News: NMLC holds Inaugural Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Course
Story by Julius Evans
FREDERICK, Md. - Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC) hosted its first joint Lean Six Sigma green belt training symposium in Frederick, MD,4-8 August 2014.
This unique, joint collaboration highlighted a significant first for NMLC as Defense Health Agency (DHA) personnel, who share the floor with NMLC in the building in which they work, also participated in the training.
Spearheaded by NMLC’s Chief Operations Officer, Darin ‘Cal’ Callahan, the training provided the baseline for establishing Continuous Process Improvement through Lean Six Sigma (CPI/LSS) as an essential approach to improve organizational performance and to achieve strategic and operational priorities at all levels of the enterprise.
This training evolution was developed based on the mandate that all Department of Defense (DoD) agencies address internal control procedures whilst identifying and classifying control deficiencies. The mandate also instructed commands to promptly prepare and execute corrective action plans, in accordance with DoD Instruction 5010-40.
“We wanted to grow a cadre of process and performance improvement practitioners in an effort to inculcate a culture of continuous improvement across the organization,” Callahan explained. “As part of a plan to reinvigorate the CPI program at NMLC that aligns with our current ISO Certification and our overarching strategy, I submitted a plan to establish and grow an organic capability for CPI within the command.”
Callahan further explained that the plan to build a cadre of CPI practitioners aligns with the command’s strategic learning and growth objectives: Increase Workforce Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, and Improve Job Satisfaction. In addition, the notion to develop in-house CPI capability derived partially from the outcome of an important strategic initiative aimed at assessing core competencies across the workforce. That strategic initiative was formulated to help the command develop training opportunities to fill gaps in desired skills.
“Having spent the majority of my career in the private sector, I was familiar with the LSS methodology although I had never participated in a formal course,” said Maria Anthony, a Contract Specialist in NMLC’s Acquisition and Analytics Contract Support Division. “When I saw the training announced I knew I wanted to be part of the class. I have done process improvement in a less formal structure in my past but wanted to have the formal training and name recognition that goes with LSS. I had been tasked with several projects prior to the training that would lend itself to using the LSS process.”
As the only certified belt on staff at NMLC, Callahan was uniquely qualified to lead the effort to create an active training program to grow an organic CPI project leadership capability. The credentialing plan demonstrates the command's focus on training and development opportunities for civilian and military staff.
“This course has been proven to better prepare individuals for the challenge of developing/ improving organizational best practices,” said Katrina Letman who works in NMLC’s Operational Forces Support Directorate. “I enjoyed the learning environment which included a good cross section of the military healthcare logistics community members (contractors, logisticians, and engineers). The tools and skill sets taught in the class will serve the organization well in the coming years.”
When asked about the training in general, one participant shared her thoughts on the value of the time spent learning the processes and procedures.
“It's not always easy to be out of the office for a week at a time, especially when the pace at work is very demanding and hectic. But I thought it was very worthwhile and I would recommend it to anyone else in the Command,” said Mimi McReal, NMLC’s Small Business Advisor and ISO-9001 Quality Management System Management Representative. “Having a knowledgeable instructor also made the course a lot more interesting and he brought insight, enthusiasm and meaningful examples to the text/material presented. This class was well worth the time and I hope to continue to use what I've learned.”
McReal also commented on what she thought was one of the most valuable exercises in the week-long training that took place in a facility away from the normal work location.
“I particularly got added value from the process mapping exercise. While I have been a part of other process mapping exercises, doing the class exercise really underscored its importance and made it stick with me,” McReal said. “I would like to try to map some processes that I do regularly to look for ways to create efficiencies and make improvements. Through the class exercise, we were able to learn both what the facilitator does and what the participants are supposed to do to make it a success.”
In discussing what someone might learn who has not previously been involved with Lean and Six Sigma, Anthony shared these comments.
“I believe the use of the LSS practices in our command is not only practicable but very necessary right now to improve or create more standardized processes. My most memorable aspect of the training was a group exercise in which our task was to define the steps to “run a load of white laundry,” she said. “It was amazing to me how involved this exercise became when you break down each individual step. It was even more interesting to see how others in the group defined, organized and challenged the process steps until we were all in agreement.”
The need for CPI skills is evident across the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD Directive 5010.42 outlines the mandate for using CPI/LSS; DoD Instruction 5010.43 provides guidance on ways to employ (implement) CPI/LSS; and, DoD Instruction 5010.40 directs leaders to leverage any and all continuous process improvement project results within the Managers' Internal Control Program under operations assessment.
The Defense Logistics Agency supports the notion that CPI is a recognized mechanism for continuously improving processes and performance within the logistics community. And, Secretary of the Navy Instruction 4200.37 states that one of the primary objectives of the Procurement Performance Management Assessment Program (PPMAP) is “...to encourage and assist contracting organizations in making continuous improvement in all phases of their acquisition processes....”
Anthony concurred with SecNav’s assessment. “This training provided me with new skills to be used not only in a business environment but also in my personal life. I found the training to be very valuable and would like to see additional classes relating to LSS offered in the future. It would be wise as a command to take advantage of the great knowledge base we have here and use it to improve our workforce.”
The unique aspect of the course being offered to another command was another element that made this symposium a success. One participant discussed the importance of inviting Defense Health Agency personnel to attend this training.
“It's always great to meet and get to know new people in a similar working environment. While you know there are others (DHA staff) working down the hall, you may not fully appreciate what they do,” McReal said. “With the impact of DHA and its future integration with our command and other Services, it is helpful to collaborate and learn together toward making process improvements. I think it was very worthwhile and timely to invite DHA to be a part of our class.”
Callahan summarized the symposium most effectively. “NMLC sees now as the right time to help improve the way we do business in Navy Medicine. It’s the smart thing to do; it’s our command strategy.”