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Expert Excerpts: Ayesha Basheer on How to Successfully Launch a Lean Six Sigma Effort - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Whether you’re just starting your Lean Six Sigma journey, or you’re in the middle of improving a process, guidance from Experts can help make your efforts easier – and more successful! In this Expert Excerpt, we interview Expert Ayesha Basheer, who shares key insights to being successful when getting started with Lean Six Sigma.

Ayesha Basheer leads the Business Process Improvement Program at AMN Healthcare. She is focused on the design and delivery of strategic business process improvements initiatives, developing Lean Six Sigma programs addressing cross functional process solutions in enabling AMN’s continued success. Before working in the healthcare field, Ayesha helped drive a 73% increase in customer satisfaction and 28% business growth as the Director of Customer Experience Management for Home Depot Supply.

What advice do you have for someone who is getting started with Lean Six Sigma?

Keep an open mind, learn the content and connect with your surroundings. You will find that it is mostly common sense and objectivity. Next time you are shopping, dining or out for a concert, you will be surprised – the concepts that you have learned have a potential for wide application in our daily lives. Once you learn these basics, you will see how easy it is for you to a make a positive difference in your environment.

For a seasoned practitioner, if you want to start a Lean Six Sigma program at an enterprise, understand the purpose of using Lean Six Sigma and align that with core priorities of the organization. Securing the sponsorship from the top is always important, but compliment it by building a network of support with business partners. You can do this by building trust, and the trust comes by solving their sticky problems and helping them be successful.

What are some common mistakes you see people making when bringing Lean Six Sigma into an organization for the first time?

Taking on too much without trained users and support framework. This creates an environment of over promise, unmet expectations and dwindling faith in the program.

Most organizations bring in Lean Six Sigma as a solution for all their problems with an expectation of instant improvements. Initially, it creates a lot of interest and excitement. But when the hard work needs to be done in a methodical way, the supports starts to go away. Resources that are assigned for developing the skills to bring the change lose focus due to competing priorities and, as a result, the initiatives remain incomplete.

Hence it is pivotal to understand the sponsorship level, maturity scale of the organization, and extent of competing priorities and then develop a Lean Six Sigma program to answer specific needs. It’s okay to start with a calculated approach, defining the scope of improvement initiatives, being transparent about the progress and explaining the measure of success that helps in creating a sustainable and successful program.

Do you have any pet peeves related to bringing Lean Six Sigma into an organization?

Continuous education of the sponsor role and reminder of the responsibilities. In my experience, some sponsors of these programs have limited understanding of the nature and benefits of these types of programs. They have the best intent, however when faced with competing priorities, the value of the program has to be explained and justified.

Another one: Lean Six Sigma program status cannot be the same. It has to adapt and evolve based on the organizational needs. The measure of effectiveness should be based on the set goal for a period of time.

Who or what has significantly influenced you over the years?

The synergy of teamwork! The motivational factor in seeing the evolution of the teams – forming, storming, norming and performing presents its own challenges and charm.

It is inspiring and very satisfying to see team members learning and applying concepts and tools in developing solutions. As their mode of operation starts to change, new vocabulary (Lean Six Sigma terms) starts to become a norm. Discussions start to be centered on customer experience. Objectivity and cross functional collaboration extends in quantifying and describing the problem statement. Defect, waste and non-value are no longer just buzz words. That is when you start to feel the early changes of transformation taking hold.

To sum it up, it is simply seeing people be successful in their mission of driving improvements. This motivation takes me from one industry to another and knowing all well that each organization comes with its own set of challenges.

Why do you do what you do? (What motivates you?)

Problem-solving, learning, and developing teams! The improvement methodology of Lean Six Sigma or any other process improvement is relatively same. Customizing the application of this methodology in an organization is both a science and an art. As the program becomes a dynamic entity, there are challenges and surprises along the way. The definition of success will change from one organization to another. The methodology itself is science, tools and methods are standard, its application to match the organizational level of maturity becomes the art.

The very “variation” we want to reduce in the processes to make them standardize works differently for a practitioner’s personal experience. This variation in the work experience motivates them to take the next leap. The learning and solid results due to change motivates me to keep going.

What’s something exciting that you’re currently working on?

Most of the organizations that are already on a digital transformation path have defined processes and are significantly ahead in the automation. In these environments, Lean Six Sigma is prime for driving continuous improvement. In organizations that are early in their journey, Lean Six Sigma skills and programs can be used in multiple fronts such as cross functional process improvements, redesign of end-to-end processes and also developing the criteria to identify the processes that are prime for robotic process automation. At present, I am looking at streamlining the cross functional process for a business transformation initiative and also developing the criteria to identify processes that are prime for robotic process automation.

What’s your favorite application of Lean Six Sigma in your personal life (away from work)?

A commonly used one is 5S in organizing and maintaining my closet, pantry and refrigerator. Based on the season and relevance of the product, either clothes, food or other items, I make sure it has a sequential position in the designated area. To sustain this, I have trained my family on do’s and don’ts for the daily practice (It is easier if you start this with kids when they are young). Now, it is a natural habit to be organized, whether it be tasks or priorities. On a quarterly basis, I ask one of my sons to help in taking inventory of the items to assess their relevance and clean up. As a result of this exercise, we end up making donations not once a year but quarterly.

I am very proud of my older son and his adoption rate of practicing lean principles has been 100%. One of responsibilities includes helping us with weekly grocery shopping. He has a weekly reminder on his phone in preparation for his weekly trip. He takes the inventory of items in the fridge, freezer and storage. He makes or edits the list of items needed and also asks each family member if they need anything special for the week. Upon completing his errand, he organizes the items in their respective place, watches the budget and recycles or removes unneeded items. As result, we don’t run out of items mid-week. He does not indulge in impulsive buying. He is our control in cutting back on excess. He helps us reduce the waste, cuts motion and make us efficient in accessing the needed food items. I’m very thankful for his help!

Have a question for Ayesha? Please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Ayesha Basheer

Ayesha Basheer leads the Business Process Improvement Program at AMN Healthcare. She is focused on the design and delivery of strategic business process improvements initiatives, developing Lean Six Sigma Program addressing cross functional process solutions in enabling AMN’s continued success. Before working in the healthcare field, Ayesha helped drive a 73% increase in customer satisfaction and 28% business growth as the Director of Customer Experience Management for Home Depot Supply.