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Category Archives: Lean Six Sigma

It’s Not Easy Being Lean: How to Break Down Silos and Promote Collaboration

Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Employee Engagement, KAIP Academy, Kotter, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, Training

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBP, CSM

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.

Want to kill innovation, productivity, and healthy internal collaboration/competition? Continue to promote a culture of silos. Silos in the workplace involve the idea that departments, units, and sections stay within themselves and rarely if ever work collaboratively with other departments or groups. This silo mentality is the result of a culture that is full of high individual performers but fails to place value on choreographing activities. Unfortunately, this attitude is quite widespread in both organizations large and small, public or private, and in some places is seen as inevitable or just a way of life.

It is interesting because often, this is one of the top complaints that employees and leaders share. They often say, “We don’t communicate well across functions,” and leaders of projects that require the intersection of multiple functions face complex challenges with communication and alignment of goals, roles, and responsibilities. Without proper coordination, projects will suffer from a lack of resources and compete with individual performance targets. Additionally, there may be more waste associated with the project as the result of possible reworks and duplication. Without the collaboration of different areas, oftentimes improvement efforts are impeded because there is no one to ask “why?”

So, how do we make the shift to break down silos and promote collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas?

The first thing to realize is this a culture change. You are asking people to change the system and become innovators and revolutionaries—okay, maybe not that extreme, but you are asking them to “Think Different”.  Moreover, for some, this can be challenging. A great book that addresses change management in these circumstances is Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under any Circumstances, by John Kotter. It’s a great and easy read, but for those who don’t have the time, here are some ideas on how to shift from silos into high performing systems:

  1. Publicly acknowledge shared goals. Create a unified vision. In one of my previous incarnations as a consultant, I worked with a client organization that had a very rigid silo system. However, when tasked with making departmental improvements, the units were forced to start talking to each other. What worked in this instance was acknowledging that they had these improvements to make so they could serve the customer. In doing that, they started forcing the teams to work cross-functionally, as well as up and down the chain of command. Cross-unit teams began to form, and as they realized what effect this had, the units began to seek other opportunities to collaborate with peers. But, this would have never even began until the shared goals were publicly announced and the shared victories were celebrated.
  2. Embrace the “why”. Ever met someone who seemed to ask “why” every time they were asked to do something? This trait can be empowering to employees and foster innovation through the sharing of ideas. People need information to do things. Never disregard the power of “why.” Likewise, questions spur creativity and imagination. Imagination leads to innovation. Often we have to reach across the aisle to make this happen.
  3. Culture comes from the top. It is not enough to encourage staff to be “silo busters.” Change has to start at the top. In this case, servant leadership and leading by example is the best way to model the change you want others to immolate.

By shifting silos into systems, and placing more value on collaboration, organizations can overcome the barriers that lack of communication can create. This effort is driven from the top, and there must be a firm commitment by management to change the culture by committing to getting not just results but making steady progress. When changing the culture, remember the phrase, “Go slow to go fast.” Real change is a slow process, no matter how much we wish it were to the contrary. Over time, the organization will see an improvement in trust given, waste eliminated, and a more productive environment. The key is to focus on opportunity, not to dwell on putting fires out. Look for chances to engage people and watch them blossom.

Interested in learning more about Lean principles or getting a Lean certification? KAI Partners’ KAIP Academy is accredited through the Council for Six Sigma Certification as an independent training provider. We are excited to offer Lean Six Sigma training and certification in the Sacramento area! For a list of our current Lean course offerings, visit http://academy.kaipartners.com/course/lean-six-sigma-green-belt-certification/.

 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.

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.

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.