LEAN SIX SIGMA - Yellow belt program available at Fort Riley
Story by: Shandi Dix
Lean Six Sigma is a new set of tools and methodologies used to help individuals look at ways to improve processes within their office.
"We actually use Lean and Six Sigma as two tools in a group of tools," said Dawn Barclay, Continuous Process Improvement manager, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office. "We still look at total quality management. We still look at process re-engineering and all of those things that Army's done in the past. Lean Six (Sigma) is just a new set of tools to use. A lot of people think it's this whole new initiative. It's really not."
The way a process is handled has not changed, just the tools used, Barclay said.
"It's not going away. This is a process that's been going on for 20 to 30 years," she said. "The tools have changed, but the continuous process improvement has not. It's not a new flavor of the month."
Lean and Six Sigma are graphical and analytical ways to look at a process in spreadsheet computer programs that assist with efficiency and effectiveness, Barclay said.
There are five levels under the Lean Six Sigma training.
"We have the normal levels under Lean Six Sigma for belts. A green belt, which is an individual who works on projects utilizing Lean Six Sigma tools within their directorate or local office," Barclay said.
The next level is black belt, which is for an individual who is just above the green belt. This individual typically works across garrison or installation projects.
"More times than not the black belt will step outside of their directorate to do a project or to aid in a project that affects a large number of directorates."
Above the black belt is the master black belt, she said. Master black belts are at the regional level.
"The master black belt is an individual who acts as mentor for the program for the Army, helps the belts going through certification, and they work on more of what's known as enterprise projects, which are across region – things that affect all installations," Barclay said.
Barclay is a senior black belt mentor. With the assistance of the Directorate of Public Works and Directorate of Logistics civilians, Barclay has created a local yellow belt Lean Six Sigma training program.
"We found that this past year, that (the) Army wasn't going to fund any of our green belt or black belt (temporary duty), so through one of our (executive quality councils), our garrison commander said, 'Hey, you know how can we get some training locally that isn't going to cost us money? Is there a way to do it through (Army Civilian Training, Education and Development System)?'" Barclay said.
The local team took several different formats of training for yellow belt and pulled together an installation-centric-type yellow belt training, Barclay said.
Individuals taking the yellow belt training are subject matter experts within their office. Unfortunately, the Army does not recognize yellow belt training.
After approaching the garrison commander about the program in January, and with his approval, the program began with the first class in February, Barclay said.
"We did our inaugural class in February, and every class we have gone through and asked them to give us hints on how we can make the class better," she said. "Initially, the class was a day long, and we had requests to make it a day and a half to two days. So we now have the class at a day and a half."
The next class will be June 21 and 22. Classes will begin on a quarterly basis in October – Fiscal Year 2012.
"The plan is to have yellow belt individuals serve on green and black belt project teams, as well as have them identify places for process improvement and raise it up the chain, so we can try to get at saving money, getting better at what we do operationally," Barclay said.
The Fort Riley program often partners with U.S. Army Garrison, Forces Command, Medical Command, Civilian Human Resources Agency and Network Enterprise Center on projects.
One example Barclay gave on how Lean Six Sigma tools can benefit an individual, as well as an office was having a person inputting training records for four hours a day then learning the tools to make that person only use an hour a day, allowing him or her three hours to focus on other tasks.
"Usually a full project, you go through five phases that can take anywhere from four months to six months," Barclay said. "But what you come out of it is a 95 percent competence rate that you have a good product and a good fix to your process."
Issues with the way a process works can be identified by any individual.
"Anyone can take a look at a process and let someone else know that there's a way to look at it in a better way to be more efficient, to be more effective," Barclay said.
Lean Six Sigma teaches individuals how to think within a group.
"It's your first true look at how to deal with group think and deal with different personalities," said Randi Hamden, training division, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. Hamden is green belt certified and currently working on a project with the Training Support Center to reduce the issue time of training aids.
The training also forces individuals to look at processes from a different view.
"This pushes you back and causes you to slow down and make you look at the overall process. You don't have a choice, you have to go through the phases," Barclay said. "If you don't, you're fixing a bad process. You're trying to make a fix on a process that is still broken. It has second and third order effects to other organizations, so you really have to take the time, use the tools."
Projects are chosen through voice of the customer, who can be the person coming to the door, a co-worker or a supervisor.
"What we see or what the customer says is an issue area, or what we would rather like to call 'opportunities,'" Barclay said. "If a customer comes up and says, 'Hey, you know I think that you need to do this a little bit better,' it's on the benefit of the manager to take a look at that."
Individuals interested in the CPI yellow belt training can sign up through the Civilian Human Resources Training Application System.