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In this “Back-to-School” episode, we’ll interview Ashley Gambhir, a leader at UC San Diego who is improving education with Lean Six Sigma.

For an appetizer we’ll serve up an app that “Leans Out” podcasts. Both government and healthcare make headlines in our “In the News” segment. We’ll highlight how the State of Washington made it into a Harvard Report by saving 1 million hours of wait time and how Ellis Medicine, a New York Hospital System, was featured in Quality Magazine for achieving almost $2 million in savings. For this month’s “Printed Page” we’ll review a book that proves stress is actually good for you and for Q&A, we’ll answer a user’s question about whether to put ROI (Return on Investment) into an organizational Scorecard. Grab your book bag and head on down for another thought-provoking visit with us at the Just-in-Time Cafe!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to Just-In-Time Café,’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 O’Rourke: Hey, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Swan: Hello, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: What is going on today? It’s very busy in here. And I think these are all students coming here because school is back in session.

Elisabeth Swan: I remember the days.

Tracy O’Rourke: Maybe we should go to the private dining room now. I will meet you there. I’m going to grab the menu.

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Hi everyone. Welcome to the Just-In-Time Café. I’m Tracy O’Rourke and this is Elisabeth Swan who is joining me. We are your hosts. Elisabeth, what is on the menu today?

Elisabeth Swan: I’m glad you’re asking. I’m going to give you a glimpse of today’s menu. For today’s Appetizer, we’ve got an app that leans out podcasts. I like that concept. Because we’re running one. All right. In the News, we’ve got two great stories, one in government and one in healthcare. On the government side, we’ve got the State of Washington and how they saved a million hours in wait times.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. That’s just the beginning. I can’t wait to tell you about that.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. Now, they’re part of a Harvard studies. We’re going to get back into that. And then the healthcare side, we’re going to cover how a New York hospital system saved over a million dollars so we’ve got this million thing going on. And they both used Lean Six Sigma. Healthcare systems started in a dynamite factory. So we have to get into the bottom of that.

On the Printed Page, we’ll cover a book that proves stress is actually good for you. Great. And then today’s Q&A covers a learner’s question about how scorecards keep score. And Today’s Special is your interview with Ashley Gambhir at UC San Diego.

And if you enjoy the podcast, please give us some review. Let us know, what do you like about it? What do you see that we can improve? We’d love to hear from you.

Tracy O’Rourke: And don’t forget to tell others about this podcast because if you enjoy it, we’re hoping that others will too.

Elisabeth Swan: Sharing is caring. Let’s get to the Appetizer.

Appetizer of the Day: Overcast

Tracy O’Rourke: Tell us about this app that leans out podcasts.

Elisabeth Swan: Today’s app is called Overcast which sounds like a bad day. But this is a free app for iPhones, iPads, and Apple watches. And leaning out podcast means the app treats silences as the waste of waiting like you’re waiting for the next word. So not only streamlines dialogue but it also speeds up the conversation, which was a little concerning when I read the initial description of it but nobody sounds like a just-inhaled-helium or something like that. It’s kind of an imperceptible. But the podcasts are quicker. They take less time.

It also boosts and normalizes the volume. So if you’ve got a quieter people, neither one of us qualifies as a quiet person. But if there’s somebody who is quieter on the podcast, you’re going to get their volume boost but it would not make the loud people louder. So it just makes it easier to hear. It makes voices crisper, more distinct. And you just load your podcast into Overcast and it’s pretty intuitive. We both tried it so I’m interested in your thoughts about it. But I’ve been using it and the voices are definitely crisper. The podcast play faster. You could try it with your next Just-In-Time Café Podcast.

I don’t see Tracy not leaving much room for silence but when there is, it will pull out. And I want to give a shout-out to Barry in Jamestown, Rhode Island for the recommendation on this app.

So Tracy, what do you think about it?

Tracy O’Rourke: I really like it. It was very easy to use. I really like the smart speed feature because over time, if you are a big podcaster, you’re going to save literally hundreds of hours with eliminating pauses that just waste your time anyways as you suggest, Elisabeth.

I also like the idea of voice boost where it will again, come save the quiet and overly loud. I wish my TV had that. I am constantly reducing the volume on my TV because it doesn’t have voice boost. I really wish they would make that as a feature as well or I need to buy a new TV.

It also helps you to listen to more shows, try new things, it gives you smarter playlist. It has a 4 and a half star rating on iTunes, which is great. So I would recommend it to all podcast listeners, our listeners as well. And it’s free.

Elisabeth Swan: You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. I’m Elisabeth Swan. Next stop, it’s In the News.

In the News

Tracy O’Rourke: So Elisabeth, before we get into the news, tell us a little bit about this webinar that we’ve got.

Elisabeth Swan: This month’s webinar is How to Collect Data – How to Successfully Collect Data for Your Lean Six Sigma Project. And this is a real nuts and bolts taking through data collection planning, how to create check sheets, what are the best ways to involve people in your data collection, so, really great introductory good for all levels. Download it. Join us every month for our webinars.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. So Elisabeth, tell me, why did Lean hospital leaders start in a dynamite factory?

Elisabeth Swan: I’m still a little baffled about this one but I know that’s where they got their Lean training. So this story comes from reporter, Leah Pickett. She is with Quality Magazine and she covered an organization teaching healthcare systems in Schenectady, New York called Ellis. And this is the second news item in two months about Lean Six Sigma in Upstate New York hospitals. So something is going on Upstate in New York.

This is a sizeable organization. They have four campuses. They have 3,300 employees, 700 medical staff. They provide inpatient and outpatient care. And Kristine May is the Director there of organizational performance and innovation. And she contracted with the Greater Boston manufacturing partnership which is also known as GBMP to improve care. And the first stop was to send these two Lean leaders to a dynamite factory.

And at first, they were also going, “Wait. What are we doing in Connecticut at dynamite factory?” But that’s where they got their training and they really saw that it applied. And that’s what I love about Lean Six Sigma. That it doesn’t matter what process you deal with. It’s the same method of trying to understand it, see where the waste is and trying to improve it.

… it doesn’t matter what process you deal with. It’s the same method of trying to understand it, see where the waste is and trying to improve it.

So this manufacturing-based Lean Six Sigma firm helped this hospital. And the results were over 1.8 million in savings. They reduced laboratory blood specimen turnaround time. They reduced IV pump shortages. I’ve seen that at a lot of healthcare facilities. They had a positive impact on patients and their co-workers. And there’s now a waiting list for Lean Six Sigma training throughout the hospital system, which is great. And just the report is the sense of pride around this is huge.

And what’s interesting is GBMP is also sponsoring the Lean Northeast Conference this October and their keynote speaker is Paul Akers. And he is our featured interview guest next month. So this was a huge circular story once I start reading. I thought, “Wait a second. These guys are sponsoring Lean Northeast.”

So great story. Still not sure about dynamite but they have dynamite results and that is awesome.

Tracy O’Rourke: Dynamite!

Elisabeth Swan: How about you, Tracy? What’s going on at Results Washington?

Tracy O’Rourke: So, I’m glad you asked. And this is near and dear to my heart because I actually spent a lot of time in Washington, helping some of the agencies up there with Lean and Six Sigma process improvement. But ultimately, I have to say congratulations to all of Washington State especially Results Washington because they are featured in the Harvard Kennedy School article.

And in 2016, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation received funding to launch a project called Operational Excellence in Government. And Washington State is the key area that they are focusing on. The goal of this project was to identify operational efficiencies success across state and local government and to celebrate and publicize those successes via this website.

Now, this site that is listed in the Harvard Kennedy School makes available for the first time 30 existing studies of government efficiency but they really are highlighting Washington State, and I’m very proud of it and I just want to say congratulations to all of them. They are doing really well. I would say they are a trailblazer for all of the states in Washington. Results Washington is the arm that was created in 2013 by Governor Jay Inslee. And they are really focused on driving operation efficiency and process improvement in government.

So they have five top statewide goals and the government leaders have been challenged to track their progress against these goals to apply Lean into improving their processes. So here’s just a couple of example of some of the successes that they’ve had.

Besides saving one million hours in lobby wait times, they have also had one million hours of time saved in Department of Licensing using process improvement and partnering with private driving trainings schools. They’ve had a 15% decrease in speed-related deaths, 20% faster processing of DNA test at crime labs, and reducing that backlog by 10% and cutting stuff over time by 56% because they streamlined the processed. They’ve saved $6.2 million in recovered overpayments from the Department of Labor and Industry, a 28% increase in one year. Ad 2.3 million in savings a year on long distances phone calls.

Wow! That is a lot of taxpayer dollars saved, which is amazing. And guess what? They are also very much promoting what they are doing in Washington. Next month in October, they are having a Lean Washington Conference. I believe it’s their 5th year that they’ve had this conference. They sell out every year, all because it’s free. But 3,000 people come to this conference. And I would encourage you to go if you’re anywhere close to the Tacoma Convention Center in October. I believe it’s 17th and 18th of the next month.

Elisabeth Swan: And if they do come, come see Tracy and me. We’ll be there.

Tracy O’Rourke: My friend, we’re presenting. Hello! And you can meet us and we get to meet you.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a great story. I’m particularly excited about Harvard making this available and championing these government efforts. That is a fabulous development. I’m going to keep an eye on that.

You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. I’m Elisabeth Swan. Up next is the Printed Page.

The Printed Page: The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

Tracy O’Rourke: So, Elisabeth, what is so good about stress?

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a good question, Tracy. This is one of those paradigm shifting books. You can’t think about stress the same way after you read it or after you watch her TED Talk. So this month’s book is “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For and How to Get Good at It by health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal.

And her basic premise is if you think stress will kill you, it probably will. But if you don’t, you get better health, you get problem-solving skills, you have peal performance, motivation, confidence, resilience, all kinds of fabulous things happen. So the book is a bit – in my mind, it’s a bit of a mea culpa from her because she used to run workshops on how to avoid stress. She was all about how to manage your time better, how to get better sleep, all these things that you think, “Oh man, I wish I could do that but I don’t have time. I’m too stressed out.”

So when she realized that she was fostering the wrong attitude, just the act of avoiding stress can hurt you just physically and environmentally. So she cites many studies. But it actually makes once you start listening to what happens to folks.

So, one of the examples was a high school football team. Their view of their pre-game stress was that they were amped up and they were excited. So they are taking this pre-game what I’d say jitters and just going, “Wow! Let’s get amp. Let’s get excited about this game.”

But when they were asked about their pre-exam stress, they called it, “Nurse, we got anxiety. We’re going to choke under pressure.” So they’re getting the same shot of adrenaline throughout their bodies but they’re enabling different views of both these situations. So they could still use that super energy and that super focus to apply to both to game and the exams.

And that’s what we get. We get these – it sounds like almost like a natural doping. You get all these amazing dopamine and adrenaline and oxytocin and all these things that are there for you. And the trick is to recognize your own reaction to stress and you get to decide if you start seeing that you’re going into fight or flight mode, that’s one – kind of one of the most publicized stress response.

And the trick is to recognize your own reaction to stress and you get to decide if you start seeing that you’re going into fight or flight mode

You could start to change that into, “Well, how do I address this challenge? So can I use those endorphins to meet the challenge?” That’s your secret weapon, having these incredible cocktail of chemicals coursing through you. You can use those.

It’s also a great piece she has on another stress response which is called and tending and befriending. And this really comes to mind right now because it’s a response to being afraid, of being lonely. And if you reach out to others and help them, it helps you. It’s a calming, it increases your resilience, increases your confidence.

And just think about just watching the news over the past few weeks, watching people with their boat trailers just go straight into Houston to help folks, victims of Harvey or just watching the money pouring, people going to Florida to help people rebuild, get clear roads with chainsaws. It’s incredible but that is that tend-and-befriend response that will help you with your own fear and your own stress.

So I don’t know about you, Tracy, but I got so much out of this book.

Tracy O’Rourke: I got a lot out of it too. And I really like the tend-and-befriend approach as well. So I totally agree and I loved her introduction in this book and how she spent all this time telling people how stress was bad for them and you shouldn’t deal with that. You need to deal better with stress. And actually discovered that the way she was doing it was making people stressed out.

And I really like this book because it does, it does help with a lot of strategies and it does talk about how you can make stress good for you. And if you actually believe that and that your belief systems reinforce that, there’s a lot of things you can do. What you mentioned about tend-and-befriend, I read something in this book about Boston marathoner, Natalie, who was a 32-year-old physician who finished the marathon on a broken foot and then the bombing happened. And she ran to help people and she treated five people and four of them survived. And she said that was her way of dealing with the stress that she performed in a very stressful situation by helping others.

So what I really like about the book is there are a lot of studies and a lot of research backing the hypothesis that our views of stress and how we handle it changes how it affects us body, mind, and soul. There are a lot of tests done that measured responses, stress response, by taking a saliva test.

And what was really interesting is there was one study in there that basically said that if you have a higher stress response initially, you actually handle stress better in the long run and are less likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder if that occurred, which was shocking to me. So there’s just really interesting snippets like that of studies that were done and they have measurable responses based on what was in your saliva.

So, my favorite takeaway from this book is stress is harmful except when it’s not. And she writes stress increases the risk of health problems except when people regularly give back to their communities. Stress increases the risk of dying except when people have a sense of purpose. Stress increases the risk of depression except when people see a benefit in their struggles.

It just goes to speaking about how we’re handling the stress and it’s not stressful if it’s done in this way. If you believe that it’s stressful, it is just as you said. And she wrote at the end, “Writing a book is stressful and I mean that in a good way.” So I really like this book a lot.

I have over the years a lot of people – I have been told that I handle stress very well. A lot of people say I run like 120 all the time. And people always ask me, “How do you do it?” I don’t know. That’s just how I’m wired. I just – I embrace it.

And so, I read this book with my head nodding a lot like, “Yeah, I believe that. Yeah, I believe that. Yeah, I believe that.” And people tell me I handle stress very well. So, it was a great validator for me that I’m doing something right and that there’s – for the things that really do stress me out, there are strategies that are available in this book that I didn’t even really think about. But when you actually speak about it, you’re like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” And people do that and it does make me feel better.

So, I would highly encourage this book to everyone. Everyone should read this book because most people are stressed out and they need better ways to handle it.

Elisabeth Swan: Hear, hear.

Tracy O’Rourke: So you’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. I’m Tracy O’Rourke. And in just a short while, we’re going to hear about my interview with Ashley Gambhir. But up first, a question from our question & answer one of our subscribers had.


Elisabeth Swan: Tracy, here’s a question for you from one of our learners. Do you have a scorecard that shows ROI, otherwise known as return on investment?

Tracy O’Rourke: That is a great question. And I agree. A scorecard would be an important element to build. However, that is one of the last steps I believe in creating a strategic plan for Lean Six Sigma. So we talked about this whole process in a webinar called Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office and we have a four-part blog series on our website, both of those are both on our website that talked about this.

And I really feel like in a nutshell, you first have to develop a vision, mission, goals, and then measures. And from that work, you can develop a scorecard. So what you measure on your scorecard really does depend on your goals, your vision, and hopefully those things are connected to the strategic objectives of your organization.

So the short answer is no. We don’t have one because we find that the measures on a scorecard vary greatly and you really need to do your due diligence about what you want to measure. We have some examples of scorecards and dashboards that people have developed in our webinars and the blogs that I mentioned earlier. So check out those examples and there’s a brief how-to on how to put one together.

But ultimately, what are you trying to measure in terms of success?

Elisabeth Swan: Great answer. Thank you, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: Coming up next, this month’s coupon code so stay tuned.

Today’s Special: Interview With Ashley Gambhir, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at UC San Diego

Tracy O’Rourke: You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café. I’m Tracy O’Rourke and joining me today is Ashley Gambhir. How are you today, Ashley?

Ashley Gambhir: I’m good. Thank you for having me today, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. I hope you’re enjoying your coffee in the Just-In-Time Café.

Ashley Gambhir: Delicious.

Tracy O’Rourke: So let me tell you a little bit about Ashley and UCSD before we talk with her. So Ashley has worked at UC San Diego since 2006. She is a result-driven professional with experience driving strategy and building operational excellence, which makes her perfect for this position. Ashley is a Certified Project Manager, Certified Change Practitioner, and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt through UCSD Extensions Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Program. She earned an MBA from the Rady School of Management at UCSD and has a BS in Mathematics from the University of Puget Sound, and that’s in the Seattle area, Washington, right?

Ashley Gambhir: That’s right.

Tracy O’Rourke: And did you live there for a while?

Ashley Gambhir: I lived there for four years and I loved it.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, it’s a beautiful place. What’s really exciting about getting a chance to talk with you today about Ashley is that UCSD was recently ranked the15th Best University in the World by the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and also named the World’s 4th Best Public College. That is really exciting. How do employees feel about that?

Ashley Gambhir: We are so proud and so excited. We’re a young university. We’ve only been around about 50 years and to achieve this level of success, we see it as a challenge to keep pushing ourselves to do better and also as a real honor to be able to serve the education mission in this way.

Tracy O’Rourke: Very nice. So I just have a couple of questions for you because you guys, UCSD, not only offer Lean Six Sigma training to students but you are actually undergoing an initiative to implement it within the UCSD program itself. And so, I’d really love to hear how that is going in your organization. This is sort of about talking about how Lean Six Sigma might be transforming education and we’d love to hear a little bit about what you guys are doing at UCSD as a part of that. So, why Lean Six Sigma for UCSD and why now?

Ashley Gambhir: I think that it’s the perfect time. In fact, I could say we should have always been doing it. But the shift in the process improvement field to apply it to services, there has been a lot more momentum on the healthcare side and also in government to look at how we do our work. We serve a public mission, so we want to be very efficient in how we deliver value to the people we serve.

And a lot of what we look at with innovation because sometimes we focused too much on the transformational innovations and we end up just causing a lot more layers on top of the existing work that’s happening. So, combining that broad transformational initiative-based improvement in our operations to combine that with this empowerment, everybody understands how – what they do in serving the people they serve can be improved with a common set of tools and a common language allows for those incremental changes that really add up to have the biggest bang for the buck.

Tracy O’Rourke: Nice. Is the Lean Six Sigma effort working would you say?

Ashley Gambhir: I would say it is. We aren’t the only group on campus that uses this methodology. We are certainly big advocates. We are I’d say at the early stage of the cultural shift that comes. We haven’t – if you showed up, you wouldn’t walk around the campus and see kanbans everywhere. I wouldn’t say that we are at a point where you’d say we’re mature in the Lean Six Sigma implementation but where we are is we’ve had few years of actively promoting it, actively creating awareness, having some incredible quick wins, moving from having it be really run centrally with a few Black Belts out there trying to make changes to really broadening the base.

We’ve trained over 800 people this year alone on the Yellow Belt Champion level and that has just led to so much momentum on the grassroots as well as from leadership when they see their teams come back with this aha moment of starting with empathy, understanding what value is to the people they are serving, and then thinking differently about how they deliver that value.

So I’d say we’re just getting started but so far, it has been really well-received and we’re already feeling the benefit. I’m really excited just to see where we go with it over time.

Tracy O’Rourke: Me too because you are gaining a lot of traction in just a short time that you’ve been doing this. What kind of results have you guys seen from some of the improvements?

Ashley Gambhir: Well, it’s I’d say positive and probably in the typical categories of some cost-savings or any revenue generation as well as quality and getting rid of the rework and the things that keep us from focusing on what we want to be focusing on. On top of that, I’d say that we’ve seen a small shift but measurable in kind of employee engagement. And I think that it comes with this methodology of being really, I always refer to it as a tool of empowerment because with some common tools, you’re giving people the opportunity to look at a problem differently and a different way to communicate upward about how to make that would have a difference.

Tracy O’Rourke: So is there anything you would have done differently yet or so far I should say with the implementation or the roll out or anything like that?

Ashley Gambhir: Probably the only thing I would do differently is I might find a way to deliver the champion level training to a broader group earlier on. We just started doing that this year really. And the impact has been tremendous. And I don’t think we needed to wait this long to do that. I think we could have probably done that sooner and had a broader impact sooner because it was a big cultural shift for us. And so, just increasing awareness has really had a profound impact and it really accelerated our implementation. So I think we could have done that sooner.

And so, just increasing awareness has really had a profound impact and it really accelerated our implementation.

Tracy O’Rourke: Now, has somebody signed from leaders also been because they’ve seen some of the results and some of the excitement from the people that have gone through the program?

Ashley Gambhir: It has. So I think there was probably some initial concern that this was a manufacturing tool. And honestly in academia, we don’t see ourselves as a big business. We really see ourselves as a public service. And so, implementing kind of corporate techniques, I can’t say we were super open-minded to it as a starting point. And a lot of what we had to do was change the language. We didn’t call things kaizen events. We call them solution sessions. We kind of made it. We adopted the tools and terminology to what would be comfortable in our environment. And so doing it that way I think helped us over some of those initial per session hurdles and then allowed us to deliver some results.

We’ve had projects and single projects resulting to million dollar impact. And that’s pretty eye-opening to leadership.

Tracy O’Rourke: That really gets their attention.

Ashley Gambhir: Yeah. So combining kind of this grassroots of enthusiasm and some results and then making sure that we are doing it our own way and not just forcing someone else this model as a layer on top of our operating model, really trying to ingrained it into how we do business. I think kind of a lead principal is still shamelessly and make it your own. And so, we’ve really tried to do that so that it’s successful.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, good. That’s important. Making it something your own that you know is going to work culturally, I think people don’t think about that enough sometimes and there’s a failure piece there or they’re not as successful because they’re sort of trying to just drop it into the culture and that doesn’t necessarily works. So it’s great to hear that there’s an element of not reinventing everything but there is an element of making it your own.

Ashley Gambhir: Yeah.

Tracy O’Rourke: So, do you have any advice for any other educational institutions that might be implementing Lean Six Sigma within their organization?

Ashley Gambhir: Probably not too much advice. We actually probably benefit from receiving some from others who have been doing this longer. But the advice that I would offer out there is to always consider the context in which you’re making a change. Your cultural starting point is going to impact how quickly you can implement something like Lean Six Sigma and just being aware of that.

But the advice that I would offer out there is to always consider the context in which you’re making a change.

And as we talked about a moment ago, thinking about how can you create your own best practice by leveraging this existing one?

And I’d also say not overdo it at first. Pick a few tools that you can put in everyone’s arsenal to create a common language and have some quick impact and not try and boil the ocean at the very beginning because it could be overwhelming.

And then always, always focus on who you’re serving.

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. So what is next for the OSI group and the group in particular that’s supporting Lean Six Sigma at UCSD?

Ashley Gambhir: We are a small team and there are some other small teams that have Green and Black Belts on their teams that are making big differences. But I think our real impact is going to be through the broadening of this and the shared ownership across the board as opposed to just specific initiatives, the mindset shifts that comes with that training and exposure. So building capacity is probably the biggest thing.

There are a few key areas that we’re actively working to bring those groups into Lean Six Sigma as a core component or operating model so in ITS, in Information Technology Services, the CIO, has worked in environments that have used this methodology, is a strong advocate. And so his teams working very hard to build this into their standard operating model, working with the health system, focusing a lot more on Lean and Six Sigma to figure out how we can embed this in our operations for the outpatient ambulatory care.

And we’re also working across the UC system for all the campuses to see how we might be able to kind of share this with the other campuses on our system.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. So wow! That’s a lot. You’re doing all different businesses at UCSD if you will or what would you call those departments or what do you call them at UCSD? Just areas, groups?

Ashley Gambhir: Areas. Groups. They’re very different functions.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. Yeah. And I love that because it shows that people – you can really apply this to any type of work or industry that is happening out in the world. So I love that.

So tell me a little bit more about the scholarship program because that might be a best practice. So you had mentioned that you’re giving scholarships to UCSD employees to go through the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt at the Extension. Tell us more about that.

Ashley Gambhir: So what we were doing originally is our team was serving as mentors and coaches, helping other people in our campus get their Green Belts. And we still offer mentorship an coaching but initial training, we realized it really isn’t the core service that we offer and it was taking a lot of our resources and it also required us to have some budget for external consulting for that level of guidance.

And so we thought, “Let’s take that budget that we’re spending on that external consulting and give it as scholarships.” We didn’t need to create a redundant training at UC San Diego Extension. We reach out to them to learn more about their training. And I think there was a perception that it wouldn’t work for services.

And when we talked to the instructors, we were blown away at their breadth of experience and how they were able to translate these tools into any field. And we sent our own team through the training to see what it was like and make sure that we would feel confident in sending hopefully over time hundreds of people to their training. And we were so impressed. The quality was incredible. The instructors’ ability to use examples and apply the principles to many industries was outstanding.

And honestly, being in the classroom with other people who work in different industries sharing their examples and the dialogue, learning from other industries is one of the core components of effective creativity. So we can really learn from each other and we’ve been completely satisfied and plan to continue partnering with them through the scholarships as long as we can.

Tracy O’Rourke: It sounds to me like those scholarship opportunities are growing too. You’re getting lots and more support I hear.

Ashley Gambhir: We’ve had a lot of support from leadership in the last couple of years. And hope that that – expect that that will continue. Yeah.

Tracy O’Rourke: So, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience that I didn’t ask you about UCSD, what you’re doing as a part of the Lean Six Sigma program or anything that you think would be valuable?

Ashley Gambhir: I want to just say, if you’re out there and either new to this methodology or a veteran of this, keep pushing for it. I think that sometimes you can feel like an island out there and you see how this can have an impact but it’s hard to kind of get other people on board because we all get so busy. I think especially right now, our world moves at such a fast pace that it’s hard to stop and take the time to measure and take the time to pull people together to come up with solutions. And then you create that action plan and it gets buried beneath your email list. It’s hard to create the space to do this.

So I would just say, keep at it, it works. I think if you can – probably the best way to gain traction is to just keep doing it because it proves itself every time.

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming to have some coffee with me at the Just-In-Time Café. And I want to thank our listeners also for joining us as well. Don’t forget to go to’s podcast to share feedback or listen to more podcast, also available to download in iTunes.

So, we will see you next time. Thank you so much, Ashley.

Ashley Gambhir: Thank you, Tracy.

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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