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Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Results:
Reducing Grant Submission Cycle Time by an Entire Week

Cape Cod Child Development is a trailblazer in applying Lean Six Sigma to the nonprofit world. Learn how Amanda Booth improved the time to deliver of grant information by an entire week.

Project Summary

Increase the Number of Grants Ready from One Day to One Week Out.

Grants are being completed 90 percent of the time within 24 hours of the due date, giving the grant writer minimal time to review. This impacts the efficiencies within the process which could potentially result in the decrease of approvals.

Goal Statement: To increase the number of grants ready from one day out to one week out.

Take Away: This project is worth doing because it will result in getting more grants.

…people just really didn’t have the time to get things in on time and it was very stressful for me because these grants equal dollars for our organization and as some of you may or may not know that nonprofits are run a lot through grant’s fundings.

Define Phase: Identify the Problem

After using the Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix and creating a SIPOC of the process, Booth and her team found that:

  • Reviewers want the grant by a specific deadline (two weeks ahead of time)

Key Take Aways:

  1. Amanda was the customer of the process, and she needed the grants submitted with more lead time.
  2. Using the Swimlane Map helped make it clear how many steps are involved in the process end-to-end and how many people it takes to complete the process.

…mapping it out made it clear on how many steps are involved in the process from end to end and how many people it takes to complete the process. It’s not just one person involved in it. In my case, it could be five to seven people.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Project Charter, VOC Translation Matrix, SIPOC

Measure Phase: Quantify the Problem

To collect data, the team used a run chart to measure the baseline of days prior to due date that grants are submitted. They learned that:

  • Grants from March to April are being submitted less than two days from due date.

And the volume of grants which I’ll get into the fishbone diagram is a huge issue too because it ebbs and flows and sometimes multiple grants will come at once and sometimes the due dates are within a couple of weeks of each other. So, it’s very stressful, can be very stressful.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Data Collection Plan, Run Chart

Analyze Phase: Identify the Cause of the Problem

It was time to identify the root causes of the incidents. By creating a Fishbone Diagram and using the 5 Whys to help analyze the root causes, the team learned that:

  1. The Grant Team does not make grants a priority, which results in grants being submitted within 24 hours of being due.
  2. Other tasks are taking precedence over grants, which results in less than 24 hours time to both edit and submit.
  3. The volume of grants that need to be completed within 2-3 months time can prevent grant team from completing seven days out.

So I think once they saw me – saw the look on my face and the look of aches, they were like, “OK. We need to get this done.”

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Fishbone Diagram, 5 Whys, Pareto Chart, Root Cause Hypothesis

Improve Phase: Implement and Verify the Solution

Now that Booth and her team of problem-solvers were able to identify the root causes of the more frequent types of incidents that were occurring, the team utilized the Solution Selection Matrix and began to implement improvements, such as:

  • Set up weekly calendar reminders
  • Set up a mandatory monthly meeting
  • Follow-up in person as due date approaches
  • Adapted communications to style of colleague (i.e., Sonia prefers text, Barbara prefers in-person follow up)
  • Mandatory brainstorming session before each grant with entire grant team to go over grant guidelines and what to write about

The Improvement Results:

  • By using a Run Chart to measure improvement, it is noted that there had been a decline of incidents regarding the classrooms where the environments were changed.
  • The team saw an overall decrease in incidents being reported by 50%!

…and brainstorm sessions are one of the most important parts of all of this, the whole communication and on grant process because we choose the topic together, we meet together, and it makes us just a stronger team because we all know we’re on the same page right from the beginning.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Solution Selection Matrix

Amanda Booth

I feel like it has made a huge impact honestly in my professional and my personal life because I look at things from a different angle and I look at what is the most efficient way we can do things.

Amanda Booth
Cape Cod Child Development

Control Phase: Maintain the Solution

By implementing a Monitoring & Response Plan, the team has been able to control the results of the implemented solutions. They are currently measuring the number of grants completed on time per month and number of reminders needed to complete the grants on time. By developing the response plan they are able to make sure that they are able to communicate with the Chief of Education and grant team, and continually send out reminders to grant team and follow up in person.

Project Benefits & Lessons Learned:

  • The importance of:
    • frequent communication
    • the grant calendar
    • brainstorming
    • learning each individual’s preferred communication styles
    • working ahead of time on each grant
  • Completed grants ahead of time will result in more “yesses” from grants holders, foundations, etc.

…if you instill all these processes and you record your data and you’re very communicative with your team and you get things done ahead of time with being able to edit and proofread and whatnot that it does result in yes and essentially dollars for your organization.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Monitoring & Response Plan, Project Benefits & Lessons Learned, Innovation Transfer Opportunities

A Sneak Peak Into the Full Success Story Webinar:

Elisabeth Swan: So, just a couple of questions for you. How has doing this project impacted the way you look at things in general?

Amanda Booth: Oh, it’s incredible. And not even just in the grant process, I find it in my personal life, when I organize – when I go to organize my closet for each season, I’m like, “All right. What’s the leanest way? Do I really need this sweater that my aunt gave to me four years ago?” Like let’s get rid of stuff. Let’s purge. Let’s clean. Let’s organize.

It’s funny around our office, we talk about Six Sigma all the time. We’re like, “All right. What’s the lean way to do this?” So I feel like it has made a huge impact honestly in my professional and my personal life because I look at things from a different angle and I look at what is the most efficient way we can do things?

So I feel like it has made a huge impact honestly in my professional and my personal life because I look at things from a different angle and I look at what is the most efficient way we can do things?

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