They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!
This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Erika Westbay!
Erika Westbay is the Director of Process Excellence at Best Friends Animal Society where the organizational vision is a better world through kindness to animals. She also spent 15 plus years leading process transformation at The Nature Conservancy. With a passion for mission-based work, she focuses on strengthening nonprofits to ensure they continuously reach their full potential. Erika is a long-standing Certified Process Professional, is Six Sigma LDSS and Green Belt certified, and is a certified Project Management Professional with a relentless passion for excellence.
Here are Erika’s answers to a few of our questions:
What is your Quality Mission?
To help make the world a kinder, healthier place
What are your Quality Superpowers?
Process work is not a bunch of boxes, arrows, and a matter of standard deviation. Process work is about humans working together in pursuit of shared outcomes. This means helping teams and leaders understand that when they want to take on a process project, it is not a project they need to take on at all. Rather, it’s a mindset of initiating a process journey (i.e., not a temporary endeavor with a defined start and end date) where you remain in pursuit of continued greatness, never resting on today’s or yesterday’s laurels.
So much changes so fast it’s hard to get comfortable—we can always do better. Instead of being heads-down on as-is mapping, defect rates and so on, recognize the larger process ecosystem to pull up, look at, and strengthen. That ecosystem consists of being relentlessly outcome and customer-focused, being fluent in strategy, centering on our humans, identifying where the impact factors are when it comes to information and technology boosters, and understanding where our strongest decision-making and feedback loops need to be—while, also being killer at process proper!
Be the Guide, Not the Expert
Our clients are the experts in what they do. What a great way to kick-off and run an improvement effort—remind folks of their value, their expertise, their maximum impact in all those hours (years!) on-the-clock. Never say, “we’ve called in the experts”— and be referring to yourself. The experts are in the business.
We just happen to have the tools and methods to help each other achieve more. It is tempting to do the work for others, but we need to resist the urge and, instead, be the guides. As guides, we help to grow a Continuous Improvement mindset and strengthen problem-solving muscles so organizations can excel, and sustain excellence, without us.
I have never met anyone who showed up to work with the intention of sucking at their job or making big mistakes. Yes, these things happen, but usually it’s while trying to do our best (or, some days, get by). When we point the finger at someone else, what we really should be pointing at is the process.
Our humans have not failed us, something in the process has gone wrong. When something fails, be kind with your words and kinder with your actions. Reach your hand across the aisle. Say something to the person who can do something about it versus complaining to the ears around the watercooler. Point at the process, not at each other.
What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?
1) Can we all leave our egos at the door? Even for those of us who are ego-mindful, this is a tough ask. But, it is one of the most necessary. Nobody needs to be right or wrong. Nobody needs to take credit or take credit away when we are truly in shared pursuit of shared outcomes. Think of the “easy” button from the Staples commercial and imagine a bright red “shared outcomes” button we can hit when we stray from our best selves. Hit the button and re-center with a fresh focus.
2) Forgetting about the customer. Our companies and organizations exist to bring value to someone or something. Whether you have 50 employees or 50,000, every single person and every single process should be able to be mapped directly to that value, to that “someone” or “something.” Yes, we all have “internal customers.” They are the shadow, not the lightforce of what we do, how we do it, or The Why. Our customers are the lightforce. If we don’t have customers, our organizations don’t stand a chance of making a difference in this world.
What are some of your Quality Victories?
1) In the industry at large, I loved the moment when the leading process excellence forum finally gave the green light to discussing gender in our industry—with a microphone and a stage. I was thrilled to receive the news and to create, and lead, the Women in Process Leadership forum. I am even more thrilled that it has stuck! The event is heading into its fourth year and spreading its footprint to multiple venues and locales.
2) Within organizations, I am continually inspired by the opportunities to help others be the strongest versions of themselves, to help them see and continually strive towards their fullest potential. There are nearly eight billion of us on this planet. By helping to build the helpers, the doers, the problem solvers, the bold and mindful, I go to bed smiling that perhaps I have made a recognizable mark—to leave this world a kinder, healthier place.
Do you have any Words of Wisdom?
There are many things we, as women, can fake in the workplace. Things we wish we didn’t have to, and sometimes things we don’t even know we are faking, or why. No matter how we choose to show up—in what we wear, what we say, how we interact, why we decide one way and not the other—there will be the lovers and the haters and even worse…the ambivalent. However, nobody can argue with passion. It has no gender, no skin color, no age.
Deep, driven, unshakable, wily passion is something that cannot be faked. It is transcendent and infectious, it makes people take pause and, if expressed inclusively and humbly, sounds like a great, big, authentic invitation to come together and do something great. Find your Continuous Improvement passion and fuel it as job #1. It is the oxygen mask you must put on before helping others. And, it is so much damn fun. And we all know that from fun comes joy, and from joy comes, well, everything.