Book Review: Solve for Happy

Recently I finished reading a book called “Solve for Happy” by Mo Gawdat, former tech executive, writer and advocate for helping 1 billion people find happiness.  The premise of the book was intriguing – Mo was a highly paid executive for several well-known high tech companies, had a beautiful family, nice house, cars and other stuff, but was not happy.  This by itself is not an unusual story.  What was unique was that Mo, with his engineering and mathematics background, thought that maybe he could figure out a mathematical equation to solve for happiness, and started working on a theory and sharing it with friends and family.  In the midst of this endeavor, Mo’s son dies and suddenly the equation he has been working on is put to the test.

The book is analytical, emotional, spiritual and at points, breath-takingly beautiful.  Coming from a scientific and analytical background, I appreciated the approach.  One simple message from the book that resonated was, “We are not our thoughts”.  Oftentimes, believing we are what we think can lead us to feel bad about ourselves.  Getting caught up in our thoughts can distract us from finding what truly makes us happy.  If you have not read Mo’s book, I’d encourage you to check it out.  I’m re-reading the book and absorbing even more the second time around.

Teri Danielson is the owner and co-founder of Northwest Food Solutions.

Keeping Your Workplace Safe

By Teri Danielson

Right now, your employees and customers’ safety is top priority for your food or farm business.  Two stories in the news over the past week have brought home the importance of developing and implementing COVID-19 practices in the food industry workplace:

1)  Oregon OSHA received over a year’s worth of workplace complaints in the past month as a result of the pandemic.
2) Several large meat packing plants in the U.S. have closed their doors as they have become hot spots for the COVID-19 virus with large numbers of employees testing positive.

With the Food Industry being considered critical infrastructure in the country, most food manufacturing facilities have remained open to ensure the nations food supply chain can meet the demand.  The FDA and CDC have both stated that there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food due to the nature of the virus itself.  The risk at this time, is to our food industry workers and their health and safety.

To protect employees and ensure a stable food supply chain, it is critical that food manufacturing companies take time to assess their COVID-19 practices including:

  • Developing a written COVID-19 best practices document
  • Training and implementing best practices in the workplace
  • Checking that the best practices are effective
  • Engaging the workforce in improving those practices

Adapting new practices into your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a challenge.  Northwest Food Solutions has posted resources for food companies looking for help and ideas in implementing best practices.  If you have resources or ideas for best practices, please share them with us via email at  We will share these in our next newsletter.

Thank you to all the food industry and other critical infrastructure workers who are continuing to do the heavy lifting to keep our nation functioning. Stay safe!

You Don’t Have a Culture Problem

By Cheryl Collins
October 29, 2019

Organizational culture is still the hot topic.  As a culture nerd I love that we’re all talking about it.  But the mainstream understanding of culture hasn’t quite caught up with what it actually is.

The problem with thinking of culture as the cause of a company problem is that it perpetuates the misuse of the word “culture”, and interestingly enough, it doesn’t make much sense.

Most people have accepted that culture is, “the way we do things around here.” This is a nice, simple, easy way to think of culture.  But, it’s not quite accurate.  Culture is much more complex than a simple statement.  Culture is a broad, deep, ever-shifting system that is ultimately driven by our underlying assumptions (emphasis on underlying).

Edgar Schein, long time organizational culture guru, offers this definition, “Organizational culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid, and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.”  There are entire books dedicated to explaining what all of this means, but to make it more understandable here is a shortened version of the same definition:  Culture is a product of joint learning

Think about how that’s different from “the way we do things around here” definition.  “Product of joint learning” implies culture is the result, product, or output of something.  The way we do things around here implies culture is the cause of something.  Culture, by definition, cannot be the root cause of a problem.  Culture cannot be weak or strong, good or bad, it just is.  Your culture exists, it’s constantly shifting, and it’s completely the result of how your teams have learned to solve problems, both big and small.

You might be thinking, if culture is the product of joint learning, then could we just change how we learn to change the culture?  The short answer is yes.   But it’s another example of simple not necessarily meaning easy.  Why?  Because it involves change.  As a species, we humans aren’t wired to embrace change under most circumstances, but that’s a blog post for another day.

For now, just focus on re-framing your understanding of culture.  Remember:  Product of joint learning.  Product of joint learning.  Product of joint learning.  Product of joint learning.  Product of joint learning.  Product of joint learning.

Science suggests repetition helps us learn.

We’d love to hear what you think of this definition.  Does it align with how you think of culture?  How does this definition encourage you to think about culture?

Cheryl helps companies of all sizes with organizational, strategy and leadership development.  Her passion for transforming organization culture and psychological safety comes out of her experiences working with people and teams as the CEO of Ninkasi Brewing Company, as well as her roles at Oregon Community Credit Union and Teach for America.

The Science of Motivation

Motivation – it’s something we all struggle at some level.  Whether it is our own motivation, or we are trying to incentivize others to perform, it can be difficult to figure out how to get excited and create movement in the direction we are trying to go.  Our tool box consists of a carrot and a stick, and we either alternate between them or as more enlightened members of the 21st century, we lean towards the carrot.  Watch this Ted talk with Dan Pink, to get a different take on motivation and how thinking differently about what gets us moving as people can create some astounding results.  What if people are not motivated by the extrinsic, but by the intrinsic?  What if we are driven by an urge to direct our own lives, the desire to get better at something that matters and the yearning to work in the service of something larger than ourselves?  If this were true, how would you motivate yourself and the people who work for you?



Can Continuous Improvement Be a Matter of Life or Death?

With lean and continuous improvement, it’s foundational to think in terms of a problem being related to a process rather than people.  But as much as we teach and reinforce this concept, it can be very hard to internalize and practice the concept of process focus vs. people focus.  I often hear clients express disbelief and frustration over co-workers’ actions, especially when the behavior seems unexplainable and contrary to their own best interests.  When we can’t understand why people act in a certain way, it is easy to blame them for the unexplained behavior and categorize that behavior as “dumb” or “lazy”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I recently read an article on that really drove this point home.  It was about the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and in the article, Dr. Boie Jalloh talks about a situation where doctors and nurses were forgetting to wash their hands between patients.  The wards in Sierra Leone contained 20 patients each and the handwashing station for the wards was across the hospital grounds, forcing healthcare workers to walk some distance in order to be able to wash hands between seeing each patient.  No matter how many times they were told to wash their hands, there was complacency in doing it, in part, because it was inconvenient.

It is incredible that even in the case of something that is life or death, like becoming infected with Ebola, and despite education level and understanding of the rules, people still were not routinely washing their hands when the act of hand washing was inconvenient.  I don’t believe these healthcare workers were lazy or uninformed.  If you imagine what these workers are going through, making rounds of 20 patients or more, cleaning up bodily fluids, listening to patients talk about their pain and suffering, and spending long hours doing this work, it is understandable how having to walk a distance to wash your hands after seeing each patient, might become a challenge.  It would be easy to say, “I’m going to skip the hand washing, just this once”.  And once could turn into four or five times.

How often as a manager, have we complained about our employees not following instructions, or not doing what we ask?  What we sometimes forget is how powerful a motivator it is to make the job easier and make the work more convenient.  If people in life or death situations are not able to follow instructions when the act of doing the work is difficult, what makes us think our employees will follow instructions in non-life threatening situations if the work itself is inconvenient?

Next time you are frustrated by a job that is not getting done, ask your employees the following questions:

– What is preventing you from getting the job done?

– What makes it hard?

– What would make it easier?

You might be surprised by what you hear, and you might learn that the solution is easy.

In the case of the health care workers in Sierra Leone, Dr. Jalloh reported that they were spending $20 per hand wash station to put at least one in each ward.

Spaghetti as an Improvement Tool


Recently, we were asked by a client to provide more detailed instruction around spaghetti mapping.  If this is a new term for you, rest assured that spaghetti mapping does not involve throwing wet noodles at a wall to see what sticks.  It is a lean tool that helps you to visually see a process in action and glean from that picture, improvements that can be made to the flow.  Here is a short primer we put together.  Divertiti! (Enjoy!)

Spaghetti Mapping

Spaghetti maps are a visual representation of a process in action and show the “actual” work flow over a period of time.

Spaghetti maps can be used to determine:

  • Bottlenecks
  • Motion waste
  • Transportation waste

Spaghetti maps are used to track:

  •   Product Flow
  •   Paper Flow
  •   People Flow

Spaghetti mapping is often done as part of a 5S exercise to look at an area before “set in order” to determine optimum placement for items needed every day in the workplace.

Spaghetti mapping can also be used to optimize the flow of equipment or materials through a process.

It is best to spaghetti map the process before and after the change to see how the improvements made impacted the process.

Creating a Spaghetti Diagram should be done with or by the operators or those that use the process.


  • Why are you mapping? There are an infinite number of reasons to map, and you should customize your mapping to answer your specific questions about a process
    • If you are wanting to improve the set of tools used daily by a person in the workplace, then map the person doing their job
    • If you are wanting to improve forklift safety, you might map the forklift travel route vs. pedestrian travel route over a time period
    • If you are wanting to reduce process time in a paper process, map the process that the paper follows through the building
  • Is the process you are mapping discrete or continuous?
    • For discrete processes that have a defined start and end, map the process from start to end
    • For continuous processes, determine a time frame that best represents the process


  • Overhead views of area, drawn close to scale and labeled
  • Colored Pencils (one color for each flow being tracked)
  • Step counter
  • Stop Watch
  • Team, Operators, People impacted by the flow
  • Actual Process

 STEPS – Discrete Process:

  1. Record the process name, person being observed, date, and time period you will be mapping.
  2. If you are mapping a discrete process, record and number the process steps on the side
  3. Start at the beginning of the process and label it as the “start”
  4. Draw a line from the start to the next part of the map based on what you observe
  5. If you are mapping a discrete process, recording the corresponding process step number next to the line
  6. Do not leave out any flow movement, even if the paper gets cluttered with lines. This is opportunity and it is important to capture it.
  7. For discrete flow process, time the process from start to finish
  8. For people flow, ask the person to wear a step counter and record the number of steps taken during the process mapping.
  9. For material flow or paper flow, walk the process and determine step counts between moves.
  10. If processes are different at different times of the day or with different products, you may want to create multiple process maps to view the different variables.

 STEPS – Continuous Process:

  1. Record the process name, person being observed, date, and time period you will be mapping.
  2. Start at the beginning of the process and label it as the “start”
  3. Draw a line from the start to the next part of the map based on what you observe
  4. If you are mapping a continuous process, number the line and on the side of the paper, write the activity related to the movement
  5. Do not leave out any flow movement, even if the paper gets cluttered with lines. This is opportunity and it is important to capture it.
  6. Record all flow that occurs within your predefined time period for continuous flow processes
  7. For people flow, ask the person to wear a step counter and record the number of steps taken during the process mapping.
  8. For material flow or paper flow, walk the process and determine step counts between moves.
  9. If processes are different at different times of the day or with different products, you may want to create multiple process maps to view the different variables.

Operator Flow EXAMPLE:


Operator traveled 3580 steps in 20 minutes to slice bread, bag, place on tray, roll to closer, add closer and retray.


Before spaghetti map


Operator traveled 530 steps in 20 minutes.  Long stretch of tables eliminated.  Slicer and closer co-located.

After spaghetti map



The most common 5S question has a less than desirable answer.

Lately, I’ve been thinking, probably too deeply, about this question we are frequently asked ;“What can we do to prepare for 5S?”.  This is not a question of preparing agendas or scheduling team members, but a request to get started, in a small way, before the clock starts ticking.  My first response is, “nothing”. Then, I take a step back and give ideas; buy cleaning supplies, find sanitation schedules, buy paint brushes and rollers, order coffee and crumb cake.  Generally, the questioner jots down the ideas, but we both know all of that stuff is easy and will be done within minutes.  They ask again, “anything else we can do?”.  Then the questioning begins on my part “What would you like to do? What is your goal for this 5S event? Are you concerned we won’t accomplish enough?”. This often leads us to a sincere and honest discussion about a 5S event; it’s not an event.


5S is a philosophy and 5S training events provide introductory guidance for the practice. We need to understand what goal we’re trying to achieve by taking time out of busy days to focus on 5S.  We start together on a 5S journey so we align and agree to the practice principles to be applied in the future.  The purpose of demonstrating 5S in an event is to train the team.  The practice of 5S beyond the event is the goal.  A visually impactful report out at the end of an event is nice, but a commitment to improve each day is so much more valuable.  There is no getting ahead because there is no end.  If we do our job well, in addition to a successful 5S event there will be laundry lists of ideas and action items to implement in due time and those ideas will continue to roll in each and every day.

A Brief History of 5S

“There is a place for everything
 In earth, or sky, or sea,
Where it may find its proper use,
And of advantage be,”

A place for everything and everything in its place – this is the underlying philosophy of 5S, the lean practice that has its roots in Japan.  Over the years, we have done quite a bit of research to learn more about 5S, and recently became interested in the history of this practice.

5S itself came into being after World War II, when Toyota’s founder Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro and Taiichi Ohno, the company’s chief engineer, visited several U.S. companies, including Ford Motor Company and the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain.  Partly out of their observations from these visits, they began development of Toyota’s Total Production System, which eventually led to the formation of the 5S practice, among many other lean practices.5s-history1

But did you know that in Venice, Italy, in the 1300’s, the Venetian Arsenal was producing ships using lean techniques that included standardized parts, rework reduction, a moving assembly line and continuous improvement principles that were used to make processes better and more effective?  Assets needed to produce ship parts were concentrated in one area with specialized teams assembling the different parts of the ship.  Where most ships from that era, took months to build, the Venetian Arsenal was turning out about one ship per day using their vastly superior methods.

If you are into cooking, you may be familiar with the French term “mise en place”, which means “putting in place”.  This is a practice used in professional kitchens to organize all the materials and tools a chef needs at the point of use so the chef can concentrate on cooking instead of wandering around looking for ingredients and kitchen utensils.  Credit for “mise en place” is often given to Georges Auguste Escoffier, France’s preeminent chef at the beginning of the 20th century.  He is also the guy responsible for codifying the five mother sauces.  (which of course are white, brown, velouté, Hollandaise and tomato)

Mise en place

For another take on 5S, in 1827, Charles A. Goodrich, an American writer and Congregational minister, popularized the motto, “a place for everything and everything in its place” when he wrote and published an article call “Neatness”.  It espoused the importance of keeping an ordered farm as a means of economy and comfort and also as a remedy for evil.  Although Goodrich is credited with the writing down the phrase, it roots can be found in other religious texts including the poem above attributed to St. Augustine.

It goes to show that lean practices are just a continued refinement and improvement of practices and ideas that were already in use – which is the heart of continuous improvement.  I’m sure there are other historical examples of the use of 5S principles from other countries and eras that could be found with a little more research.   If you have any good ones, we’d love to hear about them.

Creating Culture Change

Back in the 1980’s, when people talked about culture, they meant someone who was refined, or they might have been referring to the norms and practices of another country, or sometimes they were just talking about a popular 80’s band.  These days, it seems like the word culture is often used to talk about the environment that exists in companies and organizations.  Company culture has become a buzzword, and everyone seems to want to understand how to change their company culture, how to improve it, or how to create it.  Go to and type in the words “company culture” to get a sense of how many books have been written on this topic – literally thousands.  And yet with all the information available, and all the focus on this important topic, how many companies out there have established the kind of company culture that attracts and keeps talented people?


My favorite video on company culture and culture change was posted back in 2010 by John Rauser.  The message is a simple one and the video is awesome and funny.  Check it out and prepared to be awed.


Website of the Week: Brewing Science Institute

One of the things I love about lean environments is how the tools many companies use are simple and visual. When you walk in the door, you can just tell it’s a lean company because 1) it is neat, clean and organized, and 2) it is easy to find exactly what you are looking for, even if you don’t work there. I look for this same characteristic in websites, and when I find a simple, visual and easy to navigate site, it gives me added confidence about their content.

My website pick of the week comes from a Colorado company called the Brewing Science Institute. With a crafty set of visual icons up top, this site is a cinch to get around on, and immediately leads you to what you are looking for. In my case, I was looking for a yeast pitching calculator, and boom! There it was. The products and services on this site cost money, but click on the chalkboard icon to check out some excellent free education and tools to help with small brewing lab set-up.

In addition to their yeast pitching calculator, they have an awesome small brewery lab manual and a sweet little troubleshooter tool for all areas of brewing.

We work with a few small breweries, and this was a great place to get a refresher on basic brewing lab tests and troubleshooting. Check it out!