Continuous improvement is no foreign concept to an organization whose mission is to inspire a commitment to enterprise excellence among its members. AME strives to do this in every capacity. The annual AME International Conference in Boston is no exception.
Each year, conference committees strive to continuously improve upon the previous year’s conference by pouring over Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback to create an event that helps every attendee achieve maximum value for dollars and time spent. This year the conference will feature—in addition to traditional presentations—smaller, interactive sessions to give attendees more intimate settings and direct access to presenters and thought leaders. This new format is coupled with content that attendees have never seen before—and not just in manufacturing.
I sat down with Drew Locher, Co-Conference Chair for AME Boston, and had a candid conversation about the changes to the traditional AME conference format, and what people can expect this October 9-13 in Boston.
What would you say is the biggest change to the 2017 conference format?
Drew Locher: We’ve really increased the number of available interactive sessions. Interactive sessions are not just panels where presenters do a presentation and then the audience engages in some quick question and answer. This year, attendees have a lot more to choose from.
We’re doing what we call “Expert Speed Chats.” The Expert Speed Chat will kick off like a panel, but the presenters will break off into smaller groups so they can have the Q&A. We’re going to rotate presenters among those smaller groups so attendees can have direct access to all the presenters in a small group forum. Hopefully people will feel more comfortable asking questions.
The “A3 Poster Sessions” are new. These are intended to be for peer-to-peer shared learning, so there are no speakers. Attendees can bring their A3 storyboards. Fellow attendees can provide feedback on improving the storyboards, which should help the person presenting better solve the problem or address the process.
Another format is what we call a “Deep Dive.” This is not a panel, but rather one or two individuals who have a deep knowledge of a particular topic. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore their favorite topics on a deeper level and engage directly with presenters in a more intimate setting.
How are these sessions different from the value stream presentations at AME Dallas?
DL: Last year, you could have three to four hundred people in a value stream presentation. So, getting people’s questions answered was always difficult. One, some people were uncomfortable speaking up in large groups like that. Two, it was very difficult—if you did have a question—to actually get that question answered given the sheer number of people in the room. This new format comes from VOC information collected over the last two years, where attendees said they would like more intimate, smaller forums.
What traditional formats did the conference committee keep this year?
DL: The practitioner presentation is a traditional format. It’s one company presenting with a few key points, and there’s usually a theme around it. The Idea Exchanges we’ve also had for a number of years. Those are really unfacilitated sessions. They have a particular topic, and anyone is encouraged to come. It’s peer-to-peer shared learning. There’s no presenters, no thought leaders, it’s just peer-to-peer shared learning on a particular topic.
“SpeedNetworking” is brand new this year. What can attendees look forward to during this special interactive session?
DL: The whole mission of AME is peer-to-peer shared learning. Well, you have to first meet your peers. That’s why SpeedNetworking is scheduled for Monday evening. Hopefully people will meet, exchange contact information and maybe even meet again on their own throughout the week. The idea here is to give people an opportunity to network with fellow attendees and AME members, so that they can continue networking beyond the conference.
One of the misunderstandings of AME for years has been that all we have is the conference. And it’s not true. We have regional events that some people are completely unaware of. But also, it’s the networking. You can go on your own to visit and benchmark, or maybe you offer to open up to someone you met at the conference. You don’t need AME to schedule an event for that to happen. It can just happen very naturally. Folks that have been AME members for years and can attest to this.
This year, sessions are divided into the following topics: Fundamental concepts & tools, Innovation, Lean Management, People Development, People-centric Leadership and Purpose-driven Change. Why these?
DL: The additional forums and topics come directly from feedback by AME members and past conference attendees. They’re speaking up and we’re listening. We try to group sub topics into main themes, but these come directly from the VOC approach. We get a lot of people that are new to lean and to the conference, so we have a fundamentals theme to not forget that not everyone has been doing lean for years. Also, more and more people are understanding the cultural side of lean. It’s really a people system—it always has been. Themes like people-centric leadership, and purpose-driven change and people development, are all aligned with what lean is really all about. These themes come directly from surveys that AME did.
Why is this new format better than what AME has done in the past?
DL: It’s going to give attendees other forums to choose from. If people want to choose the more traditional presentation, they can choose that. If they want a more intimate and comfortable forum, they’re going to have that. If they want more direct access to speakers and presenters, they’re going to have that. It’s really going to maximize the learning of the attendees.
Browse the entire conference program at ame.org/Boston.