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Six Sigma

Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

2020: A Look Back – A Look Ahead

 msp campus small 

 McNeely Hall


We’ve come a long way! 2020 Vision began in the spring of 2010, born of the idea that our college would be faced with many significant challenges in the years ahead,challenges that would require new perspectives and a skillset more amenable to a dynamic environment.  We recognized the pressures of declining enrollments, diminishing resources, and increased competition. We knew that over time, there would cease to be business as usual, replaced by persistent change and reinvention.

In four years, we have accomplished much, and we’ve done so in a spirit of continuous improvement. What precisely does that mean?  Well, it starts with recognizing the legitimacy of seeking out new and different ways of doing things. It acknowledges that our traditional processes and procedures, no matter how thoughtfully devised, must always be evaluated in the light of new factors.  Changes in people, technology, organization, and markets drive the need to improve our work processes. 

The desire to change must be coupled with the will and the talent to design and effect change. To that end, we have a small legion of folks who’ve undergone training in continuous improvement disciplines including basic quality and process tools to Six Sigma Green Belt and Certified Professional Project Management training. We’ve launched several projects, most fairly small but none unimportant, where team members have been given real opportunities to employ their newly-acquired skills. We have successfully completed a number of them and achieved cost reductions, improved processes, and better reliability.

We’ve accomplished all this in a way that has become a growing part of our culture.  Our initiatives are no longer as threatening as they were at first.  Our methodical approach to evaluating work processes, interviewing process owners, and devising alternative approaches is now accepted as a worthwhile way to improve the organization.  We’ve accomplished our goals in a way that benefits the culture of our college and prepares us for any new challenge that might come our way.

What might those changes be? The university has a new President, is about to have a new Provost, a new VP of Enrollment, and a new Associate VP of HR.  Sometime in the future, we will have a new VP, Technology and VP, Development.  There is a project to create a new centralized Graduate Admissions Services function. Our college will have a new Dean.  The President is developing a new strategy for the university, and I suspect our new Dean will drive a new strategy for our college. It might be safe to assume that a lot of things will change. And many of those changes will fundamentally change how work gets done. 

That’s what we have accomplished. We are ready for change. We have the trained people, the discipline, the tools and the will to take on change and master it.  We have the ability to respond positively and enthusiastically to the prospect of change, and not be intimidated or overwhelmed by it. We’ve built a legion of change masters, and for that I thank all of you for your faith in this effort and your engagement in the process!

new 2020logo

Administrative, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

2020 Vision Project Update: Events Process

eventssignDuring a recent Faculty/Staff meeting we learned that over one hundred OCB sponsored events are conducted each year. In response to this information, a new 2020 Vision group was formed to assess the costs associated with running program events on campus. Our focus is to develop a better understanding of how events are currently planned and conducted in the college. With this information our group will be able to evaluate the expenses associated with ordering food and tech support, as well as the costs of having staff plan and coordinate these events. Our group identified ten events from a wide range of centers and programs, and grouped them into categories based on the number of projected attendees. After we have retrieved all of the data, our group will determine the costs to plan, coordinate and staff events in each category.  

Interviews have been conducted with key stakeholders, and we have worked with them to outline specific event processes. Our next steps include working with Shared Services to determine the amount of time they spend on each event. This will give us a more holistic picture of the events process. Ultimately, this project will give OCB’s leadership team further insight into the resources spent on each event, as well as helping program and center staff in future planning.

Studio portrait of Corey Getchell

Events Process Team Leader Corey Getchell

Events Process Team:

Jessica Kluntz, Brittney Wolf, Amy Klein, and Shannon Vanderheyden

Continuous Improvement, Faculty, Six Sigma

Faculty Profile Pages Project

Churchill plans quote Opus College of Business has been updating the faculty profile pages and the faculty directory for the OCB website. This nearly completed update was accomplished through the efforts of a Continuous Improvement (CI) group that was formed in the fall of 2012. We all know how long-term projects can get buried under the avalanche of daily emails, phone calls and other activities. We stayed on track through regular meetings and updates in SharePoint.

The CI team used three of the tools that we learned during our Six Sigma training – discovery interviews, a fishbone diagram and process mapping. We then used Microsoft Project to create a timeline to stay on task for a project that will have extended over almost two years before completion.  

The first thing we did was to identify and interview the major stakeholders – faculty, students, administrators and members of the media. Using post-it notes we wrote down the issues that came forward in these interviews. These were grouped in categories. Using these categories we created a fishbone diagram which really looks like a fishbone. The spine of the project was updating the look and content of the profile pages. On the spine we listed the post-it note categories and the bones were all of the issues. We color-coded these issues by the ease in which they could be addressed. Doing this gave us a clear picture of where the problems were and the actions/approvals that were necessary to complete the tasks. At the same time we created a process map which allowed us to look at how profile pages are created for new faculty and how their information is kept current. Again, we were able to see where the bottlenecks were and how they could be fixed.

The profile page team worked through the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013. A few tasks remain to be completed as we get ready to transition to TerminalFour (T4), the university’s new content management system. As a team, we held weekly meetings from September, 2012 through January, 2013 and then moved to once every three weeks through July, 2013. These  were 15 minute meetings  conducted by conference call between campuses and took the form of “stand-up” meetings. The idea is that if everyone stands during a meeting everyone is likely to stay on task and the meeting can be finished quickly. As the time nears for our transition to T4, the team will be pulled together again to be certain everything is ready to go forward.

The current profile pages were given a first update which included adding a narrative bio for each faculty member and a new photo. The final updates will happen after OCB has converted to a new content management system for our website. Watch for the updated pages, we anticipate the new look will appear near the end of February, 2014!

Members of the 2020 Faculty Profile Pages Project team: Suzanne Krzmarzick, Lisa Burke, Jess Durant, Sandy Beach, Joyce Wilking, Cindy Lorah, Jean Gabler and Bob Gaffney.

Posted by Suzanne Krzmarzick

2020 Team members, Administrative, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

To Print or Not To Print: 2020 Printer & Copier Project

I was a member of the original 2020 Vision Task Force created in March 2010 to look at the future of Opus College of Business. Our mission was to identify assets and find ways to better utilize and strengthen them. Here is a quote from those meeting minutes, “Therefore the purpose of the 2020 Vision Task Force was to research and make recommendations for OCB to make us more efficient in our use of resources.”

One of the first projects identified as clear and fixable was the OCB use of printers and copiers.  The goals of this project were first to identify all MFDs (multifunction devices) and printers in use by OCB and second to reduce total printing costs.  Working with IRT, a group of staff visited each department and mapped out the location of all printers and copiers. MARCO representatives did an assessment of all UST owned or leased equipment to make sure that we had the right machines in the right locations to meet the needs of all faculty and staff.  Recommendations were made for changes and the remainder of the MFD changes will be made in summer 2014 when leases come up for renewal. OCB will no longer purchase printer cartridges for individually owned printers. 

We  then looked at individual printer usage.  In fall 2012, a copy request form was created in our Intranet site (SharePoint) and faculty were encouraged to use that form to send copy requests to their department coordinators. The coordinators determined the appropriate copy method.  OCB usage numbers were posted near all copiers and printers and everyone was encouraged to reduce costs by choosing not to print or by printing everything two-sided.  All printers and MFDs are to be set with duplex printing as the default.  If your printer/MFD doesn’t default to duplex when printing, please let us know.

copier winners 1copier stats 2

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!

 new 2020logo

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.