UC San Diego employees apply Lean Six Sigma in education! Watch this 30 minute success story to learn how UCSD employee Tehseen Lazzouni is eliminating Non-Value-Add steps in reporting to improve productivity.
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Success Story Transcript
Tracy O’Rourke: Hello! And welcome to our Success Story Webinar hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. My name is Tracy O’Rourke and I’m the Managing Partner, Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com.
And we are very excited to have this offering for you, our learners and our audience, because this is where the rubber meets the road. This is when we talk about real projects that have been implemented within any organization, today’s education at UC San Diego. And we want to share these stories with you because we love to highlight project success stories so that people can see how it really does make an impact in organizations.
About Our Presenter
So today, we’re highlighting a really good success story project presented by Tehseen Lazzouni who is a Financial Analyst in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at UC San Diego. How are you today, Tehseen?
Tehseen Lazzouni: I’m doing fine. Thank you.
Tracy O’Rourke: I’m so happy to have you and you joining us today.
Tehseen Lazzouni: I’m very happy to be here.
Tracy O’Rourke: So let’s learn a little bit about Tehseen before we get started. So tell us a little bit about your career or your experience with Lean Six Sigma and being a Green Belt.
Tehseen Lazzouni: I became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt just a few months ago and I have already applied it to not only my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project but also to Process Palooza which was hosted by UCSD in November. And I have enjoyed using these tools and I find they are very effective way to be able to analyze processes and determine how best to improve them.
In my career, I’ve been in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry for almost three years. And before that, I was in the School of Engineering. And I have been very happy to see the emphasis on Lean Six Sigma in my university and they’re trying to do it in all areas. So I’m happy to be doing my part and sharing my project.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And so, I will tell you that I came to meet Tehseen because I’m an instructor for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt at UC San Diego and Tehseen was in my Green Belt class along with many other UC San Diego employees. So I think what’s wonderful about this is UC San Diego is taking advantage of this offering, right? They are having employees come to the course to actually apply Lean Six Sigma to some of the work processes at UC San Diego. And I love it!
And I will also say because Tehseen is probably too humble to say that she was voted best in class for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project that you’re about to see. So not only that she did good work but she works great with people and she was also a star at the Process Palooza too.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you. Very nice.
Tracy O’Rourke: So now that I’ve talked to her, we can really talk through her project. Is there anything else you want to share with the audience about your background?
Tehseen Lazzouni: I think we should just dive right into the project.
Tracy O’Rourke: OK. That sounds great.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thanks. OK. So this project is entitled Lightning Reporting. And the purpose of the project was to find a way to improve our quarterly report process and the amount of time it takes to do the report.
Key Terms Specific to This Project
So let me start with some key terms specific to this project. So I’m the Financial Analyst for the 11 recharge facilities in my department. And that involves preparing – it involves a lot but every quarter, there is a quarterly reporting process where I report to the directors of each facility how they did with their revenues, their expenses. I project things for the end of the fiscal year. And this process was taking quite a bit of time.
And it was suggested to me by our Chief Operating Officer in the department that this would be an excellent Lean Six Sigma project. So I took it on and brought that to my course.
So, let me define some of the terms. So a recharge facility is the university lab that does analyses for internal and external customers. So that means people who are part of the UCSD community as well as those from outside.
The customers are the directors of the facility, the department management whom I report to, and then myself. I am a customer as well.
The quarterly report is a report showing income, expense, projections for each fiscal year and they are done four times a year. So you can imagine one would want to improve the process.
Tracy O’Rourke: Because it’s repeatable.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Exactly. The term ledger close refers to the date on which no more entries can be made to the accounting records for a particular month. So my quarterly reports would be at the end of each ledger close for that quarter.
Cycle time means the working days between ledger close and the completion of all the reports.
And work time is the actual time it takes to prepare a quarterly report without any interruptions. And another term for this is touch time, how long it actually takes for me to do that.
Tracy O’Rourke: Good.
Project Charter Template
Tehseen Lazzouni: So this is my project charter template in which I stated the problem, which is that reports take too long. At that point, there were only ten recharge facilities. Now, we have eleven. But back then, the ten reports would take an average of five hours each to prepare. Combined with my workload, it could take two weeks or more to finish the entire set of reports.
So the goal was to decrease the amount of time for each quarterly report but also to decrease the amount of time for the whole cycle.
We also determine what was in scoop and what was out of scoop to decide what kinds of things I was going to be working on and addressing versus what things I was not going to have. This is a limited time project. I wasn’t going to recreate our entire accounting system for example. Rather, this would have to be something that was reasonable.
So in scoop is the financial data input methods and processes and simplifying and streamlining the report. And out of scope was completely redesigning the report.
And the business case of course was to free up staff time, time that could be used on other projects that would benefit the department and the university and they would translate of course to monetary benefits to the department. So I had a timeline, which I try to stick to but often, that doesn’t happen.
Tracy O’Rourke: That’s definitely one of the challenges for the Green Belt is you have to complete a project with improvement within six weeks after the class ends, right? So that was, it helps people really focus on – get a narrow focus on what they can actually improve. And so, you did a great job with that.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you. And the team members were myself as well as my supervisor, Elena Lelea.
VOC Translation Matrix
So this is a Voice of the Customer Translation Matrix and it’s a way of showing what it is that the customers want. So we take the customer cue which is something not very well-defined such as, “I want my report in a reasonable time so that I can use this data to guide my decision-making.” And then you clarify that to these customer values, the timeliness of the report, and then it gets translated to a CTQ, critical to quality customer requirement. In this case, we put it as five business days. The report should be received within five business days at ledger close.
Another one of the customer cues was, “I don’t want too much information, just enough to make decisions.” OK. So, how do I translate that? Well, I clarified that by saying, OK, this person, this customer who was a facility director found that there was too much information on the reports and too many pages and then it detracted from the report and he couldn’t see what were the most important takeaways from the report.
Tracy O’Rourke: Very interesting. So, you were really able to determine that a lot of information really wasn’t what they wanted. And so, I really like how you’ve used this translation matrix because everything on the far right is measurable now and it was kind of an aha about what customers really want.
Tehseen Lazzouni: That’s right. That’s right. So we said that OK, the report should be streamlined and only one page. And then for myself being a customer, and actually this was one of the aha moments for me in the class when I presented the initial project to my class before getting into the full DMAIC process. I presented the project. And one of my classmates pointed out to me that I myself may very well be a customer. And that’s true because I am the Financial Analyst, the Recharge Analyst and it’s important to me that I’m not spending all day on a report.
So for me, I felt my customer cue was that I didn’t want to take all day to prepare and that it should be short work time and just take an hour. So, the key takeaway was that the project needs to address overall work time to impact cycle time as well as streamline.
SIPOC: Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers
I loved this, the SIPOC. So this is the process map. And I love how all of the Lean Six Sigma tools allow you to really dive in and understand what it is that you’re doing, the current process, what the root causes might be, and to help to pinpoint areas of improvement.
So this is the process map called SIPOC which stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. And I showed in this, if you look in the supplier’s column, you can see that there are several suppliers of components of my quarterly reports, and that includes the UCSD FinLink System. It includes the recharge facility’s database, facility past reports, as well as our external billing database because we have many external clients.
The inputs were certain reports that come from our FinLink System as well as from our other systems.
And then process is that I would – well, I don’t think I need to go through the whole process here and bore you but I was able to go through the process to show how the inputs relate to each of the process steps.
And then of course the output is the quarterly report and the customers are the few that we mentioned earlier.
This is called the Value Stream Map. And the purpose of this is to show each of the steps in a specific element of your process and to find what are the value-added steps and what could potentially be the not value-added steps.
So I had to measure how much time it takes for me to prepare one of these reports and I had to show how much time is spent on each step, what are the waiting times.
And the key takeaway was that there were some steps I was taking such as providing detailed analysis which could be considered a non-value-added step and also that there was a lot of wait time on a couple of those items. So it helped to kind of almost point the way that maybe these are things that I should be looking at when it comes to the next point in the DMAIC process.
DMAIC means Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. And that’s part of Lean Six Sigma.
Tracy O’Rourke: Great.
Data Collection Plan
Tehseen Lazzouni: This is the data collection plan showing what types of data I needed to collect. And the first was cycle time, which is how much time it takes from the time that the ledger closes to the time that all the reports are done. And thankfully, I had this data for the one and a half years that I was working in this capacity but also, for my predecessor to see what her cycle time was as well. So that was available.
The work time, I was able to do on my own. And then the reports with cycle time greater than ten working days, I was able to determine how many of them were in that category. So…
Tracy O’Rourke: So, is this part hard for you in terms of the project finding the data? Because this is always a challenge sometimes for people is to find data that they actually can use.
Tehseen Lazzouni: I think it actually wasn’t because we keep all of our quarterly reports and we prepare them in Excel and then we make a PDF. So the date on the PDF was easy to find.
Tracy O’Rourke: That’s always nice.
Tehseen Lazzouni: So I just prepared a very, very large spreadsheet that showed for each of our ten facilities for each quarter when they were prepared and sent. So that was – it was actually quite fun to compile that information and to see that maybe for some facilities, it took longer than others.
And measurements, these are – the first on the upper left is the cycle time and that’s a histogram showing the number of observations on the Y axis and the cycle time on the X axis. And it shows that the mean cycle was 16 days. So on average, it took 16 days. And that was not good.
On the far right on the top, it shows the cycle time by quarter and it’s a box plot. And this course was the first time that I’ve seen box plots and I think they’re very, very interesting because just in each element you’re able to see the minimum, the maximum, the median. You can see how large the spread is by any particular criteria. So I could see that in the very first quarter of ‘15, ’16 that my cycle time was much longer than in the most recent quarter. So obviously, there is a learning curve, right?
Then on the bottom, we could see cycle time by facilities. So this shows each of our ten facilities on the X axis. And there were some facilities that took a lot longer to do and some that were quicker. So I think that was very eye-opening to see that it varies.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, I love box plots too. I think they are a lot of fun and they could be very insightful. Obviously with cycle time, we’re always trying to get it to be faster or lower. We’re trying to reduce cycle time or lead time. And so lower, these little box and whiskers, lower is better. So I think that’s really interesting and I’m really glad you got to use this tool.
Analysis: Fishbone Diagram
Tehseen Lazzouni: And this is the fishbone diagram. So it is part of the analysis step in Lean Six Sigma. And so at the head of the fishbone, which is that big rectangle there, is what the problem is. So the problem is that reports take more than two weeks to complete. And then on each of the scales is where you categorize the types of problems and then these are not necessarily the root causes. This is brainstorming the root causes. So, I brainstormed them and then the ones that are circled are the ones that I chose to look further into.
Process Analysis: Value-Added Flow Analysis
And this is a value-added flow analysis that shows each of the process steps and whether they were value-added or not value-added and it helped me to determine that 50% of the tasks were value-added, 20% were not value-added, 30% was wait time. So it helped to see where the potential is for eliminating wasted time.
Tracy O’Rourke: And so when you say 50% of the tasks were value-added, you’re talking about the total amount of time it takes you. So if you look at the value-add time in that second column then you were sort of calculating that and figuring out what percentage of that time is value-add versus non-value-add. Is that right?
Tehseen Lazzouni: That’s right.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yes.
Tehseen Lazzouni: That’s right because the entire work time was five hours and two and a half hours are value-added.
Tracy O’Rourke: Good. Yes. OK. Wonderful. Thank you. Very interesting.
Tehseen Lazzouni: This is where we test the hypotheses and show which ones are true and which ones are false. So I’ll just point out which ones were false. There were too many – one of the hypotheses I had was there are too many dates on this report. This is creating too much time. That’s false. It really didn’t take that much time.
Another false hypothesis was that manually bringing in data takes too much time. Actually, it didn’t. Looking at the overall process, it wasn’t. But the things that were true are that there was too much analysis by various factors, unneeded analysis. There were also redundancies. So the previous report before the improvement had redundant data. There were also competing priorities that contributed to cycle time.
So I really liked being able to test the hypotheses and to test them by looking at what was the wait time between the reports and how taking a pie chart to show what steps comprised the actual process. So I like this. It’s very scientific I think.
Tracy O’Rourke: So you know what I love about this is you have a hypothesis on here that I think a lot of people jumped to and assumed is true, and that is manual data taking too much time. Everybody wants to automate everything and they think, “Oh, it’s going to be faster. It’s going to be better.” And if you actually didn’t prove that, you might have gone down a different path where you’re automating it and it wouldn’t have actually solved the problem.
So I love that because we tend to jump to solution in general and we tend to jump to automation as the solution. And so, I love that you actually followed the process and the methodology to actually say, is this really true or not?
Tehseen Lazzouni: That’s right. And actually, that’s a lesson I learned on my very first day of class. I came up to you and I said, “You know what? I already know we’re going to automate this.” I was thinking this is more like just how do I implement that? But actually, Lean Six Sigma is stepping back and taking the time to analyze it. It was untrue that it was taking too much time.
Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. I love that.
Impact Effort Matrix
Tehseen Lazzouni: So I had several improvements in mind and this Impact Effort Matrix is a way to review those improvements and to decide what do I want to implement? So on the left on the Y axis is the impact. It goes from low, medium, to high. And then on the right, the X axis is effort, hard, medium, and easy.
So, I had my six improvement possibilities and I plotted where they are on the impact effort matrix and I found that some were easy and had a high impact and some were hard and had a low impact.
And one of the improvements with the high impact but with the hard effort, difficult effort was to automate report, number three. And so, I decided on the combination of streamlining, stopping interruptions, eliminating extra analyses, getting projections from my PIs and facility directors before reports. By the way, PIs are principal investigators.
Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you.
Tehseen Lazzouni: They are academic directors of the facilities. And another improvement was to run reports, multiple reports per day.
This is called FMEA, the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. And this actually started with NASA. And so I love that because I used to work on a NASA project many years ago. So this is a way of seeing what the potential, unintended consequences of your improvements are.
So just looking at one of them, the first row, allow no interruptions when preparing report, so what could the potential failure mode of that be? Well, I could miss urgent emails from outside clients. The effect would be that that they would have to wait before I could respond without even understanding.
What’s the severity of that from 1 to 10? Well, I felt it was 7.
And the potential cause for that was that they’re not getting an email from me in a timely manner.
So I took the severity of the failure with the potential rate of occurrence which I determined was a 6 here. And the level of detection, it’s not detectable to me that I’m failing to respond to somebody in a timely manner. So that was a 10.
So I took those three, multiply them to get the RPN which stands for…
Tracy O’Rourke: Risk Priority Number.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you. Risk Priority Number. And I got 420. Another scored 300. So it helps to determine, well, which of these failure modes do you really want to address? What are the priorities? And I addressed both of them and I found that if I just put an automated email or a sign on my door then I could minimize the effect of that particular improvement. And so, my RPN went from 420 to 80 in the first case and from 300 to 24 in the second case.
Tracy O’Rourke: Excellent.
To Be Map
Tehseen Lazzouni: So this is the To Be Map after the improvement. And you can see that the wait time, the non-value-added time has been eliminated and cutting the work time from 5 hours down to 1.3 hours.
Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. And now, they can use your very important and smart brains to do other work.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Well, thank you. Yeah, I enjoy that.
Before & After Time Data
Here are some before and after data. So looking at cycle time before where I had a population of 60 to look at. You could see I went from 16 days cycle time down to 4.6 days in my improved cycle time. And then my work time per report went from 5 hours report to 1.3 hours report.
Tracy O’Rourke: That’s exciting. So was your boss happy with this, your supervisor?
Tehseen Lazzouni: Yes. Yes, they were all very happy.
Monitoring & Response Plan
And this is the C in DMAIC, the Control, where you monitor. You want to be able to keep the outcomes of this process within certain guidelines. And so, I felt that I need to keep monitoring my work time per report. If it takes more than two hours then I better go back and see what is it that I’m doing that’s taking so long.
Tracy O’Rourke: Very nice. All right. Final statement and lessons learned.
Final Statement & Lesson Learned
Tehseen Lazzouni: Yes. I learned that I should start my improvements early so that I could spend time making sure that the improvements have taken place. I love root cause analysis. It was very powerful and brainstorming what could be the cause of this long process.
I learned about the unintended consequences. I also liked just getting people involved. And this particular project was really mainly a one person project but in Process Palooza, I worked with a whole team. We’re a team of five working to improve a process. And you get a lot of energy from team members and there are a lot of different ideas to explore. So both are good but it’s important to get colleagues involved from the very beginning. It can be a team building activity.
And one of the things I learned from you before every one of our classes was to have an ice breaker to get to know my classmates to find even though we are different people, we have things in common and to build on those commonalities. Build bridges.
Tracy O’Rourke: Build bridges, yes. It could really help with dynamics and productivity really. Great.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Definitely.
Tracy O’Rourke: And here’s your executive summary.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Yeah. So the business case is that work time improvement saved thousands of dollars by freeing up staff time which translates to saving money. And cycle time improvement gets the reports to the directors in a timely manner so that they can make decisions on things for their facilities with enough time.
And root cause analysis showed that there was much in non-value-added steps. So those could be eliminated.
And the solutions I implemented was to streamline the report, remove redundancies, remove interruptions, target two to three reports per day, decreasing the wait time between reports. And actually, one of the positive benefits of that is that when you’re doing so many reports a day, you’re on a roll. You’re in a mode so you don’t have to kind of restart the thinking. You just can keep going and keep the momentum up.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yup.
Tehseen Lazzouni: I also removed unnecessary analyses. And I contacted directors prior to running the report to get an idea of what types of revenues or expenses they are projecting that I might not know about. And by doing that ahead of time, I don’t need to wait for them to tell me. I can just have that on hand.
And so the results were that the cycle time was reduced from 16 days to 4 days, 4.6 days. Work time reduced from 5 hours to 1.3 hours. And overall, this was a really positive project. I enjoyed working on it. My department management loved the new streamline reports that we’ve already implemented them for all of our facilities.
I really would love to thank you for teaching me all these techniques that I’ve been applying on my job and I’m looking forward to working on more Lean Six Sigma process improvement projects.
Tracy O’Rourke: I’m looking forward to you working on more too.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you.
Tracy O’Rourke: No. It was a pleasure having you in class. You were a wonderful student. You did a great job with applying the tools. I really like this project for a lot of reasons. I think you did a great job with the application of all the tools. I think your example of the VOC as an example, the way you walk through that really explains the purpose of it. And the FMEA too. So those are just two examples that really stick out for me.
But my most favorite thing about your project is you didn’t do the traditional jump to solution. If you look at the solutions, none of it was automation. You actually did improve steps. And can you imagine if you just automated it and you’re still running all this detailed analysis that was not necessary? So this is a great example. I’m going to tell people everywhere. If ever someone comes to me and says, “I’m going to automate.” I’m like, “You need to watch Tehseen’s success story project because it’s a great example of don’t jump to solution. Don’t just automate things because now you’re just automating the process that could be suboptimal.”
So, thank you for that. So I just have a couple of questions for you.
Tehseen Lazzouni: OK.
Tracy O’Rourke: So, what was your most favorite part about this project, doing this project?
Tehseen Lazzouni: Wow! I think my favorite was the realizations that here is where some of the problem could be occurring. So I think that was really big. I loved just mapping the process in different ways showing it the SIPOC as well as showing it in terms of value-added.
Tracy O’Rourke: Good.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Actually, I love the class. I love all the examples that you gave us in class. It really got me excited about process improvement. I’ve been seeing it everywhere. I say, “Hey, you know, they’re doing this new thing at McDonald’s. Is that part of Lean Six Sigma?”
Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah.
Tehseen Lazzouni: So I’ve been seeing it everywhere.
Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I think what I liked about you as a student too is you did really embrace the patience that is required if you will. Like I said, people jump to solution. Even you said at the very beginning, you thought you were going to automate this. So, do you have any advice for someone that’s going to be embarking on a Green Belt project per se in terms of advice that you would give them for starting out whether it’s being patient or anything? What advice might you have?
Tehseen Lazzouni: Yeah. I think it really is this, to take the time to understand the problem and not jump to conclusions. And this was actually what I – the advice I gave my team in Process Palooza, same thing that we’re not going to jump to conclusions. Let’s go through the process. This has been developed for a reason. And it allows you to see so much more than if you had already decided what your improvement was going to be. So I think that would be the advice.
And to be patient and to not feel shy about reaching out to others for help. And also that they should have a growth mindset that if you make a mistake, that’s fine. You just – that’s part of learning, right?
Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, it is. Good. Thank you. So what’s next for you, Tehseen? Do you look at things different now that you’ve gone through Lean Six Sigma? Do you look at things different in the world or if you want to share what might you do next with this knowledge?
Tehseen Lazzouni: Well, I am going to be involved in the Enterprise System Renewal process at UC San Diego. So that’s next for me, in some small capacity of course. It’s a very large project. So I will be involved in that.
And I’ve also joined the Community of Practice for process improvement at UCSD. And so, I’ll be participating with that as well, meeting others who have Lean Six Sigma background.
I also applied for the Lean Bench Program, which is a one year program where Lean Six Sigma people on campus can work on processes that are outside their own domain and they can work with a team. So I’ve have applied for that and hopefully, I’ll be accepted and I’ll be able to do that as well.
Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I’ll put a good word in for you.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Tracy O’Rourke: So I’m Tracy O’Rourke and you’re listening to a Go Lean Six Sigma success story highlighting Tehseen Lazzouni. Did I say that right?
Tehseen Lazzouni: That’s right.
Tracy O’Rourke: Good. And I want to thank you so much for sharing your project success story with us. I’m sure that a lot of learners will benefit from listening to your project and the thought process and even the tools that you used as well.
And I also want to thank our audience for joining as well. If you have any questions about this particular project or how to apply Lean Six Sigma, just contact us at GoLeanSixSigma.com. We’ve got lots of success stories. We’ve got a number of them from UC San Diego. We also have them for government and for education as well because those people have great stories to share and they’re not afraid to share. Sometimes private sector does not want to share their stories.
So again, if you have any more questions, contact us at [email protected] Don’t forget to download any free tools, templates, infographics, and more.
Thank you so much, Tehseen.
Tehseen Lazzouni: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. And thanks for joining us today. Bye-bye.