Continuous Improvement in the Social Sector with Brion Hurley

Continuous Improvement in the Social Sector with Brion Hurley

by Patrick Adams | Aug 24, 2021

This week I’m speaking with Brion Hurley, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and founder of Business Performance Improvement, a sustainable process improvement consulting firm.

In this episode, Brion and I talk about the major differences between Six Sigma and Lean and how continuous improvement can be applied to the social sector. 

What You’ll Learn This Episode:

  • Lean vs. Six Sigma, the differences and commonalities 
  • How Lean can be applied in the social sector
  • How Lean can be applied in the environment
  • How Lean can be applied to the government
  • How to find opportunities when it comes to volunteering with nonprofits and social sectors.
  • Why it’s important to find your passion

About the Guest: 

Brion Hurley is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Business Performance Improvement. He teaches Lean and Six Sigma classes, facilitates workshops and events, performs statistical analysis, and mentors employees through improvement efforts. He volunteers his time with local nonprofits. He is also the author of the “Lean Six Sigma for Good” book series.

Important Links: 

www.biz-pi.com

https://www.leansixsigmaforgood.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brion-hurley-432192

Full Episode Transcript:

Patrick Adams

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss both Six Sigma and lean as well as dive into one of my most favorite subjects applying continuous improvement principles in the social sector. There’s so many nonprofit organizations that can benefit from the principles that all of us know and love. Today’s guest is Brion Hurley and Brian is a Lean Six Sigma master black belt at business performance improvement, he teaches Lean and Six Sigma classes facilitates workshops and events, perform statistical analysis, and mentors, employees through improvement efforts, he volunteers his time with local nonprofits, which I’m excited to talk about today. And he is also the author of the Lean Six Sigma for good book series. So welcome to the show, Brion. We’re gonna dive right in to probably one of the toughest questions and most controversial questions. I’m just gonna put you on the spot here, Brian, there are so many disagreements out there when it comes to Lean and Six Sigma, can you help the listeners to understand you know, maybe some of the differences, commonalities of lean versus Six Sigma, and maybe some pros and cons? And we can just talk through that a little bit?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, I think I’ll start by talking about my background a little bit. I started off in statistics, that was my degree in school. And I didn’t know what I would do with it exactly. But I figured it’d be somewhat helpful for a business just reading through, like, example problems in a textbook. So when I started working, I realized that there was less data than I thought there would be available, at least at the time when I started. And so a lot of my training was educating people on the importance of collecting data, and then looking at the data in a way that has statistical basis around it. And really, I find I found myself re educating people about the statistics class that they took in school. And so that was my primary job for the first couple years, just kind of being a support person, for people about what they should do with their data. Sure. And that really ties in a lot with the Six Sigma approach, which is get the data, make sure it’s good quality data, study the data and the patterns of that data. And that can give you insights into factors or variables that are causing problems in your process. And if you notice that certain days of the week have more problems than other days, why is that not something we can look into, you might notice certain workers are doing better or more productive or with higher quality output than others. Why is that? And so the data can give us insights into which direction we look versus just try to guess at it or use our intuition. And sometimes we’re good at that. But also, it’s nice to have that data to back it up. So that’s where I think a lot of the Six Sigma comes into play, and it’s helpful is getting some real data, that’s a little bit more objective. And and for more challenging problems, I find that some of the tools that have a six sigma really help out with breaking down the difficulty. So when you get into more complex manufacturing, or chemical processes, things like that, where you get interactions and factors that are complicated or difficult to understand, just by small incremental changes, I think the experimentation and analysis piece of Six Sigma is really how handy The downside though is, this can be complicated for people, and it scares people off, especially if they’re not math proficient, or they don’t like numbers. They’re just like, you know, stay away from me with this statistics stuff. And so it can be scary and discourage people from getting involved in process improvement. So I usually do not like to start with six sigma. As people mature with their process improvement, then I, I encourage them to add this on as another set of tools and, and techniques that they can apply. So and then as I got into my initial work, the company I worked for was doing a lean initiative. Okay. And so I started learning about this other technique, I didn’t really get much training in that, but the company was going through this initiative. So I started to learn a little bit more, and I saw a lot of commonality overlap. You know, especially around obviously, lean has data as well, right? Maybe not as complicated as analyses that are taught but definitely needs to take time to study, you can just count how much inventory and see how fast things are getting done. So that kind of helped me see that there were maybe simpler ways to get more people engaged, and learning about how to improve their process. And in fact, a lot of the problems were not overly complex that I ran across, I thought they would all be really complex technical problems. And then you’re finding some simple things like we don’t Have a process to follow. And there’s no standard. And or people aren’t following the standard, because it’s outdated or wrong, or they’ve got a lot of great ideas and no one’s listening or hearing them. And so I saw some great elements from lean that would help people get started moving in the right direction. And some things that were just a little eye opening for people to learn about, like batching versus one piece flow. And that was just something that people could not get their heads around. And so there were some what I would call, we’d call maybe simpler approaches, but still tons of applications and an opportunity to apply those techniques. So the way I look at it is I like to start with lean methods and concepts, get everybody in the company engaged in improvement. And then as we run into really challenging, more difficult problems, recurring issues that we haven’t been able to handle, maybe we start bringing in more than six sigma tools and techniques into there. And then the other thing that I like about Lean is that it’s really good about the respect for people and making that a core principle. Sure. Six Sigma doesn’t really talk much about people. In fact, I think a lot of companies have been very methodical about the data. And the projects have resulted in Well, we can lay off people. And that’s not really discussed a lot in the Six Sigma nomenclature. So I like the healthier way to prove improvement is his approach from a lean side that is about engaging people, and doing in a respectful way and using those resources to free up to grow the organization and not as a cost cutting measure to save money. And right. So I think blending them together makes a lot of sense in my mind, because depending on the problem, I’m going to use different tools and skills. And I just have to try to get a bigger tool belt of different things I can use for different situations. But I find that there’s still a ton of opportunity just on the core lean tools that can be applied to a lot of situations.

Patrick Adams

Absolutely. The two tool sets definitely complement each other. But I love how you put that based on the lean side of things. There’s more of a cultural aspect to it that helps support continuous improvement initiatives. And but obviously, as you said that the tools in both Six Sigma and lean are important and necessary for certain applications, you want to have the right tool for the job, right? So I’m not going to use do II if I just need to do a time study, right? So you want to make sure that you have the right tool and continue to add those tools to your tool belt and grow. You know that tool set is going to make you a better continuous improvement practitioner and a better problem solver. So I love the way that you put that. What would you say are some pros and cons on both sides? You know, lean versus Six Sigma?

Brion Hurley

Yeah. So I think the main one I talked about was, it scares people off. Sure, in the thick, thick method, especially as you get further along in some of the training, the early tools of Six Sigma process maps, pretty straightforward. Maybe brainstorming variables. You know, there’s a structure of root cause analysis, which is Fishbone diagrams and five why’s that are all kind of core to both improvement tool sets. But yeah, that’s been the main thing is once you start talking about data and data collection and analyzing the data, then I start to lose people. And some people now some people love this, yeah, gravitate towards that. And it’s like, I love data. I love spreadsheets. This is great. And others are like, Nope, I don’t want to deal with even opening my Excel. I don’t want to learn that. And that’s fine, too. And so that’s kind of a clear distinction point. As far as how far people progress, the Six Sigma? Sure. So I think that’s unfortunate that there are people away from learning some really important tools to provide, you know, sometimes I think, you know, providing more objective data about how we’re actually doing, did we actually see results, or do we just feel like we’re getting results? Sometimes I think that’s a con maybe from the lean side is that we don’t have as much detailed data to say this is a statistical improvement. Not or is it just, it looks better today, because everyone’s paying attention to it, right and a week from now or a month from now, that data and that metric has not really improved. Because we looked at a very small sample and we didn’t really collect data, we didn’t have a good baseline when we started. So we were kind of feeling like it’s better, but we don’t really have the data to support that. So I think that’s where I see some opportunity on the lean side is providing a little bit more structure to our data collection and validating our improvements and changes that we’re making. But it does scare people off a little bit. So some of the pros on the lean side is that it’s easy for everyone to learn these core tools. You know, teaching people five s teaching people around just a process like plan, do check act or plan, do study act, getting people to think about their workflow and going With the smaller batches, thinking about the value stream, and where they fit into the big picture and how they might be causing problems downstream for others, understanding value and who their customer is, I mean, those are all things anyone can learn and resonate with right away. So I think I covered most of the pros and cons there.

Patrick Adams

yeah, I think that’s great. And I appreciate you, you kind of gave us a good coverage of both the Lean and Six Sigma side. And, and I think there’s, you know, many listeners out there that are, you know, maybe heavy Six Sigma, or maybe only six sigma, there’s a lot of listeners out there that are heavy, lean, or only lean, some in between that practice both. So I think for everybody, you know, listening, I think it’s good to just hear the differences, the commonalities, you know, some of those pros and cons. And just to kind of think through those. And, the other side of this, too, is not only do you have lean, and the Six Sigma, but then we have so many different industries to so many different teams, differences, cultural differences around the world that are trying to apply these different improvement tool sets. And so there can be so many other differences that come in, you know, from that aspect. I, you and I both are involved in the nonprofit world. And so, you know, as I mentioned in the introduction, I’m excited to talk about your work in the nonprofit world. And you know how Lean and Six Sigma is being used in your environment. But I’d love to talk about how to lean in in the social sector, what you think about it, how you’ve been able to apply it, maybe even talk about some examples of lean being implied with some of the nonprofits that you’ve worked with?

Brion Hurley

You’re absolutely, yeah, probably done. Seven or eight years ago, I started getting more involved with the nonprofit. So when I moved to Portland, Oregon, and I’m currently in St. Louis, okay, as of last year, but I spent seven years in Portland, Oregon, and we had a little networking group of Lean and Six Sigma practitioners. And we would get together and have happy hours and just talk. But what started the group out years earlier was the volunteer project that was done. And so we kind of talked about how cool that would be to expand on that. And so we, as we gathered a few more people together, we had some more formal meetings and networking around how we can do this again, and get this rolling, because it was just a one time project. So we had enough people that were interested in taking it and continuing this effort. And so that’s where I got excited, because I felt like, as you learn the tools, you feel like no matter what industry it is, this applies. And then you look at, well, this applies actually everywhere, not just in companies, you know, this applies to my personal life, right. And this applies to this, you know, this little thrift store I just went to, they’re very disorganized, and I couldn’t find things and things are mislabeled. And they could really use some process improvement. And so he started looking at problems going on our society and you start thinking, why I’ve got a tool set that’s very generic, right, it’s about defining the problem and figuring out what’s going on and, and getting people together and walking through and kind of test testing out some ideas and seeing what works and chipping away at some of these issues. So you look at all the challenges going on around the world. And my mind just says there is no approach that we can assist with. And I don’t know if all of them have that same skill, because it seems like everyone we talked to and maybe that’s your experience, too. But everyone I’ve talked to about it, like what’s mean, and what Six Sigma and one of these tools, I mean, it’s rare to find somebody that is familiar with it unless they’ve worked at a manufacturing company, right? So, and one that’s probably large, a small one seems to be still this is brand new stuff. So if there’s a bunch of companies out there that are large should be doing it and they’re not familiar with it just just my mind started to think about all the other organizations out there that have not been introduced to this or, and when I know we can this in some way with how they operate, how they serve their customers and their recipients of the nonprofit that they’re trying to improve upon, whether it’s homelessness or distributing out money and resources to people or helping with equity problems than education, all those things can be I know that we have skills that can assist with that. So that’s where I started to get excited, but I didn’t have a lot of experience. So we got together and reached out to a couple contacts we had said hey, this is what we can offer you. Do you have some things you could get, we could go look at or see and see if we can assist you as a volunteer. And that took off and, you know, we end up working with about two or three organizations, somewhere Just short activities like a process map, others end up being recurring activities. It’s kind of like coaching mentoring over a couple years. And we can see that there was definitely an application to it and just trying to think about how we can help scale this up and get more people involved with maybe volunteering and helping these organizations, because they’re doing some really great work. But they’re probably always seen as there’s a lot of burnout, there’s a lot of stress put on the workers and volunteers. They’re passionate about that. So they want to improve, they want to do better, but they haven’t maybe had exposure or background or resources to help them think about their processes differently, or a new way. So it just seems like a ripe opportunity. And a few experiences we’ve had is then reconfirmed that, that that’s definitely an opportunity.

Patrick Adams

Also, many, many of the nonprofits don’t have the money to even, you know, look for coaching or process improvement assistance if they know about it. The other thing too, is, you know, a lot of nonprofits out there, obviously are working with limited funds as it is. And if they have any kind of waste in their processes, any you know, that’s money that’s going out the window, potentially, that could be used to further their mission, right. So by reducing waste and their processes by creating better process flows, you limit your you’re going to ultimately reduce that wasted money that could be going out the window and be able to pour that back into the mission. So there’s so much opportunity out there. And so much value that can be offered from people like you and I that understand process improvement, you know, and can help apply some of those tool sets to the nonprofit’s Do you have any examples of maybe just a small project or something that you worked on with a nonprofit organization. I know you mentioned thrift stores, we’ve done some work with a couple thrift stores. But I don’t know if you have anything in particular that you want to talk about?

Brion Hurley

I can talk about a couple different ones we work with on a long term basis. So one was a store that takes in donated goods, that’s a pretty easier nonprofit to work with, because they can see the flow, there’s physical items, it looks close to manufacturing. And so I think thrift stores and resellers are great ones. And usually they’re taking those funds, and that’s driving money into the organization to go do their work, right. And so the thrift store really just acts as a fundraising mechanism. So it’s not what they’re really trying to accomplish is run a store, but they’re doing it as a way to make money. So that one, those are really good opportunities. If you have a store in your local town, that’s one great one to reach out to and talk to. So one of them focuses more on construction. And then the other one was doing more electronic goods, sure. And so they would either refurbish or recycle laptops and computers and phones and things like that. And the other one has more household goods and construction materials and things like that. So with the construction one, what we first looked at was we could talk with the employees and talk about what are some of their struggles and issues. And one thing that came up was the checkout area. It says a lot of customers can’t find it. There, they’re not sure where to go. And they check out. They also are carrying the things to the checkout. And they’re supposed to leave it and get a ticket for it. And so that was a little unclear. And it was cold, and they don’t have heat in the building. This is in Portland. So it does get a little cold in the winter. Sure. So they have like one little space heater. But so they were thinking about let’s we want to redesign the space but we need some help with that. And so a couple of the volunteers and I worked together with them to kind of first figure out what do you want the space to do for you? What are the different processes that you have inside of here, and make sure we understood and got everybody’s contribution and understanding that wasn’t just the cash here. There’s other people like the employees who would use it to store their personal items. Right. So we had to capture their input and voice. The other thing we did is tried to walk in the shoes of the customer. So we partnered up. And we each walked into the building as a new customer. And we had someone from the store with us at all times. And we would ask questions, and they were going to write down all of our questions. And when we got back, we just had a huge list of questions that we had as customers like, Am I in the building right now? Because I can’t tell based on the outside, I saw that sign over there. But this is a different entrance. There’s nothing on the entrance that tells me I’m in the same building. And maybe I’m in a different store. And then like yeah, where’s the checkout and you realize you can’t see it because the shelves are really tall? And then we’d go around and say I’m looking for Windows, where do I go? And they say, well, you just go down the hallway and in a few sections over to the right and it’s like How would I know unless you were here to tell me that reformation. So it was just like walking in the shoes and they could see from an outsider kind of what their experiences because when you’re close Through that process you, you can’t think like the customer anymore because you’re too ingrained, and you’re familiar with it and hard to imagine how someone new could not see these things. But it’s very obvious when you see it from their perspective. So I thought that was a really good exercise to walk through with them.

Patrick Adams

That’s such a great exercise, it makes me even think about it. There was a study done, where individuals put themselves in the place of a hospital patient being moved through a hospital. And in the hat laying in the hospital bed, they were being moved down the middle of the hallway, and the lights were just glaring into their eyes, blinding them. And, you know, no one else would have known that until they actually laid down in the bed and were pushed down the hallway. And, and that’s when they realized, like, this has got to change. This is not good, you know, for our patients.

Brion Hurley

But until that one, like, maybe it was a different study, but I thought there was something about like, the floors are bumpy, or there was like debris on end or something. And so it was like a really bumpy ride.

Patrick Adams

Could be there’s, there’s been a few of them. But I just think it’s interesting, you know, and for those that are listening, that do work in the social sector, have you ever taken the time to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you serve? And I think that’s just a great exercise, or, you know, not just that putting you in there, but actually listening to the customers bringing in a third party to walk in the shoes of your, the people that you serve, and just listening to them listening to their experience. What a great example, Brion, I appreciate that.

Brion Hurley

The end part of that was, we also then put them at information, they did end up lowering the shelving, and then at the opening, they cleared out some of the space basically had a clear line of sight to the checkout area. So that was some improvement. They’ve put up better signs along the hallways for you to know where to go to find certain items. And then on the checkout areas, as well. We also helped them walk through a seven way exercise, which I hadn’t really done before. But okay, another person on our team, which is really cool, because we got to learn from each other on how they approach problems and use some tools. So I haven’t done seven ways before but the approaches that you have for each team, we took each team and split them up into two and they each had to come up with seven configurations for that checkout area. Yes. And exercise. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, the first couple are easy. And then this 6/7, one get really challenging, you have to get really creative. But when they got done, we ended up with 14 designs, and they all kind of looked at these and then picked one from there. And they feel like they got a really good creative outlet for different scenarios that are really challenged the way they thought that space would be used. And so it’s great to see that new space get built, eventually. And then they all seem to be really excited about how that space came out. Customers liked it, it looks more professional, they use materials from the store to build it. So that I think that was not I would say that’s the standard lean approach where you know, we’re trying to streamline the process, but I think we really did a good job with helping them with the customer satisfaction and customer experience part of going into the store.

Patrick Adams

Absolutely. I mean, that’s where it has to start, right? I mean, what does the customer want, and what is the customer’s experience? I mean, that’s why we exist, right for the people that we serve, or for the customer. So understanding from their perspective is a great, great place to start. One other comment I wanted to make on your seven ways. For those that are not familiar with that exercise, you can go out and Google three p or seven, seven design seven ways should be able to find it. But one of the things that we do is that if we have a larger group, we’ll actually have two or three different groups that will go in separate rooms, and develop their own designs separate from each other. And then they come back together and present those designs to each other. All of the items that they like out of those designs, we have them build another design based on you know all of the things that they liked about each of the different designs, they came together. So this is another way to play out that exercise, but it’s really a good one. The other thing that I really like about what you said, Brion, is the simplicity of the improvements that were made, like these weren’t high cost items. They were simple things that made a big difference, right?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, the checkout area was from cost because they’re redesigning that plus the signage and lowering the shelving and thinking through like customer experience and like setting up we have these something called a welcome station, which was how to use the yellow ticketing system. And it was right there when you walked in the entrance and they had an explanation and like a pencil And the yellow is picked right there. So before it was like the hunt to look for these things, and no wonder the customer didn’t know the process, though, right? We ended up designing and really changing the design of these little welcome stations, many times, and that was also not very expensive, because they had these things kind of in different configurations, and they weren’t standard, and they got moved around a lot. So that just sets the tone, right when you walk in. And this is our process, this is what you do. And very quick instructions, and then making sure those things got refilled. It didn’t run out of supplies. Again, not very expensive, but very helpful for the customer.

Patrick Adams

That’s a great, great story with it, you know, just some really great results. So thanks for sharing that with us.

Brion Hurley

The other one was with the electronic company or the organization. And I could share the name. But the first one was rebuilding the center, okay, in Portland. And then the second one is free gig free gig challenge was to increase the number of refurbished laptops. So they have a demand for low cost or free laptops to get out into the hands of people who need them, whether it’s another nonprofit organization, or, you know, especially like last year, getting laptops in the hands of people who can’t afford or don’t have access to a computer. So they get some donations from cities or companies that are too old for them. But they’re great for everybody else who just needs the basic right, so, but they had to go through a process to get refurbished. And so they had a large room full of laptops, they haven’t been able to process yet, and a huge backlog and huge customer demand for these. So over the series of a couple of different events and five activities, we’re helping kind of challenge a look at how do you flow the laptop? How do you pick and decide which ones are worth working on? When do you decide to quit working on something that’s too, you know, outdated or too broken or too damaged, and just setting up some rules around that. And then just talking through things like one piece flow and try to figure out who should be doing this work is it volunteers as the staff watch whether the visuals you know, and so that one is a little bit more traditional, lean improvement of getting the flow going, minimizing the whip and the working process, and the batch sizes, making an initial assessment of the item first. And then saying these are pretty standard one, we know we can knock them out. Anything that’s unusual or odd, let’s set off. And if we need it later, we can get to it. But each different type of computer, there’s so many different laptops and computers that once they found a recipe that would work, they could flow those much better. So it’s almost like a product family, and getting those determined upfront, and then setting up the flows for them. And then you have more consistent output, then they can expect, okay, we know and we feel confident we’re going to get 100 out this month or 200 this month, or 300. And they can tell their customers, you can expect this for your lead time on getting a lot. So that one was a more standard kind of traditional lean implementation.

Patrick Adams

Sure. No, that makes sense. And it’s it’s it is, I’m glad that you gave the two examples. Because it’s, it’s great to see, you know, just the when you think about customer experience, some of the possibilities that are there for nonprofit organizations. And obviously, that’s just a drop in the bucket in comparison to all the different things that can be done. And then obviously, the more traditional lean tool sets and applications there. And there’s so many other opportunities, even obviously, we talked about six sigma tool sets earlier. I mean, there’s opportunities to use Six Sigma in the not in the nonprofit and social sector. So, so many more opportunities, and I’m sure if anybody’s interested, Brion, your information is in the show notes so they can reach out to you for more examples or opportunities to utilize tools in the social sector. earlier. You mentioned problems in the world, other problems in the world that nonprofits help to solve. I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on lean applied to the environment. What would you say about that?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, that’s what really got me interested in looking kind of outside the traditional Corporation and looking at applications outside of our Lean Six Sigma outside of the company. And so it’s probably 15 years ago that I started getting more concerned about the environment and concerned about some of the things I was reading and learning about but I saw just a lot of data. And I thought, you know, hey, this is right up my alley. What can I do and how can I assist in this? And what I did find initially was that the EPA, I think, as part of some of the early Department of Defense activity with Lean Six Sigma, they picked it up Lean Six Sigma about mid 2000. Okay, I think 2006, I started to put together some examples of companies that are working with that have, were able to reduce their chemical usage and reduce their water usage and electricity, and pollution using the standard methodology. So companies like GE and Baxter health, and they were just applying it to those areas, in addition to the traditional areas, they were applying it. And so the EPA did a good job as part of the Environmental Protection Agency. If someone’s not familiar with the acronym, they put together a series of booklets around lean and chemical, lean and water, lean and energy, and just try to get those out to their different companies to say, hey, you can use these tools directly to improve the environment. And so I got super excited about that. And that’s been another area I’m really trying to push with clients, or when I worked at a aerospace company, I launched some projects, one to reduce electricity, we went through a six sigma project on that and did like, regression modeling and a lot of data sampling of some stations and meters and looked at some of the data from an electrical company, and were able to find some opportunities and save, you know, a couple $100,000 in electricity just by studying the traffic of employees in and out of a building and doing some setback on the temperatures. Wow. And so that was a great and fun project to, you know, kind of shift some of my time away from manufacturing into these other areas. Yeah. So there’s still a lot of opportunity there for companies to take some of their Lean and Six Sigma resources and shift them a little bit over to work with more of the environment, safety health team, the facilities team maintenance team, to try and look for those opportunities as well. And so yeah, but those toolkits are really helpful for getting people started if they’re interested in an environment. Sure. recruitment. So those are fun projects for me to do. Right?

Patrick Adams

if you’re, if you’re enjoying that, Brion, my electricity bill for this last quarter was really high. We’d love to have you come take a look at that. Brion Hurley

Yeah, I mean, that’s a good project for people doing, you know, six sigma projects, trying to get some experience because they actually have control over that, they get some actual daily data, there’s a lot more abilities, providing that daily usage. So you can start to actually measure that more closely with your behaviors. And notice that Oh, yeah, that’s when I ran the oven. And, you know, some of this is going to be temperature sensitive. But also, some of it’s not because that was the day I left lights on, you know. So I think there’s better data and tools out there that people can start to analyze that data a little bit and look for opportunities that are sure they money.

Patrick Adams

Sure. And obviously, I would want to go through a true root cause analysis. But for me, it’s pretty simple. I have two teenagers at home.

Brion Hurley

Yeah, you got to get into the behavior chain. There you go. That’s right on the state proofing the setup of the light switch?

Patrick Adams

Yeah, started talking about that. He’s like, you know, they have motion sensor lights for closets. Whoo. That’s a good idea. I love that. Also, when we talk about problems in the world, you know, what else comes to mind? government? So what would you say are some opportunities for lean applied in government? And please don’t take offense to that if you’re in the government and listening to this. I’m just saying there are a lot of struggles going on right now in the world. And if you are in the government, you’re in a tough place. And I would say, you know, there’s tons of opportunity for you to look at process improvement tool sets, and just the methodology to help improve some of those problems. So Brion, can you just expand on that a little bit with lean applied to the government?

Brion Hurley

Yeah. So I think they’ve got some unique challenges with the number of stakeholders they have to consider and think about, though that definitely makes it challenging, but these approaches and methods work really well and the government too. We’re seeing that with a lot of the states and cities that are adopting process improvement methodologies. I think Fort Wayne, Indiana was very early on and doing that and Buffalo, New York and different towns in Texas, Irving, Texas. El Paso has done some work in the past, but doesn’t always survive through different regime changes. And when people get voted in and out that’s that can be disruptive, but that happens in companies too, that you have leadership changes and that can affect your recruitment program. But the city of Denver has done some excellent work and really has an established program that’s been going on seeing some work from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I think Grand Rapids has done some stuff.

Patrick Adams

Michigan, my hometown of Grand Rapids has fired me up for that.

Brion Hurley

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then the state at the state level was the I was I grew up in Iowa, and I saw the how some of the businesses helped get the state of Iowa going with their lien, because there, they said, You’re hurting our economic development, we’re trying to get buildings built out and open up facilities and create jobs. And it takes three months, six months, nine months to get a permit approved, what is going on in your permit approval process. And they went back and said, You need to study this lean methodology, because it shouldn’t take that long to get these things approved. And so that was launched in Iowa. So Colorado, Arizona, Washington, we’re seeing the states adopt a process improvement program. So the state of Washington is really strong, too. They’ve been doing that for many years, to have free videos and webinars from annual conferences they’ve been putting on, and I want to say at least 10 years now. So I think there’s a lot of organizations that are doing the work, and they’re showing how this applies. I think that’s not a question anymore, that can these techniques work and government is just a matter of educating and getting out to those organizations and showing how that applies. And getting them access to the training or teaching and coaching them how to do that. I think a lot of what I’ve seen and you know, attending conferences, or my experiences around, like dealing with funds and money, that he gets funds from one group to another group, and that process of distributing money has been, you know, how do you do that more efficiently. And so I do have one client that is, I would say, quasi government where they are separate nonprofit, but they are providing a service that maybe other cities or states would have their government agency doing, distributing out funds for reimbursement through people providing childcare services. Okay. And so just looking at that process of showing that there are faster, more streamlined ways to do the work, a lot of that work may be non value added, how do we identify that, find out why that was put in place, and hopefully try to remove that out. And then just focusing on the stakeholder the resident that is recipient and saying, what do they need, and you might say your process takes three weeks, but they really need three days turnaround for them to be able to be to get the help that they need, or the support that they need to move forward and, and improve their situation. So I think that’s Yeah, when you start getting into those things it is really affecting people’s lives. And that’s exactly where we need to be applying a lot of the resources. And I feel like there’s a gap of getting our knowledge to the people who are doing that kind of work.

Patrick Adams

Right to that point. I mean, we have hundreds of continuous improvement practitioners that are listening to this particular episode. Many that are, again, as I mentioned earlier, many that are heavy, lean, maybe heavy Six Sigma, and maybe a hybrid of the two. But whether you’re wearing wherever you’re at in your continuous improvement journey, and whatever your tool set is, Are there opportunities, whether it’s in the government, the environment, nonprofit organizations, or health care? Are there opportunities for volunteering with nonprofits to apply some of the skill sets that we have, with those nonprofits to help them? What are your thoughts?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, I think that we’ve experienced that they’re pretty open to that help. They just need to learn a little bit more about what we’re actually doing. Because they might say, well, you’re not in this industry, or you don’t you haven’t worked in a nonprofit before, how can you possibly help us? So that’s just a common question we always get. And it’s like, we’re not studying your specific fruit. We’re looking just at the process and the flow. And that’s pretty generic. So that’s one thing. But I would recommend people start with something they’re passionate about, because if you are going to volunteer your time, it’s something you want to do and you feel a desire to help that problem. And look at what is the problem that you’re really trying to help with? And then start to work and network around to find out who is who are the organizations doing that? Maybe it’s a healthcare facility, maybe it’s a nonprofit, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s a combination of all three, right? And to figure out, where can you assist? And so it seems like it’s easiest, getting a foot in the door with a nonprofit, because they’re always looking for volunteers. Sure. And volunteering, onboarding processes, a great opportunity to look at ways to improve a nonprofit. They always kind of struggle with that one. And then that might open up opportunities where there may actually be jobs that are provided by the government that are working on that issue. So that could even lead into a career change for people that get into that role. So that’s what I recommend people pick something you’re passionate about. Yeah, find a place you can volunteer. We’ll go in and, and be respectful by just going through the process and trying to learn, right? Don’t go in there and say I’m a Lean Six Sigma expert, black belt, I’m going to come in and fix your processes just go in as a volunteer experience, go through the experience, ask a lot of questions, you know, just like we would normally do, and then at some point, say, you know, this is something I do is my regular job, I noticed these things, you know, could be done a little differently, is that something you’re open to, and Would you like some help with that, then you’re kind of coming in as a skills based volunteer, not just another set of hands to just move things around, or process things or do things but help them think about the processes differently, and smarter. So that can require less volunteer time, or frees them up to do more work, that’s more value added work. But that’s what I’ve recommended to people is to start through the nonprofit just as a regular volunteer, and then ease your way into that conversation with manager, whoever to say, this is what I can provide, in addition to my, my help with this, because our problem.

Patrick Adams

Absolutely. And I love that when you said about find your passion, because if you’re going to volunteer with a nonprofit, it should be one that aligns your passions with your interests, so that you can really pour into that nonprofit, because that’s what they need. You know, many nonprofits are going to be open arms to, you know, volunteers. So definitely find one that you’re passionate about.

Brion Hurley

Also, one more thing, there also, we’ve experienced that there is a lot of turnover on the nonprofit. So that’s to be expected. And so don’t be surprised that that sometimes, you know, might get some momentum, and then things change a little bit. And that’s another reason to be picking something that you’re passionate about. So you’ll fight through those challenges. The other thing I was going to say is that they are also extremely busy. And so just like a lot of organizations, the ones that need the most help are the ones that don’t have time to do it. Right, right. There’s not time to stop and fix the process. They just got to get the process going. So they just work through it. And so being diligent and following up frequently and saying, Hey, we talked about meeting, can we find some time next week, and things will get pushed out and delayed and rescheduled often. So that’s to be expected. And to me, that just tells me, that’s why the help is needed is because it is hard for them to find free time to do some of these things, important things that they know they need to do, but they just haven’t carved out the time to do it. So just constantly kind of prodding and reminding and following up. And not being deterred by that you’ll be successful with that. But if you just pick something random, because it’s easy, that follow up is going to get frustrating, and you’re just going to not do it. And so that’s why that passion is really important.

Patrick Adams

Absolutely. Thank you, Brion, this has been a great conversation. I’m sure we could go on forever talking about the social sector and the many different ways that we can help. My hope is that through this some of our listeners get involved with some local nonprofits and, and really look to offer some of their assistance, if they are interested in for more help or from you, or if they’re looking to get connected because they have questions about how to apply lean in the nonprofit world. How can they get a hold of you?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Okay, probably pretty easy for everyone also would give you a website called Lean Six Sigma for good, calm. That’s where I’ve been collecting up articles and videos and podcasts related to lean and government lean and nonprofits. And just trying to find as many things as possible, so someone could go there and say I worked at a zoo, and search Zoo and find maybe two or three articles that get them to see how this could help them. And then they’re going to go work with a zoo. As an example. They could see some examples and share those as here are some things other people have done. So we’ve got a couple 100 articles and things I’ve linked to on there by category and by location stuff to try to help give people some things to think about first before they launch right into it. Or maybe they’re struggling to think about how this applies to their specific organization or nonprofit perfect.

Patrick Adams

And we’ll make sure that we dropped those links into the show notes so if anybody’s interested they could go there. click on a link and check out everything that you have to offer on the website. Thanks Brion for for being a guest on the lean solutions podcast. Really appreciate the work that you’re doing. And again, if anybody’s interested to pick up any of the books in the series, Lean Six Sigma for good, they can reach out to Brion. Is that on out on Amazon or how do they get the book?

Brion Hurley

Yeah, there’s a one that I wrote that is kind of like a how to get started perfect free one. I think it’s also a hardcopy you can get on Amazon but there is a free version on the Lean Six Sigma for good website. And then we’re doing another one that’s like a series written by different people who write a separate chapter. That’s called lessons from the Gemba. And I have Volume one on Amazon as a hardcopy, you can get it electronically and then I’m in the middle of Volume Two right now. So if someone does have experience working with nonprofits or government and would love to write a chapter in an upcoming book series, also reach out and love to connect and, and tell you a little bit more about that project.

Patrick Adams

Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the lean solutions podcast. If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to subscribe. This way you’ll get updates as new episodes become available. If you feel so inclined. Please give us a review. Thank you so much.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.

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