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UC San Diego is implementing Lean Six Sigma. Find out how this project team reduced waste on training preparation time for their internally delivered Yellow Belt training course. UC San Diego is implementing Lean Six Sigma on Lean Six Sigma!

Matt Helton is a Strategic Initiatives Analyst for the Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives or OSI. His primary role is managing the department project portfolio, providing operational and project support, coordinating and facilitating Lean Six Sigma staff training at UC San Diego. He recently became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified through the UC San Diego Extension Program.

Lynn Underwood is an IT Service Manager in the Service Management Office at UC San Diego. Lynn is PMP Certified, a Process Design Engineer and, like Matt, recently became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified through the UC San Diego Extension Program.

The Challenge

UC San Diego is the number 1 Public University in the country, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do better. The University has a robust program for educating their own staff on Process Improvement at a Yellow Belt Level. But the prep process for conducting the training took about as long as the training itself! Facilitators complained about how long they had to spend preparing to conduct the full-day simulation for University Staff. University Management didn’t want to lose so many hours of valuable staff time to non-value-added activities. This presented an opportunity to apply Lean Six Sigma to a Lean Six Sigma class.

IT Service Manager Lynn Underwood and Strategic Initiatives Analyst Matt Helton teamed up to tackle the problem as part of their Green Belt Certification at the University. The first thing tackled was measuring how long it took to prepare for the Yellow Belt Certification. After measuring the end-to-end prep time for nine separate Yellow Belt Classes, they found it ranged from 6 to 8 hours and averaged about 7 hours. Their Sponsor, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives Ashley Gambier, challenged them to reduce the cycle time by at least 50%.

The Discovery

Mapping the process made it clear how many steps were involved in the process. Adding average cycle times to each step illuminated where the biggest bottlenecks too place:

  • Clean Laminate Materials—120 minutes
  • Organize laminate materials by job—60 minutes
  • Laminate all new materials—60 minutes
  • Binder clip & bundle laminate materials—90 minutes

“As Is” Process Map of Simulation Preparation

Steps having to do with anything “laminated” took 5 and a half hours. After discoveries like this, the team put together a Fishbone Diagram. Even though they brainstormed remotely, they uncovered a wealth of potential root causes to test.

Since the goal was to reduce prep time they focused their root cause verification efforts on that segment of the process. The root causes they narrowed down were:

  • Simulation materials were scattered all over the room at the end of a training day which increased the time it took to reorganize the materials for the next class
  • It was hard to remove ink from the laminated materials so the clean up of the laminated materials was a major time drain
  • There were a lot of unused and therefore non-value-added materials included in the simulation which increased the time it took to prep for subsequent simulations

The Improvements

As a result of all the opportunities they uncovered, Lynn and Matt were able to reduce the prep time from a baseline average of 7 hours to an average of just under 2 hours. They did better than a 50 % reduction, they got a 72% cycle time reduction! Some of the changes included:

  • Printing log sheets instead of using laminated log sheets, reducing the quantity of laminated materials that require cleaning after each simulation
  • Creating inventory checklist for simulation materials
  • Implementing accordion files for organizing simulation materials
  • Implementing binder rings to keep simulation materials together
  • Asking trainees to put simulation materials back at the end of each class
  • Creating a Supplies Inventory Checklist & using it to replenish ahead of time (no last minute needs)

The Improved Prep Process Map

There were fewer steps in the process since they were able to remove 2 inspection loops for missing materials at both the beginning and the end of the process. There were big drops in cycle time for the preparation steps across the board. The class facilitators, a key Stakeholder group, got back 5 hours of valuable time—time they could now spend adding value and using their skills where they counted.

They achieved a huge improvement in prep time, and they also managed to lower the cost of supplies at the same time. A summary of their gains is listed below:

  • Reduced event prep cycle time by ~5 hours (72%)
  • Reduced cost associated with each event prep (including cycle time, staffing resources & material costs) from $1,085 to $142 (87%)
  • Annualized event prep savings of $49,036 (based on one iteration/week)
  • Annualized training event savings of $83,252 (based on one iteration/week)

What’s Next?

As newly certified Green Belts, Lynn and Matt are off to their next projects. They are both appreciative of the DMAIC process noting that in the past, they would typically skip both the Measure and Analyze Phases and skip right to Improve. But during the project, collecting data helped them challenge their assumptions. It prevented them from jumping to unfounded conclusions about problems because they could test their theories and back them up with data.

The experience confirmed for the two of them that the Lean Six Sigma method is accessible to everyone. They didn’t have to deal with “crazy equations and confusing data configurations” to achieve their goals. They noted that most of the information on their Fishbone was based on verbatim comments from process participants. But it helped them to understand the process. They both valued the discipline of asking why, why, why why—and why again to get to the root causes of problems. They are looking forward to more opportunities to educate others and collaborate to build great processes at UC San Diego—and keep them ranked #1!

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Success Story Transcript

Tracy: Hello and welcome to our Success Story Webinar hosted by My name is Tracy O’Rourke. We are very excited to have this offering because this is where we get to share a project application in the real world and we want to share these stories with you, our listeners, because this is where the rubber meets the road.

Our presenters today are Matthew Helton and Lynn Underwood from the University of California San Diego or UCSD. And they are going to talk about how they were able to reduce preparation time for training by 72% with their Green Belt improvement projects.

Lynn and Matt, welcome to the webinar.

Matt: Thank you, Tracy. Nice to be here.

Lynn: Thank you, Tracy. Happy to be here.

Tracy: Well, I’m happy that you guys are here too. So, I’d like to share a little bit about the presenters before we get started.

So Matt works as a Strategic Initiatives and Analyst for the Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives or OSI. Whoa! That’s a mouthful. His primary role has been managing the department project portfolio, providing operational and project support, coordinating and facilitating a Lean Six Sigma staff training at UCSD. He graduated from the UC Riverside with a BS in Anthropology. He is trained in web development design and recently became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified through the UCSD Extensions Program. Congratulations, Matt!

Matt: Thank you.

Tracy: His areas of expertise include operations management, data analysis, training, coordination, business development, design, and social media marketing. This guy can do a lot.

Matt: Many hats.

Lynn: He is a dynamo.

Tracy: He is a dynamo. And Lynn is an IT Service Manager in the Service Management Office at UCSD. She completed her undergraduate degree in Art History and had a multiple master’s degrees in American Studies, Museum Practices, and Library and Information Science.

Between graduate programs, Lyn worked for the UC San Diego’s Art Library before heading off to Yale to complete her fellowship in Art Information. And after that, she worked for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City before returning to UC San Diego. That must have been interesting.

Lynn: It was a wild ride but it was a lot of fun.

Tracy: Yeah, coast to coast. You are also PMP Certified, Project Management Professional, and Process Design Engineer. And you also received your Lean Six Sigma Green Belt from the UCSD Extension. Congratulations!

Lynn: Yay! Thank you.

Tracy: So before we get started on your project, tell me how was the Green Belt training?

Lynn: I thought the Green Belt training was exciting. It was something I look forward to every week and I felt like I got a lot out of it.

Tracy: Good. How about you, Matt?

Matt: I thought it was fantastic. It shows you how to look at a process through a new lens and analyze that process and implement changes for the better.

Tracy: Yeah, good. And you guys completed a project. This project actually was a result of the program. This was your Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. So, what was it like actually working on the project as part of training?

Lynn: I think that was a critical part of the class. It brings the Lean Six Sigma methodology to life. You’re challenged in a hands-on way and you come out of the class with the confidence on how to actually apply it.

Tracy: Yes.

Matt: I agree.

Tracy: So UCSD, great organization. Just this year, it was ranked the 15th Best University in the World by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and also named the 4th Best Public College in the World. That’s pretty impressive. That is very exciting.

Matt: Absolutely proud, yeah.

Tracy: Yes. And new rankings by Nature, one of the world’s leading academic journals, also praised the campus for its research and ranking that as the World’s 14th Best University for Developing Research. This is really impressive. You guys work for a very prestigious organization. How did that feel?

Lynn: It feels great. I think that it’s equally reflected in the people we work with. There’s a lot of really high-performing people and driven people who love what the university stands for.

Matt: And the opportunities for professional development here, you can really tell that the university values their staff and is willing to invest in them.

Tracy: Absolutely. You guys work at UCSD. You went to the UCSD Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Program. That’s exciting.

Matt: Definitely.

Tracy: I mean that’s wonderful that they actually say, “Hey, we want to do this too.”

Lynn: And they make it a priority. It feels wonderful that we have that investment in yourself and turn around and give it back to your organization.

About Our Presenters

Tracy: Yes, wonderful. Well, let’s hear what you guys have to do in terms of your presentation. So this is actually something that you have applied at UCSD and I think this is really a great project because who doesn’t do training? I mean anybody could really try to improve the training process. So I really like this because every company has training and they could really apply this and some of the tools that you guys learned towards their improvement.

So I’m going to be quiet now and I’m going to go ahead and let you guys talk about your project and internally, you guys call this Follow the Yellow Belt Road. Tell me a little bit around why you called your project that internally?

Follow the Yellow Belt Road

Matt: Well, so I am the coordinator and a facilitator for LSS Yellow Belt Training here at UCSD. And we just wanted something kind of chichi that capture the essence of the project. So we went with that title.

Tracy: Very nice.

Lynn: And also I think it has a lot of meaning in the sense that it’s a path that we started down together and Matt and his team are just continuing across campus with it. So it is a path.

Tracy: You must be a fun instructor. [Laughter]

Tracy: OK. Wonderful.

Preface: LSS Yellow Belt Class Format

Matt: Alrighty. So I’m going to start this presentation off by giving you an overview of the LSS Yellow Belt Class format just so we are on the same page and we understand some of the concepts.

There are three main components of the class. First, lecture, which is self-explanatory.

Then we do what’s called currier simulation, and this is how we demonstrate a bad process and show how LSS methodologies can be used to analyze and improve upon the process.

Currier simulation, it’s essentially customers move packaged cards through a simulation that put on by Move-It, which is the courier company. And they have to deliver these packages under a certain time constraints and try to minimize defects essentially.

Third of all, we do breakout activities to demonstrate how the toolkit for Lean Six Sigma can help analyze processes to identify defects and wastes and needed variations and so on and so forth.

In the lower corner there, that is our process map for the simulation. Each of those acronyms represents a certain role within the simulation.

Tracy: Wow! So it sounds very interactive and a great way to involve people to understand concepts that they might not be familiar with. Do people like it?

Matt: Oh yeah. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very interactive, very engaging.

Lynn: It’s a full day too.

Matt: Yeah.

Tracy: OK.


Matt: So define.

Lynn: So as you can see here, this is our charter for our project. And we took a step back from the entire training process and we realized that the time that was being taken to actually set up and prepare for each class was equal time to each class in hours. So that really impacted opportunities and other ways.

So we focused on the cycle time and we set a goal. Can we actually maybe even cut this in half? And then we looked at other ways. Some opportunities across the training had to do with the breakout activities, the times in which we had different facilitators working with each groups in the simulation learning the tools. There was a variance that impacted the training. That was something to look into.

And then we also identified that the time it took for the participants, the trainees, to actually get up and running into the simulation which was confusing enough was also an extensive amount of time because the training was real cumbersome and had other issues. We looked at that.

Tracy: Nice. So, what you’re saying is the class is only 8 hours but it was taking you the same amount of time to actually prepare for the class at full 8 hours, which means you couldn’t work on anything else because you were preparing for the class.

Matt: And sometimes longer than 8 hours. We had to run around and collect materials at the last minutes because we went through inventory and so on and so forth.

Tracy: Good. OK.

Customer Critical-to-Quality (CTQ’s)

Matt: So, these are our CTQ’s or the Customer Critical-to-Qualities. We met with our customers. We had – the first customer was obviously the trainees, our Yellow Belt trainees, because they want to get up and running with the LSS methodology.

And then secondly, our project sponsor, Ashley Gambhir, wanted us to make improvements such as reducing the cycle time for preparation, reducing variation of the breakout activity time, and improving some of the simulation assets so that they were less confusing.

In the first column here, you have our customer statements. For example, the first one was event prep time takes too long. Well, the point of CTQ’s is to take that comment, focus on it, build it out, elaborate it a little bit more to collect more information from your customer. And it’s helpful if you can put it in measurable terms as well.

So for the first example, event prep time, we kind of narrow that down to – it currently requires 8 hours of work for less than 8 hours of instruction which isn’t cost-effective. It comes out kind of opportunity cost. So our sponsor, Ashley, challenged us to reduce the cycle time by at least 50%.

Tracy: Did you think that was monumental at first which is like, “Cut it in half!”

Matt: Yeah, I don’t think it was possible.

Lynn: Yeah.

Matt: I thought it was – I thought she was encouraging. [Laughter]

Lynn: So the scope, we definitely looked at the Yellow Belt Training from fall 2016 to summer of 2017. And that’s where a lot of the data came from. We also focused on the prep part of facilitation and the post-training activity. As you’ll see a little bit later in the presentation where that falls into the overall training experience.

We made sure with – and this was always good practice, what was out of scope, making sure that we were including training events, scheduling, setup, and breakdown. And our client activities as they were engaged with our sending staff to the training. There are a number of things that’s really important to set your scope and be realistic and effective. And I felt we had a really strong team too.

Matt: Yeah, definitely. We wanted to focus on portions of the process that we have full control with over.

We wanted to focus on portions of the process that we have full control with over.

Tracy: That’s great.

Matt: For example, the enrollment and the scheduling portion, there are multiple other constituencies involved and we obviously cannot control their processes. So again, we just focus on what we could control.

Tracy: That’s great. And you only had a certain period of time to complete the project, right? What was it? Six weeks after the class? So a total of, I want to say, three or four months.

Lynn: Yeah, no more than three or four months.

Tracy: Yeah.

Matt: Right.

Tracy: So it’s great that you focused on something you could control.

Stakeholder Analysis

Lynn: Looking at our stakeholders, I think this was a really critical piece. It ties into other activities that we do later but making sure that you’re talking to the right people about the right things early on and help set the course for your project along with that charter and of course your scope.

And what we just looked at was our team. But we also and our stakeholders have people outside our time. And so, this also includes the ultimate sponsor that has set a high-level goal for campus through the OSI organization that has a high impact on the project and also a high interest into the people who are taking the class, sponsoring the people taking the class and of course our facilitators. And very importantly, our process owner needed representation here, which is very key.

Matt: Right. So I was the process owner. So I could control the levels of resistance for the project.

Lynn: Right. He did an excellent job with that.

Matt: Thank you.

Tracy: Keeping it to a minimum.

Communication Plan

Matt: OK. So this is our communication plan. When you are doing a project, it’s important that you are keeping all your stakeholders involved. In the first column, you have the various types of communication that we did with a description on who is targeted throughout the audience and the frequency with which we were communicating with each stakeholder through.

When we were recording the baseline data for the original preparation cycle, the person who was actually in charge of that was no longer owning the process. So we actually had sit down with her and do an interview in order to collect the data for the baseline preparation portion of the process.

Tracy: OK, which will bring us to measure.


Data Collection Plan

Lynn: Measure was really critical to start off to a data collection plan. We identified exactly what we were going to look at the for the project source scope. But then within that, what were the things we could actually measure and how would we measure them? In what way?

That actually helped just going through that, building out a data collection plan was essential also in helping shape your understanding of what you were really working on.

Tracy: Right. So let me ask you. The data that you ended up using, did it exist already or did you actually have to like create it as part of this project?

Matt: So for the, as I mentioned, for the baseline preparation process, we had to interview the original process owner in order to do that. To collect the data, once I started – I mean the preparation process, I actually started recording cycle time to see how long it was taking us. I think we recorded 9 instances of the preparation cycle time. And then for the facilitation portion, which was essentially the actual training, we recorded data for 7 sessions.

Lynn: And one thing we did have from across the board were the documented post-training surveys. Otherwise, all the of other data fell into one of those approaches.


And our SIPOC, this was actually looked simple. It was a really good thing to do and do early in the project, keeping in mind that the suppliers are providing the inputs of the process and then the outputs are what the customers are receiving.

And what you see here is we have our process in the middle under the P and then below it, you also see a high level view of the process. And you can see that this quick shot that we chose of the full training, to do every other major step of the process, which in and of itself was a challenge. But to be honest, I felt like we gained a lot of kind of expertise at being somewhat surgical about scoping and making your Lean Six Sigma project successful and how important that was.

Current State Training Event Process Map

Tracy: When you showed this to me for the first time, I was like, “What?”

Lynn: Yes. The swimlane was an excellent thing to have conducted and we did this right on the heels of the SIPOC in the high level flow. It was very telling to see just how complex this training actually is. It sounds so easy. We get a room. Invite people. They come. They train. They leave.

But you can get a sense of how possibly they had come to that point, of actually spending 8 hours on preparation for a training. So without broader view of it, again, you could see from the swim lane, there are handoffs but there are also many steps. And once again, we’ve marked this showing that we did the second, fourth, and sixth steps of the process. And that the long cycle times really impacted everything.

Matt: And each lane within the swim lane chart represents a different point of contact to another stakeholder. So you will note that for the preparation, facilitation and post-survey portions, we were primarily involved and handled that. Whereas, for the scheduling portion for example, there were many, many other people involved.

Tracy: Yup. So, did you get the same response when you share this process map with others? Like this is our training event process map current state where people like what?

Matt: Right. Yeah. They all seem to think it just happened magically.

Current State Event Prep Process

OK. So this was the current state or we’ll call it baseline state of the event prep process here. So you’ll notice in the process map that I collected data and then I determined the cycle time for the best case scenario. In other words, those instances when there was no rework or complication in the process.

And then I also calculated the worst case scenario for cycle time. And that’s when for example, the ink on the laminate materials were not coming off the way they were supposed to. We had to reprint materials and we had to run at it at the last minute to purchase support materials, that sort of thing.

And then based on that we determined the average which turned out to be 417 minutes or approximately 7 hours and we noticed that there was a range between the best case and worst case scenarios of 105 minutes which is a little over an hour and a half.

Tracy: OK.


Current State Breakout Activity Variance

Matt: Analyze.

Tracy: Analyze.

Matt: OK. So here, you have some charts demonstrating variation of our breakout activity. There were three activities – excuse me, two activities that we focused on, the VSM or the value stream map breakout and also Ishikawa or the root cause diagram breakout that happens towards the end of the training.

As you can see, for the run charts which are the items at the top, the data is everywhere. There’s tons of variation. And then on the bottom, those lines, those red lines represent the customer specifications. And anything that’s in the red falls outside of the expectations of our customers. So we needed to – well, confirmed our theory first of all that there was indeed a variation. And so, we were able to take that information and proceed.

Ishikawa Diagram

Tracy: Good. I’m liking this fishbone.

Matt: Thank you.

Tracy: It’s pretty obvious it’s a fishbone.

Matt: So for the Ishikawa, we actually did a virtual brainstorming event essentially with all the facilitators to kind of gather their ideas as to what could be causing delays in the cycle time and variation and cycle time. So as you’ll see, we focused on people and procedure and then each part of the process that we were addressing in our project.

…we focused on people and procedure and then each part of the process that we were addressing in our project.

We go to the next slide. So, the items that are circled in yellow, those are the things that we decided that we could address directly because we were the process owners for those things. In other words, they didn’t involve other constituencies. And then we took those items and then developed our root cause hypothesis for it.

Tracy: Very nice.

Matt: So again, Ishikawa helped us identify actionable items that would help us develop hypothesis and hone in on potential improvements.

Root Cause Hypotheses

Matt: So this is a wall of text.

Tracy: You had a lot of root causes.

Matt: Right.

Lynn: Yeah.

Matt: We don’t want to torture with all this. But this is essentially a list of items that we suspected were root causes and that we would test out to see whether or not they were true. Of all of the items, we only – all of them were at least partially confirmed.

The two items that were I personally confirmed were whether a facilitator’s style and/or training experience affects the variation of the breakout activities. And we determined that it was possible but there are other factors that also affect that variance such our own training interaction, resistance, Q&A which were all technically beyond the facilitator’s control.

Lynn: And I thought this was a really important step because as Matt said, when you find more than one root cause and in addition to that, you also are exercising them in a way that they might not prove themselves out. Some might be false or partially confirmed, which makes you dig a little bit farther in understanding what the problems are.

Tracy: Yes. I love this slide because this is really the cracks of DMAIC.

Lynn: Absolutely.

Tracy: Confirming root causes before you move to solution. And you guys had a long list of things that you were saying, “Hey, these are possibly reasons why staying too long.” And you were able to research all of them. So that’s very impressive.

Confirming root causes before you move to solution.

All right. Then you get to improvement.


Matt: On to the improve.

Tracy: Which is usually the first step in other people’s process improvement.

Matt: Right, right.

Tracy: You’re not following DMAIC, right? Problem, solution.

Matt: Don’t make collect the measure in analyze phase.

Improved Event Prep Process

So this is the improve defence prep process map. We implemented a myriad of changes actually. Most significantly, we did away with laminating all of the simulation materials and we were able to print those materials. For example, like the logs and whatnot, that got written on a lot. And though it’s not the greenest option, it ultimately paid off because we were able to reduce cycle time very significantly.

Again, we calculated the best case and worst case scenarios. And we noticed that the range for the cycle time of the improved process was only 15 minutes, which is great. And then we were able to get the total amount of time for the preparation portion of the process down to about 117 minutes or 2 hours. So we went from 7 hours to 2 hours and exceeded our 50% CTQ.

Tracy: Wow! And then you had to tell Ashley she was right. It could be done.

Matt: Right. Yeah, exactly.

Lynn: She was right.

Tracy: Wonderful.


Lynn: This was daunting at first I have to tell you, to do the failure mode evaluation analysis.

Tracy: Effects analysis.

Lynn: Effects analysis. When we did this, it really helps to dive into the risks associated with your improved process. Are you actually really going to improve something or are you going to make something worse? Because there are so many moving parts of something. This is absolutely I think essential to do.

And you can see – you can’t really read it but place is so – one example is process step input. Place job materials in accordion files. And then you talk about why would you need to do this? And you go along and you kind of score the impact of that. And then you identify the improvement. We had implemented an organizational system and that there would be someone responsible for it. And what was the action taken?

So we implemented organizational system using accordion files. And then use the same scoring to determine, did you improve that afterwards. And so, it’s kind of tying it together with your root cause hypotheses and then looking at what your improvements are like and coming out with confidence that you made the improvements.

And so, it’s kind of tying it together with your root cause hypotheses and then looking at what your improvements are like and coming out with confidence that you made the improvements.

Tracy: Yeah, especially if you’ve got people that it’s going to affect, you’re saying what could go wrong and what’s the risk associated with that. And so, a lot of people sometimes identify during FMEA that their implementation plan isn’t going to actually work out so great or they have risks of it going wrong. So this is where it can help a lot.

Improved Event Prep Process

Matt: So these are the charts for our improved prep process. You have your box plots on the left-hand side. But you have the baseline so you can see what sort of spread was involved for the baseline process and then what the impact of the improvements we’ve made on the right side of that.

For the CPKs on the right side of the slide, I mean you can see that we were well over at the customer classification on the top chart there. And once we implemented our improvements, we were well under …

Tracy: That’s like textbook.

Matt: Right, exactly. Yeah.

Tracy: Nothing, almost nothing in meeting customer requirements and now almost everything.

Matt: Right. It was ideal. Yes.

Tracy: Definitely.

Lynn: That was really rewarding to see.

Tracy: Yes.

Lynn: And to know it’s based on data and testing.

Breakout Activity Improvements

Matt: So this is, if you remember early in the presentation, we have had some charts that demonstrated the variation of the breakout activities. After implementing our improvements, these are the results. So you can see there is a much less spread for the run charts at the top. And we were able to get the majority of the cycle time within the customer’s classification limits or the CPK charting.

Tracy: Very nice. It’s always nice to see those two right.

Lynn: And one of the things I want to note in doing this, one of the things that we did to make this improvement is we held a train the trainer session which was important because there was just some fundamental aspects of breakout sessions whereas everyone is still training for their facilitator’s style and everything. But you can see just having that just basic training in place and the direct impact of that.

Matt: And it helps establish best practices so the facilitators have something to reference coming into future breakout session.

…it helps establish best practices so the facilitators have something to reference coming into future breakout session.

Tracy: Yeah, very nice.

Courier Simulation Materials Redesign

Matt: One of our goals if you remember was we wanted to redesign the simulation materials. So these are materials that are given to the trainees and it basically explains what their role is in the simulation. So you’ll see there was – the middle document there is the job description, which not much structure. It’s all over the place.

Lynn: And it’s just screaming consciousness.

Matt: Right. Yeah. It’s very wordy. And keep in mind that the baseline process for the simulation is supposed to be bad anyway.

Tracy: Right.

Matt: So we faced a unique challenge because we needed to maintain the bad process for the trainees but we also wanted to improve the onboarding process for the simulation. There’s just a ton of materials too. As you can see there, there are five different documents that would get lost and fall off the desks. So one of the other objectives is we wanted to reduce the amount of materials.

So if we go to the next, this was our finished product. So we used some visual management to redo the job descriptions. We incorporated the sample card directly on to the descriptions and did some mapping so that our trainees hopefully in the uptake would have an easier time.

And then we combined the job title tents and the outbox and inbox into one document and it has been very helpful.

Tracy: Very nice. So you know to control because you’ve got improvement. Now, you can move into sustain. How did you sustain the improvement?


Control: Monitor & Response Plan

Lynn: You need to make sure you do this. You need to make sure that you actually are monitoring the things that you put controls in place for, and that you’re doing it in a way that isn’t selective. So you have measurements and you have people who own it and you have reactions so that people know if something is occurring outside of a set measurement. These are the steps they should take to investigate it further.

Executive Summary

Matt: And this is our executive summary, so this pretty much summarizes all the improvements that we made to cycle time, improvements that affected the simulation onboarding process and then the improvements for the breakout activity variants.

We also throw in some cost reduction items in there as well. And you’ll see where our results in savings. That’s what we were able to reduce prep cycle time by 72% which is approximately a 5-hour difference.

We reduced the cost associated with each event prep time from a little over $1000 to about $142.

We were able to reduce the onboarding time for the currier simulation from in excess of 26 minutes down to less than 15 minutes, and still maintain the baseline bad process in simulation which is good.

We were able to reduce the onboarding time for the currier simulation from in excess of 26 minutes down to less than 15 minutes

Tracy: Yeah.

Matt: We were a little worried about over-designing that at first but it worked out.

Tracy: Good.

Matt: And we were able to reduce the variation of the breakout activities so that cycle time fell within the customer classification limits. The cycle time saved by reducing currier simulation onboarding time and the breakout activity variation led us to have frequently requested content to the training curriculum.

So we were able to reduce the total cycle time by about 15 minutes for the breakout activities combined, which didn’t sound like a lot. But when you’re dealing with lecture and adding content, you can actually cover quite a bit in 15 minutes.

Tracy: Yeah.

Matt: The big summary was the annualized event prep savings was about $50,000. And the training event was about $83,000 altogether.

Tracy: That is very nice. So you guys just did a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Project on Lean Six Sigma itself.

Matt: Right.

Tracy: Because you know there’s always room for improvement.

Lynn: Everywhere, yes.

Tracy: Good. So is UCSD going to be doing more training for their staff on Yellow Belt?

Matt: Yeah. So, it’s actually part of our charge as a department to promote a Lean culture. So we’ve already trained our ITS departments. We’re partnering with other VC areas to facilitate the class for various departments as well. And it’s slowly making its way over to help systems as well.

Tracy: Wonderful. And how many people roughly have you guys trained in Yellow Belt so far?

Lynn: Well, I know when we started that we trained about 402 people, 350 of our staff and 52 of our partners, and that completed in March. And we’re in September and I believe that they’ve just – from my perspective, this has gone like wildfire. I know several months back, you had reached 800 back then.

Tracy: Wow!

Lynn: So they had more than doubled the amount of people and I’m sure you have pretty more already.

Matt: We probably taught the class too early and selected hundred people here on campus. And we went to the UC Office of the President a couple of weeks ago to do it for their IT senior leadership team as well. And it was well-received. So we expect them to bring us back up for additional training.

Tracy: That is exciting. I love to hear organizations embracing Lean Six Sigma.

Q & A

So I just have a few questions for you about the project. So now that you’ve completed your Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and you’ve completed your project, what was it like? What did you like most about following DMAIC methodology or this methodology in itself? Is there anything that stuck out for you like, “I really enjoyed that or I really lag a lot with that tool or phase?”

Matt: I love the measure, the measure I mentioned earlier, that measure and analyze phase and that we’ve skipped earlier. And really, when you’re collecting data and measuring, you start to notice these little nuances in the data which helps you sort of refine the scope of your project and it prevents you from jumping to unfounded conclusions about problems so you can test your theories and actually have data to back it up.

…when you’re collecting data and measuring, you start to notice these little nuances in the data which helps you sort of refine the scope of your project

Lynn: I really appreciated the toolkit and its simplicity. But the power of it, I felt that I was anchored across the process in a certain way that I wouldn’t do exactly what you said, skipped define and measure, which I think everybody always does.

But it was a very strong toolkit to use but I found it interesting how you could sort of weave things together and build off things. So things you’re doing in define, you might be circling back later or finding out in a deeper dive in something else and come and circling back. So it wasn’t just a one-direct way path. It came together fully. And that’s where the control at the end comes in.

Tracy: Yes.

Matt: And I’ll just throw in that the good thing about LSS methodology is that it’s accessible to everyone. You’re not really dealing with crazy equations and confusing data configurations. For example, the Ishikawa isn’t even – it’s based on verbatim comments essentially. And I thought that was really helpful to help us drill down and ask why and why and why and why to try to get to the root causes of things.

Tracy: Yes, definitely. So, it sounds to me like there will be more UCSD people staff signing up for Green Belt. You’ve got 1,200 people that have gone through the Yellow Belt and typically people will want to go after their Green Belt next. And we’re seeing a surge in enrollment as well. So do you have any advice for someone in education doing a project or advice with applying this methodology? Anything you would share?

Lynn: I think that there are opportunities everywhere. I think one of the points that serves people at first is identifying that project. Look around you. Reach out to others. There’s now a community of practice on campus called the Business Excellence of Practice in Lean Six Sigma. And so, practitioners are part of that.

But I really recommend identifying something that you think needs to be improved and also being open to reaching across to others, maybe in areas you’re not familiar with. There’s a lot of opportunity here.

Matt: Right. And I’ll just add that Lean Six Sigma was born out of the manufacturing industry. So, a lot of people think, “Oh well, that’s not going to translate.” But when you actually look at the methodology, a lot of it is common sense and can be applied universally in other industries as well.

And I’ll just add that Lean Six Sigma was born out of the manufacturing industry. So, a lot of people think, “Oh well, that’s not going to translate.” But when you actually look at the methodology, a lot of it is common sense and can be applied universally in other industries as well.

Our department is actually offering Green Belt scholarships to really show people how to use Lean Six Sigma to improve processes here on campus.

Tracy: That’s exciting.

Lynn: Right. And I work for a department on campus that is invested in training all of its staff with the Yellow Belt and also setting high numbers of people to achieve their Green Belt. And organizationally, one of the programs in managing is to make sure that continuous improvement is tracked and rewarded and it sort of takes on a life of its own amongst the people, the practitioners, and the organization.

So having top-down sponsorship of this is critical. And I believe this is something that facilitates organizationally all across UCSD, all of us attaining the university goal #5, which is to make agile and sustainable practices. So it applies to all of us.

Tracy: Wonderful. And it’s always nice to have a process owner that is willing to look at their own process and redesign things using process eyes, right? So great job, Matt, for looking at your process and not being tied to anything just because maybe you set it up and you didn’t want to touch it. And so, we run into that. People – it’s their baby and they think sometimes process improvement goals are maybe ugly, and that’s not the case. So congratulations on making such a big improvement in your process.

Matt: Well, thank you. And processes can always be improved. And that’s why it’s important that you’re always looking at the process through the LSS lens.

Lynn: And on that with the training and the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt class, I really thought a valuable part of that was reminding everybody to focus on the process, not the people, and all of that. And it really helps everybody kind of take a step back. And once someone actually has gone through a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project, you can tell they’re open for more. They don’t feel that vulnerability that I think a lot of people do like, “Oh, I don’t want to expose something that someone might see as bad or improve. That means I wasn’t doing well before.”

No. I think it’s very – it can be very powerful that we apply but also the training we got from Extension also I felt brought the best practice of working with others into play.

Getting Started

Tracy: Wonderful. Well, I just want to say that I’m Tracy O’Rourke and you’re listening to another success story with Matt and Lynn, thank you so much for sharing your project and your success story with me and our audience because – and I also want to thank our listeners for listening as well and tuning in.

These are the kind of stories people want to hear about. That’s what we keep hearing. So we really appreciate you sharing it.

And if you guys have success story out there and you want to share it, let us know. Contact us at [email protected] We also have lots of free templates, blogs, webinars, and more success stories on our website. So don’t forget to go to the to leverage all that free stuff.

Goodbye for now, until next time.

Lynn: Thank you.

Matt: Thank you, Tracy.

Lynn: Thank you. Thank you, listeners.

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.

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.
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