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Join us at the Just-In-Time Cafe (our monthly podcast) for a cup of coffee with Marc Myers, Program Director for Process Improvement at San Diego State University.

We’ll also share a very useful app to making scanning documents more Lean, a book that will help you “Talk Like Ted,” the latest Lean Six Sigma news as well as answer your questions from our Q&A section at We can’t wait for you to tune in!

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  • 2:15 Appetizer of the Day
    • Scannable by Evernote
  • 4:30 Bulletin Board
    • Lean Six Sigma News
  • 10:00 Tools of the Trade
    • Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo
  • 16:25 Special Request
    • Q&A in Government
  • 19:35 Today’s Special
    • Interview with Marc Meyers, Program Director for Process Improvement at San Diego State University

Tools Referenced

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the Just-In-Time Cafe,’s official podcast, where we help you build your problem solving muscles. We share best practices from over 20 years of success helping organizations from the Fortune 500, to small and medium size business, to government achieve their goals using Lean Six Sigma.


Tracy:  Hey, Elisabeth. How is it going?

Elisabeth:  Hey, Tracy. We are back at the café. I am so psyched.

Tracy:  I know. I’m so hungry. I think we should get into our private room and I’m going to get a menu so we can get something to eat, too. Hey, what’s on the menu today anyway?

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Elisabeth:  Well, let me grab it. Let’s see. Coming up, we’ve got an Appetizer that’s a new app called Scannable by Evernote. We’re going to find out about that. We’ve got—next up on the menu is Bulletin Board. That’s where we find out about some Lean Six Sigma news. I think we’re going into hospitals with Lean Six Sigma and then the City of Louisville—

Tracy:  Nice.

Elisabeth:  –with Lean Six Sigma. Yeah. I’m psyched for that. Next up is Tools of the Trade, and for that one, we are going to look at Talk Like Ted, a book about how people—the rules around creating TED talks or what makes a successful TED talk. And then there’s a Special Request, a little Q&A about government agencies and how to bring Lean Six Sigma in when there’s a lot of heavy regulation. And then there’s Today’s Special.

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  Tracy, who’s on Today’s Special?

Tracy:  Today, we have Marc Meyers from San Diego State University. He’s the director of Process Improvement Programs there. I’m really excited to meet with him today.

Elisabeth:  Oh, that’s great. I’m psyched for that too, Tracy. All right, let’s start the show.

Tracy:  Let’s go.

Appetizer: Scannable by Evernote

Tracy:  So what is the Appetizer for today, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth:  I’m psyched you asked. This is something called Scannable. It’s an app made by the company Evernote. It is free. It’s a free app and it scans anything. And for me, personally, I love it because I just hold it over whatever I’m trying to scan, which for me might be receipts or maybe it’s official docs that I just signed, and then it finds the document and it takes a photograph, uses your camera on your phone, takes the photograph and if you need more pages, you just keep holding it over documents until it’s done. And then you hit Send and it goes to your email as a PDF. So, just unbelievably low probability of making mistakes, fast. It’s in the format you need, and if anything goes wrong, it’s really nice. It took 2 seconds, so it really—

Tracy:  I love this, too. Yes. I used this before too and what it used to be is that I wait until I got home to do all my receipts for travel and now I don’t have to do that anymore because you got it right in your phone. It’s like a built-in scanner right on your phone and it crops everything for you, which is great.

Elisabeth:  Yeah, yeah. The cropping is right in there. And you’re right, I used to have this long bar of a scanner to do everything. So, the other cool thing is I was working with an accounts receivable team. They were trying to reduce the cycle time to payment. This was with autism patients. And one of the rework pieces they found on their map were when clinicians went out to assess children, they didn’t always get the healthcare info which led to multiple phone calls, lots of wait time. So, we gave them all Scannable so when they were with the families, they just quickly scan healthcare info, basically the insurance card, and immediately mailed it in. So, it just ended one of the problems. There were other problems, but that was the big one and Scannable made it easy. So, we don’t have any stock in Scannable. We probably should, but I just recommend it for anybody looking for a quick tool.

Bulletin Board

Tracy:  Okay. So, let’s take a look at our Bulletin Board. What’s our local news in terms of what we’re covering?

Elisabeth:  So this week—well, first, I want to come back and just say the local news report is great. It’s—this is weekly. It’s on—it’s done by our colleague Jurija. It’s what’s happening in the news with Lean Six Sigma. She’s always got at least 3 top stories, and then for this Bulletin Board, recent Bulletin Board, we’ve got basically 2 hot topics. So, Tracy, what’s going on? You said you picked out a hospital, some hospital news.

Tracy:  Yeah. So, the topic I picked or I was reading was called The Buzz Around Lean Six Sigma Hospitals and what I really liked about this article is it just talks about how there’s a lot of activity for Lean Six Sigma in hospitals and other healthcare providers and really emphasizing that when hospitals and healthcare apply things like Lean Six Sigma, they really can be preventing medical errors, decreasing mortality rates, and improving patient care. And I think that is so important. If I think about—some of the errors that I myself have seen in healthcare, it’s really unfortunate. I’m sure there’s lots of people out there that have unfortunately been a victim of medical errors for whatever reason—wrong prescription, wrong surgery.

You know, my mother was in the hospital and just before her brain surgery, we discovered that the name on her wrist band was wrong. It wasn’t even her. Who knows what kind of surgery she would have gotten. And so, they found it before she had the surgery, but that’s pretty scary that, you know, that could happen.

Elisabeth:  Yeah.

Tracy:  And I think the sad part is that, you know—I’m sure you’ve seen this, Elisabeth, too or have experienced this. Some people say “We just don’t have the money for improving our processes.” Well, hospitals have lots of money and they’ve got very smart people, you know, people that have degrees and obviously they’re doctors. But their processes are broken, and so—and people always say, “Well, you have to have, you know, smart people and you have to have a lot of money. Everything is okay.” Actually, no. You know, if you have broken processes, a lot of things can go wrong. So I think it’s really nice to hear that healthcare is doing phenomenal things with Lean and Six Sigma and they are reducing errors. And—

If you have broken processes, a lot of things can go wrong. So I think it’s really nice to hear that healthcare is doing phenomenal things with Lean and Six Sigma and they are reducing errors.

Elisabeth:  And I think another nice aspect of that is I heard someone call it a full contact sport, you know, that you go in there. You only learn by getting your hands dirty. So, having doctors and other care practitioners be fully involved in this improvement is just critical and makes all the difference.

Tracy:  Absolutely. And that could really be—you know, they are talking about results in this article as well that they’ve had some really strong financial returns, saving up to 10 million dollars within 2 years by using Lean Six Sigma in one of their hospitals, a mid-sized hospital, which is amazing. But the thing is is that it doesn’t even have to be just financial savings. It could really be about improving patient care, which I really like them saying that. It does need to be balanced.

Elisabeth:  Yeah. No, absolutely. Focus on the outcomes. I think the same thing is true. The piece that I focused on this week was this idea of using stats to improve city governments. Louisville, same thing, looking at outcomes. How do we keep our citizen safe? How do we keep them healthy? And what they’ve done is they’ve got statistics you can go. I actually looked at their website, you know, anyone can go look at their stats. They’ve got information about how much money was spent on overtime, you know. They’ve got information on injuries and then another topical piece they’ve got, stats on police-citizen interactions, which is very much in the news.

And what a great way to sort of level the playing field or give people a sense of ease because they’re proactively providing data, right? They’re giving this information out to people which I think fantastic. It’s also interesting they’re doing things like, you know, how do we have 365-day-a-year tourism. They called it bourbonism. Maybe we want to go visit Louisville.

Tracy:  Right.

Elisabeth:  But they keep—you know, how many times our potholes fill within 24 hours? How many pets are adopted? How many inmates get GEDs? You know, thinking about making sure inmates get GEDs so they can get jobs, right? So that’s going to lead to safety. So these things I think are just so fascinating.

Tracy:  And you know what I really like about that too is—I have to say, I think government workers get a bad rep. And the fact that you can go in and look at how much data they’re collecting and seeing that they’re capturing measures and seeing that it’s helping them drive performance, I mean that sounds a lot more organized than even private sector organizations. So, I really think that that’s a tribute to—you know, government workers really are working hard and they are trying to make things better. They’re not just necessarily a weight on, you know, taxpayers of America. So that’s a really nice story.

Elisabeth:  No, it’s fabulous and it gives me hope and I want them to come and do that in my city. Well, that was great. So let’s move on. Next up on the menu is Tools of the Trade. 

Tools of the Trade: Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo

Tracy:  Tools of the Trade. So, we discussed or decided that we were going to cover a book called Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo. He was also a bestselling author of the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. So, lots of fans I’m sure with writing about the success secrets of Steve Jobs. So, what are some of the things you liked about the book, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth:  Well, I liked it a ton and I’d say that personally I thought it incredibly useful. You know, you and I are doing a lot of webinars. We obviously are in the middle of a podcast and this is about presentation, so it’s keenly of interest to us but I feel like it has great application to the process improvement world. I think that one thing black belts, green belts, lean, anything, everyone struggles with is getting engagement. And one of the great points this book made was use stories, right? And they had a great line for, you know, stories are data with soul, which I think is so great. That’s such a great way to capture what you are trying to do. You don’t want to just say, “Hey, we got to reduce defects.” No, there’s nothing inspiring about reducing defects. Tie it to a story. Tell me why. Tell me who this is going to impact. Tell me what’s going to happen to me, us, you know, our jobs. So I think stories are huge. What do you think about that?

You don’t want to just say, “Hey, we got to reduce defects.” No, there’s nothing inspiring about reducing defects. Tie it to a story. Tell me why. Tell me who this is going to impact. Tell me what’s going to happen to me, us, you know, our jobs.

Tracy:  I absolutely—I absolutely agree that telling stories really does send—people can remember a story so much more than facts or data. And, I think what’s interesting too is culturally, stories thrive, you know, that’s how tribes communicate. That’s how humanity communicates is stories told over time, time and time and again. And I think what’s funny though too is sometimes we go into organizations and you’ll hear a story that’s maybe—something that happened in the past that wasn’t so great, right? Like, well, 10 years ago, this happened and now our morale is low. And so, I think sometimes those old stories have to be replaced with new stories and we have to really be intentional about creating good stories to sort of create and put less focus on those stories we don’t want everybody telling all the time from the past.

Elisabeth:  No, I think—No, I think you’re so right. I think there’s a rewriting that has to happen and people have to have an active role on that. That’s great.

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  I love it.

Tracy:  So I love the storytelling. I think that it’s really on-point for the book.

Elisabeth:  Another thing they focused on was basically the look of a presentation, you know, how you present and that I think, you know, the opposite of TED talks is what we would call death by PowerPoint. You know, people feeling like there’s a slide, there’s some information I’ve got to get across, so let’s just put all those words on the page. Where actually what they’re asking people to do is multitask. I want you to listen to me and read the slide, right? So, it basically disrupts people’s attention. So, photos are huge and I think for people doing process improvement and you know this, you want people to do before and after, right? If you’re doing the 5S, if you’re doing some kind of a reorg, if you’ve got to look at a nurse’s station, how should this look, you want a before and after so people see, you know, what did we actually do here, how do we improve this. So I think that—I think they are such powerful visuals to have like that.

Tracy:  Absolutely. I absolutely love using pictures and I always try when I present to—and this book, you know, supported that even more. I always try to use more and more pictures and less and less words because I want them to be listening to the message and pictures can speak 1000 words. So I really like that. The other thing I really like about this book is introducing the 18-minute rule, which is if you’re going to do a presentation, don’t make it go any longer than 18 minutes because that’s about how far someone’s attention span is.

Elisabeth:  Yeah. That’s true.

Tracy:  Yeah. And I—you know, when I think about that, what I love about that is if you can’t say what you want to say in 18 minutes, you need to work on it anyway, right?

Elisabeth:  Yeah. No, what was it? Mark Twain said, “Sorry for the long note. If I’d had the time, I’d have written a shorter one,” right?

Tracy:  Yeah.

Elisabeth:  So, you know, it takes work to hone it down to something that’s actually just the meat and I feel like that’s our job. We have to hone it down.

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  That’s a great one. The other thing I liked was avoid buzz words and I feel like that is a trap that everyone can fall in, but I think you and I are—we work really hard not to bombard people with what we call the TLAs, the 3-letter acronyms, and buzz words. They’re just kind of—they’re not interesting. They’re clichés and they kind of deaden the narrative, so I feel like that’s a big thing to watch out for.

Tracy:  Yes. And I think the final thing I want to say about this book is it does talk about inspiring the audience and using multisensory experiences to do that. So, when you’re talking using visualization, which many people do when they tell stories, but using visualization and getting people to really think about their senses in motion and in action and creating a vision. I think very often, we hear people talking about “This is what we’re doing. We’re doing Lean Six Sigma, and this is what Lean Six Sigma is, and here’s all the tools.” And people forget to tell people why—why are we doing this? What are we trying to accomplish?

And so, I think it’s a good message to make sure that we’re getting the vision across of why we’re doing Lean Six Sigma. Where do we want to be, you know? What is it going to get? You know, are we going to get there? And what—you know, how do I see myself along in this journey? And I think people forget to do that often and people are just stuck wondering why are we doing this.

Elisabeth:  And I think the great question for that to tie it up is for the sake of what?

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  I always ask that question. Why are we doing it? For the sake of what?

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  So, Tracy, next up, we’ve got a little Special Request and that one was a question for you.

Special Request

Tracy:  Okay. So the question I got from the website was, “I am working for a large nonprofit agency in Philadelphia serving the elderly. We are highly influenced by and are obligated to follow state and federal regulations that we cannot control, change or even influence. How does one restructure an agency to incorporate the lean portion of Lean Six Sigma while adhering to current rigid regulations, which can at times be counterproductive to elimination of waste?” Wow, that’s a long question.

Elisabeth:  I know.

Tracy:  Well, you know, what’s interesting about this and if I had to sort of summarize it, there’s highly regulated organizations, not just government, but there’s utility. There is other regulation—law, that have a lot of regulations and people feel like they can’t do anything about it and so they are immobilized even by these constraints. But what I have found is the best thing to do is to challenge those constraints. Are we making assumptions that actually don’t exist? Because often what we find is that we can find something we can improve if we analyze it a little bit more. I’ll give you an example.

So, I was working with a county. They were trying to improve their fictitious business name process. They had a 50% reject rate, Elisabeth, which is crazy, which tells me that if you submitted a fictitious business name application, you would have a 50% chance of getting rejected and then you’d have to submit it again and again and God knows how many times you would be rejected before you actually got it approved.

So, it was pretty high. But they would keep—they kept saying, “Well, we can’t change anything on the form because it’s all regulated. It’s all required.” And then finally, an employee actually did challenge the form and said, “Well, what on here can we actually control? Are there certain pieces of this form that we actually can change?” That question hadn’t been asked.

And so, what they ended up doing was they started focusing on the things that they could change on the form. They created a new form and they piloted it and then they finally implemented it. And guess what the reject rate was after that, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth:  What?

Tracy:  It was only 5%. So, the story is don’t limit yourself by focusing on the assumptions of what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do. And I think that’s a great example of a process that has a lot of constraints but they were successful in finding a way to improve it.

The story is don’t limit yourself by focusing on the assumptions of what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do.

Elisabeth:  Great. Nice one, Tracy. Nice example. I loved it. And I think that that is it and next up, we’ve got Today’s Special and that’s your interview with Marc.

Today’s Special: Interview with Marc Myers, Program Director for Process Improvement at San Diego State University

Marc:  Unless you’re an artist, most people don’t care about your process, you know. They care about the final results, right? They want what they want and they want it now.

Tracy:  OK, in Today’s Special, at the Just-In-Time Café is my friend and colleague, Marc Myers from San Diego State University. How are you doing today, Marc?

Marc:  Good, good. Thanks for having me.

Tracy:  Thanks for coming to the Café.

Marc:  Yeah, I’m excited.

Tracy:  Good. So let me tell you a little bit about Marc. He’s the Program Director for Process Improvement at San Diego State University and he’s been doing that for 9 years now. So, Marc, tell us a little more about you.

Marc:  So, yeah, I joined San Diego State University back in 2007, became the Program Director in their Extended Studies Division managing a suite of programs. I manage our project management program, management and leadership workshops, our lean enterprise program, our Lean Six Sigma programs, our contract management. I also do most of our corporate on-sites, so when a company wants to do a program at their facility.

Tracy:  Well, that’s not enough I don’t think. I think you should do more.

Marc:  Yeah, clearly.

Tracy:  So, thanks for coming for an interview with me. You know, I think a lot of people have some questions that we would love to hear you answer, if that’s okay.

Marc:  Sure, sure.

Tracy:  So, first of all, what drew you to the world of process improvement, Marc?

Marc:  So, I actually kind of fell into it. As I mentioned before, I took over the role as the program director at Extended Studies and administrator of many different types of programs. Lean and Six Sigma were new to me prior to that and I felt like, “Okay, I need to learn a bit more about these” because they weren’t quite as intuitive for me as a program director. And so, I would say I kind of caught the bug and I was like, “Okay, I felt really drawn to a lot of this.” And lean in particular was one because it was very simple and in some of which, you know, I felt like it was really intuitive and I felt like some of that I just do without even knowing that that’s what I’m doing.

I felt really drawn to a lot of this. And lean in particular was one because it was very simple and in some of which, you know, I felt like it was really intuitive and I felt like some of that I just do without even knowing that that’s what I’m doing.

Tracy:  Right. Well, good. You know, I know your Lean Enterprise program is very successful at San Diego State. I mean you’ve had a sell-out semesters a lot of them in a row. Is that right?

Marc:  Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s the longest running lean program in San Diego. It’s on its 16th year now and it’s the most popular in San Diego.

Tracy:  Yeah, that’s really exciting. So tell me, what do you think is important for students to learn about Lean Six Sigma?

Marc:  So, for me, you know, Lean and Six Sigma are really imperative I feel like in today’s economy to stay competitive and relevant. Unless you’re an artist, most people don’t care about your process, you know. They care about the final results, right? They want what they want and I would say customers, you know, they’re looking for good quality. They’re looking for fair price. And, you know, they are also—a lot of them are similar to Veruca Salt, the spoiled rich girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They want it now.

Tracy:  Right.

Marc:  So, I feel like in today’s economy, you know, to really—it’s very competitive as you know, and you can only raise your prices so much, right? So you have to find other ways to stay competitive and being operationally efficient is one of the best ways to do that.

You have to find other ways to stay competitive and being operationally efficient is one of the best ways to do that.

Tracy:  Absolutely. I agree. I mean it’s definitely something that I obviously feel that is very important for students to learn, and, they get results which I think is a big credit to the program as well but I think we’re going to get to that soon. So tell us, who or what has had a strong influence on your thought process?

Marc:  That’s a great question. So, I did not come up from manufacturing and so I was not been the VP of operations like a lot of the process improvement folks. But, I’ve gone to know a lot of the thought leaders in process improvement. You know, Mike Osterling and Sammy Obara have probably been the biggest influences on me personally. Similar in approach to, say, like a Thích Nhất Hạnh. You know, they helped me look at the world with a different set of eyes and they do so in such an easy way.

Tracy:  So they don’t—they don’t make you feel bad about the way you look at the world. They just enhanced the way you view the world.

Marc:  Yeah, exactly. They make me kind of, you know, sort of the concept of learning to see. I actually met Sammy Obara at an event in San Diego about 5 years ago and I just—I knew he was doing a talk. I didn’t really know anything about him. I went to go see him and my jaw dropped because I was so amazed at how simple he was able to make these concepts, you know. Certain things that other people had a maybe more challenging time explaining. And for me, it was just like, “Oh, that’s so simple,” you know, and that was—the beauty was in the simplicity of it.

Tracy:  So, Mike and Sammy are both instructors in the Lean Enterprise program here at San Diego State.

Marc:  Yes. Yeah. And Mike was actually one of the founders of the program.

Tracy:  Right. So tell me, what is it about Mike that has inspired you?

Marc:  So, Mike has this approach that is very easy-going and I feel like Mike is the kind of guy that people can relate to and—you know, he’s like the guy next door, you know. He’s like your next-door neighbor and he’s very knowledgeable about this stuff, but he’s super approachable, always willing to help and just an all-around great guy. He’s also a very good racquetball player. I wish he wasn’t as good at racquetball, but—

Tracy:  [Laughing] That’s great. Yes. And I think he’s a biker now too. He’s taken up biking as of late.

Marc:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s a mountain biker, yeah. That’s right.

Tracy:  Yes. Well, I know both Sammy and Mike as well and I definitely appreciate what you’re saying about their approach to these concepts because we’ve seen kind of the opposite as well. We’ve seen some teachers or instructors that make it a little more complicated than it needs to. So, it makes you really appreciate it when somebody can really simplify it.

Marc:  Absolutely because a lot of people, they’d go into this, you know. I know for the Lean Enterprise program, for example, you know, most of the students that are going through that program, they’re getting the email from their boss saying we’d like you to go through this program. And, I think initially there’s a little bit of nervousness, nervous energy around that, “Oh, I’m getting sent back to school.” And, you know, and I think, you know, making it fun, making it easy has improved the overall process and the results.

Tracy:  Yes. Absolutely. Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit about the tools and concepts in process improvement. What do you think are some of the most used tools or useful tools and concepts in the program? Anything that comes to mind?

Marc:  You know, it’s funny, a lot of people talk about, you know, 5S and visual workplace. Those are very, very popular and it’s interesting, I sat in the intro class recently and everybody was doing their introductions and people were talking about, you know, “Oh, yeah, we do lean. We do 5S,” as if that’s all of it. And so, while it’s a very valuable tool, it’s not the whole thing. Value stream mapping, kaizen, PDCA are also really popular because I kind of look at things more from the administrative and service side of things. I’m kind of drawn more to Plan, Do, Check, Act; A3 problem-solving, metrics-based process mapping and Ishikawa diagrams, root-cause analysis, that sort of thing. Those are some of my favorites.

Tracy:  Good. Okay. Thank you. So, well, first, let me ask you this. How do you guys measure success at San Diego State in terms of the programs?

Marc:  We measure success in a lot of different ways because we’re partnering a lot of the times with a company who’s sending a group of people. We measure success through the results of the projects that the students do in the project. We also measure success by a level of student engagement, evaluations we do at the end of every single class and at the end of the program. We also keep up with some folks through LinkedIn and, you know, keep in touch that way and find out about promotions. We’ve known people who’ve gotten promotions because of programs like these and even new jobs.

Tracy:  Definitely. So has there been any group or organization that you feel like, “Wow!” They’ve really made a big difference, either they’ve sell a lot of people or they’ve had some significant results or any of those come to mind?

Marc:  There’s a lot. I mean, you know, Taylor Guitars about 4 or 5 years ago was relatively new to it. They had been reading some books and they decided that they were going to go, you know, do this in and they were all in. I mean they went in really in a big way and sent probably 12 people through the first class and, you know, another 5 after that and then brought in some consultants and really did a big shift. One of the things they did that was really unique is they have a very unique culture and they were able to sort of maintain their kind of—they have a very laid back culture, you know, no suits culture. It’s jeans and T-shirts. Employee engagement and happiness is very important to them. And so they would be one example, you know.

Then there’s really too many dimension. One I would like to talk about, a couple of years ago, TaylorMade Gold sponsored a couple of folks from Feeding America to attend the lean program and they did a Feeding America project. They brought a couple of their own employees to work on that project as well as the Feeding America employees. One of the gals that was at Feeding America on that project got a promotion and is now their VP of Operations and has really like taken off with it and is doing amazing things towards their mission and vision, which is always great to see.

Tracy:  That is really exciting. It’s always nice to hear about those projects that are sort of nonprofit-related.

Marc:  Yeah. That was actually sort of our first introduction in the nonprofit world. We have had a couple trickling in here and there. We have the San Diego Zoo attending the semester. They just started last week and that’s going to be a really fun one and interesting as well to work on that.

Tracy:  Now I also heard that in particular this program that just started that there’s a son from someone who took one of the first classes. Is that true?

Marc:  Yeah, yeah. So there’s a company called Southwest Fabricators and the father of the student that was in the class attended the first or second class that we ever offered 16 years ago, which made a couple of my instructors feel a little old. But, yeah, kind of exciting at the same time, you know, when you’ve got sort of second generation now going through it.

Tracy:  It kind of speaks to—it’s a nice testament to the strength of the program.

Marc:  Yeah, yeah, it is.

Tracy:  Yes. So, Marc, what led you to the world of process improvement?

Marc:  Believe it or not, the culture component. My background is in organization behavior and so I am drawn to the human aspects of business. And, Lean and Six Sigma I think are amazing methodologies for improving both processes and culture, but the tools by themselves I feel are not sustainable without a proper change management components or continuous improvement aspects. And so, sort of the blending of the organization behavior and the Six Sigma and Lean methodologies. I really like the idea of combining sort of the 5 principles of the leadership challenge, for example, with DMAIC or even PDCA on the lean side, you know, the leadership challenge, one of the things they talk about is challenge to the process. That’s kind of the obvious where process improvement fits. But, you know, there are other elements of that sort of enabling others to act encouraging the heart, sharing—you know, having a shared vision and model the way are also really important elements to any process improvement activity.

Lean and Six Sigma I think are amazing methodologies for improving both processes and culture, but the tools by themselves I feel are not sustainable without a proper change management components or continuous improvement aspects.

Tracy:  Yes, absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree that culture piece is really important especially leaders and their role in process improvement which I think you’re alluding to is those leadership practices.

Marc:  Absolutely.

Tracy:  Like that came from the book, The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner and it has been a big bestseller because it does really integrate very well with process improvement because the frontline should not be the only people changing, right?

Marc:  Right.

Tracy:  Leaders need to change too.

Marc:  Absolutely. Sometimes more than the frontline.

Tracy:  Yeah, you’re right. Sometimes more than the frontline. For example, I mean we’ve all run into that situation where we’ve seen a leader be, well, a little controlling or not really supporting process improvement and problem-solving at the staff level and that could really stifle process improvement programs. So I totally agree with you. The culture piece is really important. And, we’ve seen organizations falter if they don’t address that.

Marc:  Absolutely, yeah. And, you know, then it just becomes a 5S program.

Tracy:  Pretty much, yeah. That’s not sustainable.

Marc:  Right.

Tracy:  All right. So what’s next for you in terms of expanding or improving the program at San Diego State?

Marc:  So, you know, we’ve had a great run on the Lean Enterprise program as I mentioned earlier. It’s in its 16th year and it frequently sells out. We also do on-sites or it occasionally. Earlier this year, we partnered with Honsha to do some lean seminars. One of our seminars even included Pascal Dennis who’s best known for his book, Getting The Right Things Done. Very popular thought leader in that process and he came all the way from Canada to do a workshop and that was really exciting, and we hoped to do more workshops to sort of augment our other programs. Also, as you know, Tracy, we’ve began doing a partnership with so that we can offer Lean Six Sigma classes globally and we’re really excited about that partnership as well.

Tracy:  Yeah, we are too. All right, well, that brings us to the end of our interview, Marc. I’m sure we’re really thirsty. We should probably get one more cup of coffee before we leave the café.

Marc:  Absolutely.

Tracy:  Would you agree?

Marc:  I definitely could use another.

Tracy:  Well, good. Me too. So do you have any other final comments, any last minute thoughts you want to share of interest?

Marc:  Yeah, you know, it’s—thanks again for having me. I appreciate. It was really nice to be asked into the café and have some coffee and talk about this stuff. This is something that I’ve been very excited about. You know, we’ve—I’ve been really lucky we’ve had a great team. We’ve also had great instructors and programs. My network has grown exponentially over the past 9 years and I’ve been really lucky to learn from some of the best people in the field of process improvement. I’m super-excited about it.

One of the things as far as what’s next in the future, one of the things I’m really excited about and I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it, but I would like to do it, is see how we can get local and state government to begin applying Lean and Six Sigma to improve their operational efficiencies and become better stewards of our tax dollars.

Tracy:  Right.

Marc:  I know—I know you’re doing some stuff with the State of Washington and a couple of areas within California.

Tracy:  Arizona.

Marc:  Arizona.

Tracy:  Massachusetts, yes.

Marc:  OK. We need to get that in California.

Tracy:  Yes. Yup, I agree. I think there’s lots of opportunity in the public sector and surprise, surprise, there has been a lot of movement. And if you’re interested in hearing about more stories about how government is using Lean Six Sigma and process improvement, you should go to some of our blogs on about government because there’s some really great stories. Well, thank you so much, Marc, for joining me. It was really a pleasure having you in the café and I hope we get a chance to do it again soon.

Marc:  Me too. Thanks for having me.

Tracy:  OK. See you later.

Thanks for Listening!

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 30 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Marriott International, Inc. build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.
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