An Interview with Romano Nickerson, Principal, Boulder Associates Former LCI Congress Planning Committee and Board Member
We had the opportunity to speak with Romano Nickerson, a former LCI Congress Planning Committee and Board Member, about the early days of Congress. Enjoy Romano’s reflections on how Congress has evolved over the decades — and be sure to register for the upcoming 25th Annual LCI Congress!
Romano’s first Congress experience was in 2005.
Romano first attended Congress as a panel member in 2005. It was held in San Francisco with about 45-50 people. His next Congress experience was in 2008 in Boulder, Colorado, with about 100 people. In those early days, Congress was held in one large room, with everyone together for shared, consecutive sessions. He noted that “attending Congress had to do with the right spirit and mentality to come together and share with others.”
“Greg [Gregory Howell, LCI cofounder] had a duck call whistle that he trumpeted to get people to come back and quiet down after breaks. It was shared sessions with one group of folks all talking together…There was a sense of invention, a start-up energy, when people were really experimenting and trying this stuff. The roots only go back to the late 90s for a lot of this thinking.”
Congress evolves and grows.
Romano shared that early Congress Planning Committees were just three people. In 2013 for Dallas, it was Romano, Stewart Trapino, VP of People Experience, Linbeck Group, and Bernita Beikmann, Partner and EVP, HKS Architects.
“The three of us met with Dan [Heinemeier, current LCI Executive Director], who was brand new and had taken over from Dick Bayer, VP Lean and IPD, Colliers Project Leaders. We talked a lot about how it would grow. It was in Dallas, with about 500 people, when we started to struggle to find a big enough room to have these interactions.”
The next Congress took place in San Francisco. Romano shared, “That venue forced us to have only plenary sessions where people sat in chairs, and that meant we also had tracks for the first time with separate rooms and concurrent sessions.”
We discussed the challenge of wanting Congress to feel small even though it’s big. As it’s evolved, this has been accomplished by including different tracks, targeted learning for industry sectors such as the manufacturing ecosystem, sessions geared towards different levels, and more. For this year’s Congress, searching the interactive agenda is a great way to home in on the sessions that matter most to you.
It also came up that Congress is special because speakers are encouraged and excited to stay, foster connections, take part in conversations, and learn from others — rather than dash out after their session.
“It was a combination of dreaming big and evolving and growing. It’s different now, but with options like Learning Labs and breakout sessions for advanced practitioners, the spirit of fostering connections has remained.”
Attendees craft connections across experience levels.
Romano notes that, “It’s important for people like me, far along on my Lean journey, to remain engaged and foster the growth of others. I’ve had the opportunity to put all this in practice on my projects. It’s an entirely different matter to grow a team that can then take what I learned and add their own experience and grow from there. I take great satisfaction from that. It is tremendously rewarding to have students go on and do their own thing.”
“I encourage people to think along these lines. Everyone who Is experienced and advanced had help and then it’s their turn to help others on their journey. It’s a cycle — those who are experienced come and give back and connect, and those who are new to Lean come and find mentors.”
Whether you’re an advanced Lean practitioner or new to Lean, don’t miss your chance to create connections at Congress — register today.
For more about the early days of LCI and Congress, check out our interview with Glenn Ballard, LCI Co-founder here.