Expert Excerpts: Kara Cuzzetto on Lean Six Sigma in Government

Expert Excerpts: Kara Cuzzetto on Lean Six Sigma in Government -

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 Kara Cuzzetto, who shares key insights to being successful with Lean Six Sigma in Government.

Kara Cuzzetto is a Continuous Improvement Manager for King County’s Finance & Business Operations Division (FBOD). She helps employees within this agency learn and apply Lean concepts to their work including mentoring executives to become Lean leaders, developing employees to become Lean experts, and supporting the Director and Deputy Director in their Lean management deployment.

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

My advice is to focus on the people. Oftentimes in government you are working with people who have been doing the same processes for a long time because “that is the way it has always been done.” You have to make it safe for people to bring up problems since this is not the norm in government. People need to feel valued and involved in making improvements in order to commit, feel engaged and excited around change.

Creating safety around making problems visible and then solving them is the key. You also need to help them see waste in a different way. It is hard to hear someone say your process is full of waste, but if you approach it in a respectful manner, you can help build people’s problem-solving muscles.

What are some common mistakes you see people making when applying Lean Six Sigma in Government?

A common mistake leaders make when applying Lean Six Sigma in government is managing from their offices. It is important for leaders, at any level, to get out of their offices and go see what is happening on the shop floor. People will tell you what they think you want to hear, but when you go see it, with humble inquiry, you gain profound knowledge about the people, the environment, and the process itself. Leaders must ask questions in a way that invites people to share the pain points and ideas for removing the waste.

Do you have any pet peeves related to applying Lean Six Sigma in Government?

One pet peeve I have is optionality. Optionality means people perceive they can choose whether or not to engage in process improvement. It’s important to spread the message that people must be “all in.” If not, you create an environment where people become resentful because they feel they are doing more than others, or worse, people might sabotage the changes because they don’t feel part of them. There is no halfway in transformation.

Is there anyone that has significantly influenced you over the years?

My biggest influence over the years was a leader at Virginia Mason Medical Center where I learned about Lean. He had a way of inspiring people at all levels of the organization to embrace the vision of putting our customers first. It created a culture where people wanted to do better for our patients, not just for results. A claim form was no longer a piece of paper—it was a person.

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

I do what I do because I get a lot of joy out of seeing people empowered to make changes to their own processes which allows for better teamwork. It’s great to see people start enjoying coming to work. It’s great to see people working on their processes, instead of in them. I like to see people become part of the solution instead of complaining about problems.

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

The most exciting thing I am currently involved in is a coaching training program that the county is beta-testing with a select few leaders. The program is based on the International Coaching Federation Certification Program. We are learning how to coach people for long-term goals (professionally and personally) by asking open-ended questions and helping them to form their own solutions.

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

My favorite application in my personal life is 5S. I love anything that enables me and my husband to throw stuff away that we no longer need. He takes a little more convincing than I do but enjoys the results.

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


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