Preparing those who do good … to do good better.


Lean process exercise that informed the Client Services Manual writing and graphic visualization


“Our caseworkers and volunteers already have difficult work to do; they don’t need the process itself to be an obstacle to getting work done.”

Rebecca Binder, NMSH Executive Director

Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing works to end homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing for individuals and families who struggle with mental illness in the Greater Grand Traverse Region. NMSH pairs affordable rental housing with supportive services to help households overcome barriers related to maintaining and sustaining their housing.

A portion of the LEAN process map generated for this project.

A portion of the LEAN process map generated for this project.

Founded in 1987, this nonprofit was started by individuals who recognized a need for permanent, stable, supportive housing in the mental health community. Since then, NMSH has grown exponentially and now serves over 80 clients, and is awarded 7 federal and state grant contracts annually to house individuals with mental illness. 

Corresponding content from the Client Services Manual

Corresponding content from the Client Services Manual

NMSH has a wide variety of staff, board members, contractors and volunteers that dedicate time and talent to this important work; as a group, they saw a pressing need to codify a complex, multi-faceted process. They told their story to a LEAN consultant, who in turn sought our help to distill a 32-page book into a single service design graphic.

As part of our discovery process, we discussed the larger themes and the individual tasks that make up each; we worked collaboratively to conceptualize a visual theme that speaks to the complexity of the process: the points at which process phases intersect, the people involved at each point, and the media that are shared between people and organizations.

Corresponding content from the service graphic

We also wanted to indicate when staff are primarily doing work on behalf of a client or with a client (solid lines with arrows) as opposed to the points in the process that are largely administrative (dotted lines). Color and proximity also indicate the parts in the process that are interlinked as part of the monthly or annual process, and exceptions that occur less frequently, but still need to be addressed.

The goal is to use this visual as a teaching tool, a process check and an opportunity for potential staff, volunteers, board members and funders to gain an appreciation for the complexity of the work involved in keeping the mentally ill stably housed.

Once our involvement is complete, a design intern from our local community college will be called on to update the electronic files (the Client Services Manual as well as the map) as the organization grows and changes.


Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing Service Graphic