In this podcast, I interviewed Jorge Perez, who is the President & CEO of YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. Early in his career, he helped students into college and keep them from getting into drugs, gangs and dropping out of school. He realized that getting to the root cause of the issue (not having a support structure) would be more impactful, which eventually led him to the YMCA. He obtained his Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt certification and started applying these methods to his work in the nonprofit sector.
Here are some other key points he mentions:
- The importance of understanding the data and root causes to understand why something works or does not work, which makes it difficult to scale and replicate to other nonprofits
- How data can prioritize and simplify efforts in a nonprofit
- The 3 keys to success for day camps: Achievement, Relationship and Belonging
- Case studies of how YMCA has applied Six Sigma and Lean principles to day camps, youth sports, nature trails, and Big Brothers Big Sisters success rate
- Recommendations for volunteers on how to get involved with local nonprofits
- How he explains Six Sigma to those unfamiliar with it
- Why DMAIC feels like you are going slower, but it actually helps you go faster
You can also watch the video of this presentation at https://youtu.be/dg3fcKeVMFw
- Jorge Perez
- Email: email@example.com
- YMCA of Greater Cincinnati
- ASQ article from 2016: https://www.leansixsigmaforgood.com/ymca-upgrades-day-camps-using-six-sigma-asq/
- YMCA Six Sigma Training Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsbj5HPvoNNXp0CyBcAw-zu7RVSxzlaK3
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Brion (B): So welcome, Jorge Perez. I had ran across an article you had done, maybe I think the article date was 2016, and it was about your work applying Six Sigma to the YMCA, so I wanted to have you on as a guest to learn a little bit more about that experience and how you’ve applied process improvement to a nonprofit sector. But maybe just if you could share a little bit of your background and some of the work you’ve done, and then maybe lead into some of that work.
Jorge (J): Yeah. Well, I’ve been with the YMCA for 27 years, but before that, I spent about 10 years working in education and spending time with kids trying to get them into college. These are first-generation college students, kids who are not likely to go to school. In fact, I tracked a group of sixth-graders who were selected because they only had a 15% graduation rate from Woodrow Wilson High School four years later.
And so I tell people I spent the first part of my career preventing things, drug prevention, gang prevention, dropout prevention, pregnancy prevention, and eventually began to see a pattern with all of those services. I began to see that the way you prevent let’s say a girl from getting pregnant or from a guy getting a girl pregnant is by making sure that they have a bright future, that they have caring adult relationship, and that they have some level of support system around them. It’s the same way you prevent kids from joining gangs and from connecting to other self-destructive behaviors, and that’s how I ended up at the YMCA.
So for 27 years, I worked for YMCAs across the Mid-America, primarily starting in Dallas, then went over to Indianapolis for a few years, came over to Cincinnati. So 15 years ago was the first time I had been in Cincinnati; I’m there now. Went over to St. Louis, and then oversaw our national work with young people in our national office in Chicago, which is where I did a lot of the Six Sigma work that you mentioned, and then came back to Cincinnati for the last five years, still practicing Six Sigma. In fact, the previous phone call or Zoom I was on, we were talking about the Six Sigma process as we make some decisions about data analytics.
B: That’s great. How did you get that background? Was that part of school or did you learn that from another company?
J: That’s a great question. One of the things I discovered as I was moving through the ranks is we had these really clearly defined things we did to help people, but when it came to business and process improvement and trying to make efficient certain programs, it was like crickets. I remember taking a class, I have a degree, an MBA from the University of Dallas, and taking a class on process improvement, and I remember learning about Six Sigma. So I decided I was just going to go full bore and went to our local university here and picked up a Green Belt at Xavier University and began to practice Six Sigma. I also spoke to volunteers from General Electric and several other corporations around here that use Six Sigma or Lean, and it became pretty obvious that we needed to get better at that.
What it did is allowed us to be more intentional about how we make decisions for improvements because when you don’t have a system, then you’re left with guessing at best. Many, many nonprofits, and I’m overgeneralizing, but I have now been in enough of them to know that many nonprofits, that’s how they make decisions. They make decisions based on their own experiences. They throw stuff on the wall to see if it sticks, and then they just keep doing it, really never understanding why it worked or why it didn’t work, which explains, by the way, why a lot of nonprofits struggle to replicate or scale. Because they know that it works where they are, but they don’t really know why it works, and therefore, it is hard to teach it. I’ve seen plenty of examples where nonprofits are teaching others how they made something work in their part of the world only to watch it fail everywhere else because they really didn’t understand why it worked.
B: Yeah, that’s pretty typical. I think there’s a lot going on and they’re trying things as best they can. But yeah, it’s hard to just take that extra time to collect the data or to evaluate that data and make sure that was the reason or this is the main driver of that so you have that knowledge versus it’s working now or it didn’t work and we’ve got three other things that we’re working on at the same time, so I don’t have that time or feel I have the time to go really study and understand why it worked well or why it didn’t work well. It’s kind of onto the next thing already.
J: I think human beings, we are so good at discerning or looking at things and making on-the-fly decisions. That’s why we have these big brains, but sometimes they work against us. They work against just because we believe that we can use what we’ve used all of our lives to quickly assess a situation and apply it to everyday work, and you know what? A lot of times, it works. There’s a reason why people wing it, because winging works. The problem, again, is understanding how to replicate, how to scale, how to re-create the conditions that made something work, and I’ll give you an example of that, and it’s a little bit of a comical example.
I remember going to a conference and these camp leaders were talking about why kids were having better fun at their camp, more fun. The leader just talked about how they decided to improve the camper experience, and these were overnight camps, and they did things like made sure that there was smell of pine in every cabin. So they bought these little scented candles and things that they placed all over. They even actually hung these little scent devices up on trees along the trail and stuff like that. And then they talk about cleanliness and songs, and people were taking notes and just loving what this guy was saying. At the end, he says, “Let me give you information about where you can buy these scented candles, these scented devices,” and people were again buying them.
I remember leaving and they have no clue why what they did worked. What they did was did a lot of things, but they really don’t know why it worked. And sure enough, I went back to take a look at what happened to those camps that decided to follow the pattern, and there was no discernible benefit, there was no discernible improvements. I believe that somewhere in all the things they were doing, they did one or two things that really worked, but they don’t know which one it was. And so that’s what we do, again, in nonprofits. Oftentimes, we’re social workers, we’re educators, and we just try to use what we learned in those areas of practice on how to manage an organization, and it does work sometimes, but oftentimes, we don’t really know why something worked.
B: In that example, did they have some data that showed that the campers were happier?
J: Well, they did. What they did is they measured whether the camper’s satisfaction had improved and whether they were going to recommend that camp to other campers, kids, so a net promoter score. So yeah, they did see an improvement, but they don’t know what caused it.
B: What factors, yes. Got it.
J: Those are dangerous conditions right there when you don’t know why what you did work is dangerous because you’ll keep doing what you perceive to be what worked, and it may not be what worked. Another example of that, and we actually did that in that report that you mentioned earlier, we wanted to improve afterschool programs for kids. So we launched into a Six Sigma process and we had nine potential things to focus in on. These were not necessarily practices; these were just things that we were looking at. We called them Nine Dimensions of Well-Being.
We believed nine things were too many, so we wanted to see what the data told us about what would be the biggest drivers of impact. And so we measured tens of thousands of kids and camps all over the country, and out popped out three words: achievement, relationship, and belonging. We discovered the kids needed to achieve or learn something, they needed to do it in relationships with other people, other kids, other counselors, and they needed to be given an opportunity to contribute to that experience, to bring their own gifts, to bring their talents and be celebrated for it. If you could do that, then those kids would have a great afterschool, a great summer camp experience, a great youth sports experience, and it no longer mattered what it was.
So if you did pickleball, if you did trails, if you did high adventure, if you did afterschool childcare, it doesn’t matter. Make sure the kids have achievement, relationship, and belonging, and we gave examples of how that worked and we could scale it. We trained it, we scaled it, and we began to see improvements in just about every program because we weren’t focused on the ingredients, we were focused on the conditions, and they were tested and retested. Just on a side note, we asked the same question for the adults, and guess what? We came up with the same three things. Data told us human beings never stop wanting to achieve, relate, and belong, and right now at the YMCA, that’s what we’re measuring.
B: Like the candle example too. It’s like if you have 10 things you did and then you have to do all 10 things because you don’t know which actually worked. The same thing with this is you can keep it simplified to here’s the recipe and you put your own ingredients in. If you don’t like pickleball, no problem. You just insert whatever activity you like and just follow the recipe of that. And then it gives it a flexibility and it’s still effective, but it’s not so locked in because we don’t know what actually matters. So I think that makes it easier and less costly in a lot of cases too.
J: Oftentimes, you end up understanding that it’s not about the quality of things. When we did this, I visited two camps and they couldn’t be more different. One camp catered to upper-middle-class kids. We’re talking children of Senators, Representatives, lawyers, doctors. The cost was upwards of $2000, $3000 for four weeks of camp. On the other extreme was this very primitive camp. It was low-cost. They couldn’t afford much of the other things. The other one had lodges and beautiful and it was climate control and they had saline and it was gorgeous. You would go there and say, gosh, this is one of the best camps I’ve ever been to. The other one looked like somebody’s backyard. Just there are some trees and there’s a place where you could put a tent, and there’s where we build the fire, and we eat under this tree and stuff like that. Pretty primitive. Both of them applied achievement, relationship, and belonging and both of them saw improvements in their camper experience because it wasn’t about the amenities; it was about the experience.
Now, no doubt that the nicer camp has some advantages. There’s something to be said about a beautiful venue, but we’ve all been to places that were gorgeous and beautiful and it was the worst experiences we’ve ever had, whether they be hotels or rental cars or travel experience, because it’s not about just that; it’s about the other things. I think it allowed our colleagues, like a lot of my colleagues, to focus on things that mattered and spend time and energy there rather than spending it on lodges and beautiful experiences. If you can get those, great, but make sure the kids are achieving, relating, and belonging, and then the magic happens.
B: That’s great. Because I think the concepts around Lean resonate with people a little bit better because the principal is around visualizing the work and simplifying and engaging people in the process. Looking at flow and time and stuff like that I think is really straightforward. But I do struggle with explaining Six Sigma to people, and then especially in nonprofits, so is there any other examples with the data part of this that you found helpful or you’ve run across where other nonprofits could benefit if they looked at their– I don’t know if there’s charting that you do on metrics or any other examples that we could help show the benefit of some of those things?
J: One of the things that I learned early on, and I think I discovered this when I was going through my Sigma training, and then I’ve had plenty of conversations where we’ve had Black Belts work with us and/or on staff, and one of the things I learned is that the DMAIC or Six Sigma has a lot of flexibility to it. In fact, that’s where Lean and all of these other items pop out, is that somebody said, well, what if we don’t apply the whole gamut of DMAIC, of the Six Sigma, and just apply segments of it? but you’re still looking at data, you’re still analyzing, you’re still testing before you get to control, before you get to this place where you’re saying this is the way we’re going to do them.
So that’s the first thing I tell people is that don’t feel like you’ve got to do the whole thing. I love to use examples like Excel or Outlook or Word. If you ever go and look at the very top of those programs, you’ll soon discover that most of us use about 5% of all of its capabilities. Microsoft Word is a very powerful word processing system that does all sorts of amazing things. Most of us just use very simple segments like spellcheck and a few other things, but for the most part, we just write and text or write emails and stuff like that or letters. Excel is the same way. It can do some really powerful calculations, but you don’t need to do that. You can just use just a few things.
Well, I believe Six Sigma is just like that. If you want to do advanced Six Sigma, great. In fact, when I tell people about Six Sigma, I say go watch some videos, but don’t watch the long videos. Watch the five-minute explanation of Six Sigma because if you watch the two-hour explanation of Six Sigma, you’ll run away screaming because it’s a scary thing, especially for those of us that picked the social sciences for a reason. We’re not mathematicians. Once you’ve done that, then go in and say what is the process like? We actually do this training. We developed a series of videos. They’re all about 5 or 10 minutes long under each of the DMAIC principles.
So we do these things; we just don’t take time to do them well. So we define problems. Something’s not working, and so we say something’s not working. The transportation or the field trip we’re on, we keep losing kids. There’s a problem. There’s a defect. And then we do go into measurements. I just told you we lost two kids and we do this many field trips. The problem is we jump right into solutions, typically, right there and then, and then announce this is the new solution, and it may work. It may be it actually might work. You initiate a buddy system and now kids don’t get lost because they’re in a buddy system. Or it might not work at all and you add another layer to the buddy system. So now you’ve got wristbands and colored T-shirts and you count the kids five times. You just keep adding layers so that you don’t lose the kids and, eventually, you’ll figure it out, but now you’ve got layers upon layers of things that who knows which one of those work.
What the DMAIC process or Lean does is it tells you to slow down a little bit, to keep collecting data. I tell folks the measurement part of the Six Sigma process will take you the longest. So if you’re in a month-long Six Sigma process, you might spend two weeks just collecting data, maybe more, because you want to keep asking what else should we be measuring? what else should we be measuring? and then you go into the analyze phase, which is your shortest phase because I think you can overthink that, and again, you don’t have to use all the tools of Six Sigma. You can just use a handful of them. I find, Brion, that once I get people to collect enough information, they just get better at the other three things that remain. Their analyses are better, their tests or improve is really strong, and then they now know what to control for what worked and what didn’t work.
And so don’t overthink Six Sigma. It’s actually not that difficult. The way I use Six Sigma and the way I describe it to people is Six Sigma is to books what a bookshelf is to books. It does that for decision-making. It just organizes the decision-making process, that’s it. So you can decide to put all your books on the floor and try to organize them on the floor, or you can put them on a bookshelf, alphabetize them and organize them, and that’s what Six Sigma does. It just organizes the decision-making process and it keeps your decisions organized, tracked, and if I could just add, it allows you to move much faster. It feels like you’re slow, but if I want to go fast, I use the DMAIC process.
B: I think that’s a great way to put it. I really like that. I think not overwhelming people with some of the more technical stuff, because you’re right, it does scare a lot of people off like I have to be a statistician to do this, and that’s not what we really run across that often. It’s more that there are some simple data to collect and it doesn’t take deep analysis to figure out what that data is telling us. I think that the idea of overcomplicating the process happens a lot, and we end up having a lot of waste because we try three or four different things, and then one of those works and we’re not sure which one, so you’ve got to keep all of those wasteful ones in there too because that might have been it too.
But I also think the idea to go fast, the fast is really the getting results, and I think people want to go fast into implementation, and that’s not necessarily getting results. Because if you’re implementing the wrong thing, you’re going to loop through that way longer, and so that time spent upfront getting good data and understanding the problem better will save you time getting to the actual benefits, and I think that’s the time that people overlook. They want to get into that solution mode. They want to be doing something and telling people we’re on it or we’ve got these actions, we’re implementing something, but are those the right things and will it actually lead to results? that’s the speed we want to get to, which takes a little longer upfront, but it saves time in the long run, like you said.
J: It does not just save time, it saves money, it improves impact. Before I forget to say this, you don’t want to ever use Six Sigma for yourself. If you don’t want to do the Green Belt, the Yellow Belt, the Brown Belt, the Black Belt and you’re looking for board members to serve on your nonprofit, go and identify a Black Belt somewhere out there and ask them to do a project as part of their service. I had a friend that he called me and he wanted to know little bit about this. He actually ran the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and we were talking about the DMAIC process. He said, “I don’t know if I could ever do that.” I said, “Why don’t you get a volunteer to help you with that? I think you guys have some folks from the Deere Tractor Corporation and they use Six Sigma in their manufacturing, so why don’t you do that?” And so he went out and found one.
Here’s the question they posed, is what makes a successful pairing in Big Brothers Big Sisters? they defined a successful pairing as a pair that lasts more than two years because they had a real problem with turnover. They weren’t sticking, and so this Black Belt said let me get to it, and began to gather data and ask a lot of questions and had several meetings. Over the summer, this individual collected data that he then presented to the group. He discovered things no one had thought about. Specifically, he understood what made the most successful pairing, and here’s what it was. He said when you have a kid, particularly a boy who you pair with an adult male, and you make sure that that adult male has a relationship or establish a connection with the parent, not with the child but with the parent, particularly if it’s a female parent, then their likelihood of success is really, really high because that parent is looking for a surrogate dad for that boy.
If, however, the pairing is for a girl and the parent is a female, so you’re identifying a volunteer who’s a woman, a Big Sister, that’s the least successful pairing because they’re afraid you’re a replacement. And so what you want to do is focus your connection with the child themselves, and to say often, “I’m not your parent. I could never replace your parent,” and to say it often enough that the parent hears it, and that makes successful thing. This guy who works contractors discovered that, and they got better. Their success rates got so good in that nonprofit, this was in Indianapolis, they became the national standard on how they recruit and train volunteers out of Indianapolis because they used Six Sigma to do it. They expanded and went faster because they took their time at the beginning to understand.
B: That’s a really good example too, to show the interactions that happened with the different genders and how that relates, and then understanding why would that be that way, and then start to figure out the logic behind it. Yeah, that’s fascinating. You can’t just apply a generic statement that we just need to be in communication with the parent. That’s one thing, but it also depends on the parent and the volunteer and how that can play positively or negatively in some ways.
J: Brion, they had 10 things that they were tracking, how often they communicated with the parents, forms that they filled out, how often did they build a good connection with the kids. They were focusing on so many things and they just couldn’t improve it. This guy comes in and basically says only one of the items you’re measuring matters, and this one thing you’re not measuring matters most. And so they went from 10 things they were tracking to just 4 or 5 and really improved the success of those relationships with those kids.
B: That’s great. That’s a good example too. Just even understanding what is success, I think that’s a challenging definition. And then once you can get that determined, I think that really starts to get momentum behind that once people know what good looks like and that we can measure that and it isn’t all subjective or it’s only it’s difficult to do. Yeah, it is difficult, but there is some way we can gain some insights into what that looks like. Then naturally, some of the improvement will happen just because they have a clear idea of what the outcome they’re trying to get to.
J: Once you get to the this is what works, you also add a new set of potential defects to potential programs. I’ll go back to the achievement, relationship, belonging finding. We then applied it to youth sports. We were doing after-school and summer camp, then we applied it to youth sports. To our horror, we discovered that we were failing miserably. We were actually surprised by that because, intuitively, if there’s a program that’s helping kids achieve, relate, and belong, it’s got to be youth sports, right? You’re learning how to play basketball, you’re learning how to run the bases, you’re learning how to kick the ball and you’re doing it in a team, there is relationships, and you’re a member of that team, so there’s belonging, what’s going on there? the scores were terrible.
What we discovered is when competition gets infused into achievement, relationship, and belonging, it ruins it. And so you have to protect kids in a competitive environment because the relationships cut deeper. The pressure to achieve is transformed to a toxic level and belonging is always in question. Am I helping or am I hurting? we had to retrain our coaches, we had to retrain our staff and we now separate competitive programs to noncompetitive programs because we want to mature the kids are protected if they don’t want to be noncompetitive. We’ve also made sure that our competitive programs don’t become toxic. All that happened because we did Six Sigma.
B: That’s really great insights. I really like the idea of having someone with some experience come on and help with the nonprofit. I think we’ve got a lot of people that listen that are interested in working with a nonprofit but may be not sure how to make that first step or connection. Also, I liked your idea of the board members maybe reaching out and asking for assistance from the community. There’s usually plenty of organizations that have internal process improvement experts that would love to give back; they’re just not sure how or who to connect to. I don’t know if you had any thoughts or ideas around that connection of connecting the volunteers with this process improvement to help with a nonprofit, or what do think would work best given your role at a nonprofit?
J: I would start by just connecting with a nonprofit that really already connects to you, so don’t overthink this. If you love puppies, then go and talk to people over at the kennel. If you love animal life, then go to the zoo. If you love youth sports because you were part of youth sports, find a nonprofit that does youth sports. If you like to go hikes, take long hikes in the woods and in national parks, then go and serve or go and identify those nonprofits.
So identify the nonprofits already attached to your passion and then go visit with these individuals and help them understand what you do. That’s going to be the trickiest part because, again, process improvement is not something we do, so you start using the language of process improvement, and you’re going to overwhelm them. What you want to do is say I work in an industry or I am part of a group that looks at how people do things both in manufacturing and in customer service. Our job is to improve experiences and outcomes. We’re not evaluators in the sense of social science. They’re used to that group. We’re evaluators in terms of experiences and processes. We could use the impact evaluation by helping you understand what it is that you want to accomplish, and then just build trust with them. Start with a small project. Don’t go right into the deepest part of the pool yet, and just help them improve one little thing. And then after a while, they’re just going to start calling you and asking you for more.
I have a friend here that works for the parks department. We were talking about continuous improvement and he wanted to know what trails got more use and, specifically, why so as to see if we can improve the other trails. The intuitive answer to that question by a naturalist is they’ve got to be nice. You’ve got to be able to see some nice things, the trail has to be well maintained. If we spend money on that, then that will improve walkability and trail use, and it didn’t. They spent tens of thousands of dollars improving some trails that were underutilized and it didn’t work.
So I talked to them about using somebody to do Six Sigma. We went to the local university, got a class that was willing to do this as a project, and they just looked at people, observed people, connected with people, and just watched them. They actually got these deer tracking cameras. These are cameras that hunters used to track deer movement, and they were tracking people. It was fascinating what they did. What they began to understand is that a lot of the hikers, especially the novice hikers, which was the group that was struggling with these trails, they were very, very concerned about where they parked and the safety of the parking area. That’s what it was. It was not the trails; it was the parking lot.
They identified that because somebody decided to put a camera, one of those Six Sigma persons decided to put a camera in the parking lot and wanted to see what they were doing to prepare. When the parking lot was well lit, well organized, looked safe, the parking lot time was short. They just got out, they’d get in and they went right to their trails. The others were a little longer because they were hiding things, putting things away. Some of them drove off. All they did was improve lighting, cleaned up some bushes, and the trails got used. They didn’t have to spend the $10,000.
B: That’s great. I think those are the best ones is that it takes you down a pathway that you wouldn’t have suspected. It wasn’t intuitive. And all that time and effort wasted on something that wasn’t going to lead to results.
J: They ended up with nice trails. The people that walk through them love them like they did the others, but their interest in increasing foot traffic on the others could’ve been solved by improving the parking lot and signage in the parking lot, putting things like, “Here are three things you could do to be safe,” the things they had the other parking lot. I’m not real sure what–
B: I think the students is a great idea too. I think that’s a great opportunity for students to get an experience and a project. They’re driven, they have the time, usually there’s an assignment that’s tied to it so they have motivation, they’re moving, hopefully, quickly, and can be I think a neat set of eyes. Yeah, I think that’s really under-leveraged in terms of students going through classes looking for real-world projects, connecting them up with nonprofits to get that experience and give the nonprofits really good projects that they can learn from the students, and also the students get that valuable experience of practicing what they’ve learned in school.
J: I think there are also going to be some students that they are driven to be analysts. It’s what they want to. For any number of reasons, they just have decided they don’t want to do that for a living, and then they’re stuck. They don’t want to do the analytics for a living. They want to make a difference with their lives, and they can launch a desperately needed field in a lot of these spaces. Too often, what you end up with are individuals that work all day long at a job they don’t like, and then work very, very hard to spend weekends or the evenings doing the things they love and they’re passionate about. My response is why don’t you do both? why don’t you find the passion you’re in?
Now, to be fair, you’re not going to make a lot of money being a Black Belt at a nonprofit. We hired a woman that did some work for Goodrich, the tire company. She volunteered at one of our yoga classes and she overheard one of our staff members talking about Six Sigma. She asked, “What’s this about Six Sigma? what are you guys doing?” and she found out we were doing some things. I met with her and she said, “I’ve been wanting to make a career change. Is this something I can do?” And I said, “Yes, but I can’t afford you. You need to know that.” She said, “What can you afford?” And we negotiated a little bit and she ended up taking a $100,000 a year pay cut, but she, and this is now I’m quoting her, that these last three years have been the best years of her life. It just gave her meaning that tires didn’t.
And so for those students, for those individuals that are listening to this recording that are wanting to make a difference and have had some tough questions to ask over the last couple of years, I think we’ve all been asking some tough questions, there’s a real opportunity for you to do some good work in this space because the need has only gotten bigger and the resources have gotten smaller, which means we have to get better at what we do. Folks that do continuous improvement have the answers to the questions we’re asking.
B: I think that’s a theme I’m hearing just talking to a few students here and there. They’re looking at engineering fields and they’re like, “I’m not motivated to go work in a factory.” Some of it is perception that they’ve not spent a lot of time in one and they have ideas of what that is, and they might realize it’s not as bad as they think. But also, I think it’s really about what am I doing, and I think the younger generations are really concerned about what’s the value and the impact I’m going to have, not just about a job and making money and stuff. So I think this is a great opportunity if we can connect them up with the skill set that is needed and their desires to want to have an impact.
I think there’s industrial engineering pathways and there’s some systems engineering and some supply chain management, and I think they’re getting some training in school around Lean and Six Sigma a little bit it seems, and some other engineering fields are getting that as well. The MBA students, I think, are getting introductions to some of these concepts too. So I think those fields, in general, I think the students coming out of those areas would be great if they could have those discussions with nonprofits and say here’s what I’m looking for. And maybe coming right out of school, they could make more somewhere else, but maybe they’ll be happy just having a good steady salary and find some rewarding work, so I think there is some great opportunity there.
J: And the field is wide open. You can either go compete where the field is already packed with others doing the same work, you think about data analytics right now and the fast-moving world of big data and artificial intelligence and so forth and so on. All the for-profits are up to their eyeballs in people thinking about and working on these kinds of issues. No one, or a few, are doing that for nonprofits, so the third sector is ripe for people that want to make not just a difference with their lives, but make a difference in an entire industry. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, churches, and on and on are desperately in need of people that are willing to lend their services to help drive the kind of change that these nonprofits drive. And again, this could be applied everywhere. There’s a church that is here in Cincinnati that’s using some of the continuous improvement work from some of their staff and/or volunteers that used to work at Procter & Gamble. They’re using continuous improvement to improve the church experience, and it’s growing like crazy because they’re not wasting time on things that don’t work.
And so it’s just a really cool way to do some pretty exciting things, and if I could just add, the new world we live in, you have a podcast; you’re in a different part of the country. We could have this conversation around the world, so don’t limit yourself to even your community. If the Boys & Girls Club’s not ready to talk to you in your city, then talk to a Boys & Girls Club in Dallas, talk to a Boys & Girls Club in Houston. Work your network and find someone because we’re all very close and nearby each other today because of Zoom, because of technology. I did some work with Six Sigma with my colleagues, my counterparts in Australia. They called me and they said, “Can you help us understand this whole Six Sigma thing?” So they called and they were improving their youth development programs. I helped them understand a little bit of the Six Sigma process. I kept asking if they wanted me to come and visit with them and do a site visit, but they didn’t take me up on it. But who would’ve ever thought I would be influencing across the globe? that’s what’s so cool about the time we live in and the impact that we can make not just even in the US, but worldwide.
B: I think I wanted to ask that as maybe one more question here. How do you do training internally? Have you done any training? Is it more coaching through some of these concepts? How do you spread that through the Y and the locations you’ve been? What do you think works well for getting people familiar with even the DMAIC or some of these concepts?
J: First of all, for any of our staff members that are interested in doing Green Belt or Yellow Belt, we worked on an agreement with our local universities and we pay for that. So if they want to do that, we’ll pay for that. They give us like half off or something like that. Secondly, I do have a collection of videos, some we’ve done internally, some of them I’ve just identified on the internet, that just simply explain the process and just helping people think through it.
If I could just add this, it’s a cultural thing. If you want to do continuous improvement but you do not practice continuous improvement, then after a while, people just stop using continuous improvement. One of the things I did when I begin the CEO of here is I said I am not taking any questions that’s not formatted this way. They didn’t know anything about Six Sigma, but I used four headers of Six Sigma. I need you to define the problem, I need you to give me measurements that you think apply here, I need you to tell me how you’ve analyzed the measurements against that define, and what your recommendation is that’s improve that thing, and I need you to put it on one piece of paper. I am not taking a meeting if you don’t have these questions answered.
Now, as I’ve trained them, their define gets a little sharper. So now they’ve added the cause and effects, the SIPOC, and also have a charter that we’ve created, a charter structure. They know to come with measurements and that we may end the meeting at that moment because I may say you are still lacking this measurement, that measurement, that measurement. Go and check that out. And so it’s become the way they know I’m going to ask questions. So continuous improvement is a culture and culture has to get practiced or it doesn’t take. And so I just think there’s opportunities for people to just really drive that where they are.
B: Awesome. This has been wonderful and I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, but it’s been really great. Anything else you wanted to add or comment?
J: I’d be happy to. I believe they’re on the internet, the Six Sigma videos that we created, so that you can get a sense of how we’ve structured them. Share them with your listeners because I really do want to emphasize don’t overthink this. It’s like riding a bike. You can either ride a bike like the X Games and get overwhelmed with that, or you can just ride the bike around the block. Start riding the Six Sigma bike, the continuous improvement bike around the block, and let X Games take care of themselves. I think what you’ll discover is a whole new way of working.
And for those individuals that are in my field, in the nonprofit field, it’ll make you a stronger leader and it will help define you as one of the best in class. This is something that so few practice; you get known as the person that knows how to solve things. There are programs in cities I’ve never been in, in countries I’ve never been in, that are being delivered because of the way we influenced, and that’s what I was hoping to do in my life is to influence the lives of kids, even those I’ve never met. That’s what continuous improvement does. It allows you to scale and that level. So thank you, Brion, for everything you’re doing.
B: You bet. I really appreciate your time and all your work. This is really inspiring, so thank you, Jorge, for your time. I’ll get those links from you and share those with the listeners.
J: I’ll send them along.
B: Thank you so much. Bye.