenance to the car.

After: Use the "M.I.N.T.Y." acronym when she stops at a gas station for an easy checklist of vehicle maintenance items.

M - Maintain the interior by removing trash and uneeded items to keep it clean
I - Inspect the fluids - check all the fluids under the hood such as wiper fluid, coolant, steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and oil. (Another Q&E Kaizen was to show her all the places to check fluids using the "clockwise" method)
N-Nose around the exterior by walking around the car looking for any damage to windows, lights, doors, etc.
T-Tire review - look for tire inflation and overall condition
Y-Your hoses and belts - quick inspection of hose and belts for cracks and wear.

  • Improved preventative car care
  • Easy way to remember checklist 
  • Confidence by knowing what to do to keep a car well maintained
What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Q&E Kaizen 4/2/2010: Save $10 fee when buying new tires

Before: Tire place charged me a $2.50 fee for tire disposal of four tires

After: I told the manager in the morning that I would take the tires and dispose of them and not to charge me for the disposal.  Indianapolis trash pick-up allows you to put used tires on the curb so there was no reason for that silly fee.  When I picked up the car, I told the guy I was ready to take the old tires but he said don't worry about it and didn't charge me!

Result:  Saved $10.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

April Q&E Kaizen 4/2/10 New tool for car work...

Before:  Couldn't remove radiator drain plug to flush coolant in my daughter's car.

After: Used laptop in shop to lookup how to remove radiator plug and successfully removed it.

Result:  Saved time, saved a trip to ask someone, able to do the radiatior flush job for $15 myself versus $99 at a auto service center for savings of $84.

Try using a laptop while working on your car-it's amazing what free repair information you can find online!

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April is Quick and Easy Kaizen month!

In April, I will be posting Quick and Easy Kaizens all month.  Got any you would like to share?  Email me at and I will post them.  Enjoy!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good bugs, 4-H, and how speaking can save thousands of dollars!

“Our Insect Allies” was my first speech in 4-H when I was eleven years old. It was absolutely terrifying. I was I was shaking so badly that my note cards kept scuffling by themselves. The whole point of the speech was to show how “good bugs” help the human race and to give me a little competitive experience. I was happy when the ordeal was finally over and I clocked in about three minutes total speaking time. Alas, the presentation paled in comparison to the other competitors that day. Penny, a girl that lived a few miles away on the same road, was a seasoned competitor and did a stellar job. As I recall Penny got 1st place in that competition. I don’t remember how I placed but the real win for me was getting over the fear of speaking at a young age.

As I reflect almost 40 years later, that first speech was one of the best things I ever did. I’m not doing much with other 4-H events like geology, models, or “share the fun” events, but I am speaking and leveraging that skill for financial benefits. The catalyst for my renewed speaking career in was when my children joined our high school speech team. I was so impressed at their training and what they were learning. It was amazing to see how hard they worked, how they improved, and to see them come home with state championships in both team and individual events. With this inspiration, I started to hone my speaking skills again and summoned the courage to submit presentations for organizations that I belong as a member.

So where does the financial savings come in? I have presented three times at an IT conference and each event I was selected to be faculty I was given a complimentary registration. That means my company saved $1700 dollars for each time I gave my presentation! Three years in a row presenting translates into over $5000 in savings. Faculty member status allows me to attend the full conference for around 40% of the budgeted cost.

What hidden talents and gifts do you have that you are not doing anything with? Make a list and start improving them. You may be surprised at your dormant skills that with practice could boost your confidence, increase your visibility, and enhance your career. I don’t think anyone but myself remembers my first speech, but I’ll never forget the benefits that little talk about bugs gave me.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quick and Easy Kaizen #14 - Using local hospital pharmacy

Before: We would use use various pharmacies to fill subscriptions.

After: My wife found that her local hospital pharmacy would beat the price on our subscription refills by $10 over all of retail pharmacies we used.

Effect: $40/month savings

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hotel clerk with great ideas

As I arrived at the hotel for my conference, I had a delightful experience with Jennifer, the clerk that checked me into the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando, Florida. As she was completing the guest registration process, I fumbled the key card and dropped it into a hole in the front desk counter. She handled my butterfinger move with professionalism and grace and I didn't feel embarrassed at all. I asked her about how many guests drop cards and she said it happens a lot and it took a few seconds for her retrieve the card from the hole below. We then starting talking about how this room card hand off process could be improved and I was amazed at the number of small changes that Jennifer had at the tip of her tongue on how to make her work easier. I certainly hope that the Rosen Shingle Creek front desk manager listens to her ideas for improved processes and I encouraged her to write them down and share them.

Every company need more Jennifers.

Organizations spend thousands of dollars on training employees on their processes and here was a person that just naturally thinks as a kaizeneer. How cool. Our conversation lasted a few minutes and she shared several of her ideas and they appeared to flow effortlessly from her mind. Can you imagine that kind of extraordinary service hotels could offer if they would implement the improvement ideas from front line staff?

What have you improved today? Jennifer improved my day!

Dan Lafever

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ASQ meeting review where I presented...

I was contacted by the Lafayette ASQ Section 0917 to present about my "Kaizeneering" and how we use Lean at home. Here is the review from that meeting from the January 2010 newsletter:

December Meeting Recap - if you did not attend

You missed a really good time! Dan Lafever (a.k.a "The Kaizeneer") proved to be an excellent speaker who used an extremely entertaining approach. He challenged us to use principles of Kaizen and continuous improvement in our daily lives. Dan shared success stories from simple reminder signs to cost savings ideas that amounted to thousands of dollars saved by his household! Of the 36 people in attendance, 33 provided program feedback. The overall score was 4.78 of a possible 5. One person commented that this was one of our best programs in several years. Another "It challenged me to take another look at the mundane tasks at work." Still another commented "powerful tools at work, what a great idea to use them at home also!"

You can read the entire recap at and look under Newsletters.

Thank you for letting me present at your spouses night-it was great fun!