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Wonder Women of Quality: Sally Toister -

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 Sally Toister!

Sally Toister is the Senior Operations Leader for Marriott Hotels in the U.S. and Canada. She is a Certified Master Black Belt with 20+ years experience specializing in deploying Lean Six Sigma programs that drive top line revenue, improve margins, and elevate customer experience. She is a leader of sustainable innovative process improvement programs in hospitality, service and fulfillment industries.

Here are Sally’s answers to a few of our questions:

What is your Quality Mission?

Helping others to see and be their best: I love the “ah-ha!” moments. When helping someone work through a problem, there is that moment where you can see the light bulb literally go off in their minds and the light beams through their smile. That’s usually followed by something along the lines of, “I see it! We need to stop doing that.” The energy that flows from that point on is so rewarding. Some say realizing the results is the best reward. The best reward for me is when they dive right back into solving another problem. That’s when quality becomes infectious.

What is your Quality Superpower?

Simplicity: The Lean Six Sigma lingo can be intimidating. Breaking down the principles to common language, to start, improves adoption. Once they get the basic principles, they build from there. Before you realize it, they are dropping “NVA, VA” as everyday language.

Persistence: I give permission for people to stop, but not give up. If a tool isn’t helping you solve a problem, it’s ok to bail on it and try a different one. Lean Six Sigma tools should help ease pain, not be painful. If it’s hard, it’s probably the wrong tool — like trying to use a hammer to secure a screw. If it’s making the job harder, it’s probably the wrong tool. Don’t give up, stop, refocus, and try another one!

What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?

When you lead with a tool, and not the problem: “What DMAIC project can we do next?” Too often the focus is on using a tool instead of understanding the problem you are trying to solve. Figure out what needs fixing, and then draw on the appropriate tool to make it happen.

When Lean is something done, not a culture: “Give it to the Lean Six Sigma Team, they’ll fix it.” Lean Six Sigma tools should be part of the DNA, everyday business tools to drive best performance. If an organization is more focused on having a particular workgroup solve all the company issues, quality culture can’t develop.

What are some of your Quality Victories?

Implementing Kaizen Events: About 9 years in to our Lean Six Sigma journey, we were at a pivotal point with the program. Our primary tool was DMAIC. Key stakeholders were stirring. “It takes too long”, “it doesn’t help our guest service issues.” It was time to expand our tool box, so we launched Kaizen events with a few ‘ground rules’. No one higher than supervisor could be a part of the event and focus must be on a nagging issue for associates that inhibits their ability to deliver the best guest experience. In our first year, we completed over 100 Kaizen events at 40+ properties, certifying 30+ facilitators and coaches. Not only did we see a bump in our guest experience scores, we also saw a bump in our associate engagement scores.

Helping Operations, IT, Sales, and Finance to speak the same language: Process mapping is a terrific way to get multiple people from various backgrounds on the same page, speaking the same language. One of my favorite process mapping activities was building a Swimlane Map with representatives from operations, IT, Sales and Finance regarding coupons. Once the (mega) map was built, it was visible to everyone where the pain was happening, creating instant alignment for solution development.

Wonder Women of Quality: Sally Toister -

Do you have any Words of Wisdom?

Your eyes, ears, and feet are your greatest assets: The best way you can help others to see and be their best is to go to the Gemba! Take a walk at least 3 times a day and engage with those that make the magic happen. See what is taking place. Listen with intent. Never walk alone. Bring others along with you on the journey!

Thanks again to Sally Toister for her quality thoughts!