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Continuous Improvement

2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Cindy Lorah: 2020 Team Member

Lorah 2020 Photo

“The 2020 Vision project kicked-off some much needed process discussions within the Health Care UST MBA team and played a part in supporting our current pilot project introducing Salesforce to the Health Care team within the Opus College of Business.  It has been helpful to take a close look at our current processes and to explore how things can be done better–both more efficiently and resulting in better outcomes.”

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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Lisa Burke: 2020 Team Member

 Livingston quoteThe work that has been done to date has made a huge difference to the way that we approach projects in the Opus College of Business. We are more thoughtful about making decisions, and more thorough, when we look at those projects through a process lens. I’ve been really pleased with the way our 2020 Vision project in support of improving the way we manage faculty profile pages on our web site has gone; it’s been collaborative, thoughtful, and thorough. We’ve managed to separate the process problems from the technology needs and will have a more effective publishing process as the result, which will require less time to manage, and will better showcase our faculty.

 Also, I’m finding that having a set of people with a similar understanding of how to break down a problem or challenge within the college has had a subtle but significant impact on day-to-day work that we do. It’s been a great experience to be part of the OCB 2020 Vision effort; while I’ve done work with project and process management for some time, I always learn something new from Dr. John Olson in our ongoing workshops; he has great examples from his consulting and teaching that help me to look at what I’m doing from a fresh perspective.

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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

Suzanne Krzmarzick: 2020 Team Member

SusanneKzSenge quote

Six Sigma Green Belt training and continuous improvement is a journey. When I began that journey, I had no idea where it would take me. The multiple benefits from what started as a week of Six Sigma Green Belt training were unexpected.

The training lets you see things around you in a different way. Room for improvement almost always exists. It is gratifying and rewarding to see where a project can lead. It’s a bit like a mystery tour; the end result can be somewhat surprising and turn out to be completely different than what you expected.

 Since the Six Sigma training and the experience I gained from working on several projects, a new world has opened up for me professionally. If you have the training, the necessary tools, and a mentor, the transition from learner to leader is natural. 

Furthering our education through training and earning certifications is within our reach here at OCB. These opportunities can help us to grow and expand our goals. This is an awesome benefit of our employment.

I strongly encourage participating in the Six Sigma Green Belt Training and working with the Continuous Improvement group in the Opus College of Business. The training is interesting and fun; the support system for working on projects is very good; and the work is enjoyable and challenging; and you may be interested in learning more. That was my experience.

This past spring, I completed the Six Sigma Green Belt certification and I’m currently enrolled in a Project Management certification course in August. We have so many opportunities for professional growth here in the Opus College of Business. It is just a matter of becoming involved in a project that interests you and forging ahead. Who knows where it can take you!

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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, Uncategorized

20/20 Hindsight

We have embarked on a 20/20 Vision initiative.  Perhaps, a little hindsight might provide a useful perspective.  “Six sigma” is the term applied to the concept of reducing errors by improving processes.  It is the foundation of our 20/20 Vision initiative. 

sixsigma graphic

You may be familiar with six sigma’s predecessors such as:

  • MBO – Management By Objectives (Drucker 1954)
  • TQM – Total Quality Management (Juran et al.  1980’s)

Operationally, six sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.

Statistically the goal is to have all output within plus or minus six standard deviations on a normal bell curve.  In simple terms that is 3.4 defects per 1 million. The mathematical symbol for a standard deviation is the Greek letter sigma (Ϭ).  This is the origin of the term six sigma.  Ok, that is a bit technical. Just think of it as getting rid of wasted effort, time and material – i.e., no “fat” in the organization.  For this reason you may hear it referred to as “lean six sigma.”

The concept has its roots in post-World War II Japan.  With the United States emerging as the only industrialized nation with an intact manufacturing base, it was hard for progressive management thinkers like Edward Deming to sell the total quality concept of “if it ain’t broke, make it better” to U.S. manufacturers who had a corner on the international market using existing management theories. However, Deming and others found willing converts in Japan whose industrial base had been decimated by the war.  Through the efforts of Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo the Toyota production system emerged.  It was based on:

  • Flexible continuous production of small batches
  • Minimization of all waste
  • “Doing it right the first time”

This resulted in reduced setup times and inventory buffers.  In simple terms – more bang from the manufacturing buck.  One of the worldwide legacies is the use of Japanese terms in 20/20 vision six sigma based projects for some simple concepts.  But don’t let that dissuade you – we all want to do it right the first time with minimum effort and cost.


Thomas Jefferson said “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”  That is what we are doing with 20/20 vision.  As John McCall put it “Our goal was to start slowly, learn the discipline and tools of the continuous improvement process, take on some small projects to build confidence and prepare ourselves to handle any challenge that comes our way.” 

My next post will be on why visualizing (using pictures to support qualitative data) six sigma is a key to progress.

If you would like to discuss six sigma further…let me know.

2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement, Uncategorized

Brittney Wolf: 2020 Team Member


Learning with Legos: hands-on practice using a “pull” system

“What began as a few projects to improve our work environment has now grown into a new way of viewing our current processes: to seek improvement in every aspect of our office. In my department (OCB Faculty Support), I have seen how the projects we first worked on have improved the quality of my work as well as reducing the time and frustrations involved in previously convoluted tasks. While some of the projects we have tackled have come with challenges, seeing the outcome and the impact it has in improving our workflow has made all the work worthwhile.”


–Brittney Wolf
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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Meet the 2020 Task Force

teamwork puzzle

   Sponsor & Champion
   John McCall Associate Dean & CFO
   Faculty Sponsor, Champion, & Coach
   John Olson Operations and Supply Chain Management
   Deployment Champion
   Amy Klein Associate Dean & CFO’s Office
   Subject Matter Expert & Team Resource
   Bob Gaffney Faculty & Scholarly Development
                                                             2012/13 Members 
   Debbie Battis OCB Grad Records & Data Management
   Sandy Beach OCB Faculty Support
   Lisa Burke OCB Technology and Web
   Jess Durrant OCB Technology and Web
   Jean Gabler Undergraduate-Administration
   Corey Getchell OCB Faculty Support
   DeAnn Kautzmann OCB Grad Records & Data Management
   Marie Klein Associate Dean & CFO’s Office
   Sarah Knutson Associate Dean & CFO’s Office
   Suzanne Krzmarzick OCB Faculty Support
   Shoua Lee Associate Dean & CFO’s Office
   Betsy Lofgren Undergraduate-Administration
   Cindy Lorah Health Care UST MBA Program
   Maureen Murphy OCB Faculty Support
   Renee Nelson OCB Faculty Support
   Jim O’Connor OCB Technology and Web
   Pam Phairas OCB Grad Records & Data Management
   Kathy Sauro OCB Schulze School of Entrepreneurship
   Joyce Wilking OCB Faculty Support
   Brittney Wolf OCB Faculty Support
2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Is Continuous Improvement Relevant?

Continuous improvementHow many of you have ever cleaned your garage or a linen closet and in a few days it looked just as messy as did before you cleaned it? If you are like everyone else, you said yes. The real question is why does your garage or closet become messy again so quickly? There are several reasons, but perhaps the most glaring is that most people don’t create a process or system to keep it clean and sustain that great feeling.

What does this have to do with the relevance of continuous improvement in today’s working world?  Actually, everything! Since the economic downturn, companies have been forced to spend considerable amounts of  time and energy to grow their businesses or cut expenses to remain  solvent  and competitive. The problem that often results from these efforts is that internal company processes are often neglected  until they become constraints that halt that growth. Eventually, all organizations need to make sure internal company systems  are working efficiently and not hindering the company’s ability to deliver value to their customers. This is the perfect fit for  continuous improvement programs like Lean Six Sigma (LSS).


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