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Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Results:
Increasing Preschool Enrollment From 75% to 85%

Cape Cod Child Development is a trailblazer in applying Lean Six Sigma to the nonprofit world. Watch this 30 minute success story webinar to learn how Jennelle Klun is helping to increase enrollment in the critical Head Start Program.


Project Summary

In September of 2016, Head Start preschool enrollment at Cape Cod Child Development was down 25%, increasing the risk of losing both federal/state funding and revenue for the agency.

Jenelle Klun and her process improvement team sought out to improve the preschool enrollment rate from 75% to 80% between September 2016 and September 2017.

Business Case & Benefits:

This project is a priority, so that we don’t lose our EEC or Head Start contracts. It will help increase revenue for our agency, and ensure we keep our current slots.


Define Phase: Identify the Problem

By utilizing the Voice of the Customer, the team was able to gain insight and information on what was causing the low enrollment rate and ultimately the requirements families needed.

And what we were hearing from our customers was, “Why do I need to be on a waiting list? I need child’s care tomorrow.” And that was really the most important thing for families, needing to get back to work or back into school was meeting that immediate access to child’s care and for the enrollment process to not be so long and take so many days and so many weeks to get their children in our programs.

Key Take Aways: 

  • Families need their children to begin in classrooms right away, and not be put on a waiting list
  • There were too many forms to complete
  • Files kept need to be in compliance with EEC and Head Start.

So, it was quite a long process. It’s very hard for families to call the doctor repeatedly, get the medical information, get the dental from the dentist. It was a hardship to the families to have to do all those steps.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix, SIPOC, Swimlane Map


Measure Phase: Quantify the Problem

After identifying baseline data and measuring it, Klun realized that by May of 2017, enrollment was down to 39%, an incredibly low number that needed to be corrected right away.

At this point, she developed a data collection plan to measure what they thought could be the cause of the low enrollment.

There is an ebb and flow in our enrollment. Of course, they are people and so they commonly go with movement on the Cape and the homelessness and things like that. But that was a real drastic drop for us at that point.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Data Collection Plan


Analyze Phase: Identify the Cause of the Problem

It was time to identify the possible root causes of the low performance, so the team spent time analyzing the data they had been collecting. They found that:

  • Incomplete applications and required forms seemed to be the main issues that the team had control over changing
  • Families that are applying are over income have difficulty obtaining required paperwork
  • Waiting for health documents was the leading reason for delayed enrollment (28%)

And what we come to find out was that it was a health information. Again, it was that physical and the immunizations and the dental record that we were requiring for families that was delaying the enrollment process for them.

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


Improve Phase: Implement and Verify the Solution

Plotting out solutions to the problems via the Impact Effort Matrix helped Klun identify the best route to take to impact the intended results.

Improvements:

  • Added an online enrollment application
  • Implemented new procedure that will allow children to enroll sooner, and will assure the team is aware of medical concerns
  • Applications are now passed to teachers for enrollment without medical information

…we’re at 75% enrolled in September 2016. And then at the end of September 2017, we were at 84% enrolled just simply by looking at our processes and making a change.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Improvements to the process, eliminating steps


So I’m a huge coffee drinker and I go down the street, I’m going to be honest, and I will sit and order my coffee and I will watch all the workers just running around and running around and I’m just thinking of back to the Bahamas and the bistro and going like, “Oh, they should really do a Lean Six Sigma training here because there are just so many extra steps being taken and stuff just isn’t where it should be as far as the coffee being at this end and the creamer being at the other end.”

Jennelle Klun
Cape Cod Child Development

Control Phase: Maintain the Solution

Benefits & Lesson Learned

Benefits:

  • Enrollment increased in September by nearly 10% over the previous year
  • There’s now opportunity to improve the preschool enrollment process
  • Klun is now able to take new skills and improve future processes

Lessons Learned:

  • Communication is key
  • Collecting data is ‘worth while’
  • Learning a new way of looking at processing will be very helpful in the future

I’ve been here will be 13 years and you’re in a process and you don’t notice that there’s opportunity for change unless you really sit and you go through this Lean Six Sigma process and you can say, “Wow! I have never looked at it this way over the 13 years I’ve been here.”

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Monitoring & Response Plan


A Sneak Peak Into the Full Success Story Webinar:

Elisabeth Swan: So you just mentioned the future and that you can apply this to other places. Do you have a next idea for a next challenge or project you might do?

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely. So we’re looking at – once we have the children enrolled, wanting to keep them in the program. So my next project is going to be looking at the reasons why children are leaving and seeing if there’s some sort of process that we can change around that to help sustain our enrollment now that we’re rolling.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s nice.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: So a spinoff and still impacting the same benefit of children getting that preschool, the Head Start experience.

Jennelle Klun: Correct. Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: Really nice. Has this impacted the way you look at things outside of work?

Jennelle Klun: It has. It’s so funny. So I’m a huge coffee drinker and I go down the street, I’m going to be honest, and I will sit and order my coffee and I will watch all the workers just running around and running around and I’m just thinking of back to the Bahamas and the bistro and going like, “Oh, they should really do a Lean Six Sigma training here because there are just so many extra steps being taken and stuff just isn’t where it should be as far as the coffee being at this end and the creamer being at the other end.” So absolutely I think that’s probably …

Elisabeth Swan: You got the bug.

Jennelle Klun: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to yell across the counter and be like, “Gosh!” Yes, absolutely. So yeah, I think that’s right.

Elisabeth Swan: You can’t avoid it anymore.

Jennelle Klun: You can’t. You can’t. Nope.


View Slides


Transcript: Improving Preschool Enrollment

Elisabeth Swan: Hello and welcome to our Success Story Series hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. My name is Elisabeth Swan and I’m a Managing Partner and Executive Advisor here at GoLeanSixSigma.com.

We are very excited to have this offering for our audience because this is where the rubber meets the road. This is when we highlight someone who has completed a real project that has been implemented within their organization and we get to share these stories with you.

Today, we are highlighting a project success story from Cape Cod Child Development. This is a nonprofit based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. And for those of you unfamiliar with Cape Cod, you probably have heard of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which is all part of the area that Cape Cod Child Development serves.

They are now in their 50th year of existence which is exciting. Their mission is to provide world class child and family-focused programs that nurture each child’s full potential and their vision is taking care of Cape Cod’s children and families.

Today, our presenter is Jennelle Klun. And let me tell you a little bit about Jennelle. She has been with Cape Cod Child Development for 13 years. I think you might have the longest tenure right now. She started way back when she was a part-time receptionist and then moved into the Enrollment Department 12 years ago and then you’ve been promoted to Assistant Director of Enrollment last year.

Jennelle Klun: Correct.

Elisabeth Swan: Which is very nice. You are a Cape Cod native and you’ve lived here all your life. It turns out you are an avid kayaker. I am also a big fan of kayaking, which means it’s a great way to enjoy the beaches of Cape Cod, right?

Jennelle Klun: It is.

Elisabeth Swan: To get out there, and you obviously are doing that and also with your two beautiful children.

Jennelle Klun: Yes.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s nice. Thank you. Thank you for joining us today, Jennelle.

Jennelle Klun: You’re very welcome.

About Our Presenter

Elisabeth Swan: Thank you for sharing your success story. And let’s hear a little bit about your project. You are the Assistant Director of Enrollment and let’s take you to your charter.

Project Charter

Jennelle Klun: So my project was to increase the Head Start preschool enrollment in our program. We were at a very low 75% of enrollment and this was a huge problem for us because number one, there were families and children missing out on very important services for pre-kindergarten education but also that we were in jeopardy of losing our state and federal grants that help support the families’ cost in these programs. They help offset the costs I should say in these programs for children and families. So we were looking to increase our enrollment from 75% to at least 85%.

We were at a very low 75% of enrollment and this was a huge problem for us because number one, there were families and children missing out on very important services for pre-kindergarten education but also that we were in jeopardy of losing our state and federal grants that help support the families’ cost in these programs.

Elisabeth Swan: And I think – remind me of what your capacity is because I know there is a finite number right now of how many children you can enroll.

Jennelle Klun: So we are – full capacity for us would be 377 preschool children.

Elisabeth Swan: Great. OK. So looking to really fulfill your capacity.

Jennelle Klun: Correct.

Elisabeth Swan: Great.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, incredibly important. I mean I didn’t realize at first. I mean it was important obviously to get the kids into Head Start but the threat of losing your federal grants, I mean that’s what drives a lot of the programs here, so that’s incredible.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: And for those of you listening in, you might hear faintly in the distance a little bit of lullaby music. It’s nap time in the Head Start Program, isn’t it?

Jennelle Klun: It is. Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: We’re here today at Cape Cod Child Development.

Voice of the Customer

Jennelle Klun: So here we are with the Voice of the Customer. And what we were hearing from our customers was, “Why do I need to be on a waiting list? I need child’s care tomorrow.” And that was really the most important thing for families, needing to get back to work or back into school was meeting that immediate access to child’s care and for the enrollment process to not be so long and take so many days and so many weeks to get their children in our programs.

So we’re doing the Voice of the Customer. We realized that that was really the problem and what families and parents needed from us, was to get in right away.

Elisabeth Swan: Great work there. Obviously, you spoke with a lot of families.

Swimlane Map

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so for our swimlane map, how we were having our enrollment go through was the family would arrive and then they would fill out an application with us. And not just an application but in turn needing to collect their income information and their child’s physical and immunization and dental information as well at that time.

And once we had all of that paperwork, we would then able to put them on to a waiting list if need be. And then after we were able to enroll them and we approved them, we would move on to the Health Department for another approval for their medical and their dental information.

So, it was quite a long process. It’s very hard for families to call the doctor repeatedly, get the medical information, get the dental from the dentist. It was a hardship to the families to have to do all those steps.

So, it was quite a long process. It’s very hard for families to call the doctor repeatedly, get the medical information, get the dental from the dentist. It was a hardship to the families to have to do all those steps.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. It’s hard for the average person to do that without any – I’m thinking about my own process that takes a while to get all of that done and never mind if you’ve got kids.

Measure Phase

Baseline Data – % Enrollment

Jennelle Klun: Exactly. So what we were looking at was again the enrollment was down by 25% in September of 2016. And unfortunately by May of 2017, it was down to 39%. It was incredibly low and unfortunate and needing to be corrected right away.

So what we were looking at was again the enrollment was down by 25% in September of 2016. And unfortunately by May of 2017, it was down to 39%. It was incredibly low and unfortunate and needing to be corrected right away.

Elisabeth Swan: Wow! And this fluctuates somewhat based throughout the year but …

Jennelle Klun: It’s true. There is an ebb and flow in our enrollment. Of course, they are people and so they commonly go with movement on the Cape and the homelessness and things like that. But that was a real drastic drop for us at that point.

Elisabeth Swan: OK.

Fishbone Diagram

Jennelle Klun: So we began to look at the data that we were collecting. In this fishbone diagram, it was very clear to us that the three main reasons we were having an issue where the applications were incomplete and they were missing the information. And again as I spoke to about the medical and the dental information, missing that information was a big problem, having lots of paperwork to bring.

And like you said, Lis, families struggle with getting all that paperwork and keeping it together and it’s a lot of work for them when they have children and then worrying about that as well.

And then the third thing that we did notice in our demographic is some of our families were actually over income.

Elisabeth Swan: And there’s no control over that one. That one …

Jennelle Klun: There’s no control over that one but it was something that kept coming up. But again, we can’t control that.

Elisabeth Swan: It’s out of scope.

Root Cause Hypothesis

Jennelle Klun: Out of scope. And here we are with our root cause hypothesis. So we had a few of hypotheses come up and being the families were over income but again, out of scope.

Families legal status. Families are afraid to apply due to their lack of citizenship here.

Amount of documentation required. Again, EEC, which is Early Education and Care and Head Start, they mandate too much paperwork and documentation for families.

And families weren’t receiving wait list letters because they had moved or didn’t report change of address. So that was becoming an issue as well. But again, that wasn’t something we could control so that would be an out of scope.

Elisabeth Swan: It’s really interesting. We do a lot of work with government along with nonprofit and just a lot of the mandated paperwork and documentation, that’s very reminiscent, the same requirements that it can bug a process down.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely. But when you can look at the process and you can see what is mandated and what isn’t, I think that’s important too.

Elisabeth Swan: And sometimes people assume things are mandated when they are not.

Jennelle Klun: Correct. Exactly. Yup.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. Great. Good work there.

Pareto Chart of Time It Took to Complete Enrollment Process

Jennelle Klun: So here we are. We were collecting some data over a period of time and we were looking to see at the documentation that we were requiring for families, what was it out of all of the documentation that everyone requires were they missing most times than not?

And what we come to find out was that it was a health information. Again, it was that physical and the immunizations and the dental record that we were requiring for families that was delaying the enrollment process for them.

And what we come to find out was that it was a health information. Again, it was that physical and the immunizations and the dental record that we were requiring for families that was delaying the enrollment process for them.

Elisabeth Swan: That was you biggest bucket.

Jennelle Klun: That was our biggest bucket. And that is something that we could look at controlling.

Impact Effort Matrix of Solutions

So here we are. And we were again, moving into looking at the impact effort matrix of solutions and we were looking at what would have the highest impact and allowing enrollment in classrooms without that medial information would really have the highest impact for us. And what would happen if it weren’t able to make some changes? It was going to lose the funding and not be able to offer that care for neediest families here on the Cape.

The other thing we looked at doing that was fairly easy was adding an enrollment application to our website to allow families to complete the applications right from their smartphones or their computers or the library or wherever they access the internet. And we are actually moving forward with that and we are almost complete with that process.

Elisabeth Swan: Really?

Jennelle Klun: Yup, January 1st, we’re hoping to roll that out. So we’re very excited about that.

Elisabeth Swan: So that one is coming. But the other one, you did allow enrollment without the medical info upfront.

Jennelle Klun: We did, yes. We looked at that process and we decided that it was not a mandate by either Early Education and Care or Head Start to have that information prior to enrollment in our classrooms. We were able to go ahead and move that process along a lot quicker and not require families to bring that documentation to us.

Elisabeth Swan: So, is there any downside to that? Is there any risk to not getting that medical or dental info upfront?

Jennelle Klun: We did look at the risks and the benefits of course. And there is some risk, families getting in the classrooms and maybe not providing it to us in a timely fashion. But we looked at staff that can support them after they are enrolled. The family advocates, the teachers can support the families in getting that information to us within the required timeframe which is 30 days from enrollment.

Elisabeth Swan: And it sounds like from what I’ve heard, it actually is getting completed in the 30 days.

Jennelle Klun: It is. We have not had to ask a family not to attend for lack of bringing in their paperwork after they’ve been enrolled. So it has been quite successful.

Elisabeth Swan: So that’s nice. So the child is enrolled and they are getting the benefits of being in the program.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: And this is just happening in due time, meeting the 30-day requirement, just not preventing the enrollment.

Jennelle Klun: Correct. And the child again is able to be in classroom learning, and peer interaction, and getting their meals and snacks and just having that wonderful education that they really need before kindergarten.

Elisabeth Swan: What a great discovery as you said of figuring out what’s mandated and what’s not and it really wasn’t mandated.

Jennelle Klun: It really was not mandated. Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s great. And I love hearing that application is about to come on.

Jennelle Klun: We are very excited about that. It has been a process but I think it’s going to be really beneficial for families especially families that maybe they don’t have transportation to come down to our main office or any of our locations for that matter. We find that families generally have a smartphone. And so, they can even access the application from there and it gets that process going that much sooner and quicker.

Elisabeth Swan: And did you discover things like that in working with the families that really people do have the smartphones that can access this stuff?

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely yes. Yup. It was actually at enrollment we were saying to families, “Do you have access to the internet easily and readily?” And they were saying yes. So we thought, “Well, what a great idea to go ahead and roll out that enrollment application out?”

Elisabeth Swan: Nice research, Jennelle. Nice research.

Swimlane Map

Jennelle Klun: So here we are with our new process. So the family arrives. The application process being now that simply filling out the application, there’s no medical and there’s no dental required at that point. And we’re able to just move right on into enrolling them. And the decision is made just based on their income, not having to worry about collecting that medical and dental, rolls right into the Health Department when it’s collected and after the fact and the child is able to start in the classroom that much sooner.

The application process being now that simply filling out the application, there’s no medical and there’s no dental required at that point. And we’re able to just move right on into enrolling them. And the decision is made just based on their income, not having to worry about collecting that medical and dental, rolls right into the Health Department when it’s collected and after the fact and the child is able to start in the classroom that much sooner.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s great. Just moving a step.

Run Chart of “After” % Enrollment

Jennelle Klun: So exciting. And you can see here, after we made our change in our process, we were able to increase our enrollment drastically. We actually exceeded our goal of 80%. And we were 85% enrolled in September, which is an increase of 10% for us over the last year.

Elisabeth Swan: And where are you now?

Jennelle Klun: We are at 92% enrolled today.

Elisabeth Swan: Wow!

Jennelle Klun: As of today. Yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: And then you’re going to have this online application and it’s going to shoot up even more.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s amazing.

Jennelle Klun: Yeah, we’re super excited.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s amazing.

Improved Enrollment

Jennelle Klun: And here we are again, just a bar graph of where we’re at. So again, we’re at 75% enrolled in September 2016. And then at the end of September 2017, we were at 84% enrolled just simply by looking at our processes and making a change.

So again, we’re at 75% enrolled in September 2016. And then at the end of September 2017, we were at 84% enrolled just simply by looking at our processes and making a change.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s so great. And I know it’s a little seasonal in terms of when the classes start and things like that. So this is a great comparison of looking at the last fall and this fall.

Jennelle Klun: Correct. Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s great.

Project Benefits and Lessons Learned

Jennelle Klun: And some of our benefits and lessons learned throughout the process. For me, the benefit was enrollment increased in September by nearly 10% over last year, which was a huge success for our agency but especially for the children and families on Cape Cod. To be able to offer that many more family services was a huge, amazing thing to experience.

Opportunity to improve the preschool enrolment process. Looking at the process and again, I’ve been here will be 13 years and you’re in a process and you don’t notice that there’s opportunity for change unless you really sit and you go through this Lean Six Sigma process and you can say, “Wow! I have never looked at it this way over the 13 years I’ve been here.”

And I’m super excited to now be able to take my new skills and improve future processes. Looking at different ways of doing all kinds of things within the department would make things much, much smoothly and effectively I think.

And the lessons learned, for sure communication is key. We and the Enrollment Department and across the agency, there are a lot of moving parts and we really do need to communicate with co-workers and looking at processes.

Collecting data is worthwhile. It’s very time-consuming but it’s absolutely is worthwhile to be able to look at the black and white figures and say, “You know what? This is absolutely what’s going on.” And this is the reason why it’s happening and being able to back that up with data is wonderful.

And learning a new way of looking at processing will be super helpful in the future. So I’m super excited.

Elisabeth Swan: You’re making me proud, Jennelle.

Jennelle Klun: Thanks.

Questions?

Elisabeth Swan: So you just mentioned the future and that you can apply this to other places. Do you have a next idea for a next challenge or project you might do?

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely. So we’re looking at – once we have the children enrolled, wanting to keep them in the program. So my next project is going to be looking at the reasons why children are leaving and seeing if there’s some sort of process that we can change around that to help sustain our enrollment now that we’re rolling.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s nice.

Jennelle Klun: Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: So a spinoff and still impacting the same benefit of children getting that preschool, the Head Start experience.

Jennelle Klun: Correct. Absolutely.

Elisabeth Swan: Really nice. Has this impacted the way you look at things outside of work?

Jennelle Klun: It has. It’s so funny. So I’m a huge coffee drinker and I go down the street, I’m going to be honest, and I will sit and order my coffee and I will watch all the workers just running around and running around and I’m just thinking of back to the Bahamas and the bistro and going like, “Oh, they should really do a Lean Six Sigma training here because there are just so many extra steps being taken and stuff just isn’t where it should be as far as the coffee being at this end and the creamer being at the other end.” So absolutely I think that’s probably …

Elisabeth Swan: You got the bug.

Jennelle Klun: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to yell across the counter and be like, “Gosh!” Yes, absolutely. So yeah, I think that’s right.

Elisabeth Swan: You can’t avoid it anymore.

Jennelle Klun: You can’t. You can’t. Nope.

Elisabeth Swan: And then last question for you, what was your favorite part about doing this project?

Jennelle Klun: I think my favorite part aside from learning a new skill would have to be that we are now able to help that many more children and families here on Cape Cod. I think that our services were so crucial to the Cape and to the families here and for us to be able to offer the services to that many more families and do it in a way that isn’t hurting them and having to collect all that additional documentation and just making things easier for them because being a parent is really hard work as it is and then trying to enroll your child into school in my opinion should not be that difficult.

So Cape Cod Child Development giving me the opportunity to learn this new skill and be able to help these families was really important to me. So …

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a great takeaway and thank you for that incredibly important work and just exciting to see the mission-driven impact you guys are having.

Jennelle Klun: Yes. Yes.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a great thing.

Getting Started

I am Elisabeth Swan and you’re listening to GoLeanSixSigma.com’s Success Story highlighting Jennelle Klun. And I want to thank you, Jennelle, for joining us today.

Jennelle Klun: I want to thank you, Lis.

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

If you have a success story you’d like to share with us, send us a note at [email protected] Don’t forget to go to our website and view all of our other success stories and please help yourself to downloads of templates, tools, blogs, webinars, and other free tools that are there for you.

Thank you for joining us today. Until next time.


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 Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.