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Lean Six Sigma is the name given to the combination of the top two process improvement methods, Lean and Six Sigma. Lean traditionally focuses on removing waste from the system with the objective of a streamlined process. Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation in the system with the focus on increasing predictability. Both models focus on satisfying the needs of the customer by incrementally improving processes.

Tune in to this 1-hour Introductory Webinar to get an overview of Lean Six Sigma, why organizations use it and how to get started.

Webinar Level

  • Introductory


  • What Process Improvement is
  • What Lean Six Sigma Is
  • Origins of Lean and Six Sigma
  • Why government organizations implement Lean Six Sigma
  • Examples of Lean Six Sigma in Government
  • Q&A

Webinar Slides

Q&As From the Webinar

Webinar Transcript

Elisabeth: Our webinar series is for you and our learner community. Lean and Six Sigma are both go-to methods for process improvement. And these webinars are part of our efforts to make it easy for you to use the tools and concepts of Lean Six Sigma. My name is Elisabeth Swan and I’ll be your moderator today.

Today’s webinar is introduction to Lean Six Sigma. And our presenter is Tracy O’Rourke.

Tracy: Hello!

Elisabeth: Hello, Tracy. Tracy, let’s see your smiling face up here. So our expert, Tracy, Tracy and I are both part of a core team here at Lean Six Sigma. Let me just give you a few little bit of background information on Tracy.

For over 10 years, she had been involved with Lean Six Sigma process improvement. She got her start at GE Appliances as a Black Belt in ’98. Since then Tracy has been a Lean Six Sigma consultant for over 15 years. She helps organizations and industries from healthcare, financial services to manufacturing, government.

Tracy has been with Lean Six Sigma since its conception. We’re on a mission to provide effective training that is practical, accessible, and enjoyable which is key.

Tracy lives in San Diego, California with her husband and her 8 and 13-year-old sons. She is an avid biker. And let’s see, she is a hiker and she recently played in the Gaelic Football National Championship which is incredibly impressive.

Tracy, let’s talk about how to interact.

How To Interact

Tracy: Okay. Thank you.

Elisabeth: Okay. So during the presentation, you will all be in listen only mode. There’s going to be a question and answer session following the presentation. But please feel free to ask questions at any time by entering them into the question area. We’re also going to ask you to participate in some polls. It’s a little bit interactive. So if we don’t answer all your questions during the webinar, we’ll definitely post our answers after the webinar. So you will be able to see those and you will be able to download this webinar on our website.

Let’s Interact!

Tracy: Right.

Elisabeth: Okay? So, it’s our first interactive session to find out where you are from. We have hundreds of attendees from all over the world. Let’s see how early or late you people are up coming to this webinar. So please click on Ask a Question and type in where you are dialing in from. And then we’re going to find out where that is.

Let’s see. Let me look at that. Where the areas are? We got …

Tracy: Croatia, that’s exciting. I have a friend who just went to Croatia and said it was absolutely gorgeous. I want to go there.

Elisabeth: I’ve been there. It is gorgeous. Tunisia, we got some Texas. We got Brazil, Vegas, Denver, Montreal. We got Dubai and India, Frankfurt and Rochester, New York, Guadalajara, Massachusetts, Seattle, Portland.

Tracy, they are coming in from all over.

Tracy: Yeah. We have one particular girl from my desk!

Elisabeth: So your time is valuable so let’s get started. Tracy, I’m handing it over to you.

Who is

Tracy: Okay. Thank you, Elisabeth for that wonderful introduction. I’m very happy to be here and thanks for joining us today. I’m going to talk a little bit about who is. And I think we are very passionate at because we want to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscles and we’re always thinking everyday creatively and collectively on how we can best accomplish that.

And one of our primary goals is to provide the most easy, practical, enjoyable program. And part of that involves taking you all to the Bahamas for training. So a lot of our Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt programs are in the Bahama Bistro. It’s basically a case study that we have created to help apply these concepts to take it from academic perspectives to practical application.

So hopefully, you had a chance to look at that already or you’ve seen some of our materials because we are really proud it. We think and a lot of people do like it. But that’s our primary goal is to make complex concepts simple.

Today’s Agenda

So, what we’re going to talk about today is a brief agenda. We’re just basically talking about what Lean Six Sigma is. So if you know – many of you may know what Lean Six Sigma is. But if you know somebody that doesn’t, forward to them this webinar once it’s complete and then they can see what process improvement really is and Lean and Six Sigma. So we’re going to talk about what process improvement is, what Lean Six Sigma is, where they came from, why organizations implement Lean Six Sigma especially in government, and some project examples in government.

And that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply everywhere else. So don’t feel like you need to hang up if you’re not in government because most of the presentation is really applicable to any industry there is. And we can talk a little bit about that as well.

So, why don’t we go ahead and get started? So first of all, before we talk about Lean and Six Sigma, people go, “What is that for?”

What Is Process Improvement?

And so, I think it’s important to talk about what is process improvement. And there are lots of different names for this. People call it process improvement. They call it continuous improvement. You might be working for an organization that has an operational excellence program or process analyst or something like that. That’s all under what I call the umbrella of process or continuous improvement.

And really, the best way to understand Lean and Six Sigma is to define it as process improvement tools. It’s ultimately when you’re working on the process versus working in the process. That is what process improvement is.

The best way to understand Lean and Six Sigma is to define it as process improvement tools. It’s ultimately when you’re working on the process versus working in the process. That is what process improvement is.

If you work at Chipotle or Subway or some retail organization and you do a lunch rush and it’s confusing and chaotic and people are scrambling all over the place, you might want to stop and take a step back and say, “Well, how do we make this process work better so that when we get something like that to happen again, it doesn’t feel so painful?” And that’s really what organization and individuals are doing in every organization that is applied in process improvement. It’s taking time to step out of the process, work on the process versus working in it, and then seeing if it could be better.

And so, most people spend most of their time working in processes. That’s why they are hired. That’s why they have jobs. They’re a specialist of some kind. But we want to spend time working on the process because there are lots of painful processes out there or processes that don’t work very well. And unfortunately, there are many people that are victims for processes. And so, how can we make these things better?

And that’s really ultimately what Lean and Six Sigma do is they help facilitate the process of, well, if I’m going to step out of the process and work on the process, how do I do that? Because most people don’t understand that process. They don’t understand what the process is to work on the process versus in it. So that’s process improvement.

And then the question we have is how much time are we spending working on the process versus in the process? And often, it could be less than 10%. So that’s important to figure out and how do we allow people to work on it.

When Did Improvement Efforts Start?

So when did process improvement efforts start? Well, a long time ago, even cavemen did process improvement because we’re always improving since the dawn of time. We have been doing process improvement efforts. And we’ve probably heard this excuse since the dawn of time too, “I don’t have time for process improvement.” So how do we make sure we have time to do process improvement? Because it’s probably one of the biggest excuses we hear as consultants, is people don’t want to have time or can’t make the time to do process improvement. And that is so not true.

Forms of Process Improvement

For years, they have – some have been around a long, long time and are still here like Plan, Do, Check, Act by Deming. And Lean and Six Sigma also fall into that. And there are some that Theory of Constraints is also still pretty mainstream. But then there are some may be have lost some steam like Total Quality Management, TQM, or maybe people aren’t as familiar with the 7 Quality Tools or the Baldrige Criteria.

But these are all methodologies that have occurred over the years and they’re forms of process improvement. So I’d like to think that our tools and our approaches now that we have are better and more improved than before. But that’s not always the case.

So we have a poll for you. And what we would like to know is how many of these approaches have you used before?

Quick Poll

Go to the poll. And I’m going to go ahead and launch it. And you’re going to go ahead and complete the poll. So have you used one or two of these approaches? Three or four? Five or six? Or six or more?

There are some argue …

Elisabeth: Yeah, Tracy. I’m looking here.

Tracy: … if cavemen have been doing this all along. I guess that could be a data point that it has been around even longer than Deming.

Elisabeth: You got about 70% in here, Tracy. That’s probably good.

Tracy: Okay. So let’s go ahead and close the poll. And share some results.

Elisabeth: So you have the big winner are 3 or 4. Then you’ve got 30% at 1 or 2 approaches and then trailing both of those 5 or 6, 13%, 6 or more, 11%. So close to 50% 3 or 4 approaches, which is a lot.

Tracy: Yeah, that’s really good. I’m actually pretty impressed about that. And let me go ahead and – Okay.

Forms of Process Improvement

So I’m actually pretty impressed about that. And what I like about hearing that is sometimes we hear people focusing only on methodology and they’re basically saying that none of the other methodologies are good enough. And I really believe that there are elements of goodness in a lot of these methodologies. And the more you’re in process improvement, the more you understand and learn and can apply and gain skills by doing some research.

So I think it’s important to just be familiar if you’re in the process improvement industry, if you’re a Black Belter, a Green Belt. I think it’s important to understand what these are and you might actually find something that is applicable in the Theory of Constraints that you didn’t learn in Six Sigma or Lean or something like that. So, I think that’s important.

I know that as a consultant, sometimes we meet people that are let’s just say they’re in the Lean camp. They like Lean. They think Lean is the best. They kind of poo-poo on Six Sigma. [0:12:25] [Dead Air] problem in trying to solve a problem, use the tool that applies. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a Lean tool or if it’s Six Sigma tool. If it’s the tool that solves the problem, that’s the most important, not necessarily if it’s Lean or Six Sigma or TOC, Theory of Constraints.

It shouldn’t matter if it’s a Lean tool or if it’s Six Sigma tool. If it’s the tool that solves the problem, that’s the most important.

Origins of Lean Six Sigma

So let’s talk a little bit about the origin of Lean Six Sigma. And because they were at some point separate methodologies, and Lean was invented in the ‘40s where motor or Six Sigma was invented in the ‘80s. Lean came from Toyota and it was an engineer that actually came up with what they would call Toyota Production System, TPS. Now it’s known as Lean or Lean Enterprise in the USA.

And Bill Smith was also an engineer and he actually got – he actually just [0:13:27] [Dead Air] within Motorola. And it was so successful and so popular. Motorola was making profits but had high quality products. Everybody wanted to replicate what Motorola had. And it was so popular and they were so successful, they end up winning a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award, one of the first big companies to do that.

And then Mikel Harry left Motorola and opened the Six Sigma Academy, which is one of the first consulting firms for Six Sigma to help organizations.

So these are the different kinds of methodologies that you can apply. And again, it’s for process improvement. It is for improving processes and streamlining them. And I really like this analogy of the drawer, the junk drawer. How many of you have junk drawers at home? I have a junk room. Well, not really. I did. I’m cleaning it out. I’m using 5S to clean out my junk room.

But the junk drawer analogy is really interesting when you think about processes. Processes are like junk drawers in a lot of ways. If you don’t clean out your processes every once in a while, the processes just get filled with a bunch of stuff you might not need, that you don’t need anymore. And often, we don’t do that. We don’t clean out our processes. We just – they just get bigger and longer and more complicated.

Processes are like junk drawers in a lot of ways. If you don’t clean out your processes every once in a while, the processes just get filled with a bunch of stuff you might not need, that you don’t need anymore. And often, we don’t do that. We don’t clean out our processes. They just get bigger and longer and more complicated.

And so, that’s really what Lean and Six Sigma do for you is really making an effort to clean out or streamline processes. What really is needed now? Things change all the time. So sometimes we don’t need steps anymore. And sometimes we don’t need four signatures. And that’s for whatever reason people would add a signature to a process just so that in case we miss something. And then suddenly now, it’s six signatures. And you don’t need six signatures as an example.

What Is A Lean Process?

So that’s what’s happening with Lean is you’re really trying to make it faster and more efficient and more economical. And a Lean process is really what we would say, it doesn’t have a lot of what we call non-value add steps in the process, steps that don’t add value from the customer perspective. And it’s simpler and it helps improve flow. So ultimately, that is a Lean process.

Lean Principles

And Lean principles, there was a book called Lean Thinking by Jim Womack. And he comes up with – he talks about the Lean principles. And this is ultimately the principles that drive organizations that are implementing Lean into practice.

And so the first principle is define value and define it from the customer perspective. What does the customer care about? What are they willing to pay for? And once you identify what’s important to them, now you can start to look at the process and see, what’s in here that the customer doesn’t care about and how do we simplify that or streamline that or eliminate it?

And if we don’t know who the customer is and we don’t know what’s important to them, it’s hard to do that. And so, it really does focus on getting to know your customer a little bit more and what processes, what in the process is valuable for them.

Mapping the value stream is also a principle and that is I would just say to simplify it, you’re making the process visible when you map it. How do you make it visible so that people can see what’s happening in the process? And often, what we find is we have a blockage in the process or that their flow is not very good. It’s kind of the same example we talked about with Subway or some restaurant. If you walk in and it’s chaotic and people seem stuck in the process, what can we do to maximize flow? That’s probably the easiest example or the simplest example around flow. How do you get the thing not to stop?

If you walk in and it’s chaotic and people seem stuck in the process, what can we do to maximize flow?

And a lot of Lean people will say [0:17:31] [Dead Air] pull and pursuit of perfection, these are other principles of Lean that as you go through the Lean material and you start to embrace the principles, it’s a more advanced concept that some manufacturing organizations do and it basically says, “Don’t built to a forecast. Build what the customer buys and then put it back on on the market.” And in our Lean training, we talk a lot about that particular topic. So those are the Lean principles.

What Does Six Sigma Mean?

And so, I’m going to talk a little bit about Six Sigma. Six Sigma is – it’s not the easiest thing to say and people sometimes – it puts people off right away. And I can see why. Because it’s statistical in nature and it can be a barrier to understanding.

But to simplify the explanation, Six Sigma means that you have 3.4 defects per million opportunities for a defect. So the example I like to use is call centers. Let’s say, your goal is to make sure that calls get answered in less than two – in two rings. No more than two rings. So, a Six Sigma process means that out of a million calls, only 3.4 of those will not get answered in two rings. And so, that’s pretty good. And so, that would be a Six Sigma process from a transactional perspective.

Often when doing this, you have to define what the defect is. And then you can actually [0:19:15] [Dead Air] what your Six Sigma level is. But that’s really ultimately what Six Sigma means. It’s 3.4 defects per million opportunities for a defect. And that is a really, really good quality.

Airline Flights

And the example I like to use is the airline industry. So the question I have for you is, how many of you feel like when you get on a plane that you’re going to arrive at your destination alive? I don’t know, Elisabeth, do you feel like you’re going to arrive alive when you get on a plane? I hope so.

Elisabeth: I hope so.

Tracy: Yeah. Most people feel pretty safe getting on a plane that they’re going to arrive alive. Obviously if they didn’t, they wouldn’t get on the plane. And the reason why people feel that way is because the airline flights are better than Six Sigma. As a matter of fact, they basically are like Seven Sigma. Out of a million opportunities for a crash, they have less than 3.4 crashes.

So you should feel pretty good about getting on a plane knowing you’re going to arrive alive. Doesn’t that make you feel better? Those of you that don’t like to travel on planes, the statistics are pretty solid about getting to your destination alive.

Flights vs. Luggage

Unfortunately though, the same statistics do not apply to getting your luggage. Your luggage process, the luggage process is not as good as arriving alive unfortunately. And I’m sure every time we ask this in class, how many of you have had a bad experience losing your luggage? A lot of people raise their hand because there are millions of pieces of luggage and the process isn’t as reliable as arriving alive.

Now thankfully, most of you would probably agree, “Yeah, I would rather get there alive than my luggage get there and I don’t.” So yes, I agree with that.

So the question I always ask people is, so if you are a customer, how do you want your customers to feel about your process? Do you want them to feel like luggage or do you want them to feel like arriving alive? And ultimately, we want them to feel like that we’re a reliable vendor or organization to deal with.

A Powerful Combination

So guess what? Together – so I just talked about Lean, the basics of Lean. I just talked basically about Lean Six Sigma, the definition. But together, they add a really powerful combination. Lean focuses on creating value for customers, minimize waste. Six Sigma focuses on reducing variability and defects with statistical analysis.

And what we’re finding is there’s a trend to include both, lean and Six Sigma concepts and tools in both – in training and problem-solving because they are really get chosen both and they seem to work really well. So you will typically see Lean Six Sigma now in training, not just Lean or just Six Sigma.

Together, Lean and Six Sigma add a really powerful combination. Lean focuses on creating value for customers, minimize waste. Six Sigma focuses on reducing variability and defects with statistical analysis.

And I really like that approach because I agree. I think that there are some problems that we that Lean tools work really well and then there are other problems that we see that Six Sigma tools work really well.

Combined Toolkit

I will say though that a lot of the Lean tools as you can see on this slide are very simple. There are Learning the 8 Wastes, Doing a Spaghetti Chart, Walking a Process, Doing a Value Stream Map. And so, some of the other ones are – once you understand what they are, they are pretty simple concepts. And so a lot of times, what we do see is people understanding and learning some of the Lean tools and then applying some of the Six Sigma tools a little bit later.

Our approach is that we teach both because we really feel like there’s a lot of synergy between the toolkits and ultimately, they’re really trying to resolve the same things. They have the same common goals, customer focus, eliminating non-value add, reducing variability, increasing speed, and reducing errors. So those are really important things that both toolkits do. And that’s why we combine them to Lean Six Sigma.

We teach both because we really feel like there’s a lot of synergy between the toolkits and ultimately, they’re really trying to resolve the same things.


So this is also something that comes from Six Sigma, the Six Sigma side of the house. This is what we call DMAIC. And this is the methodology that when you’re a Six Sigma practitioner if you will, that traditionally came from that side of the house: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

And what we find is this really I mean if you think about Plan, Do, Check, Act, it can overlay this very easily. And so, that’s why a lot of people think Six Sigma originally came from Plan, Do, Check, Act.

So you define the problem. You quantify the problem, how bad is it? And then why is it happening, identifying the cause of the problem. And now that we know the cause, what are we going to do to implement or make it better or make it go away or contain the root cause even? And then once we do that and we’ve actually collected data to show that it has improved then we can actually put a control plan in place. And that’s really the DMAIC methodology.

And if you like this by the way, this is available on our website. If you like this as a reference, you can actually get this on our website.

So here is the thing. What we find most people struggle with when they’re implementing continuous improvement or process improvement is people think that there’s some underlying intent that isn’t good.

Lean Six Sigma Myths

And so, I want to share a couple of Six Sigma – Lean Six Sigma myths. he first one is, people sometimes say, “Well, LEAN stands for less employees are needed.” And that is absolutely not true. It is not about a headcount reduction. It is not about getting rid of employees. And I think people are very afraid sometimes that that is what the intent is. But it isn’t. It’s not about getting rid of people.

And what it really is about is getting rid of waste. And people are not a waste. But often, their talents and their time are wasted on wasteful activities. And so that’s really what we’re trying to hone in on. It’s how do we make sure that these processes aren’t painful that they don’t have waste in it and they’re not wasting people’s time because people are the most valuable asset an organization has and they’re wasted on excessive process steps or unnecessary process steps, multiple signatures, those kinds of things.

So, that’s what we’re really after. We really want to eliminate those wasteful steps. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll give you an example.

Lean and Six Sigma is not a headcount reduction because you get only one round of projects out of it. So let’s say you implement Lean Six Sigma and you’re saying, “Okay. We’re going to do these projects.” And after those projects, you lay everybody off. How successful is round two going to be? How many people do you think are going to sign up to do Lean Six Sigma projects everybody got laid off? So it doesn’t work. It’s not a headcount reduction because you get one round out of it and then people figure it out. They’re not dumb. So that’s really – it’s not to get rid of people. It’s to get rid of waste in the process and the wasteful steps people have to do.

And often what we do is we do ask, how many of you feel like you’ve got steps in the process that are meaningless, they don’t add value? And we get a lot of people raising their hands when we’re on site with them.

So those are some of the myths about Lean Six Sigma that I wanted to make sure that we address.

Government Organizations Using Lean Six Sigma

So where I’m finding a lot of success and I’m really proud of it is that there’s a lot of government organizations now using Lean Six Sigma and a lot of that is because they are getting budgets cut, they got to build capacity, they have to really cut out wasteful things. They have to cut out wasteful steps so that they can actually make their dollar go further and do more good with what they have available to them.

So here’s just a small – a partial list of some of the government organizations using Lean Six Sigma. As a matter of fact, most of these are our customers at And there’s a lot of application in government. So why are they implementing it in government now?

Decrease Costs

Well, first of all, because Lean Six Sigma, and this really applies to any organization, it decreases cost. If you have a lot of defects in your process, you actually have to rework those defects. There’s money that goes out because you have defects. If you’ve got to fix broken screens or if you have to look at it again, so for example, in a transactional environment, we had somebody that was looking at applications and they rejected them 55% of the time. Guess how many times they had to look at that again?  That’s wasted productivity. So to reduce defects means that you don’t have to look at it again.

So if you’re improving and if you’re implementing Lean and Six Sigma, ideally, you’re going to have less defects that can decrease cost. So that’s one reason.

Increase Efficiency

Another reason is the efficiency piece. So before Lean, you might have increased capability. You might in this example, it’s showing that you have one doctor who can only see four patients but after implementing [0:28:47] [Dead Air].

But that’s an idea of what that might look like and it ends up be the defects on – the example I just showed is also a good example of that is now they don’t have to spend their time looking at defects. They can actually spend time looking at and helping customers at the counter.

So if you’re making it more efficient, Lean – if you want to make things more efficient, Lean and Six Sigma can help with that.

Develop People

And lastly, developing people. That is a big – that is really a core focus of ours as well is we want to build problem-solving muscles. We want to help organizations develop effective people and effectively solve problems. And so, it could be anyone in the organization.

And so, you’re investing money and time in people and skills. And that is something that a lot of organizations are doing. We want to make sure that people not only know how to work in the process that they are hired to do but how do you work on the process and how do you work collaboratively with your co-workers to build a better process? So ultimately, those are some of the big reasons why organizations implement Lean Six Sigma.

Lean Six Sigma Roles

And here are some of the roles. So again, these are belt roles. This actually came from the Six Sigma side of the house as well. But I think what I like about the roles is it does help identify certain levels of education at least because otherwise it’s kind of a free for all. If you’re a White Belt, we know that that’s probably the introductory level and that you’ve been exposed to Lean Six Sigma from an introductory perspective. It basically covers Lean Six Sigma basic principles.

And the Yellow Belt is pretty introductory too. Sometimes a White Belt can be an hour long where a Yellow Belt could be 8 hours long. And sometimes those are dictated by an organization to how long they want to do that. But those are the introductory levels of Lean Six Sigma.

And then you get into Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt. I should also add that White Belts, Yellow Belts, and Green Belts, all of those roles typically, they have a dedicated job somewhere at a company doing something else. What I mean by that is they’re actively applying these concepts into their current position.

So if you’re in sales and marketing, you could be a Green Belt. If you’re a manager, you could have a Green Belt. And so what that means is you’re applying Green Belt concepts into your regular full-time job.

Black Belts and Master Black Belts, typically, those are full-time dedicated positions where Black Belts are helping other Belts, White Belts, Yellow Belts, and Green Belts to apply the skills and to apply the knowledge.

And so, that’s typically the infrastructure for Lean Six Sigma roles. And then we finally have the Champion. And the Champion isn’t necessarily the person that knows everything about Lean Six Sigma tools but they typically are some executive that has a lot of support and they’re helping remove barriers for not just projects but also for the initiative internal to the organization.

So that is development plan. So a lot of times, developing people is – this is typically a path, a common path that is outlined for people if they want to develop some of their people and some of their problem-solving skills internally.

Build Problem Solving Muscles

So ultimately, that’s why most organizations are implementing Lean Six Sigma to build problem-solving muscles. But these are obviously different kinds of results, this decreased cost, increased efficiency, developing people we talked about, often there are many organizations that say, “We just need more customer focus. We want to understand our customers better. We want to deliver our services better.” All of those things.

So this is where we have another poll for you. And this poll is, what kind of results have you seen with Lean Six Sigma? Have you seen all of these? Have you seen a few of these? Or which one have you seen the most? And that’s what I would really be most interested to see. Are you finding that people are actually saving money but they’re really focused on developing their people too? So I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.

Quick Poll

So we’re going to go ahead and launch the poll and then go ahead and answer the poll. Which of these have you seen the most of? Is it the decreased cost, increased efficiency? Are you seeing a customer focus? Are you seeing that people are being developed? And it’s okay to check more than one of these.

I hope that people really are seeing developing people. I don’t necessarily know if that is the case. But it would be interesting to see what people say.

Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s kind of a mix here. I think that these go hand in hand, a lot of them.

Tracy: They do. This definitely would add up to a 100%. It might add up to 400%. 400% would be everybody selected everyone.

Elisabeth: Okay, Tracy, I think the votes are in. Go for it.

Tracy: Okay, sounds good. Okay.

Elisabeth: The big winner is increased efficiency at 78% and then 50% saying developing people and then decreased cost and customer focus come in both at 45 and 46%. Efficiency is your winner.

Tracy: Interesting. So you know what’s really neat about this is I’m really – so yes, I agree. Increasing efficiency, a lot of people are seeing that. We want to be more efficient. We want to be able to deliver our goods and services better, faster, even cheaper. But I’m really happy to see that people are saying that their organizations or themselves are investing in themselves, in the people, 50%. So that’s really good to see.

And I think that it’s actually kind of the opposite of what we said, right? So when people say it’s a headcount reduction, this is sort of saying, no, it isn’t. It’s actually developing people. It’s developing problem solvers. So I really like that.

I think what’s interesting is that the customer focus sometimes isn’t so readily apparent. So that’s a little surprising but we did get 46% rating there.

Thank you for that. So, I just wanted to share a couple of Lean applications because I think people really struggle with, well, how does this apply in government? And I think we’ve seen lots of different applications and really ultimately, it’s as simple as this. Pick a process. Find a problem with that process. And then try to resolve it using process improvement. And that applies I don’t care what industry you’re in.

And so, we’ve seen applications at SPAWAR and we’ve seen applications at NAVAIR and NAVSEA and they are doing things to reduce the cycle time for maintenance of jets and for ships, turnaround time on ships because think about how expensive a jet is. And they were having a situation in one facility that we were helping with. They were having really poor turnaround and they weren’t able to meet the capacity or they weren’t able to meet the demand for jet maintenance.

So we’re talking million dollar pieces of machinery just sitting there for weeks, months waiting to be serviced after a certain number of hours of flight time. So they were able to resolve that, which is better to dollars, better use of our taxpayer dollars.

And then we have the Department of Veterans Affairs and I really love this project. This particular project was about veterans and they were on a list for home-based primary care which means that they’re too sick to come into the hospital and they had a really long wait. The process was cumbersome and then they were able to make that process more efficient and quicker so that our sick veterans could get help in the home when they needed it. So that was really a wonderful project that I had the pleasure of participating in.

And finally, we had a lot of stuff happening in King County. A good example there, Denver is doing some great things. San Antonio, Texas is doing some great things, the city of San Diego, all of these are looking at licensing processes, permit processes, and reducing cycle time for some of these things.

Let’s see here. Okay. Let me look into – it looks like my screen is not showing. Let me see if I can fix that for you. Can you see it now?

Elisabeth: Looks good, Tracy.

Government Applications

Tracy: Thank you. Okay. All right. So, those are some great examples of government. And we have lots of examples outside of government as well. One of my sort of favorites lately is the San Diego Zoo is applying process improvement. And they really are looking to improve processes for caring for their customers. And who are their customers? Animals.

And they were saying that there’s a lot of animals that could be some tough customers because guess what? They’ve got lots of requirements. Danny The Aardvark by the way is a tough customer because he has got a lot of must-haves. He has got a lot of customer requirements and he is kind of a digger. So the problem is, how do we make sure we get what that aardvark needs because they are their number one customers, the animals? And then of course, they have the secondary customers which are the people that come see the animals. So that’s really nice to hear applications there as well.


So I just wanted to share that we have a couple of other resources. We have lots of Lean Six Sigma project examples and government if you go to this link. We also have showcased some rockstars in government, people that are really seeing results. It could be really challenging in a government situation to get results with process improvement because you’re dealing with a lot of bureaucracy and complicated processes and a lot of stakeholders. And we just wanted to highlight some of the rock stars that we’ve seen in government. I’m sure there’s plenty more out there. But if you have any more you want us to tell us about, we’d be happy to hear about it.

And then finally if you’re not in government, there are lots of Lean Sigma success stories and every industry on our website, just go to our links that are provided when you get the slide deck and we’d be happy to share those with you.

Government Books

So, that brings us to the close of this webinar, we just have a couple of other things. I’m going to turn it over to Elisabeth. Well, actually no. I’m going to talk about this book first then I’m turning it over to Elisabeth.

So these are, if you are in government, these are some great books that I have personally read myself. Two of them are by Ken Miller. The other one is Brian Elms. Ken Miller – all of these guys worked in government or used to work in government and they have been able to successfully apply process improvement.

So Extreme Government Makeover is great. It talks about increasing capacity to do more good because guess what? Government – there’s a lot of good people in government and they’re all there for a higher purpose. And how do we get more capacity to do more good? So I love that book.

This other book, We Don’t Make Widgets, I love this book because it really is trying to help government overcome the myths that are preventing some government from radically improving. So that’s a great book and one of the myths obviously is, “Well, we don’t make widgets.”

And so saying, “Well we don’t have customers,” you’re right. Government doesn’t have customers. They have hostages for some of those processes. So again – and sometimes people say, “Well, they’re not going to go anywhere else so we’re not going to improve our processes.” Not everybody in government says that.

But I can see where some people would think, “We don’t really need to do process improvement because of that.” I don’t think our customers want to hear that though.

And finally, I love this book, Peak Performance by Brian Elms. I actually just got to interview him and you’ll be seeing a podcast coming out very soon before the end of the year involving Brian Elms. They’re doing some great work at the city and county of Denver. And there are some great success stories and some of the challenges that they have overcome with putting together what they call the Peak Academy.

So if you are in government, you like to read, these are very short reads. I think they’re on average about 200 pages. So they’re short, small books and I highly recommend them.

Today We Covered

So here are some of the things that we covered today, what process improvement is, what Lean Six Sigma is, why organizations implement it, and some examples in government as well.


So we’re going to do some Q&A, so if you any questions, this would be the time to start typing in those questions in the question window and Elisabeth is going to review some of those questions and we’ll answer some of them online. And for the ones we can’t answer online, we will go ahead and answer via our website sometime in the next couple of days, probably by tomorrow or the next day.

Getting Started

And we’re also going to share a couple more things while you’re putting in your questions. If you want to get started with Lean Six Sigma training, the Yellow Belt training is free at I’ll say that again. It’s free. So guess what? You don’t need any approvals to go through the Yellow Belt training course. There is a training certification for Yellow Belt and that’s separate and there is a cost to that. But you actually can access the Yellow Belt training free globally.

And what I like about that is let’s say you’re going to do a fishbone diagram with a group, take them to the fishbone diagram module. Have them go over it and then you can get together and say, “That’s what we’re going to do. Let’s do it.” And you spend less time teaching and more time doing.

We also have our Green Belt training certification, our Black Belt training certification, and we also have just Lean training. If your organization, although we promote Lean Six Sigma together, we do realize that there are some organizations that only do Lean and they’re going to want to just hear about some of the Lean tools. So that’s why we have our Lean training and certification that’s also available.

Upcoming Webinars

And we also have for free, there’s lots of free stuff just so you know I’m saying the word free, we’re going to have a webinar that’s free. And Elisabeth is going to tell us a little bit about this webinar, how to roll out Lean Six Sigma training. So tell us, Elisabeth. I can’t wait to hear.

Elisabeth: Okay, Tracy. I’m going to tell you. So this is a result of Tracy and I getting questions over the decades of, “Well, how do you roll out Lean Six Sigma training? How do you get people involved? What kinds of belt levels should we have? Should we call it Lean Six Sigma? Should we call it something else? Do we need to decide what’s the threshold for a Black Belt project? How do you get momentum?”

So we took a look at that and we said, “You know what? We know the answers to all of these. We know the options because it’s not one size fits all. It’s customizable. But we said there are basically 14 steps from the thought of bringing training into your organization to actually making it happen. So this webinar will take you through what is that roadmap for rolling out Lean Six Sigma. And I’m psyched about it. We have a great rollout kit.

Tracy: Go ahead.

Just-In-Time Podcast

Elisabeth: Tracy, the next one is your podcast with Jerry.

Tracy: Yes. So we also have podcast available on iTunes as well as on our website. And we call it the Just-In-Time Café. It’s the podcast. And we feature someone new every month. And this month, we’re featuring Jerry Wright. He is a trainer and instructor at San Diego State University in the Lean Enterprise Program. But he is also Chair for AME, the American Manufacturing Excellence Association.

And they’re having a conference actually this month in Dallas, Texas in October, in a couple of weeks. And in the podcast, we’re talking about him and his role for AME as well as the conference and what you can expect if you are planning on going. And so, a really great conversation. I really enjoyed that podcast. And if you’re interested in hearing more about some of the industry conventions and conferences, I’d highly recommend listening.


So we are now back to the Q&A. So Elisabeth, I’m ready.

Elisabeth: Okay. So let’s see. One of the questions is, “Can we use DMAIC just when we talk about Six Sigma? I asked this because someone told me the DMAIC can also be used as a Lean tool considering the different forms of process improvement.” So just a little bit about DMAIC and then Lean versus Six Sigma.

Tracy: Sure. That’s a great comment. And I already mentioned that DMAIC came from, its roots came from Six Sigma. I actually love applying the DMAIC methodology when you’re doing an A3 because I find that when people go through the A3 which is a document for doing a process improvement, when they say current state, that’s not enough direction for people to figure out what they’re supposed to do there. So I start to talk about define elements and I start to talk about measure elements because that helps them understand what they’re supposed to be putting in there.

So I would say that if you are working in a very Lean only approach or organization, probably not going to be familiar with DMAIC. But I definitely see application and I think that it can enhance learning and application by applying both. I hope that answered your question.

Elisabeth: That’s nice, Tracy. I’ve got another one here from it looks like Juan Pablo, “When you’re talking about mapping the value stream. Could you also refer to internal customers?”

Tracy: That’s a great question. And we have done that. And so first, we have to define who our internal customers are. And so as an example, an IT department typically has two internal customers, its employees, right? So people call in. They need help. They’re an employee at an organization. And we have to figure out how to make this help, this process work better. So absolutely, you could do a value stream map on that if you wanted to. So using internal customers is just fine.  

Elisabeth: Thanks, Tracy. We got another one from, and I apologize right now of my pronunciation, Viv Condon. He says, “What are the disadvantages that are eliminated by combining these two concepts?”

Tracy: What are the disadvantages that are eliminated? That’s a great question. So to me – I think to me, it’s around experience. So if you only learn Six Sigma but you actually have a process that you could have actually improved by just installing a simple kanban. You may not have learned that because you went through the Six Sigma path.

So to me, think about going to an improvement warehouse like a Home Depot or Lowe’s which is a huge warehouse of tools basically. Think about that with process improvement. And why would you only want to shop down one aisle? Why would you only shop down the Lean aisle? Because there are probably lots of other tools that you could probably use in the Six Sigma aisle. So shop both aisles.

Think about going to an improvement warehouse like a Home Depot or Lowe’s which is a huge warehouse of tools basically. Think about that with process improvement. And why would you only want to shop down one aisle? Why would you only shop down the Lean aisle? Because there are probably lots of other tools that you could probably use in the Six Sigma aisle. So shop both aisles.

So if anything to me, you’re improving your toolkit and you’re improving your skills. And when you see a problem, you have more tools to think through where and how they could apply to resolve them. So I think that’s probably your best advantage. And the disadvantage is you wouldn’t know about it.

Elisabeth: Thanks, Tracy. I’m going to give you two questions because they’re related. One is from Carlos. He’s saying, “Please comment on how to manage resistance to change in organizations that are starting their journeys.”

And the second question is from Nicolas and he’s asking, “What is the best approach for showing the value of Lean Six Sigma to key stakeholders of an organization?”

Tracy: Oh, wow! Okay. So let me answer the first one first. Managing resistance, this is a real interesting question because people have to deal with it all the time. And to me, managing resistance, no culture is cookie cutter. So it has to be – there is a process. There is a standard way of approaching change management like there are ADKAR models, ADKAR, and there are change management models.

But ultimately, you still have to overlay those models with what’s happening in the culture because no culture is cookie cutter. So you have to sort of think what’s happening in this industry or organization and what are we going to be the bombs basically that we need to address or sidestep or whatever it is?

So I kind of feel like there’s an element of customization for managing resistance and change if you want to be effective in any organization. But I will say this. I think the way people do this, the way they implement Lean and Six Sigma creates a lot of resistance. And if they did it differently, that people would want to do it. And I say this because I’ve seen it.

And what I mean by that is, I see a lot of organizations doing process improvement to people not with them. And so, they’ll hire a bunch of Black Belts and then expect all those Black Belts to go fix other people’s processes. Guess what? People don’t like that. They don’t want other people coming in and not involving them and trying to fix their process, and that is not sustainable.

So that process, that approach doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when people are coming in fixing other people’s processes and not involving them. And it actually has nothing to do with the tools. So I see this probably the biggest issue is people aren’t – they’re not – the way they’re implementing it is the issue. It’s not the change management part necessarily.

So I hope that helped. I can write a book on that. Well, I mean I don’t mean to say that. I mean I could write a lot of novels on just this problem and I feel like people got the hard way sometimes.

So the other question, key stakeholders. Well, again, why are they resistant? What is the issue with the stakeholder? Do they not see the value? Are they thinking that you’re not going to save money? Is it because it’s too expensive?

Honestly, I had one guy that didn’t want to implement Lean Six Sigma because he did not want to give up control. And Lean Six Sigma means you’re empowering employees to improve processes. And he didn’t like that idea. So guess what? It was probably going to fail anyway.

So I really think it depends again on what the challenges are within the organization and what you could do to get some stakeholder buy-in.

Elisabeth: And then this one is a little more specific and it’s asking – he’s asking – Terence is asking, “How will Six Sigma help in a construction firm?”

Tracy: Okay, great question. So I’ve actually had the pleasure of helping at least three construction firms implement Lean and Six Sigma. And I’m not really sure what you’re building, if you’re building residential homes or if you’re building commercial buildings. But a lot of times, I’ll just give some quick examples, one builder we worked with had a major problem with installing windows. Some of them were leaking and they could not figure out why. So they had to apply DMAIC and Six Sigma. They implement specifically Six Sigma at that time to figure out what the problem was and why they were leaking.

And trust me and you probably know this, if your windows leak in the United State or in California, you can get sued and it’s a major class action suit. So it’s going to cost millions of dollars for a construction company. So, they had to figure out what was going on and why and they had to find root cause in that to make sure they fix it. So they applied Lean Six Sigma to do it and they were successful. And now, they have a Six Sigma quality for window installation.

And so that’s just one small example. Another example just really quickly is, we had another guy, another organization, construction, who worked with their vendor to get concrete delivered just in time when they were laying the foundation. So every 32 minutes, a truck would show up with just the right amount of concrete for what they needed for that next portion of the work.

So, those are two examples. I have so many. There are so many construction examples because there’s a lot of application with reducing variability and reducing defects in workmanship.

Elisabeth: Well, we asked the right girl, didn’t we Tracy? Here’s another one for you. This is in a warehouse environment. This is from Christian, “In a warehouse environment, I do believe in Lean Six Sigma but the one problem I’ve been seeing is trying to sustain the process. Is there a way other than doing audits on the process to help employees to continue to use Lean Six Sigma?”

Tracy: Well – so – sure, there is. And again, the first thing I would ask is, where are those people? Where are the people in the warehouse involved in the change? Were they actually a part of it? Was some of it part of their solution or was it thrust upon them? “This is what we’re doing, get behind it. And here’s what you need to do.” So, you’re going to incur a lot of resistance with that approach.

And so, I would say if you involve them in the next one, if they were not involved the first time and you involve them in the next one, I guarantee that you’re going to have better results for sustainability because it was their idea and they were able to be a part of the improvement. So I would recommend that.

Yeah, you could do audits. I would even say if this was something that was thrust upon them, I would ask them how they think it is working and what would they do differently. That would be one way to involve and engage them now is, what – how do you guys think this is working? Do you like it? What is it that’s not working? And involve them to some degree because I think that can help especially if they are able to even make it better and allowing them to do that. That would be my recommendation.

Elisabeth: That’s a great one, Tracy. Thank you. And I think that brings us to the end of our hour for introduction to Lean Six Sigma.

Tracy: Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining our webinar today. I hope you enjoyed your time with us and that you found that this webinar was helpful. Please share your feedback by completing the survey when the webinar ends. We really do look at that. We really appreciate your feedback as a customer. And we just talked about how customer focus is really important and we really look at all of your comments and your questions.

And so – and it also helps us if you have any additional webinars that you would like to see on any other Lean Six Sigma topics, that helps us to figure out that too. So thanks everyone. And for me and the whole team here at, we’re happy that you’ve joined us. You have a great day or evening wherever you are.

Elisabeth: Thanks, Tracy.

Tracy: Thank you.

View our upcoming webinars and join live so you can ask questions and let us know what you’d like to us to cover next. We’re busy building new webinars all the time. And we’re happy to know you’re busy too – building your problem-solving muscles – keep it up!

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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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