Who Am I, and Why Am I Here?

“Healthcare Black Belt seeks long-distance relationship with diverse group of process improvers willing to share opinions and experiences about the challenges of getting the right people to do the right things right.”

First order of business: Who am I? I ask myself this question frequently. Every time I change jobs, it’s an opportunity to reinvent myself. Currently, I’m a Six Sigma Black Belt with three years of experience with Six Sigma and Lean in healthcare. I’ve enjoyed the structure and rigor of Six Sigma, while being challenged by individuals who don’t think in terms of process. I’ve been humbled – and reinvigorated – by my transformation from being an expert in my previous area, the clinical laboratory, to becoming a “newbie” at process improvement. I’m an optimist by nature, teacher by outlook, psychologist by necessity, and an INTP to boot.

Second order of business: Why am I here? I’ll use this space to share my opinions about the “A” side of the equation – where Q (the quality of the solution) x A (the acceptance of the stakeholders) = E (the effectiveness of the solution). I’m fascinated by the “people side” of this work – how to get buy-in; why some of us would rather develop work-arounds than follow a standard process; the all-pervasive “That will never work!” and my favorite, “You’ll NEVER get the doctors to go along with that!” From a team perspective, what’s the best way to turn nay-sayers and eye-rollers into converts? What’s the change that has to take place in order to build a true Six Sigma organization?

Handpicked Content:   Why is Quality Planning So Much of an Afterthought?

I really look forward to our conversations together. Let me leave you with a question, to start: If you’re involved in a Six Sigma effort, what’s the ONE THING you wish you’d been told when you started? Here’s what I was actually told – it only took my 2 years to really believe it: “Six Sigma is not only about the data. Six Sigma success is based on relationship-building bound to a common philosphy.” What should someone have told you, at the beginning of your journey?

Let the blogging begin!

Comments 8

  1. Monique T

    Hi Sue!

    I look forward to reading more about your work in healthcare.

    I wish someone would have told me that Six Sigma would change the way I look at everything from a buyer’s perspective. Sometimes I really hate my new outlook. When I wait too long in a line, I think about how to improve it. When my car starts pinging in the same manner as last month (after I took it to the mechanic), I think about the recurrence defect. Sometimes it’s really draining! :)

    But our company is definitely better for doing so, and for training me. It’s been invaluable.


  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for sharing that thought, Monique. It reminds me of taking Psychology – everyone arond me started to look like they had some sort of psychosis. Or attending massive Customer Service classes – all of a sudden, everyone in stores is either VERY RUDE and I start muttering about service standards, or VERY POLITE and I start looking for comment cards to fill out.

    With Lean and Six Sigma, it really is a temptation to start analyzing process flow and efficiency – I count the number of chairs in the waiting area, thinking about queuing theory; I try to convert the number of problems I see into DPMO – at least it uses more parts of my brain than scanning the magazines while waiting in the check-out line!

  3. Hari

    Welcome Sue!!!

    Looking forward to have a lot of experience sharing from a teacher, from a doctor and from psychiatrist.

    I wish some one would have told me that six sigma is a journey which starts with smaller steps initially and then motivates to take up bigger challenges and ultimately breakthrough after breakthroughs……….

    Also I wish I would have been told that six sigma improvements are sustainable on a solid established routine systems.

    I have come across situation where efforts of six sigma have potential of controversy. It is very effective if our approach is to make improvement project by project.


  4. Tuan

    Welcome Sue!

    I wish they would have told me how hard it would be to change people’s attitudes. That relationships are important to change because the facts don’t sway people from their comfort zone of doing things. It takes a whole company effort to create and sustain the change.

  5. Ron

    Hi! I wish someone would have told me about CAVE people. These are Citizens Against Virtually Everything. You know the type… mad at the world… sky is falling… etc.

    When we Six Sigma folk come across CAVE people we should do as the Nazarene told his leadership team to do… wipe the dust from your sandles and move on to the next town (or person).

    While I have only come across a few CAVE folk in my time as a BB and now MBB I will admit spending far too much energy and time on trying to convert them.

  6. Miles

    … I wish someone had told me that Six Sigma isn’t what senior leaders actually want, they want miracles they don’t require any change. The lack of unity behind some initiatives is embarassing.

    As a new black belt, I’d rather be back doing my old job.

  7. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks to all you wrote… I still believe that it’s the people-side of managing Six Sigma projects that causes the most frustration. I remember, in my first (Wave I) project, wishing that the team would go away and leave me alone to do all the things that needed to be done, because alone I could get it done on time and to spec, without having to coach / mentor / juggle / nudge / bribe / threaten / go to their boss / etc. which takes a lot more time than just doing it myself.

    Having evolved (I think) from a project-completion to a team-building mentality, I still:
    * Agree with Hari that small projects are better for training than large ones;
    * Agree with Tuan that changing people’s attitudes (and changing ours) is a real challenge that would be a great thing to focus on in training;
    * Agree with Ron that CAVE people can be frustrating to deal with – yet remember that these individuals can sometimes be our greatest converts at the end of a successful project;
    * Agree with Miles that lack of leadership at the top can be demoralizing at best, and lead to sabotaging the Six Sigma initiative at worst. We could have a whole blog devoted to leadership wanting the miracle cure!

    I’ll be talking about these issues in my future posts, so thanks again for writing and expanding the pool of knowledge!

  8. Dr.Jacquescoley

    Greetings Sue, Ron and Miles:

    Thanks for reaching out Sue.

    I am a Gerontologist. I also have been a Green Belt for quite some time. My initial exposure to SixSigma, was in the accounting industry, where I served as Project Manager. Thereafter, I have primarily focused my SixSigma efforts in the health care arena, specifically during my clinical trials.

    What has been unique about my particular SixSigma experience are the environments. For example, I am currently doing some research on Aricept (Alzheimer’s inhibitor) and three different cohorts of elderly patients. Lean Six has been a useful methodology, due to study style (cross-sectional), sample size and how this particular IRB (Institute Review Board) and School of Medicine (SOM) functions as a collective unit.

    As I’ve mentioned before in other discussion forums; Lean is only appropriate after the PM or Belt has come to an agreement of the project scope, work breakdown structure (WBS), and charter with the Process Owners. This alleviates significant headaches during the life of the project.

    I look forward to confabulating with others concerning SixSigma and related PM issues in our industry.


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