Lean Begins at Home, Ep 88

In this episode Kieron Hales, Managing Partner of Cornman Farms, will go into more of the philosophies of running an event space and working farm. It’s cool to hear his passion to run a purpose, people, profit driven business that equals his passion for food.

Cornman Farms Main House

Of all the ZCOB recipes and processes, the concept of lean has been of most interest to him. One reason, lean’s saved Cornman $10,000 to $12,000 a month. I’m starting to see that a good lean program is a very solid program to improve employee engagement. Lean puts the impetus and authority on the front-line doers to improve the way the work is done. This empowers. Obviously there are other elements needed to make a culture truly engaging, but lean is an awesome program because of the clear and proven results that can manifest.

Another step that can intentionally encourage employee engagement, Profit and Loss (P&L) education, sharing, and forecasting. Everyone can see and is taught to understand the P&L. When the crowd (including line cooks and dishwashers) pushes for more sales growth, that’s true engagement. For example, the line cooks are thinking about new ideas to grow business because they were engaged and came up with ideas for marketing opportunities.

As you listen, what ways can you educate and trust your team to run and improve the way your business is run? What ways can you reward them for this engagement? What is one area that could use some help getting more lean?

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Events at Cornman Farms

Zingerman’s Cornman Farms

Tom Holt – Falling Sideways – has a quirky ending

The Life of Pi – different ending. He likes quirky changes in his life.

He has 8,500 cookbooks – needless to say, he gets some inspiration from them.

Elizabeth David

The Time Life Magazine Cookbook Series

Joy by the Menlo innovations team – Menlo Innovation Interviews on the Inspired and Intentional Business Show.

Willow art and fences –

Photos of part of the Cornman Farm Lean system:

Notes taken during the editing of the episode

Cornman Farms was started as a hobby by another member of the Zingerman’s family as a place to provide fresh produce for their restaurants.

As of this recording, Tabitha Mason was in process of becoming the second managing partner of Cornman. She is now officially a managing partner and her interview is forthcoming.

The Roadhouse and Cornman are the only ZCOB businesses with outside investors.

Tom Root (hear his interviews here) is the biggest proponent of lean within the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCOB) and he’s helped Cornman to implement it at their farm.

Kieron was struggling to get the principles implemented at the farm. So he began to try it home. For example, trying to eliminate the 8 forms of waste. This translated to trying it with the way the family did laundry at home. This included moving where clothes were placed and when they did laundry, from once a week and spending hours doing it, you spend a few minutes a day.

Eventually, he’s been able to put several of the farm tasks using lean principles.

Practicing lean puts the front line more in control of the work they’re responsible for instead of dictates from on high or a manager.

They, the front line and managers have created task cards so that anyone can pick a card and complete the task at hand. In addition, times are written on the cards so they can budget their time based on facts and not on guessing.

This also allows you to make those jobs that no one likes doing easier to do because everyone works together to come up with the steps to get that job done as efficiently as possible. The least favorable jobs are done in smaller chunks of time to make them ultimately less arduous.

The challenge with lean. When he first opened the business he hired firefighters because that is what he was used to. As he learned about lean, a proactive person who doesn’t mind having structure was required. The “firefighters” had a tough time with this transition. He lost a few people.

Intentionality of keeping to a plan that will bring structure so you could spend more time being creative and creating an amazing experience. This focus on improving the operations of the business made it so there were less fires and people could focus on the mission.

How has lean helped the chaos of farming. One way is to streamline and process the way they buy food. Another example concerns weed management. They’re tough to deal with and you have to keep at them. There is a principle called tiny habits and tiny tasks. Only work on something for 12-15 minutes. The rest of the hour is highly ineffectual. There are four cards that need to be picked up each day.

Make it easy to the right thing and hard to the wrong thing.

Lean forces you to look at what is important and not important. What should you stop doing and what is important to keep going.

What aspect is the most different from other businesses? Everyone can see and is taught to understand the P&L (Profit and Loss Statement). When the crowd (including line cooks and dishwashers) pushes for more sales growth, that’s true engagement. For example, the line cooks are thinking about new ideas to grow business because they were engaged and came up with ideas for marketing opportunities.