Effective Solutions Through Partnership

How Making the Transition to Lean Six Sigma Changed my Career

Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Training

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM

Once upon a time, I was a nurse. I began as a nurses’ aide, and while working as a nurses’ aide, I went to nursing school. During my tenure in healthcare, I worked with nurses who had been carrying the flame for forty years or more, as well as newly certified nurses. Like many nurses, I worked alongside other healthcare providers, administrators, executives, and board members. With many of them, I eagerly served the underserved and indigent populations, as well as the more affluent. Few other callings are so strong. Some may come to healthcare for the perks, but they stay because it’s their calling.

However, this call to healing can be painful. I have seen many highly skilled, passionate healthcare providers burnout from the increased pressure, staffing shortages, and a population with ever-increasing complex needs. The world of healthcare has drastically become more complicated, but the process has often not reflected this new reality.

After nearly a decade, I was tired from working long hours in a job that could at times be thankless. I was burnt out, and almost left healthcare entirely. But, I didn’t leave. Instead I began to seek roles in quality. One evening, I was watching the show 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) was talking about Six Sigma. “Jack” got it wrong, but it was it was highly entertaining.

I had not heard of using Six Sigma in a healthcare setting (at the time, Six Sigma was not widely utilized in the healthcare world yet, it was used primarily in business and manufacturing), so I Googled it. From that initial Google search, I found both Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. While Six Sigma itself can be beneficial, I saw the added value of combining it with Lean and how it could transform the processes and culture to help healthcare providers better serve patients and each other.

This methodology was a beautiful complement to healthcare’s continuing quality improvement efforts. Lean Six Sigma combined the concepts of flow and removing waste from Lean with a goal to reduce variation from Six Sigma. Both looked at process and emphasized changing the culture. One of my favorite things about Lean Six Sigma is the idea that you should empower the frontline employees to make changes in their own areas and to own continuous improvement, rather than letting a “man behind the curtain” design solutions that don’t fit.

My ah-ha moment came when I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Rishi Manchada, MD, MPH deliver a talk on the Upstreamist approach. For those who don’t know what Upstreamist is, you can learn about it here. His speech focused on using this approach in the realm of public health, but the points he made spoke to every aspect of the healthcare system. During this speech, he delivered the perfect story to sum up this approach. Three friends came upon a river where several people were drowning. Each used a different method to save them. The story hit me on a visceral level, circling in my brain and staying with me long after the presentation.

As I digested his words, I knew somewhere deep inside me that my path to making a difference was not in the downstream. This—I thought—this is what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to go upstream to help those further downstream, not by being a hero, but by working to improve the system as a whole systematically. Thus, I made the transition from practitioner to performance improvement and healthcare quality. I wanted to do more than fix the processes, I wanted to help others learn to see and empower them with the tools to do it themselves. I became a teacher, coach, mentor, and consultant.

When I thought about my favorite parts of the work I’d done in the past, the answer became overwhelmingly apparent. I love teaching. I love watching the moment when concepts click, and people can see how to apply it to their own life.

While I may not care for patients anymore, I still keep my footing firmly planted in my first love—healthcare. My new calling is as teacher and change agent. And through my teaching, I have found that my work transcends industries. Many of my students come from a variety of backgrounds, and in my consulting life, I have been able to help people in both public and private sector across a range of industries. My Lean Six Sigma certification gave me transferable skills; my experience opened doors.

Now, my focus is on empowering the innovators and frontline heroes by providing them the help they need to help others further down the stream.

About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The Enterprise Architect

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Enterprise Architecture, Government, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success.

Today, we bring you the journey of one of our Consultants, Steven Duart. Steven works with one of KAI Partners’ public sector clients as an Integration Enterprise Architect. He helps implement the structure, guardrails, and guidelines for the future product development teams to modernize a large-scale statewide information system.

KAI Partners, Inc.: How did you get into Enterprise Architecture consulting work?

Steven Duart: I was recently told that I have a thought process of an Architect. Reflecting on that comment, I believe that mindset was developed through both education and experiences. I went with a traditional education route and received a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, a second Bachelor’s degree in technical studies, and a Master’s in computer information systems. The experiences of having to design a technical architecture for client that did not understand their business and working for a State agency that did not know what their true mandate is have matured my mindset which is naturally analytical and good at synthesis, abstraction, visualization, imagination, and practicality. I believe that I have always been an architect, but the realization did not happen until I was surrounded by like-minded individuals in the work I currently do.

KAIP: Are there any certifications or trainings you’ve gone through that have helped in your career?

SD: It was not until around the past five years that I started to obtain certifications. In the past two years I have received two certifications, Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) and TOGAF® 9 Certification (The Open Group Architecture Framework). I believe those two certifications have helped me establish myself at and allowed me to take on additional roles. The TOGAF® 9 Certification has given me the knowledge of their framework and how to tailor their framework to develop an architecture for clients.  It has been a benefit for State clients because the TOGAF® 9 Certification is internationally recognized. In addition to my CSM and TOGAF, I also hold a certification in Functional Programming Principles in Scala and am a Certified Paralegal.

Here are a few certifications I am evaluating to help me provide better service to clients:

  • AWS Solution Architect
  • Certified Business Architect
  • Certified Product Owner

KAIP: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

SD: My favorite part of Enterprise Architecture is that it is a unique line of work which juggles past, present, and future. We must focus on the future, while living in the now and being completely aware of the past. This drives my thinking, impact, and presence. It allows for me to put the customer at the center of an approach (i.e., Agile) and design technology around the customer’s unique needs. This enables innovation of a product service experience through iterative, incremental activations which delivers continuous enterprise transformation at speed and scale.

KAIP: What is one of the most common question you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

SD: The most common question I get is, “Why do I need a ‘Framework’ for IT Architecture?” The advice I give is that using an architectural framework will speed up and simplify the architecture development. This will ensure more complete coverage of the designed solution and make certain that the architecture selected allows for future scalability in response to the needs of the business.

Quick Q&A with Steven:

Daily, must-visit website:

Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to:

  • Music
  • Hawaiian R&B
  • Reggae
  • Rap
  • Indie
  • Podcast
  • Security Now
  • tv
  • Hollywood Babble On (This is a fun podcast, but may not be for everyone)

Best professional advice received:

  • The best career advice I received was to be persistent and resilient and to not let detours or failures derail my career. Successful men and women frequently have failures and detours in their careers, but do not let those bumps dissuade them. In fact, for successful people, failures are a part of success and detours are seen as opportunities to push your career further ahead.

Book you can read over and over again:

  • Beyond the Band of Brothers
  • The Biggest Brother

Most-recent binge-watched show:

  • Silicon Valley
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Archer

About Steven: Steven Duart is an Enterprise Architect who works with one of KAI Partners’ public-sector clients. Steven has recently partnered with KAI Partners to launch an Enterprise Architecture practice to deliver business driven experiences at the intersection of strategy, design, behaviors, and products.   Steven is a certified in TOGAF and has a Master’s degree in computer information systems from St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. Steven is a die hard Notre Dame football fan, he enjoys playing recreational sports, and could go to the movies daily.

KAIP Academy Lunch & Learn Event at The WorkShop – Sacramento

Business Analysis, Corporate Training, Event Recap, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, The WorkShop, Training

The KAIP Academy recently had the pleasure of hosting Steve Morris, PMP, as he introduced his Morris Business Integration Framework via a Lunch & Learn event at The WorkShop – Sacramento.

Developed over the course of 40 years, Mr. Morris presented the labors of his research and extensive background to a select group of participants during KAIP Academy’s first Lunch & Learn.

The KAIP Academy is excited to host Mr. Morris’s future courses on Business Integration. We’re also looking forward to hosting Lunch & Learn sessions on a variety of topics coming soon!

If you need a location for your training session or meeting, The WorkShop – Sacramento can provide the space for you! Our small conference room holds eight people and our large holds up to 20. Email workshop@kaipartners.com or call 916-465-8065 to schedule your next event!

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: Dos and Don’ts of Visual Management Boards

Best Practices, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, Infographic, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Project Management, Sacramento, Team Building, Training, Workforce Development

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBP, CSM

A version of this blog post first appeared on the Lean Transformation Group’s blog and was repurposed and posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.

In many organizations seeking to deploy Lean, one of the first things they rush to do is deploy visual management boards. Visual management boards are often found in Lean environments, and many Lean consultants extol their virtue, leading to organizations adopting them without enough information on the best practices with the board. They post a white board and fill it with metrics and graphs, performance data and improvement plans, but often fail to deploy them effectively. Soon enough these boards, chalk full of information, become nothing more than background noise on a wall with no real value to the organization. And this becomes a cycle.  As organization leaders come to the realization that it has little value as the boards are, they revamp them without a solid understanding of why they were ineffective in the first place.

So, what constitutes an effective use of visual management boards? Here is a quick overview of the dos and don’ts of visual management boards!

KAI Partners, via the KAIP Academy, is excited to starting bringing Lean Six Sigma training and certification to the Sacramento area soon! Follow @KAIP_Academy on Twitter to stay informed as we announce the dates of these Lean courses!

About the Author: Ashley Christman is a former nurse and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a background in organizational change management and Lean. Her extensive experience in healthcare quality and performance improvement has transformed a number of organizations and led to better outcomes in patient care, reductions in wait times, and more. Her experience includes consulting for the CA Department of Public Health as well as multiple large hospital systems, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Hospital. Her passion for improvement and educating others led her to begin teaching in order to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders create a sustainable culture change by empowering them to be change agents and champions of innovation. You can find her online at @learnlivelean on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

The Benefits of the Certified ScrumMaster® Training Course

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Event Recap, KAIP Academy, Learning, Sacramento, Scrum, Team Building, The WorkShop, Training, Workforce Development

By Daniel Fast, CSM

I recently had the honor and privilege of attending the Certified ScrumMaster® training at the KAIP Academy. This short, yet informative two-day class allowed me to expand my creative and mindful solution-finding skills.

The class was very different than any of my previous training events. It went beyond traditional lectures and book learning and instead focused on lively, interactive, and passionate Scrum meetings.

I recently joined KAI Partners and at the time did not know some of our staff who participated in the class. I got to meet some of our great staff using the techniques and methods from our Certified Scrum Trainer, Bernie Maloney.

Mr. Maloney demonstrated that the scrum methodology is expressive and personal. This was made clear as I got to know each participant beyond their “work” role. Learning about each person—not as a resource, but as a human who has skills beyond their title—was quickly evident in our discussions.

Naturally, it is easier to talk and participate when everyone has a voice. Knowing each person beyond their work role made one of our training exercises more approachable.

The exercise involved building a city using only LEGOs and our imagination. We started with a collaborative discussion about the initial design phase. What looked like chaos in some ways was a well-organized effort of distributed tasks. This course taught us how to capture our energy and direct it into tangible results. This mindset became second nature when we approached our list of tasks.

One of the great practices and changes in philosophy in the Certified ScrumMaster® training is the “pull vs. push.” Imagine a to-do list of a dozen different tasks, each requiring a different level of effort and time to complete them. The “push” method would have an authority drop tasks into each person’s lap—not very exciting or new. The “pull” method differs as each team member pulls a task, based on their own passion and ability to accomplish the task. The team accomplishes the full vision using their individual creative contributions.

The Certified ScrumMaster® training allows managers and teams to operate as a diverse and creative collaborative/collective—and it’s fun! As a newly appointed Certified ScrumMaster®, I look forward to continuing to add to the KAI Partners family the skills to help our clients and the community achieve success.

 About the Author: Daniel Fast is an Associate Consultant for KAI Partners. He has worked as an IT Consultant for over 18 years. Mr. Fast has managed clients in health care, SaaS companies, lobbying, and law firms. Mr. Fast has also provided direction to non-profits as board member and president. He is comfortable wearing many hats over the year as project manager, software developer, staff developer, and world champion stick fighter.

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