Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Lean Six Sigma

Why Process Improvement Is a Never-Ending Job…Thank Goodness

Best Practices, Continuous Improvement, Innovation, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Sacramento

By Stephen Alfano, PMP, CSM

Ice cream melting. Kids whining. Anger mounting. It’s a Saturday morning in the middle of summer. The lines at the local grocery store registers are six people deep. Patrons have been moving at a glacial pace for the last 10 minutes. Many are complaining to one another. Several have begun to shout out for the store manager. The store manager is not on duty. The shift manager is—so, the bottleneck is her problem. She needs to find another way to move these customers through the queue as quickly as possible or risk seeing dozens of negative (business-killing!) reviews posted on social media. Her job is at stake. If she’s unsuccessful, then the ice cream won’t be the only thing having a meltdown.

Of course, if the shift manager has been trained or has prior experience with this type of process problem, she will undoubtedly follow the store playbook or her gut and get the shoppers on their way in no time. But, what if the store didn’t have a playbook on how to handle this kind of situation? Or what if this was the shift manager’s first day on the job?

This check-out crisis at the corner store might seem a little cliché at first. However, it is a perfect example of a real-world (real-time) business process improvement opportunity, for example…

  • An opportunity where an individual or an organization can take a bad scenario—or “use case”—and turn it into a teaching moment that will drive value for customers;
  • An opportunity that highlights how critical addressing process flow problems are to the success of any business; and
  • Perhaps most important, an opportunity that demonstrates the need for making a plan, doing what the plan prescribes, studying the results or reaction to what was done, and actively identifying and pursuing any changes to the plan to improve the process on a continuous basis.

I like to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. Known as the Deming Wheel or Deming Cycle—named for Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, author, and management consultant—the PDSA is an organized approach to continual learning and improving products, processes, or services.

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing” ― Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Here’s how the PDSA cycle is applied:

The Plan step starts the cycle:

  1. Establish a goal or outcome.
  2. Formulate a theory or an approach to achieving the desired results.
  3. Define success criteria, including actual activities and products necessary to execute the plan itself.

Then, in the Do step:

  1. The plan is implemented.
  2. Processes are executed.
  3. Products are generated.
  4. Services are delivered.

Next comes the Study step. The results—the outcomes—of the processes, products, and services are monitored and evaluated on their effectiveness and efficiency towards meeting the customers’ expectations and needs. The entire plan is examined: Progress and success are measured as much as problems—and areas for improvement are prioritized.

The Act step brings the cycle back to the planning or drawing table. Here, data and learning gained throughout the process are used to help make informed decisions—or at the very least, adjustments in goals, approaches, and value metrics.

If executed with discipline and intentions to drive continuous improvement, the PDSA cycle can be repeated over and over to the delight of customers and managers alike in any season or business scenario.

For more insight on process improvement, check out these links:

Whether it’s at the ice cream counter or on technical project, this model for process improvement can apply! Do you have questions or comments about Process Improvement or your preferred best practices? Comment below!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience leading and managing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant—PMP®, CSM® with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.

StateScoop’s California Innovation Summit Event Recap

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Professional Development, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Training, Workforce Development

Photo Credit: StateScoop

By Lucie-Anne Radimsky, CSPO

The ballroom at the Kimpton Sawyer hotel was lit in neon pinks and purples; stylish tulip chairs graced the stage and large screens sprouted up from each side of the stage. This was not your typical public sector event—you could feel a sense of energy and possibility usually reserved for private sector sales events.

The event was StateScoop’s California Innovation Summit, which brought together agency CIOs, technology vendors, consultants, and public sector employees who filled the room to capacity (exemplified by the crowd of latecomers who lined the back of the room two rows deep).

We can safely assume that this event benefited greatly from the new Governor’s recent pronouncements and Executive Order, which clearly sent a signal as to his priorities for a more innovative and dynamic public sector.

Speakers included a formidable group of CIOs—some who are innovating locally, such as Ann Dunkin of the City of Santa Clara, and some who come from agencies where innovation and technology are critical to provide lifesaving services, such as Carla Simmons from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

I’ve attempted to summarize the highlights and calls to action that I took away from the event, including:

  • The public sector needs to focus on solutions that are citizen-first.
  • Trending technologies in the government sector include players like Smart Communities, AI, Digital ID, Blockchain, NIST/IO, and Gartner’s Digital Government Framework.
  • Hybrid IT is the new normal.
  • Collaboration is paramount, i.e., sharing information and resources like templates and best practices.
  • Exploring the potential of Sacramento as a Public Sector IT Hub.
  • Technology procurement demands improvement to keep up with technology advancements and collective bargaining opportunities.
  • Workforce gaps are real due to the speed of technology innovation.
  • A cultural shift is needed to support innovation.

From KAI Partners’ perspective, this is an incredible opportunity to address the multitude of challenges facing the public sector and help ensure a seamless, secure, and efficient delivery system where citizens are considered from the onset in developing strategic plans and programs.

KAI Partners has the privilege of working with complex systems and diverse projects across the public sector, where we can apply best practices and technology solutions through our network of partners and subject matter experts.

We also work hard to address the technical skill gaps in the region through our KAIP Academy. Our training courses include Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, and Agile/Scrum—these courses empower everyone from beginners to those more advanced in their careers to build their professional skills and respond to the needs of the market.

Amy Tong, CIO of the State of California, closed the event by reiterating the importance of a culture of innovation and encouraged attendees to be bold in developing new and creative ways to address problems, even if there is a risk of making mistakes or failures.

It’s clear the new normal that is beginning to envelop the public sector is a step in the right direction. KAI Partners is excited to continue to do our part to encourage and support public sector leaders to ring in this innovative chapter of government.

About the Author: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe, on behalf of start-ups and non-profits. She has signed and represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, journalists, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne has both American and E.U. citizenship. She is fluent in English and French. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She currently resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The OCM Consultant

Business Analysis, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Communications, Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Government, Healthcare, Human Resources, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Process Improvement, Professional Development, Prosci, Sacramento, Six Sigma, 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 Denise Larcade, an Organizational Change Management (OCM) Consultant for KAI Partners. Denise recently supported Business Process Re-engineering implementation for a KAI Partners client before moving on to implement some special projects at KAI Partners headquarters. Denise’s next client-facing role starts soon—she will be an OCM consultant for a California public sector state agency to help them move from a paper system to an electronic process.

KAI Partners, Inc.: How did you get into your line of work?

Denise Larcade: I started in grocery retail working in the stores—I found areas where I excelled and was able to implement Human Resource, Technology, and Operations practices. The grocery industry, much like banking and airlines, fell into mergers and acquisitions. I was placed on various mergers and acquisitions teams and due to my experience, eventually led activities to support retail mergers and acquisitions. My last merger came with a relocation from Idaho to Minnesota which didn’t work for my family at that time, so I chose to go back to school and get my bachelor’s degree. Not enough to fill my time and still residing in Idaho, I looked for local opportunities where my skills would transfer outside of the retail industry. I was hired on as a contractor to a local tech firm headquartered in Boise, Idaho to work on HR restructuring. While creating a plan to support HR restructuring, I saw an opportunity to move from paper-based manual processes to electronic stream-lined process improvements. My next venture, also outside of my roots in retail, was to lead training and development efforts to support the implementation of Idaho state’s new MMIS (Medicaid Management Information System). Two years in, I received the phone call from a former Idaho colleague at MMIS to support training and development on California’s MMIS. This was the opportunity to move back home to California, and I was excited to spend more time with my 96-year-old grandmother. I moved back to California and was fortunate to have three quality years with the matriarch of our family.

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

DL: I received training and certification as part of leadership development when I worked in grocery retail. This training was instrumental in understanding the people side of change long before Prosci was identified as a Change Methodology. My experience in mergers and acquisitions prepared me for being a leader for change. Later, getting my Prosci certification was a desire as the methodology aligned to activities I valued in my merger and acquisitions experience.

I have been twice certified as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. The first time was more than 20 years ago and my recent certification occurred earlier in 2018. It was nice to compare what is still a valued practice in Lean Six Sigma methodologies and how technology advancements provide a more streamlined approach to process improvement.

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

DL: Teaching others and assisting resistors through change. No one likes change and what I find most interesting is that we adapt and make changes in our personal lives every day, so why are we not as willing to make changes in our work lives? I like leading a group through the awareness of making a personal change and how and why adopting that same mindset is valuable to you, to others, and to your employer in your work life.

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

DL: “Why do we have to change? We have been doing it this way forever. Doesn’t ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ apply?” My advice is to walk people through their personal life changes, e.g., The oven still works and isn’t broken, so why would you invest in a microwave? What are the benefits of a microwave versus an oven? Do those benefits support the investment? There are so many examples that support change. If we don’t change as a business, how can we be current and competitive?

Now that we’ve learned more about Denise’s OCM work, here’s a little more about her!

Quick Q&A with Denise:

Daily, must-visit website: I don’t have one, but I subscribe to many technology and change newsletters.  Sometimes you need something that pertains to your current focus of work.

Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: Top Pop and Top Country—I like to be relatable to the generations following mine. The music is usually uplifting and gives me lots of positive energy.

Best professional advice received: My grandfather was a great businessman; he developed his own corporation and was successful as a professional business leader, CEO, and mentor. He always said, “Your word is your commitment and treat others how you would like to be treated.”

Book you can read over and over again: Jack Welch’s book “Winning.” I could read it over and over again and it always pertains to my work at hand.

Most-recent binge-watched show: I don’t watch much TV and tend to turn it on for background noise; however, I am a fan of Survivor and the Amazing Race. I love to watch people problem-solve and I like to be on teams where people problem-solve.

About Denise: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is Prosci certified. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

3 Tips to Implement a Successful Process Improvement Program

Continuous Improvement, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Project Management, Sacramento, Six Sigma

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM, CSPO

I recently read an article in which the author called Lean Six Sigma a ‘management fad.’ There were three core aspects that the author highlighted, in discussing his experiences, that struck my attention:

1. Lack of buy-in

2. Lack of adequate training for staff

3. No plan for ongoing monitoring of processes

These things are common in ineffective Lean Six Sigma deployments and can leave a bad taste in employees’ mouths. To counter this, a successful Lean Six Sigma or Process Improvement program should include the following:

  1. Buy-in: You need to have buy-in from staff and management, not just the enthusiasm from executive leadership. Staff are the people who execute the process. Middle management is crucial to have on board; in the long run, they are the process owners and ultimately contribute to the long-term success of any Lean Six Sigma or Process Improvement initiative by engaging and educating their staff in process improvement work and long-term management of the improvements.
  2. Training: Oftentimes training is provided, but it’s only enough to get a few higher-level employees through the process. In a successful deployment, all staff are trained to the level appropriate for their work. This empowers all staff to make suggestions and small improvements in their own work.
  3. Planning for Success: Part of creating sustainability in any Process Improvement program is ensuring that there are long-term plans for evaluation of capabilities, determining the need for improvement, and looking for a way to pursue perfection. Too many times once the project is done, people call it fixed and fail to revisit the process later to see what changes are needed or if the improvements that were previously made are still sustainable.

Lean Six Sigma is not a fad. It is a method used by organizations to implement changes and continuously improve. Organizations should take the time to deploy a Process Improvement or Lean Six Sigma program conscientiously and they should consider the changes in culture. In doing so, the process improvement program can provide a great return on investment and long-term success for employees and leadership alike.

KAI Partners offers Process Improvement services. To learn more about our services or to schedule a needs assessment to see how we can help in your Process Improvement journey, please call us 916-465-8065 or fill out this contact form.

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.

Certified Scrum Product Owner Course Promotes Team and Stakeholder Engagement

Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Six Sigma, Training

By Ashley Christman, LSS MBB, SSBBP, CSM, CSPO

Having previously taken the Certified ScrumMaster training with Bernie Maloney at the KAIP Academy, I had an understanding of the various Scrum roles and general knowledge about what they did.

However, I was interested in learning the role of the Product Owner, which is what led me to taking the Certified Scrum Product Owner class.

The two-day class started with an overview of Scrum. While this was a refresher for me, it was new to some of the people in the class, and the instructor enhanced it with personal stories from his experiences of working in and with Scrum teams for companies like HP and TiVo.

One of the things I really wanted to know was how to groom a backlog and split stories. Through a combination of lecture and hands-on opportunity, I was able to understand how to make sure the backlog was groomed and refined for the development team to be able to work on.

Thanks to this class, I was better able to see the full picture of using the Scrum methodology and how the team interacts. It has made me more comfortable serving as a Product Owner in an agile environment and has given me more of an understanding of the delicate balance the Product Owner must maintain to keep the development team moving and the stakeholders happy.

The role of a Product Owner in some ways reminds me of some of the ways a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt may interact with stakeholders and team members on a Six Sigma Project.

Similar to a Black Belt, the Product Owner is responsible to the success of the project and spends a lot of time not only working through the scope of the project, but also communicating with all the other parties involved. Like a Black Belt, the Product Owner may coach the development team and facilitate Scrum events in the same manner a Black Belt would facilitate improvement events.

For me to be able to draw parallels between these skills—in two separate disciplines that seemingly have nothing in common—really helped stimulate understanding of how to better use my new Product Owner toolbox.

Interested in taking your career to the next level by getting Certified Scrum Product Owner certified? View all upcoming KAIP Academy courses here!

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.

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