Argonne’s Lean Six Sigma Community of Practice raises the bar on operational excellence
In September 2017, a group of 20 employees from across the laboratory completed a 40-hour Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt training program, joining a larger community of certified Lean Six Sigma practitioners throughout the Argonne community. Energy and Global Security (EGS) directorate Chief Operating Officer Balendra Sutharshan (a certified LSS Master Black Belt) initiated the training in support of Argonne’s commitment to operational excellence and continuous improvement. EGS Operations Lead Amanda Fulton, one of the participants, arranged the training sessions and coordinated the post-class certification study groups.
What is Lean Six Sigma? According to the website for the American Society for Quality, the international society of quality professionals, “Lean Six Sigma is a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that values defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage.“
In the weeks following last fall’s LSS training, with guidance from Michael Rabbitt, business transformation manager in the Business and Information Services (BIS) directorate, participants formed an LSS Community of Practice (CoP) that meets regularly. The CoP provides a forum for Argonne employees who are certified in Lean Six Sigma to share best practices, lessons learned, advice, projects being worked and other information beneficial to the practice and the organization overall.
According to Rabbitt, who joined Argonne shortly before the LSS training occurred, the impetus for forming the CoP was the need to connect people across the laboratory. Said Rabbitt, “As we were starting up the BIS Business Transformation team, we needed to quickly establish our tools, templates and techniques for doing process improvement work. I also wanted to have a mechanism and forum to share information and collaborate with existing LSS practitioners across the lab.”
To date, the group — which is open to all LSS-certified Argonne employees — has undertaken 14 projects, with champions throughout the laboratory. From a more practical perspective, one of the biggest benefits of the group is the role it plays in promoting collaboration and One Argonne across both mission support and programmatic divisions. And, in keeping with the Develop Our People pillar discussed by Laboratory Director Paul Kearns during the recent all-hands meeting, the LSS CoP provides professional development and growth opportunities for its members.
Underscoring the ‘One Argonne’ aspect of LSS, EGS’s Fulton said, “The CoP has helped advance the use of LSS approaches across the laboratory, and has also assisted EGS with several continuous improvement efforts. In learning from one another and applying lessons learned, we amplify the impact of our LSS efforts across the laboratory.”
As a model for shared leadership, the LSS CoP offers members with a mechanism to form working groups and initiatives (a great way to hone leadership skills), a forum in which to obtain feedback on ideas and drafts as well access to the lab’s Lean Six Sigma Advisory Council, which provides direction, guidance and expertise on active LSS projects. Bob Einspar, continuous improvement manager in Infrastructure Services, commented that, “I’m excited that we’re adopting the Lean Six Sigma methods to help drive continuous improvement efforts, and I’m certain this approach will benefit us on our journey toward operational excellence at Argonne.”
Echoing Einspar’s comments, John Connolly, director of the APS Engineering Support Division (who is also a certified LSS Master Black Belt), commented that, “I have high hopes for this group to contribute to operational improvement at Argonne and am further encouraged by progress of the active Lean Six Sigma (LSS) projects. It is my hope that this Community of Practice takes hold quickly, especially once it is evident that LSS projects are providing demonstrable results.”
For those interested in becoming part of the lab’s LSS CoP, plans are underway to offer training to another cohort of future LSS practitioners during FY 2018. For questions and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Suzanne Williams (BIS)