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Sue Kozlowski

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A Fond Farewell

The time has come for me to bid you adieu. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to share my thoughts and get feedback from you, so I thank you for allowing me to discuss my opinions about lean, six sigma, change management, leadership, and healthcare. It’s been almost 5 years to the day since Michael…

Culture Change from the Ground Up

I received a very nice comment today from a team member of a lean project. She said, “You know, I didn’t want to be on this team. My boss made me attend. I didn’t think anyone was going to care about my opinion, and I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. Also I was very…

There’s an L before Lean

I have a new saying for the new year: There’s an “L” before lean, and it’s Leadership. I’ve been saying this because I want to emphasize that lean is not the magic bullet that will cure disgruntled employees, overwhelmed staff, and broken processes… without effort from leaders. Over the years, as I have given lean…

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Too Customer-Centric?

My son played football in high school, and one of the things that “football parents” were asked to do was to work at the stadium concession stand a few times during the season. Lucky me, I got to work at the cash register. This included filling orders for candy, gum, and drinks as well as…

The Devil’s in the Details (of the Data)

When I teach lean concepts, it’s easy to talk about the concepts of timing the process steps. Most people nod their heads and say, yes, they get it. The idea is easy – each step has a start and a stop. But when I work with teams, it doesn’t seem to be so easy to work…

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Not So Fast

OK, we’ve got our kaizen team going full speed ahead, and one of the improvements will be to replace the central printer with individual desk printers to avoid interruptions and transportation waste. Workers won’t have to get up and walk to get their forms. Hooray! “But,” one of the workers says, “we like getting up…

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Closest to the Worker

I’ve used the phrase “closest to the customer” when explaining some aspects of lean – for example, starting improvements with the process closest to the customer outcome then working backwards in the process. Lately, I’ve been using the phrase “closest to the worker” to get people to think about removing non-value-added effort from out processes….

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(Waste) Walk on the Wild Side

Ina recent blog post, I mentioned a Waste Walk – and got a few queries about what that is. I see that I have assumed that everyone’s lean toolkit has the same tools, so I apologize for my assumption! Here’s some more information. Most lean approaches use a list of7 or 8 wastes to describe…

‘Whatta They Got That I Ain’t Got?”

I teach a full-day workshop called “Lean Boot Camp.” It’s an introduction to small-scope projects and tools, the kind you can do as a beginner like 5S and a Waste Walk. I use a phrase that I picked up somewhere: “The lean approach is simply having the ability to see waste, and the courage to…

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Benched

I’ve participated in a lot of projects where one of the first questions is: How are our competitors doing it? Are there any benchmarks or nationally-recognized “best practices?” While this may give a team a sense of security, or help to push stretch goals, sometimes I think it stifles creativity. If we are developing, or…

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Carrots

It’s common for me to have conversations about how to motivate people to accept change. For those of us who are early adopters, it’s not a problem; we kinda like doing something new. But, from those whose favorite radio station isWII-FM*, I hear this song: “This new process looks harder, not easier. In fact, you’re…

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Call Me Aesop

If you are engaged in teaching, whether formally in classes or informally as you facilitate projects, you probably have a few favorite sayings that you like to use toremind people of important points. I take my blog title today from the ancient teacher Aesop, who liked to close his fables (usually stories with animal characters)…

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You, Too, Tube?

I never cease to be amazed at the amount of information that’s “out there” on the web. I searched on “Lean Six Sigma” and got about a million hits. “Process Improvement” – 3.6 million.”Change Management” – 6.2 million. “Project Management” – 32 million. But lately I’ve been using an additional source of information-the ever-growing on-line…

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Teaching Lean Without Toyota?

When I teach lean tools, I naturally reference the Toyota Production System and talk about their journey (which they don’t call lean!) as an introduction to the topic. Naturally, in the healthcare setting, I don’t dwell on the assembly-line function too much, but I have always felt that it’s helpful to put the approach in…

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All or Nothing at All?

“All or nothin’ at all… Half a love never appealed to me If your heart, it never would yield to me Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all.” (Song composed in 1939 by Arther Altman, lyrics by Jack Lawrence – a big hit for Frank Sinatra) I was thinking of these lyrics the other…

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Holiday Carols, anyone?

I have the good fortune to sit in an office right next to a hallway speaker, which has been loudly proclaiming the festive season since the day after Thanksgiving, in about a 4-hour loop. Naturally, I can’t help but think of work-related words as the songs repeat… and repeat… and repeat… Here are some of…

So Ya Wanna Be a Black Belt

Lately I have been bombarded with well-meaning, intelligent, conscientious, motivated people asking me how they can get Black Belt certified. They’re not in a Six-Sigma environment; they just want to be able to learn how to improve their processes more effectively. So do they need to be a Black Belt? Here’s what I usually tell…

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A Spoonful of Sugar

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about resistance to change. The RogersAdoption / Innovation curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards) is referenced in some form by most people involved in change management. Now, I’m not an innovator myself. My special form of creativity doesn’t manifest itself by coming up with new ideas…

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With Thanks

I had a very nice phone call today, from a colleague who had chatted with me earlier about a current project. She called to say thanks for allowing her to bounce ideas around, which helped her clarify some things about herapproach to the process. Naturally I felt good to receive this feedback, and it made…

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The Fourth Musketeer

“One of all and all for one!” Or, in the original French, “Tous pour un, un pour tous!” In the story by Alexandre Dumas (1844), the three musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, were joined by the musketeer-wannabee D’Artagnan, without whom the first three would have led very boring lives. I was reminded of this the…

It’s a “Circle of Life” Thing!

I used to be really annoyed with people who took a wait-and-see approach to change. They’re not resistant, exactly, and they might be classified as “late adopters.” But I could understand active resistance better than passive indifference. Now, however, I have a little different take on things. Because I have realized that if you wait…

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Alice in Processland

A quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), 1865: “The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked. ‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ’and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’” I am sure I’m not the…

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Will the Real Process Owner Please Stand Up?

When I was leading a department, I never thought of myself as a process owner. It wasn’t in my job description, and I never heard anyone used the term. It’s one of those useful concepts that I wish I had known, prior to my Six Sigma and Lean education. Here’s my working definition: The process…

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My Favorite Tools

Well, maybe I have more than one favorite tool – but there are 2 that arefun to use with a group. One is sticky-note brainstorming. It avoids the perils of the regular “everybody call out their ideas” brainstorming, because (a) you get 100% participation; (b) you can get LOTS of ideas in just a few minutes;…

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The Great Healthcare Debate

While the iSixSigma.com site has been down, the rhetoric about “fixing healthcare” in the US has dramatically heated up. “We need to take the waste out of healthcare!” “We’re paying too much for healthcare!””Everyone should get all the healthcare they need regardless of cost!” Without getting into the political debate, let’s just touch on these…

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Training: Enough, Already?

I enjoy teaching, so if you asked me whether you could do too much training, my first response would be “no, of course not!” But, on second thought, I would have to say, “well, maybe.” It’s been my experience that knowledge alone is usually not enough to create an improvement. A lot of people enjoy…

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Getting the Word Out

When I begin a new project, I include a Communication Plan as part of my team work. That is, we take the stakeholder list and think about who we need to be in communication with, as we move through the project phases. Some of you may do this based on an ARMI exercise (Approvers/ Resources/…

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Ready for Change… Almost!

You’ve completed your planning phase – whether it’s specifying value and mapping the value stream, Defining / Measuring / Analyzing, or Planning – and you’re ready to move into Creating Flow, Improving, or Doing. Hooray! The pilot plan has been finalized, the Process Owner says it’s fine, the team is ready to move forward. And…

Small Things

I’ve attended a lot of leadership development courses over the years, and received many handouts, folders, and binders chock full of ways to make myself into a better manager… of people, time, money, etc. One precept that has stuck with me is that we should pay attention tothe small things that are annoyances today, so…

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Before & After

My organization requires that we write our annual performance goals into a web-based system that can be sent to our bosses for their review. As I was working on this last week, it struck me that in the past I would not have written those goals the way I do now. For example, “improve service”…

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More Than Advice

I’ve done a lot of informal coaching in my career – you know, the kind where you’re in conversation and someone says, “Gee, Sue, can you give me advice on…” and I get to cheerfully dispense my words of wisdom and then wish them good luck with their problem. Sometimes people seek me out and…

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Lean at Work, Lean at Home???

I was asked a very interesting question last week, after I gave a lecture on 5S. “Do you find that people who are very organized and who apply Lean or Six Sigma principles at work, also apply these same principles at home? Is this linked to a personality trait?” Now I will confess right off…

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The C Word

That would be… Consultants. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about lean for clinical laboratories at the recent Leadership Exchange conference, hosted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology. In discussions during the conference, I was asked many questions about the use of consultants to get started with lean. In many cases,…

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Is Healthcare the Next Big Thing?

I’ve had a lot pf people asking me about healthcare lately. As in, “Now that big corporations and the automotive companiesare reeling, with the stimulus coming and promises of healthcare reform, isn’t it a great time to move out of the manufacturing sector andinto process improvement in healthcare?” Well, it’s true that thereare vast opportunities…

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Edgar Allan Poe was a Black Belt

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, O’er Breyfogle, George, and other volumes of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my office door. ‘’Tis some Green Belt,’ soft I muttered, ‘working late on his R4 – Only this,…

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Sensei Sue???

I was talking with a group of people about leading lean, and someone asked me, “Are you a Sensei?” So of course I said “No!” I don’t call myself a Sensei, because I consider myself to be at the grasshopper-level of lean expertise. However, the question did make me think. I call myself a Black…

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Defects in Healthcare

Last Friday I taught a Lean Leadership class for my healthcare organization. The participants included all levels of support staff, physicians, nurses, anddepartment leaders. They grasped the concepts easily, and we had a lot of fun with the simulation exercise. In the first round, of course, no products made it to the customer. In the…

MANY THANKS

I was very honored to have been nominated for the iSixSigma MVP Award for “Best Blogger” – given the high quality of my fellow nominees, Robin Barnwell and Gianna Clark, I was not expecting to receive this recognition! Attending the iSixSigma Live! conference was a blast, and I had a lot of fun and met…

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New Year’s Resolution

This year, I’m making a resolution to do a good deed daily. This is inspired in part by Gianna Clark’s latest blog, How W.O.W.?, but also by my own sense of imbalance in the customer feedback that most organizations receive. I’ve communicated about problems and complaints many times – but – I realized that I…

When is Lean… Not Lean?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how the Toyota Production System was developed. Unlike those of us who have books, websites, and training programs in abundance, Toyota engineers took their process of assembly-line manufacture of automobiles and created, in incremental steps, the methodology that’s now known as Lean. It took shape over a…

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A Lean Carol

Well, it’s time for my annual Christmas Blog! With apologies to Charles Dickens, here is my adapted version of his “Ghost Story of Christmas” (first published in 1843). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Stave 1: Muda’s Ghost The workers at the Shusendo & Muda Company are very busy being highly productive. The boss, Ebenezer Shusendo, only gives performance bonuses…

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The Least-Effort Way

We’ve all seen the “resistance curve” where a few people are innovators, some are early adopters, early and late majorities, and a few are laggards, or skeptics, or what-have-you (from the work of Everett Rogersand other researchers). One way to get almost everyone to be an early adopter is to offer something of value –…

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Lean Travel (or not!)

I’ve spent a good part of this past summer travelling for business. In the past, I might have flown a few times a year for conferences, but this year I’ve earned quite a few “miles,” Now, I know that some of you are already experienced Road Warriors, and you are probably already laughing at me,…

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The L Word

That would be “Leadership.” I’ve been given a definition of leadershipthat I’d like to discuss with you and ask your opinion about. The question that was posed to me was, “What is a leader?” I gave what I thought was a pretty good response – about having a vision, bringing people along in the direction…

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Team Dynamics for College Seniors

I have the privilege this semester of teaching a “Professional Practice” class for college seniors in Clinical Laboratory Science. These arethe folks who will be doing (among other things) any blood tests that you may have drawn in a doctor’s office, hospital, or health fair. Since I had input into the curriculum, I decided to…

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5S Your Email Outbox

After reading my last post, 5S Your Email Inbox, a couple of colleagues asked whether they could apply 5S to sending emails as well. Here are the guidelines that I use – I’m sure others have their methods, too, so feel free to share your own best practices! SORT 1. Ask yourself, does the recipient really…

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5S Your Email Inbox

I love to open my business email inbox in the morning, don’t you? Especially if you’ve been practicing good work-life balance and haven’t peeked at it since the end of business the day before. When I go on vacation, it’s a special treat. Here’s a 5S strategy that I have used to keep up with…

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If Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Prioritized Projects…

Whichprioritized projects would Peter Piper pick? I’ve been asked to speak about project selection at an upcoming symposium. In doing research for this,I’ve reviewed articlesfrom iSixSigma and other sources, from both the Six Sigma “ranked project hopper” perspective and the Lean A3 – strategic deployment perspective. And I’ve done some project-picking in my time, too,…

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My Husband the Black Belt

When I first went to Six Sigma training, I was very enthusiastic about it and shared everything I learned over the dinner table with my family. I talked about my projects and the tools, my successes and failures. I always thought they listened politely and then forgot about it. You know, Mom talking about work…

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Sensei Certification?

A lot of my conversations recently have centered around certification for lean. Coming from colleagues who started in Six Sigma as a Green Belt or Black Belt, it seems “natural” that when you add lean facilitation to your skills, you could get certified in lean, too. But, as I understand it, the traditional path for…

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