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Sue Kozlowski

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Take me out to the Gemba

By popular demand, words to an old favorite tune that you can use while watching the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, at the Seventh-Inning Stretch: Take me out to the Gemba Take me out to the flow! Find me a Value Stream I can track I don’t want wasteto evercome back! For it’s root, root,…

The Lean Six Sigma All-Star Game

As you may know, if you’re a baseball fan, Major League Baseball is holding its All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. You may also know that you can create your own “fantasy” baseball team, on-line,by selecting players and assigning them to your team. Then, as the statistics build up week after week, the…

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Educational

I had the privilege recently of helping to teach lean to a group of university leaders. I had great fun assisting with the first day of class, when we introduced basic lean concepts. However, when my instructing partner and I looked at our plus-deltas from the day (comments about what the participants valued, and what…

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Numb3rs

You don’t have to read much of the daily paper, in the US at least, to see datapresented in very interesting ways. “Gas price SKYROCKETS to $4 a gallon!” “The Dow Jones Industrial Average PLUMMETS to 12,500!” “Pistons [Basketball Team] Have the EDGE Now!” “Kid Obesity Rate STEADY” Now, part of the reason for this…

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Who’s Your Jack Welch?

I was privileged recently to attend the American Society for Quality’s World Conference in Houston, TX. What an energetic gathering of quality-minded people! One topic thatI heard a lot of conversation about was concern for leadership of Lean and Six Sigma. There were many stories shared of new deployments, attempted deployments, and failed deployments. One…

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Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare: What Not to Say

Quite a few Black Belts from manufacturing environments have told me, “I don’t know anything about healthcare, but my industry is in a downturn so I’m looking for a Black Belt job in a hospital. I figure I can pick up the lingo once I’m there.” I’ve also been asked to speak to industrial and…

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Life After Black Belt?

Today’s question comes from the realm of business etiquette. Since I didn’t think Miss Manners would have the answer, I’m asking in this forum. Traditionally, when an organization begins deployment of Six Sigma, “Black Belts” are hired, trained, and certified by their company or an outside vendor. After some years of service, some Black Belts…

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House, M.D.

While flipping around the channels a while ago, I happened to catch an episode of “House.” This show, for thoseunfamiliar with it, features aphysician in a hospital setting. He’s faced withpatients who have complex and puzzling disease conditions that he must diagnosis in order to save their lives. I was intrigued, at first. But after…

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Achieving Lean

There’s a great quote from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” that I was thinking of today, in relation to how we teach lean. Thecharacter Malvoliosays, “Be not afraid of greatness. Someare born great, someachieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” So, with apologies to Will… “Some are born lean, some achieve lean, and some have…

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Lean? or Mean?

I was privileged to speak at a conference in San Francisco last weekend, sponsored by the American Society for Clinical Pathology. The topics focused on leadership in the clinical (medical) laboratory. After giving a presentation on 6S, I served asa panel member for questions submitted from the audience. One of the questions asked, “What can…

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Speaking of Six Sigma

When I’m asked to do a presentation, for corporate training or national conferences, I always try to present in a style that reflects how we practice lean six sigma. How do you gain buy-in in any change process? By having the group participate in the discussion or decision! So, I add interactive segments into my…

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Is a Wait Always a Waste???

In healthcare, we are definitely trying to speed things up for our patients. Billboards around our area (and maybe, around the country) promise 30 minute door-to-doc time in their Emergency Departments (EDs). One promises no waiting to be seen by a healthcare professional! Mini-offices are springing up in chain pharmacies, promising no waiting for minor…

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A Control Phase for Lean

My healthcare organization uses a versionof Lean Six Sigma that may be familiar to some of you. First, project definition through hoshin kanri(enterprise value stream mapping and value stream analysis). Define -VOC, CTQs, and performance specifications. Measure -Value Stream Mapping with analysis of data. Analyze -Waste Walk, SpaghettiMapping, and statistical analysis where appropriate. Lean –…

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Lean on Me

We graduated another Lean Six Sigma class last week. Our version of Lean Six Sigma is based on the DMAIC structure and Lean tools that works well in our healthcare organization, and this was our 8th class since October 2006. Just before we handed out the certificates for course completion, the hospital President who took…

5S in Translation

5S is one of the foundation concepts of lean. The Japanese originals were: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shetsuke. (Additional S’s such asSafety or Security are sometimes added.) I did a quick survey on-line to see what variations are out there. Sort – Straighten – Scrub – Standardize – Sustain Separate – Sort – Shine –…

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Miracle on 3.4th Street

(Movie Review – WARNING! May contain spoilers…) At the beginning of the movie, the Santa Claus who is scheduled to appear in the Thanksgiving Day Parade is found to have significant defects. He is replaced with a worker who seems to utilizestandard work, Sensei Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn). The new Senseiyields improved results for the…

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Team Excellence

I have had the fortune to serve twice on the ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards judging panel. It’s not the entries that I want to talk about, but the experience of serving on the panel. The details of the competition and the criteria are posted on the ASQ website, www.asq.org. When I volunteered to serve…

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Feedback, Schmeedback

When my fellow Black Belts and I facilitate, or teach, we ask the participants to give us feedback at the end of each session. We use the plus-delta format that we inherited from our original consultants, by dividing a flip-chart page into two columns for the “plusses” (things that worked well, were meaningful, or strengths)…

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The Pause that Refreshes?

Some of our Black Belts were talking the other day about how many projects they’ve got going, and (in spite of focusing our projects on specific value streams) how they sometimes feel pretty fragmented, getting pulled from project to project. We discussed whether it would be reasonableto pause for a short while, to ensure that…

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Lean Six Sigma Project and#035;1031

To: Executive Sponsor From: Six Sigma Black Belt Re: Lean Six Sigma Project #1031 Our Define Report-Out is now ready for presentation. This memo serves as an executive summary for your review. Customers: Children (primary), Parents (indirect) Problem Statement: Too many children in the United States receive Halloween candy in a way that is unpredictable….

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Hands of the Customer

We’re used to seeking the Voice of the Customer in the Define phase of our projects. Typically (at least at our organization) we haven’t asked, “How much of this process can we pass on to you?” This topic usually comes upwhen weteach a lean exercise in which the Voice of the Customeris supposed to rule….

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Voice of the Customer

Like many organizations, ours began their Six Sigma deployment with a consultant-based training and project mentorship. We were successful at internalizing the training, and we’ve used a value-stream approach to selecting improvement projects, but the process owners never seemed to be the ones to light the fire – most wait to be tapped on the…

Project Management Expertise

A fellow Black Belt and I were talking about project management skills. She made a very perceptive comment, which I will paraphrase: “Some people are really good at setting up a project – the ability to identify needed tasks, sources of benchmarking information, delegating, putting everything into a timeframe. And others are really good about…

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Black Belt Ranks

In the martial arts, you may know that once a person obtains a black belt there are usually levels of progression upwards. Each of these levels is called a “dan” and there can be 3 or more progressive levels, sometimes designated with astripe ortape around the end of the black belt. We’ve taken that concept…

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Green Around the Gills

While reading Gianna Clark’s blog below,”Green Belt Sonic Boom,” my first reaction was: Great minds think alike! We are in the starting phase of a boom of training, and all of Gianna’s caveats are valuable. Last year in October,our healthcare system started our internal training of Green Belts with a class of 40. We planned…

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A Little Motivation

When our organization started its Six Sigma deployment back in 2004, we designed a small round pin that was given to certified Change Agents, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts. The pins are gold-backed and have the appropriate color (blue for Change Agents) around the outer rim, with the appropriate certification title, and our…

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Black Belt Humor

I’m sure I’m not the only Black Belt who has conversations like these: Someone coming to a meeting in the BB office/cubicle area for the first time: “Wow, I’ve never been to your office before. It’s not very… 6S’d, is it? Ha ha!” Team member, at a meeting: “Boy, I thought you Black Belts were…

Pieces of the Puzzle

Our organization’s Black Belts recentlyparticipated ina two-day retreat in which we did some team-building and strategy work for the upcoming fiscal year. We did a leadershipprofile that diagnoses each person’s preferred approach. The four main styles are generalized as Driver, Conscientious, Steady, and Interactive. I’m sure that the profile is similar to many others out…

Standard Work in LSS

Reading Robin Barnwell’slastest post, I was reminded of a conversation I had recently regardingstandard work in our own projects. When our Black Belts share their experiences, it’s really interesting to seehow parts of the project structure are valued differently by each individual. Let me give you an example. We have a guideline for rapid improvement…

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Belt Mania

I’ve been having some conversations about belts with my colleagues. Officially, we have “Lean Green Belts” (learn Lean Six Sigma basics, facilitate Lean Kaizen events) and “Six Sigma Black Belts” (know both Lean & Six Sigma, facilitate Lean & Six Sigma projects, coach & mentor Green Belts). We had “Yellow Belts” for a while –…

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In a Vacuum

I was facilitating a process-mapping session recently, and one of the team members came up to me during a break. She said, “I think it’s really interesting that you are leading us in the process mapping in a way that’s much different than I’ve seen before.” I said, “What do you mean?” She explained that…

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Hearing Voices

I was raised to believe thatin Six Sigma,the “Voice of the Customer” is the source of process specifications. While training, we spent quite a bit of time learning Customer Needs Mapping, developing the Critical to Quality characteristics, and filling out the CTQ tree. We defined a customer as the end-user, or beneficiary, of the process…

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Every Which Way

Recently, I was part of agroup Black Belts who were discussingthe pressure on leaders to improve, not just in one direction, but in as many ways as possible, seemingly all at once. Here’s a possible scenario, from a hypothetical healthcare organization in the beginning stages of deploying Lean Six Sigma. A Vice President is speaking…

Black Belt Image

Recently, I had an interesting conversationwith the editor of our facility newsletter. She was looking for short articles for the next edition, and I asked if she thought people would be interested in some tips for email organization. Simple stuff, like sorting your inbox by sender so you can take care of your boss’s communication…

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Tellin’ It To The CEO

Yesterday, our organization graduated its first class of Lean Green Belts that was taught on our own, without our consultant. We’re using the term “Lean Green Belt” because we’re teaching them primarily Lean so they can facilitate Rapid Improvement Events, although we’re using the DMAIC structure as an organizing principle. (Our BBs are called Six…

North American International Auto Show

Greetings from Detroit, where the North American International Auto Show is in its first full week. I had the opportunity to visit over the weekend, and was mightily impressed with what I saw. This time, I have to say I looked with different eyes. The last time I attended, a few years ago,my perspective was…

I Should Write a Book

Many organizational leaders are inspired by management books, and quite a few have gone to the extremes of ordering the books for their leadership teams. Some even start book clubs or go through each book chapter by chapter in their meetings. I’m an avid reader and have gone through a lot of management books in…

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Happy New Year

I don’t usually make too many New Year’s resolutions, but here are a few that I’ll be attempting this year. 1. To be less judgmental of people, and more judgmental aboutprocesses. 2. To look more closely at the “story behind the headlines” when confronted with a problem. 3. To clarify when I’m giving advice as…

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A Visit from Sensei Nicholas

’Twas the night before Report-Out, and all through the House of Quality, Not a creature was stirring, (no Six Sigma frivolity!); The Standard Work Combination Forms were hung in the gemba with care, In hopes that some measurements soon would be there; The team members were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of…

A New Holiday – Happy Sigma

On the first day of Sigma, my Black Belt gave to me: Something called a VOC. On the second day of Sigma, my Black Belt gave to me: 2 CTQs, and something called a VOC. On the third day of Sigma, my Black Belt gave to me: 3 CAP tools, 2 CTQs, and something called…

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Heads or Tails?

When I’m looking at a process, it often seems like there’s more than one way to approach aproblem – without a clear-cut “right” or “best” solution.One of the issues that seems to be a frequent”let’s-flip-a-coin issue”is centralization vs decentralization, specifically related to decision-making. In some projects, a particular process has been decentralized – the rationale…

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Acronyms and Anachronisms

Reading Gianna Clark’s latest blogmade me thing about all the “sayisms” that I’ve developed over the past three years of my Lean-Six Sigma journey. I have added lots of acronyms, sayings, and jargon in my daily speech – and I keep forgetting that not everybody is familiar with these terms (yet) – including my husband…

Reward and Recognition

Our organization is starting to have a very constructive discussion about rewards and recognition for Black Belts. (Green Belts, hold on, you’re next.) We canvassed our current Black Belts and- as you might guess – the variation was wider than the mean! Ideas started fromcertificates, pins, and belts… through public recognition at organization-wide events… through…

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The World Series as You’ve Never Seen It

DearFantastic Sports Network, I’d like to thank you for choosing me to be your first-ever Master Black Belt. To start things off on a positive note, let me share some suggestions I have for the World Series broadcasts this week. These are all easy to implement and will make the show even more exciting for…

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Teaching Six Sigma

My organization is embarking on a new frontier: teaching our own version of DMAIC to new Green Belts and Black Belts. For our first three waves, we used the material provided by our consultant.Now we’re ready (we think) to customize it with our own organization’s goals and culture. The original training focused on the DMAIC…

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The Dip

A group of Black Belts and I were recently discussing change management. One of the group pointed out that we don’t do a very good job preparing stakeholders for “The Dip.” “The Dip” iscommonly part of the Improve phase. We’ve measured and analyzed the heck out of our current process, brainstormed our way into improvement…

Gemba Consciousness

I was very interested to read Stephen Crate’s recent post with Jim Womack’s “Historical Perspective of Lean,” which mentioned the idea of gemba consciousness, or awareness of what’s actually happening on the shop floor. “Management by walking around” is related to this concept; at one organization that I know of, meetings were forbidden before 10…

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The Productivity Paradox

As our organization implements lean, we are running into fears that our employeeswon’t be as productive after a lean project. There’s a theory that we’ll be “paying people to wait around” for patients / customers to show up. I’m pretty fascinated by this fear, since lean concepts of value are supposed to be be employed…

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Let Them Eat Cake

Our organizationhasjust comethrough a phase that I’ve heard called “The Wave III Bump” by other institutions – the projects are all successful, but they just take so darn long, isn’t there any way we can speed things up? Our organization responded by moving to Lean in a big way; we’ve done Rapid Improvement Events (kaizen…

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Too Busy

I continue to be amazed at the creativity some people have. I’ve even heard some staff boast that they were “The Kings and Queens of Workarounds” because they knew how to get things done through back channels, crisis management, and personal connections that were never listed in any procedure manual. They are too busy to…

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