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Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Results:
Improving Reporting Accuracy by 100%

Cape Cod Child Development has brought Lean Six Sigma to the nonprofit world. Learn how Brenda MacIsaac improves reporting accuracy from 50% to 98%.

Project Summary

Increasing the Accuracy of Non-Federal Share Reporting

Who is Brenda MacIsaac? Brenda MacIsaac is the Preschool Program Administrator for Cape Cod Child Development Program, Inc. She has over 15 years of teaching experience in classrooms ranging from Infant to Preschool, is a registered Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Disabilities in Early Education and a Master’s Degree in Holistic Health.

Problem Statement: In the last six months, in-kind receipts have been received sporadically, not filled out completely, and regularly contain inaccurate financial data. Current cycle time can take 20 days in a 30 day cycle which interrupts completion of the non-federal share calculation, Federal funding could be at risk with inaccurate data management systems in place. The cycle time of In-kind processing is affected by the difficulty of completing in-kind forms accurately

Goal Statement:  The goal is to increase the accuracy of non-federal funds in-kind bookkeeping from 51% accuracy to 100% accuracy by September 1, 2017ut

It’s time-consuming and our concern that we want the documents to look original and should get audited. We don’t want all of our documents to look like they have been edited and edited and edited.

Key Words:

  • IN-KIND: Non-personnel expenses (i.e. Classroom space, utilities, kitchens, etc.) and Volunteer hours must equal to 20% of our requested grant funds in order to qualify for the receipt of funds from the federal government. Our federal grant is $3,088,215 so we must account for $772,054 in In-kind donations

Define Phase: Identify the Problem

…this is the spaghetti map of what the process used to look like for in-kind reporting. I am the teal box which is the Preschool Program Administrator. And my joke on this spaghetti map is always that I’m the fork twirling the spaghetti.You can see that there are lines coming in from every classroom to their Center Manager and then to me. And those lines are the red ones, the original process. The rework are the blue lines where I would send them back to the Center Manager and they may send them back to their classroom because something on them was really wrong and I really thought that they needed to know that that error was happening. I did sometimes correct just small errors because it was faster than this process.

Key Take Away: The previous process created several rework loops due to inaccuracies on the completed forms, which results in loss of time and possible loss of in-kind dollars captured.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Spaghetti Map

Measure Phase: Quantify the Problem

…so every month, every classroom sends me an in-kind reporting sheet that lets me know the activity in their classroom. And we were at a 51% accuracy. They are something of a complicated form still but they were even more complicated when we started this project. And not a lot of teachers had knowledge of what in-kind was, why it was important, or how to accurately fill its fields. So the initial data showed that they were coming in at about 51% accurate, which meant a lot of editing for me.

Key Take Aways: 

  • Data for the Six Sigma Process was captured through stratification of the In-kind form. Data was collected by the date form is received and the accuracy of the form.
  • Field error on the In-kinds Sheet was the highest in the utilities field of the Non-personnel section
  • Field error on the In-kinds Sheet was the highest in the Parent/Community Volunteer field of the Volunteer section.

So to not accurately report how many volunteers you have coming in and out of your classroom every month could be pretty pricey especially when we have family meetings happening and policy council meetings happening and they don’t know that they’re supposed to sign in for those things or report those things. You lose a lot of money.

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

Analyze Phase: Identify the Cause of the Problem

So here’s my fishbone diagram of all of the areas that had a potential for being detrimental to the in-kind process. And the ones that I highlighted were in inaccurate formulas, too many misunderstood categories of the in-kind sheet and employees who were lacking understanding of the non-federal share and support.

Key Take Away: The top 3 concerns to be addressed were inaccurate forms, too many vague categories, lack of knowledge about the forms use/purpose. A more concise form was needed and staff training supported understanding.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Fishbone Diagram

Improve Phase: Implement and Verify the Solution

  • The original In-kind sheet had blank amounts in the rent (2) , utilities, health rooms, and kitchen fields (3).
  • It also displayed two space formulas that relate to three sites (1).
  • The format was confusing (based on staff survey) and was often completed incorrectly (based on data observation).

Improvements: Static fields are now pre-filled to prevent confusion and each center has its own form with center relevant information to prevent confusion and reporting inaccuracies.

Key Take Away: June’s data (pre-implementation) showed a 50% rate of correct forms while July’s data (post-implementation) shows a 98% rate of correct forms. Every month since has had 100%.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Improvements to the IN-KIND form

I think the hardest thing for me at first was to switch gears between the manufacturing thought process and apply it to office processes for me. It was very easy for me to comprehend how you could use these kinds of processes to see how many cars you turn out in an hour. But it was a little complicated for me to apply that in an office setting for me. But once I got the hang of it, I think I hit the ground running. Now, I do all kinds of things on a monthly basis for data for different things.

Brenda MacIsaac
Preschool Program Administrator, Cape Cod Child Development

Control Phase: Maintain the Solution

I mean, it’s not – it wasn’t a terribly hard form to correct when something was wrong. You tag them on little fields so it doesn’t take a lot of time to correct it but when you’re spread out above 25 classrooms and 8 centers and yeah, it takes some time. So that ended up being about 3 days labor between all of us.

Benefits & Lesson Learned


  • 3 Days of labor saved monthly! Equal to an average of $480 labor savings a month or $5760 labor savings per year.
  • The changed Utility field will increase In-kinds by $40,500 annually.
  • Correct reporting on classroom space will increase in-kinds from $1,043,553 to $1,152,000 annually. A $108,446 increase.
  • Reduced confusion about form fields and appropriate data for those fields
  • Increased staff wide understanding of the purpose behind non-federal share and the importance of accurate in-kind reporting.
  • Proof of ongoing overage in In-Kinds helps to support a request for an increase in Federal Grant Funding

Lessons Learned:

  • Assessment of staff understanding is imperative before initiating change
  • Having staff support on process changes increase the acceptance of changes and promotes moral

I think that the assessment of the staff understanding was imperative before initiating the change and having them support. I mean the minute I said I was going to make it easier for them, they were like, “Yes! Make it easier for me.” And center managers too. I mean everybody’s time is very, very valuable.

A Sneak Peak Into the Full Success Story Webinar:

Elisabeth Swan: So let me ask you this. What was your favorite part of this project?

Brenda MacIsaac: My favorite part of the project is hearing the teacher input that they feel like they’re adding more value. We teach a tough demographic. Generally, the lower income brackets have more trauma, more learning disabilities, and more behavior issues. And 8 hours in the classroom all day long like that can – it makes you difficult – it makes it difficult for you to assess your value because you don’t always big progress. Over a span of a year, you might see progress but certainly day-to-day with children with behavioral issues, you do not see progress day-to-day like that.

So to know that they had immediate impact that a $3 million grant is a big deal. And without them doing what they do for us for in-kinds, we don’t get it. So I think that that for them gave them something tangible to say, they’ll ask me like, “What do we have for in-kind? Have we reached them?” That’s exciting to me.

Elisabeth Swan: So that’s not something you showed the advantages or what happened to some of those in-kinds. What went up for utilities? What went up on the mortgages?

But are you tracking that – well, I’m sure it’s part of your job to track that. But are you seeing a steady rise in the in-kind table?

Brenda MacIsaac: Absolutely, yeah. I mean just having some of those skills filled out is all it takes to make a difference over 25 classrooms.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s incredible. And then does that – are you going to be able to go after a larger federal grant?

Brenda MacIsaac: At some point. We’re actually coming up – federal grants are 5-year process. We’re in the last year of our 5-year where we actually have to rewrite the whole grant. So we’ll be looking at different program goals for the next 5 years and that’s when we can make those kinds of big programmatic changes. So it’s definitely a reality.

We’re looking at more families on the Cape that need help. And over a widespread area, that could be hard to get to location-wise. There’s only one road in and out really on the Cape once you’re here. So I think being able – having the option to apply for more grant funds is definitely going to be a huge help to the agency and the families in the area.

Elisabeth Swan: Do you have any advice for someone looking to apply process improvement in the nonprofit world?

Brenda MacIsaac: I think the hardest thing for me at first was to switch gears between the manufacturing thought process and apply it to office processes for me. It was very easy for me to comprehend how you could use these kinds of processes to see how many cars you turn out in an hour. But it was a little complicated for me to apply that in an office setting for me. But once I got the hang of it, I think I hit the ground running. Now, I do all kinds of things on a monthly basis for data for different things.

Elisabeth Swan: Oh, do you? You got the bug.

Brenda MacIsaac: They’re probably like, “What are you doing?” I do billing also for the agency, state billing. So I’ve started some data collection around that.

Elisabeth Swan: Are you seeing where errors are on that?

Brenda MacIsaac: Yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: Are things going to change?

Brenda MacIsaac: I think so, yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, that’s cool. I can’t wait to check back in with you about that. That’s great. I am Elisabeth Swan. You are listening to Success Story highlighting Brenda MacIsaac of Cape Cod Child Development. I want to thank you, Brenda, for joining us today.

Brenda MacIsaac: Thank you.

Elisabeth Swan: And for sharing your success story. I also want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope you found this success story as helpful and as inspirational truly as I did.

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Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

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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