In this podcast, I share a webinar I gave for the International Society of Six Sigma Professionals (ISSSP) in March 2020.
Lean Six Sigma methods have been proven to be effective in corporations and businesses, but how does this discipline apply in the nonprofit world? This webinar will discuss how nonprofits use Lean Six Sigma as a way to maximize the positive impact on society with the resources and funding available. The presentation will also outline several best practices in process improvement, and how volunteering can be helpful for career development.
You can also watch the video version of this webinar below, where I have added video highlights from projects I’ve worked on overlaid on the slides, so I really encourage you to check it out.
- International Society of Six Sigma Professionals (ISSSP)
- James P Womack Scholarship and Philanthropy Fund
- Center for Quality People and Organizations
- FREE online course called “Lean Six Sigma and the Environment”
- 6sigma.US Training and Certification Programs
- Creative Safety Supply – Free 5S Guide
Have you ordered the new book, “Lean Six Sigma for Good: Lessons from the Gemba (Volume 1)?” The book is made up of 8 chapters written about experiences from Lean and Six Sigma practitioners, to give you tips and tricks to help you work with nonprofits in your area. All proceeds donated to charity. We are also close to releasing Volume 2, so check back for the latest news.
Host (H): I would just like to welcome you all and thank you for joining us for today’s webinar, Applying Lean Six Sigma to Nonprofit Organizations. We are very excited about your participation today.
I introduce you to today’s speaker, Mr. Brion Hurley. Brion has a Master’s degree in Quality Management from the University of Iowa and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 26 years of experience. Mr. Hurley spent 18 years at Rockwell Collins teaching Green Belt classes and mentoring projects. In 2015, Brion became the president of Recycling Advocates, where he continues to play a vital role. In addition to Recycling Advocates, Mr. Hurley is currently a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt instructor for both 6sigma.us and Business Performance Improvement.
In addition to his duties as a Master Black Belt, Brion is very involved in volunteerism. He is currently volunteering with Lean Portland as a community consulting lead. His experience in the nonprofit sector has given him knowledge that can improve organizations so they can assist more clients. Mr. Hurley has shared his experience in his book, Lean Six Sigma for Good. At this time, I would like to turn the presentation over to Brion.
Brion (B): Thank you so much for having me and thanks, everybody, for joining. This is a topic I’m really excited about. I really want to share the little that I’ve learned so far and also really motivate and encourage you to reach out and apply some of your skills and knowledge to local nonprofits that are really in need of your help, especially with all the stuff that’s going on right now.
Just a little bit of background on myself. You gave a great bio there for what I’ve done so far. Probably about 10 years ago, I really started to notice how there’s opportunities outside of the corporate world and how the concepts and things I learned in school and in my job were really applicable to major problems that are going on in the world. I really started to take notice of some of the environmental issues going on and then just the local things in different places I’ve lived. In Portland, we have a lot of homeless and learning and understanding the issues behind that, you find that there’s a lack of processes, there’s unclear roles and responsibilities, there’s a lack of data. That all sounds like very familiar things that we’re used to hearing about.
I just wanted to share what I’ve learned so far. I’m not an expert by any means. I’ve been getting into this world in the last 5 to 7 years. The knowledge that we bring to the table can really be helpful even if we’re just getting started and we don’t have to know everything about the organization. Just like when we go into a process, a lot of times, we have no background on what’s going on but we can quickly pick up and notice the things that are broken and where we can be effective.
I’ll go through just how I did some individual volunteering and then moved to more of a group volunteering effort, and I’ll talk about the group Lean Portland. I’ll also talk about a website I’ve been putting together where I’m consolidating a lot of this information together, and then a few resources, and a summary, and then open it up for Q&A.
There are some great benefits to volunteering. Sometimes, yes, the first reason we might volunteer is to help the organization, but there’s actually some side benefits that go along with that too. One study said that 76% of the volunteers, it made them feel healthier. 94% improved their mood and these are other high numbers around here for lowering stress level and enriching their sense of purpose in life, helping the community with a better place. That’s why we maybe initially get involved.
And then strengthening relationships. I can attest to this that these are definitely side benefits that I’ve gotten out of the volunteer work that I’ve done. Another study, from Deloitte, talked about finding jobs and choosing candidates with volunteer experience and that it helped expand the employee’s skillset professionally. If you’re looking to get into a leadership role, getting involved with a nonprofit and taking on one of those roles or leading a campaign or being on the board, those are other ways you can show experience where maybe you’re not getting those opportunities at your work. There’s a lot of ways you can try out and test out some of the things or improve your career development through nonprofit work besides just helping that organization achieve their mission.
I first started off by participating in a project that was going on at the campus at school. I had already graduated years ago, but I had gotten interested in the sustainability movement and I really felt like I needed some education. I started taking some classes at the college I attended. It was about a half-hour for my work, so they let me move my schedule around a little bit to take these classes. What I wanted to do was apply what I learned in my school with my knowledge and skill with Lean and Six Sigma and I picked project that was going on at the local campus. I was at the University of Iowa. At the football stadium, I had attended many games and it bugged me that the recycling system was not where I thought it should be. There was a lot of opportunity there, from my observations, so I basically started asking around and said, “Who can help me with this project? I think I can bring something to the table. I think there’s an opportunity to make it better, I just don’t know exactly what’s going on or why it’s the way it is.”
I reached out and started putting together a project charter and found the right people to get together. It was a big list of groups – you had Facilities, and Security, and Athletic Department, and the different waste management companies, student groups, Facilities. It became very, very large. That’s what I’ve noticed, one thing, is that there’s a lot more stakeholders involved with government work, nonprofit work, community building, more so than even what we see in businesses.
I put together this project and we started working together. About once a week, we’d have a call and talk through our issues and ideas and really just trying to bring everybody together to try to come up with something that will work for everyone. Because everyone had challenges and issues and there’s a lot of great ideas, but not all of them could work based on the logistics and the barriers that were in the process.
We had one data point. It was that they had done a waste study to figure out how much of the trash was being diverted into recycling from the stadium, and it was at 25%. One data point is not very good, but like I said, it’s better than zero data points. We can at least say this has got a huge margin of error on it, but it’s a starting point. At the end of the next season, after the improvement work we put together, which involved a lot of meetings, we tested out a couple of different ideas, we made iterations throughout the season. These were at all the home games and I think we have eight home games that year.
We got the rate to average over 50%. So it’s not 70% or 90%, but it was a big improvement from where they were. I think we got the ball rolling with tracking the data, looking at the data each week, breaking the data down into smaller pieces to look for other opportunities, and really trying to pull people together around this goal. We tied it back to the goal of the university, which was try to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
One of the things we did was a process map just to try to figure out what was going on because I was confused. As a person coming in from the outside, I got lost really quickly about how the process worked, and so we just tried to put together a simple diagram to show where everything goes and how many people are involved and what happens here and where does this go and where does this metric show up. In like a lot of improvements, we look at process maps as a way to figure out the current state. That was really helpful and it was something that did not exist. That really helped me go through that and I think others found value in the exercise of putting this map together.
What I’m really proud about this project was that it’s continued on. The end of the project was 2012, then it was handed off in 2013 and they continued that program and they’re still continuing to enhance and improve on that program. Basically, the main improvement we did was we put these recycling bins outside of the stadium for people coming into the stadium, so we give them the opportunity to recycle. Because you can see there’s a lot of traffic coming, there’s a bottleneck at the gate. People were slowed down and stopped and they could look at the sign and we could talk to them and we could educate the fans as they were coming in. We worked through and tried to get some videos of players talking about recycling, things were getting put up on the billboards and on the scoreboards.
The big piece was one of the fraternities took over the job of collecting and organizing the volunteers, so the people that would be stationed at each of the recycling bins. That really helped get the program some solid footing so now we can actually maintain the gains on that project. That was my first attempt at this and it worked fairly well, but I learned a lot as well, through that exercise. I really just started asking questions on something that I was interested in and passionate about.
When I moved to Portland, Oregon, about seven years ago, I got involved with a nonprofit. I had done some green team work at my work at the time at Rockwell Collins and I started networking with other people running green teams and that led me to this nonprofit organization. I’ve never really worked with or within a nonprofit before. This organization was 30 years old. They had a focus around engaging people in sustainable future through local efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and so Recycling Advocates, obviously, is very focused on the recycling system.
When I got involved, I became a board member and then a couple of years after that, I took over as president. Like I said, I had zero experience being in a nonprofit organization and being on a board and definitely no experience being the president, so it’s been a big learning experience for me, but something that’s been really good. I haven’t really had many management or leadership roles. I’ve always been an individual contributor trying to make change through influence and education, so this was a little bit different to have to lead a small team of volunteers.
One of the ways I applied Lean concepts to that is we did a campaign to help people to bring their own coffee cups to coffee shops. We thought that was a small victory we could get in the community. People in Portland love their coffee and they’re open to this idea of bringing their own cups where they go so they’re not using disposable cups. We had a problem that a lot of people were throwing them in the recycling bin and that contaminates them because there’s plastic liner inside and that’s not a recyclable cup.
We had these ideas for what we could use for campaign materials and we were thinking about making these big batches of printed materials. I slowed down and told the team, “Let’s make a small batch. Even though it’s more per item, we won’t get as many items for the price, but we don’t want to waste money on something that the coffee shops don’t like or don’t want, so let’s at least test it out.” So we went to a much smaller amount initially and we got some feedback. One of the things we heard was the trifold that we wanted to put on the coffee shop tables were a no-go for the shops. We ended up making maybe 50 or 100 of those and, luckily, we didn’t make the 500 that we were planning to make. That saved us a lot of money because once we got feedback from the customer, we found out what they actually cared about. They said nothing can go on the tables, we need to wipe them down, people have got their laptops. So that was one way to try to minimize our costs by using the Lean Startup methods to get instant feedback from customers before we go full-board with a big solution that doesn’t work.
Another thing I worked on was a conference. We put together a zero-waste conference to try to encourage people in the community to reduce the amount of items that they purchase that have plastic or packaging on them. As we were going through the conference, the concept of FMEA really popped in my head over and over again. I said I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull off an FMEA in this, but I can walk through the structure of an FMEA.
I sat down with the other organizer and we went through it step-by-step. Somebody signs up for this conference. What do they get? do they get an email? what’s the email look like? do we have all the right information in there? to we have directions? do we give them instructions on whether they should bring the ticket or not? What about when they get there, where are they supposed to park? Do we have signs up? Are we going to have a sandwich board? Is someone going to be out there? Do we have a volunteer organized for that? When they come in, what’s the registration process look like? Is there going to be a bottleneck? Are they all going to show up at the same time? How do we spread that out? How do we give flexibility to our process? we basically went through every scenario we could using that mindset around the FMEA to reduce and minimize a bunch of issues.
I go through that in one of the books I mentioned before, the Lean Six Sigma for Good. I wrote a whole chapter on some of this work on the nonprofit. The bottom line was the conference went really well and we had no major issues at all. I thought that that planning activity with FMEA really helped us identify and avoid a couple of major issues.
We’re all busy and that’s one of the big barriers is finding time to do work because you get off of work from a long day and you have family you want to spend time with. One thing that’s great and, as I was researching, there’s a lot of companies that actually give time to their employees to do volunteering and a lot of the employees don’t know about that. Here are just a few examples. I’m not going to read through all of them, but they basically allow for their employees to reach out and do work in the community and its paid time. Definitely, I would encourage you to look in your organization, talk to your HR, find out if there are options already because they realize the value of you going out and being a representative of that organization that they are giving back to that community, so there’s something in it for them. That might be the way you can get started where you don’t feel like it’s just another thing to add on to your to-do list. Definitely, I would encourage you to really look into that if you’re not aware of any programs that your company has. If they don’t have that, you can still go to your manager and talk to them about it and say, “This is what I’m thinking about doing. Is that something I can do or a couple of people in our department can go do or we can all do as a teambuilding exercise?” I’m sure they’d be really open to that. There’s lots of ways that your employers can support you in your volunteer efforts.
That’s you as an individual, what can you do right now in your group to get involved. The other thing, let me go back real quick. When I was at Rockwell Collins, which is now called Collins Aerospace, I was asked to participate in a project. It was a healthcare community improvement project. I had met a local doctor who was looking at ISO and quality improvement methods and he was looking to get some training, so I invited him to come take one of the SPC classes we had. Later, he put in a grant to do a community improvement project and asked if we could participate and our company, at the time, and the management allowed us to go help out. It was me and one other person.
We did some training, we walked them through a Six Sigma project, we did some gauge studies on how to blood test properly. We did some improvement projects, some fishbone diagrams around reasons why the measurements were off, we helped them install some control charts on monitoring patient test results. That was a really good example and I was supported by the organization to do this project. And it was a great learning experience and development to really get to know a different aspect of a different industry and there’s a lot, though, I could take back and bring to the job from what I learned there. Those are other opportunities going on that may be really good to get involved with.
What I found that really works better is getting a group of people together to coordinate that because when it’s just you as an individual, it’s easy to get buried in other stuff and get caught up in issues or forget about it and lose track of things you were working on. I’m part of another organization called Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, IISE. The reason I got involved with them is they have a sustainable development division within there that’s looking out how can industrial engineering and systems engineering practices be used to help sustainability efforts going on. A lot of it is geared around the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
This organization, prior to each annual conference, goes around and tries to find a local nonprofit we can volunteer with for a couple of hours. At the end of that, we give some feedback on ways to streamline or improve their process. So whether it’s a local community garden or a women’s shelter or a place like a restore, that was a food bank on the bottom left. Each year, we’ve had an organization that we’ve worked with and we get to help out a little bit and do the volunteer work, but also, we get to teach them a little bit about some of these principles. The industrial engineering department and training is very much geared along the Lean method. They also do some, I would say, Six Sigma type methods with process controls, SPC, stuff like that, so there’s a very close relationship with industrial engineering and our Lean and Six Sigma efforts. That really got me excited about this idea of having an organization that works together to keep people moving forward with this effort. It’s not just us, as individuals, doing it.
Then when I moved to Portland, I found out about a group called Lean Portland, which was like a networking group but they had done some pro bono consulting work with an organization. They had some success with that, but it really hadn’t kept going and so there was a second effort to reignite this organization and group with the idea that we would have ongoing consulting and volunteer work with organizations. That got me excited because I wanted to be able to go in there and not just, one day, help them, but go in on a longer-term basis and really do a transformation, which as we all know, that really is what’s required to make a big difference. This organization is not a nonprofit. We talked about whether our group should be a nonprofit or not, but we didn’t really want to go through the paperwork, so it’s set up now as a benefit corporation. That just means that there’s a profit motive, but this organization is not set up that way. It’s really more set up like a nonprofit, but you have less paperwork to deal with. But a benefit organization just means that there’s a balance between making money, helping the community, and helping the environment.
This group has grown and developed and we’ve had different workshops. We had Norman Bodek come and speak to our group, he lives nearby. We’ve done one-on-one consulting and group consulting with a couple of different nonprofits in the local area. Friends with the Children was the first group that they worked with and they reduced the waste in the mentoring time. The time that it was taking for the mentors to charge their time, I should say. Because there was a lot of back-and-forth and they had to drive back to the office when they were done and record their time and log their miles and it was just very inefficient. They were wasting time and it was keeping them away from actually helping the kids that they were mentoring. I wasn’t involved in that one, but I got involved when we started working with Social Venture Partners. They get investees who come and donate some of their time. Oftentimes, it’s retirees or people who have some free time that they have work experience that they can take to a nonprofit. We helped them map out the investee onboarding process.
When we have a couple of other organizations we work with, like the Rebuilding Center, who brings in construction materials and resells them and we helped them design a new cashier checkout area. We helped them put together these welcome stations to help people understand how the process works and how you buy things there, helped them prioritize some projects, and we’ve been really helping them with the hardware and donation processing areas to help streamline that. With a group called Free Geek, they take items that are donated back, like old iPhones, old laptops, computers, and they reprocess them, fix them, and then resell them. They take the proceeds and they take the donations and they give them out in the community for people who need them. We’ve been working with them to try to organize some of their operations. I’ll show you a couple of examples here.
Those are the organizations we’ve worked with so far, over the last probably five years I’d say. We’ve had different people come and go throughout the time, so each of these groups had different volunteers involved. I think that’s really important because life happens and some people change jobs and some people move and then some people move in and some people are busy and then other people are overloaded. Having a group that’s really been consistent throughout there, even though the people have changed, the group has kept moving forward. If it was just one or two people by themselves, it would have probably died off by now, so this group has been really good to get together. Just personally, the people in this group are some of my best friends. Because I see them all the time and we’re together talking about how we can be helpful to the community, so they have the same mindset and so that’s been really cool benefit of this group.
This was some pictures where we were helping with the cashier checkout area. At the bottom is the welcome station. The key thing, on the upper left, was we were engaging the people who are going to be using and working in that space and helping them come up with the new layout. Because we could give them all the cool flow techniques and U-shaped cells and all these ideas, but at the end of the day, they have to live with the outcome and so it’s us really coaching and mentoring them through that process. Here’s some more 5S activity we did in the lumberyard. It was just some disorganization and just trying to get them into the mindset of everything has a place, put things back where they belong, label it, mark it, and teach people how to instill that discipline into the process. Not telling them how to do it exactly, but giving those principles and then coming back and reinforcing that over and over again.
This was an example. On the left, was the work area for mobile device repair when we came in and started working with them. Then we got them through some of the principles and taught them about 5S, and then we worked through a process flow for them. We started to go and get organized. I’d say we spent a couple of hours that day. I think it was a three-hour time block. The first hour was really trying to get organized, the second hour was actually organizing some of the stuff on the right. The far right picture is we took all the phones that were in a box and we put them in some kind of organization and labeled the little sleeves there so at least they knew how many of each item that they had. The middle picture is what they did about a week later when we came back, what they had gone through and cleaned up. That was a really great example of the left side. We always tried to think about what’s a new volunteer coming into, how are they going to know what to do and where things are at? that would take months of knowledge to know where everything is hidden away and tucked away at.
With Restore, we’ve done a couple of different little projects with them. They have four locations and we’ve worked with two of their locations. I’m starting to do some data analysis, more on the Six Sigma side, with looking at sales by day and looking for different patterns. Why are some of the days, like Tuesday, perhaps maybe not statistically lower, but what’s going on with those particular days? is there something we can do to boost sales? a lot of it is really around the outliers, so why did we have a good day, way more than normal, and why did we have a bad day? why was it unusually bad? and what are those factors that drive that? is it weather? is it staffing levels? is it the sales social media promotions? is it a specific item or two? maybe there’s a big cabinet that got sold for $700, that would spike the results. Let’s understand and look at the data and then tie it back to our process. We’re also looking at some stuff and the right side here was Marie and Chris were helping look at the flow through the warehouse and they wanted to redesign the layout to try to make it more streamlined, so working through that discussion and trying to bring some of those principles to help them out.
Some key takeaways with the organizations. The first thing is that we really want to focus a lot on the volunteer experience. Usually, the organizations have a staff that they have in place, but they get really tied up with dealing with the volunteers. A lot of things we’ve been really helpful with, I think, is being able to look at their volunteer process and say, “Treat me like a volunteer.” Or even the best thing is we go in and act like a volunteer, so we go through their volunteer process. We’ll go in and register on their website and then we’ll show up and then we’ll go through their training. Then we can give some really good feedback, at that point, and say, “This was clunky. This took a long time. I was confused. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t find the supplies. I didn’t know what time to meet. I didn’t know where to meet.” All those things can be opportunities to improve and then we can start to watch the process after we’ve been involved in the process. We actually just go in as a normal volunteer, to start with, and I think that gives us a realistic picture of the current state.
Things we’ve looked at is looking at the ways to make the process so simple and organized that it reduces the staff’s time to train a new person. Sometimes, they’ll spend hours with a group and they never see the people come back again. Maybe because they didn’t feel like they had a good experience or maybe it was just a one-time deal, but it’s a lot to invest in those individuals when they don’t see them again.
There’s also a fear and a quote we’ve heard a lot is, “I don’t want to work in a factory. That’s why I’m working at this nonprofit.” I think there’s this perception that the factory is a really horrible place to work. That hasn’t been my experience, but I can see where that perception might be I’m just sitting at my workstation, doing the same thing over and over again. Here, there’s so much going on. I get to go to this area, and this area, and this area and fight this fire, and fight that fire. I think there’s just a perception around bringing in best practices from industry, that it’s going to make it very rigid and structured. Usually, it’s from people who have not worked in those kind of industries before, but I can understand and it makes sense that there might be that perception. We just have to talk through and work through those discussions so that they’re saying, “Okay, I’m willing to at least listen to some of these ideas and concepts.”
We really want the volunteers to feel like they made a difference and they had a good experience so that they come back. Then you don’t have to train them as much and that can free up your staff to go do the jobs that needs to get done, including the improvement work. Because there’s a host of projects and ideas that they have on their list, they just can’t get around to them they’re just so busy. That was one of the organizations. We were just trying to help them get to a point where they could cut down the number of projects. Because they had each person with 10 different projects that they were trying to juggle and that means conflicting priorities, everyone is going in different directions, they can’t all focus on just a couple of projects, get those done, and then move on to the next group of projects. It was just too much juggling of many different projects, too much project whip.
The team approach, really helpful. Like I said, life happens. Things happen, you get stuck at work, you get a different job, your job role changes, you can take a different position. Now you’re having to learn a new job and you don’t have time to volunteer. We’ve had people come in and out of employment, we’ve had people move, come in or leave, we’ve had people lose jobs and have a lot of free time to volunteer, and then they get a job, and now they don’t have time to volunteer anymore. So we’ve tried to establish a lead and a co-lead for each of our clients. Therefore, we always have one backup person and one person who’s a primary focal point. That was some feedback we got from our experience with Social Venture Partner. They said, “We weren’t sure who to contact and reach out to because there was three or four people involved.” No one had the role and responsibility and said, “This is your client, you are the lead. If you can’t do that, you’ll have to get your co-lead or we need to find someone else to take over.” And that’s okay, this is all volunteer work, so we expect that things will happen, but we just want to be very clear that we always have the roles.
A lot of the work we’ve done so far is about donation based. We’re looking at items coming in, but the really interesting thing is donations, you don’t have control of that supply chain, you just get what shows up at the door. That’s been a really interesting challenge to figure out how do you use these principles to deal with a supply chain that you’re not even controlling? so you have to have processes that are very flexible that can handle that and ebb and flow at different times with different materials. That’s where a lot of the effort is put on is having that flexibility bit built into that process of receiving donations. I think that’s been a really interesting challenge that you’ll run across.
The last part, I just want to cover this website. It’s leansixsigmaforgood.com. I just want to talk through the elements of that and encourage you to check it out. I’ve got 240, I think, different articles that I found that related to Lean or Six Sigma or process improvement that tie back to a nonprofit under these different categories of food banks, and government agencies, and healthcare. I don’t do a lot of healthcare because there’s a lot of stuff already out there on that. But natural disasters, community service, stuff like that. Lots of different articles, so if you just do a search on that site, if you say I’m working with a zoo, type in zoo and see if there’s some articles. I know there’s a couple in there that are around working with Lean applied to a zoo.
There’s a couple of organizations you should check out that are similar to our Lean Portland group that are also official nonprofits. The Community Excellence Alliance is based out of Jacksonville and they’re doing some pro bono volunteer work made up of local process improvement consultants. They partner with the University of North Florida. I think that really seems like the model to go with is a three-way collaboration between a nonprofit, a local Lean Six Sigma consultant, and a local college or school. The students need work experience and they have time and they have projects they need to do to get credit on their classes. The nonprofits need help, and the consultants have the knowledge but not necessarily the time. What we’re trying to figure out is how can the consultants mentor the students to go work directly with the nonprofit and the consultants can pop in, as needed, but they don’t have to be there all the time where their time is probably the least available. That’s something to check out and that’s something I’m trying to work through a little bit as well, a bigger strategy around that.
James P Womack Scholarship and Philanthropy Fund is a recent program. If you don’t recall, Jim Womack is part of the Lean Enterprise Institute and they’re doing some stuff where they’re doing a gemba-based learning and improvement where they’re bringing in students to work with a nonprofit, exactly like we were talking about here. That fund has been set up recently to try to grow that organization
And then the Center for Quality People and Organizations is based out of Georgetown, Kentucky, which is where the Toyota facility is located. There’s a couple of people who used to work there that set up this organization. They go into the schools and try to teach some of the Lean principles to students in the Scott County school system. If you like any of those organizations, feel free to check them out. The link is in the website.
Some existing groups that are similar to what I talked about with the Lean Portland. Here is what either I’m trying to build out or there has been some effort to try to organize. If you live near one of these areas, I’d encourage you to check out the group on the website and reach out to them and find out if they’ve got anything actively going on. If you don’t live near one of these areas and you’re interested in setting something up, I have some steps you can go through, from the website, on how to do that. Basically, setting up a LinkedIn group and getting some people to show up and start organizing, maybe in person at some point. Obviously, when this coronavirus thing slows down. I’d really like to build this out into a larger thing where each major city has a group like this that’s available to work with and so we can get every city has a group that nonprofits can go to to get some Lean and Six Sigma support. That’s my big vision that I’m trying to work towards.
Real quick on the book series. I’ve put together two books so far. Actually, one is released, the second one is in process right now. These are case studies and examples from people like myself who have gone through and worked with nonprofits and are sharing their tips and tricks and best practices and what worked and what didn’t work for them. If you’re interested in maybe doing some of this work, these book series are set up for you to read through the chapters and maybe get inspired or feel more confident, after you read the chapters, that I can do something like that or that doesn’t sound that hard or these are things I need to be concerned about or watch out for.
This was the chapters out of the first book. I have eight chapters. I reached out to people I knew and it’s available on paperback, e-book, and Audible, hopefully, very soon. The second book series, I’ve got two chapters almost ready to release. I’m releasing them one chapter at a time, one-piece flow. At the end, when I’m done with the whole book, then I put it on Amazon. Right now, it would only be available on e-book. These first two chapters will probably come out in the next week or so. I’m waiting for the second one to get finished up.
I have a podcast I’ve been running for the last couple of months. I rebranded it to Lean Six Sigma For Good. It was really focused on just environmental applications for Lean Six Sigma, but I’ve made it a little bit broader because there’s a lot more to cover in this area. Those are some of the recent episodes I put out. If you like podcasts, that’s something you can check out.
How you can get involved. Basically, tell others you might know about that you think might be interested in this topic. Tell them about that website, the Lean Six Sigma For Good website, or direct them to this webinar. If you are interested, maybe go through the website and look at some of the articles, play some of those categories or select some of those topics and just look at some of the articles that are in there. It’s either an article, a video, or a podcast, those are the three break downs. Maybe you’ll get inspired or you’ll see an example or you know somebody who works at a food bank and you can forward them the link and say, “Check out some of these articles where they’ve made some improvements. This might be something that might be helpful for you.” If you’re inspired, maybe you’ll reach out to a local nonprofit. One of the other books I put together was just my own personal journey. In there, I talk about how you can find a nonprofit to work with. Basically, it’s find something you’re passionate about so that you’ll be motivated to go reach out and spend time with them. If you’re not passionate about that nonprofit, you’re not going to commit the time to it.
Basically, you just provide some training, maybe some beginner training, to them or give them some consulting help on a specific project or work with their leadership team. Whatever skills that you have, there’s probably a need that they could benefit from. If you want to go even further, you could set up a local group, like the Lean Portland group, and get some coworkers and people in the community together that you know. It’ll help build your network, just from a professional differently standpoint, but also gives you some more support to move forward on reaching out to a group. You’re not just going there by yourself, you’re going there as a cohort of people and you can bounce ideas off each other. I’ve learned so much from discussions and interactions with people like where did you get that form and what’s that technique you’re using or tell me more about that tool. It’s really helped my own personal career development.
If you’ve already done some of this work, then I really encourage you to share that experience. I’m always looking for more people to write chapters. I want to do at least five different volumes of that book and I do about eight each, so I want to get about 40 or 50 case studies total. So if you have, please reach out if you’re interested in writing a chapter. The proceeds of the chapter go to the nonprofit of your choice. You can also do an interview. I would have you on the podcast and you could just interview and talk about your experience. Those are ways to share what you’ve already done. Hopefully, maybe one of those things are interesting to you or more than one.
The resources would be the website, leansixsigmaforgood. I’m going to continue to populate that with information. There’s also a website that I first found some of those articles, was Lean4NGO.org put together by Steve Bell, who’s also here in Portland and has done some great work in Africa around Lean and software and IT. Lean Portland is the volunteer group that I talked about. If you search in your podcast, you should be able to pull up the Lean Six Sigma for Good. If not, let me know.
Then there’s basically two books available. There’s a free one that I put together, here on the right, that is just my journey and how I got into this nonprofit work and how you can find a nonprofit that maybe aligns with your goals and your vision and your passion. Then Volume One is already released. It costs $20 and that’s because all the proceeds go to the nonprofit of the book authors. We have eight authors and so the proceeds get split up eight ways and then, once a quarter, I’ll take those proceeds and send it out as a check to that nonprofit, so it’s all going to a good cause. Like I said, Volume Two is in process and it should be ready to go, at least the first two chapters, will be released very soon. It will come out at about $5 on the release version, but the cool part is if you order at $5, the extra chapters get added on for free. The way that this leanpub.com does their website, it’s released a chapter at a time so it’s kind of cool.
To summarize, nonprofits and government agencies really need our help with Lean and Six Sigma to really tackle some of the societal problems. You’re seeing that there’s a lot of organizations, if you go on the website and click on government, you’ll see lots of different cities and states that are tackling their challenges with Lean and Six Sigma training and support. It’s definitely taking off and I see there’s going to be a lot more opportunities for us to get more involved in our local governments. Work with your employer and find out if they’ll let you volunteer your skills during work time or maybe they’ll give you time just to work with a group on your own. Then if you are interested in networking and building a group of other practitioners in your area, having a nonprofit to go work with is a great way to build that network and get them together and do some good work and also meet some great people.
With that, I’ll open it up for questions. Here’s my contact information if you have other questions you’d like to ask.
H: Can you contact one of these groups through your website?
B: The list of groups? yes. On the website, there is a map of the groups that I know about and then there’s a link to their either LinkedIn group or website. So yes, try going there first. Some are at different stages, so I’ll notice that some are active for a while and then they kind of drop off. That’s why I reach out and find out how active they currently are. That’s always the struggle with these volunteer groups is that it’s maybe dependent one or two people. So the more we can build out the group to have a decent number of people working on it, it’ll at least keep it going. Because that’s what happens with a lot of the volunteer groups, it gets lost in the shuffle when your life changes and things happen.
H: What level of training did you initially do, like Yellow Belt, or how did you start out?
B: Usually, what I would do is meet with the executive director or a leader or a manager in the group and do the one-hour Lean overview. I just explain where Lean comes from, eight forms of waste, and 5S as an introductory topic. If I have time, we’ll go through a little notecard simulation or a paper airplane simulation and just really try to get them excited about these toolsets and mindset and just see if that’s something that they’re familiar with or if that resonates with them. After that, then it’s more case-by-case on what topic we cover. I try not to just do a bunch of training but really try to tie it in with an event. We would want to do a 5S event, those are pretty common ways to get started, and then we would do a 5S training for the team right before, and then we would go out and do the event. So try to do a just-in-time instead of having canned training all set up.
Our Lean Portland group does free workshops, so we also do just generic ones throughout the year that are open to the public. We’ll also invite individuals who missed it or wanted to attend. There’s no obligation to attend, so it’s kind of a low risk for them just to attend and show up. Those are usually two or three hours so we can go a little bit deeper into the topics and we’ll get different businesses that will show up and then, hopefully, it’s a place where we can invite nonprofits or people who missed the training to attend some of those. We have an intro to Lean, an intro to Six Sigma, and then we’ll have maybe some random topics. Like we did a personal kanban workshop a couple of months ago.
H: Is there any interest in applying for grants to get more money for this?
B: Yes, absolutely. I actually got some consulting work from one of the nonprofits. They had a grant and so that grant was able to fund a productivity study they did to see if adding a person would be worth it to increasing their sales in their store. That was kind of a surprise that there was actually work out there. I think that’s one of the best funding sources for the nonprofits to get maybe formal training or people through formal classes or maybe get some money to maybe implement some of the ideas that come out of the improvements. Maybe they need a new racking system, maybe they need some mobile carts, maybe they want to put something together through there, maybe move from a physical paper form to electronic form. There’s funding available there. You’ll just have to have the nonprofit apply for the grant, unless you set up a group that is a nonprofit itself. But I would just work through the nonprofit for anything grant related because they have people who can do those and you just tell them what piece that you want to be part of that effort if you think there’s opportunity to get a little bit of funding or support to do that.
H: I would like to thank Brion for sharing his presentation with us. You may access all our new webinars as well as still relevant past presentations, videos, webinars, white papers, and case studies that are available to ISSSP members within our resources. You can also register for future webinars and become an ISSSP member by visiting isssp.org and we always appreciate your support.