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In this episode we interview Angela Cook and find out what’s happening on the ground and virtually with Lean Six Sigma at UC San Diego.

We’ll release our latest poll results and find out what problem-solvers need from leaders. In the News we’ll cover fun facts and stats about the Winter Olympics courtesy of Statista and lastly we’ll answer a subscriber’s question about how to create local improvement communities. Put your coffee in the cup holder, press play and take us to work with you!

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Podcast Transcript

We asked our subscribers what they value most in a leader. Interesting results so stay tuned.

Hi everyone! I’m Tracy O’Rourke.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m Elisabeth Swan.

Tracy O’Rourke: And are from And you’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast where we bring you fabulous apps, polls, news, books, and people so you can build your problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan: Tracy, I think at this point, I’m using coffee to build my problem-solving muscles.

Tracy O’Rourke: I hope that’s working out for you.

Elisabeth Swan: Becoming very alert to problems.

Tracy O’Rourke: Grab Kraft and meet me in our private dining room.

Elisabeth Swan: Right behind you.

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Tracy O’Rourke: OK, Elisabeth. So what’s on the menu today?

Elisabeth Swan: OK, Tracy. Here we go. First, we’ll cover the results of our poll about what problem-solvers are looking for from their leaders.

In the News, we’ll cover some cool stats from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

For Q&A, we’ll answer a learner’s question about building process improvement communities.

And for Today’s Special, we’ll get to hear your interview with Angela Cook and find out about Lean Six Sigma at UC San Diego.

What do you think of that menu?

Tracy O’Rourke: Sounds pretty good to me. Remember to stay tune for this month’s coupon code in order to get a discount on’s online training.

Elisabeth Swan: Let’s get to that latest poll.

Latest Poll

Elisabeth Swan: OK, Tracy. What were the results of our latest poll?

Tracy O’Rourke: OK, Elisabeth. We ran our poll last month and our listeners gave us their input. Thank you for that. In our first poll we asked, what is the biggest obstacle to your Lean Six Sigma efforts?

Most of you said, getting leadership support. So as a follow-up, we asked, what do you value most in a leader? And guess what? It was a three-way tie. Leaders, if you are out there listening, here is what people are looking for, your people are looking for: Freedom to take risks with process change, guidance for improvement efforts, and removal of obstacles to change.

So for you, leaders, if you want more information on any of these, there’s a free webinar for you. Go to our webinar page under the leadership section and click how leaders can successfully support Lean Six Sigma projects. There are lots of great information for you in there and there are more webinars too o related topics.

The Pareto Chart of the poll results is posted on our website.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m Elisabeth Swan and you’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. We’d love your feedback. Please leave us a review on iTunes or our website and don’t forget to subscribe.

Tracy O’Rourke: Up next, it’s In the News.

In the News

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. Stats about the Olympics. I know there have been 23 Winter Olympics so far. What else?

Elisabeth Swan: Well, thank to SigmaXL, we’ve got a ton of statistics about the Winter Olympics. SigmaXL, they are the makers of an Excel add-on that allows you to create charts, graphs, and use advanced statistical tools. We use them a lot to create these Paretos we keep telling you about and to conduct hypothesis test and other advanced tools.

Then they’ve got something called the Statistics Portal and that’s where they relate statistical studies. And they recently put one out about the Winter Olympics that took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea and they had some fun facts. So here are some of those fun facts.

There are three main disciplines. Actually, I hadn’t even thought about this in terms of Winter Olympics which I happily watched but there are three main disciplines, you got snow sports, you got ice sports, and you have sliding sports.

Well, I have to say they are all like sliding sports as far as I’m concerned. But there are a 102 individual events and that’s up from 98 in the last Olympics. And I noticed a lot of those include snowboards. I don’t know if you were watching those.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s ones I watch the most.

Elisabeth Swan: They were so exciting. People would be 20 feet in the air over the edge of the half-pipe. And one of the most cold big air I think that wasn’t even the half pipe.

Tracy O’Rourke: I was actually getting vertigo watching.

Elisabeth Swan: True. Particularly frightening. And a few of those guys hit the edge. It looks incredibly painful but wow! Just an exciting sport. Great to watch.

There were 2,800 athletes competing, the most ever, at the Winter Olympics. And in 1924, they only had 292 athletes. That’s the first one. Isn’t that crazy? I hadn’t even thought about this before. But the highest number of gold medals available for a single sport is 14 for speed skating. I bet that’s going to change and become half-pipe. You watch.

Then the US is the all-time leader in terms of gold medals, yay for us, in figure skating. And then Germany and Russia share the highest gold medal tally at the Winter Olympic Games from 1924 up until 2014. I didn’t know if that changed in this last one or not. We’ll find out.

The total cost is a big issue. Some feel it’s not really worth it for host countries to take this on. But I got to give kudos to South Korea. They actually decreased the cost to a quarter of what it cost in Sochi in 2018. So it went from $50 billion, which is kind of stunning, down to $12 billion. That’s a huge cost reduction. I don’t even know how they did that.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! Did they do Lean Six Sigma over there?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. We got to call South Korea and find out what the heck went on there. So, they’re a lot more cool stats. And we’ve provided you a link so you can go check them out. Thanks to our friends over at SigmaXL for putting that all together.

Tracy O’Rourke: Very cool. Pardon the pun on that. I’m Tracy O’Rourke and you’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. In a short while, we’ll get to hear my interview with Angela Cook from UC San Diego’s Extension.

They are doing so much stuff there because not only are they offering training for people, they are also doing things like Lean tours, organizing Lean tours people can sign up for and take a Lean tour bus all over San Diego to get a picture or get a view of some of these companies that are implementing Lean.

Angela and I talked about all the things that are happening at UC San Diego and UCSD Extension with Lean Six Sigma. They are doing so much stuff there because not only are they offering training for people, they are also doing things like Lean tours, organizing Lean tours people can sign up for and take a Lean tour bus all over San Diego to get a picture or get a view of some of these companies that are implementing Lean.

And they are also doing things like Process Paloozas inside of UC San Diego which is basically an event to raise awareness about process improvement and what it can really do for business owners. So, really excited to talk with her.

But first, some Q&A.


Elisabeth Swan: Tracy, here’s a question for you from one of our subscribers, any suggestions on how to initiate cross-pollination with different local industries or government to build community?

Tracy O’Rourke: So I think this is a great question and it really does arise when organizations are thinking more broadly about process improvement efforts and it could be really interesting to start to look beyond our own industries at other organizations that are doing process improvement. And when you start to look, you realize that they are not sometimes very far away.

Obviously, I live in San Diego and there are so much happening in San Diego and how did that happen? So a lot of times, we’re looking at local industries that are doing process improvement in the news. There are also organizations that are process-improvement-driven like ASQ has chapter meetings, the AME which is the Association of Manufacturing Excellence, has local meetings. There are a lot of people that are doing process improvement from local businesses or organizations that go to those sessions.

And so, you really have to make an effort to look across industries locally what’s happening in the communities and really start to generate some traction. I attended a great session in Washington and Microsoft was there, Nordstrom was there, Amazon, King County government, Boeing, and Genie, all different kinds of organizations and they were all talking about what they were doing to implement process improvement. It was very inspiring. It really got the creative juices going. And everybody that attended really loved it.

So that’s what I would recommend, is start to explore first those different groups that are process-improvement-geared and what they are doing locally.

Elisabeth Swan: Great answer. Thank you, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: You’re welcome.

Elisabeth Swan: Coming up next is Today’s Special. Please stay tuned for Tracy’s interview with Angela Cook of UC San Diego.

Today’s Special

Tracy O’Rourke: Hi! I’m Tracy O’Rourke with and I have Angela Cook here from UC San Diego. Welcome to the Just-In-Time Café, Angela.

Angela Cook: Thanks, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: We are here to talk about Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt at UC San Diego. First of all, tell us a little bit about you, Angela. So what do you do here at the university?

Angela Cook: Well, let’s see. So this year, I celebrated my fifth year here at UC San Diego Extension and here at the university, I oversea a handful of a continuing education programs. So one of them is our project management certificate, our supply management certificate, and of course, our Lean Six Sigma offerings, our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and our Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. And so, how are the programs going for the Lean Six Sigma portions, the Green Belt and the Black Belt?

Angela Cook: They are booming. It has been an amazing ride. We just recently – I say recently but I think about two years ago, we introduced the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Program. And I was just looking at the numbers and it has been incredible ride. So within the two years, it has just been growing exponentially. We have two offerings. We moved it online. So it has been great. The folks that we’ve been working with, it has been word of mouth, folks sending other employees from their team, teams taking it to others.

So, the Black Belt has been a long-sustained program. With the Green Belt, it has been a lot of fun. Folks have been coming more in groups. It’s just growing and growing.

Tracy O’Rourke: What kinds of people do you see enrolling?

Angela Cook: So for the Green Belt, it has been a little bit different of an audience because folks can be completely brand new to Lean and Six Sigma. That’s not to say for the Black Belt that they can also come in brand new.

But for Green Belt, it’s much more applicable to folks who are coming in from the organizational. A lot of times like I said, they’re hearing about it from others. They want to make real changes on the industry. They want to get something to immediately put it on their resume, work on a project.

So yeah, I think that has been eye-opening for me to see how someone has come in completely new and it’s not always someone who has been working with Lean and Six Sigma for a while.

And so, it has been interesting. It has been surprising to me to see that more and more folks who are completely more doing Six Sigma coming in. And by the end, it really has been life-changing for them. So yeah, I think that has been eye-opening for me to see how someone has come in completely new and it’s not always someone who has been working with Lean and Six Sigma for a while.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And you know what I love about the class too is that there are all different kinds of people from everywhere. You have people coming from government, from biotech, from the education. UC San Diego sends a lot of their employees through which I think is amazing. The fact that they’re actually funding. They are practicing what they teach, right? They are having people come in.

So tell me a little bit about what’s going on with UC San Diego and some of the people that are coming in and what’s going on that’s promoting some of that enrolment?

Angela Cook: Yeah, definitely. So about three years ago, we met with the UCSD’s Operational Strategic Initiatives Team. And they wanted to look at how they could improve their processes. And so, we actually out of that conversation, we started to work with them to create this Green Belt. And working with team, it started off with – by creating a scholarship to send UCSD employees to our process improvement programs. They started by funding eight. Now, it’s up in the 30s each year.

They are also training so many other UC San Diego employees through the Yellow Belt Training Program. The UC San Diego Health has been such a big advocate for Lean Six Sigma. They have sent so many folks to the Green and Black Belt and it’s growing and growing. So it has been a real campus initiative. I think for the next year, we’re going to see more and more University of California employees from other universities taking part.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, we actually have a student in here from UC Davis.

Angela Cook: Yup.

Tracy O’Rourke: He is flying down every time we have class. And I think that’s really exciting.

Angela Cook: It’s incredible. So yeah, he has gotten the OK to come down each week because it makes such an impact for his department. And so, I think more and more we’ll be seeing folks from other UCs coming down. So we hosted a Process Palooza event and it was so successful. We had over 400 folks from campus come and watch UCSD staff kind of worked together within I think five or six hours. They were given a real campus process and they had to work to improve it.

So that really sparked a lot of excitement on campus to look at how we can improve their processes. So yeah, it has been a whole campus initiative and the Green Belt training has been ideal because folks can come in and work on teams.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. I was a part of that Process Palooza as well and I had so much fun participating. There was so much energy in the room. As a matter of fact, we have an entire segment on our website that is going to be talking about Process Palooza and showcasing that because I love that idea. It was a competition. It was friendly.

We have business owners that volunteered a process to be worked and then these teams got to try then make some recommendations. And those business owners really got a lot out of it really. So they could come and look at the different solutions and decide which one they wanted to do. So I really think that was a great program.

You play a great role as well because you’re building communities. So you’ve got a couple of things that at least I know about to build that community. You’ve got a LinkedIn group that you have about any alumni for Black or Green Belt can participate in that. But you also do a mixer every year and it’s that Rock Bottom Brewery.

Angela Cook: Yup.

Tracy O’Rourke: So tell us a little bit about both of those if you will.

Angela Cook: Sure. We’re so excited because the first year we hosted this alumni group when I started at Extension. That was one of my initiatives. So I really wanted to make it a community. And so we reached back to folks who are taking our Lean Six Sigma programs the last five years and invited everyone to just come and chat and network and we hosts them and it was a huge success.

And so, that was four years ago now that we had our first alumni mixer. And from that, we’ve spun other alumni events just to keep the community going throughout the year. So, this February, we’ll host our fourth annual Lean Six Sigma Alumni Mixer. We had over 60 folks last year. We’ll have even more this year. I just sent out the invitation two days ago and we already have 40 registered.

Tracy O’Rourke: Really? That’s exciting.

Angela Cook: It’s really exciting.

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I’ve also been telling people in the UCSD on-site Green Belt about the event and I remind them, “Hey, don’t forget. You come for your presentation, your project presentation, your final and then come to the Rock Bottom Brewery.” So I’ve been telling people that too.

And what we did was literally had a bus picked us up and students met at our training facility and we tour a couple of companies in San Diego and saw how they are actually implementing Lean Six Sigma.

Angela Cook: But this year, it’s a lot of fun what we did to even strengthen the network throughout the year, is we hosted a Lean Six Sigma Learn About Tour. And what we did was literally had a bus picked us up and students met at our training facility and we tour a couple of companies in San Diego and saw how they are actually implementing Lean Six Sigma.

We went to Watkins Wellness and then we went to Sharp Healthcare. And that was amazing because it was so eye-opening to see how almost all of their process improvement folks have come through UCSD’s program. And so, they almost took off half their day to come together and show us the best of the best of Black Belt projects that they’ve conducted. So that was a great alumni event and we are looking forward to it again this spring.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I actually got to participate in that as well. See, I have to participate in everything because I think it’s great.

Angela Cook: Join the bus tour.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah. And so that was your kickoff, the maiden voyage of the Learn About Tour. And you’re going to do it next year too, right?

Angela Cook: Definitely.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And have you targeted any companies that you might be viewing or visiting?

Angela Cook: We haven’t. So we are on the lookout. We touched base with a couple of companies but we have so many great alumni who joined the program and they’ve offered their company, Costco has said, “Come and tour our facility.” So we’re really kind of just picking through. So it will be on our website soon.

And we actually had a couple of folks fly in for that event as well. That was really exciting.

Tracy O’Rourke: That is exciting.

Angela Cook: So that event is focused. It’s just a day of fun.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And there are quite a few companies doing Lean Six Sigma here in the San Diego area. So if you’re in San Diego, you’re a company, you’re doing Lean Six Sigma, and you want to showcase it, call Angela Cook at UCSD. Oh, is it Angela Miller now?

Angela Cook: It’s technically but I haven’t changed everything. That’s the process I’m really hoping that someone out there will be going to come and change our process because it is cumbersome to try and change your name.

Tracy O’Rourke: Your legal name.

Angela Cook: Soon it will be Angela Miller. But right now, it’s still …

Tracy O’Rourke: It’s Angela Cook. Cool. So let’s talk a little bit more about the on-site Green Belt that you have and the online Green Belt that you have. So I know that the online Green Belt just got revamped this year I believe.

Angela Cook: Yup.

Tracy O’Rourke: And so tell me, if someone was wondering what the differences were and where they should place themselves, what would you tell them?

Angela Cook: Sure. So I think that we had a really great strategy that we started off in the in-class Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program. Again, that has been going for almost two years. And so, last summer, we partnered with and we wanted to see how we could create a Lean Six Sigma training program that would be online but still interactive. That has been our concern and that’s what I’m sure a lot of folks is concerned with.

The online training is you’re not collaborating with other students as much. And so, it was just so exciting to hear that we could work together and create an offering that would be online and you’re still getting these excellent training materials but you’re also collaborating with other students on the discussion boards, you’re having webinars, there are opportunities to connect with the instructors in so many ways. Not only do you have access to one Master Black Belt Instructor, you have access to three, Tracy being one of them.

And again, this was our first time hosting this class online and we have just gotten wonderful reviews. I connected with a student who was very surprised and just had a great experience and she came into it very hesitant. And so, I just connected with her and was really glad to hear that our goals have been exceeded.

Tracy O’Rourke: Great.

Angela Cook: Yeah.

Tracy O’Rourke: And I think what’s wonderful is the online is international. It’s an international reach. So if you want to have the UCSD experience, you don’t have to fly to San Diego to come to the on-site. You could take it online. And you can get that same level of education and experience.

Angela Cook: Definitely. I think that it’s nice too where it is still what we call asynchronous. So there is a specific timeframe that you’re taking it but that’s because you’re so interacting with the instructors and the other students in the class. So it’s still a lot of networking opportunity thing if you’re not here face to face.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. So this is going to come as a surprise to you maybe. Angela is a very humble person. If you meet her, she is a wonderful person and she is a powerhouse at putting her efforts behind Lean Six Sigma to promote it. So she is doing all this community building. She has got the LinkedIn group. She is doing the WalkAbout Tours. She is providing online training. She is providing on-site training. And you’ve also somehow integrated it into other programs at UC San Diego too. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there?

Angela Cook: Sure. We’re also integrating the alumni groups. So we just added Lean Six Sigma Green Belt as elective to the project management certificate. It has been a long time coming. It has been this goal that we’ve had. And we’ve met with our project management advisers who are amazingly are all Lean Six Sigma practitioners as well. They have their project management professional certification. They also have a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt.

And so, it’s kind of a no-brainer like of course, Lean Six Sigma should be an elective and should be offered as a part of the curriculum if students choose to. And so that was an exciting change this fall as part of the project management certificate. You can take a Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt and count it as an elective.

So, I say that we are mixing the alumni groups because we are going to be inviting some of the project management alumni to our Lean Six Sigma Alumni Mixer this February. So it’s a great way for students to interact with both teams because it’s just an inevitable group that should be connected.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. Good.

Angela Cook: Yeah.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s great. And then what about for international students? Aren’t you doing something there as well?

Angela Cook: Oh, that’s right. That’s a huge initiative. We have or UC San Diego offers a project management for international students program. And what it is, is it allows international students to come and actually travel and stay in San Diego for six months and complete the project management certificate. And we’ve just – starting in spring 2018 as part of that, they’re going to be taking Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. So they will be in the classroom.

But the Green Belt is a step especially wonderful for the international student because they have these huge skillsets and they come in and team up with other folks in the class and help them to conduct their projects.

In there, we have the opportunity of working with one international student last quarter, two quarters ago, who took the Green Belt and had such a phenomenal time. I’m talking about Paul who we also have shared some stories about. But the Green Belt is a step especially wonderful for the international student because they have these huge skillsets and they come in and team up with other folks in the class and help them to conduct their projects. So that has been something that has been really successful and we’re excited to see it grow.

But Paul came in and worked with the gentleman from the state of San Diego and helped save $4 million with their Green Belt project.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. That was amazing. Wow!

Angela Cook: He now has an internship opportunity. He is picking between like four opportunities around the world.

Tracy O’Rourke: Really? Wow! That’s exciting. Great! If you’re a listener and you have an interest in participating with any of this stuff, you probably have as big interest in the next question which is, how do people get a hold of you, Angela?

Angela Cook: Well, I would give you my general email but I could be changing to Miller. The easiest way is just through alias email and it’s easy. It’s just all spelled out, [email protected] And my phone number if they like it.

Tracy O’Rourke: Sure.

Angela Cook: It’s 858-534-8133. So either way.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. It was so nice talking to you, Angela. I just want to say on behalf of, we have been so happy to partner with UC San Diego in the online program. We’re very excited about that and also participating in a lot of these events. I, myself, have gotten a great pleasure in the tours, in the Process Palooza, in the mixers, and I really love the community aspect of this. So thank you so much.

Angela Cook: Definitely. Thank you. It has been a lot of fun.

Tracy O’Rourke: So let’s go ahead and get some more coffee.

Angela Cook: Yes, please.

Elisabeth Swan: You can also check out this month’s Success Story Webinar by Amanda Booth who managed to improve the on-time delivery of grant information for a child care nonprofit. She was getting information the day before the grant was due which left her scrambling. And by the time she finished the project, she was getting that information a week ahead of time. So she got some great lessons about using the right forms of communication for the right people.

And tune in for the next episode of the Just-In-Time Café because I’m going to interview Chip Schaefer who is the Director of Sports Performance for the Chicago Bulls. He uses Lean Six Sigma to keep his athletes injury-free and I’m going to find out how.

Tracy O’Rourke: What? You get to interview Chip Schaefer?

Elisabeth Swan: I do.

Tracy O’Rourke: I’m so excited. Can we do that interview in person and maybe with a couple of basketball players?

Elisabeth Swan: Yup. Come on over, Tracy. Thanks for joining us for another great hang at the Just-In-Time Café.

Tracy O’Rourke: See you in two weeks.

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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