Agile Process Innovation Case Studies

Improvement Insights Blog

Agile Process Innovation Case Studies

What do Christus Health, Novartis and Underwriters Laboratories have in common? In the last few years they’ve rediscovered the essence of Agile Lean Six Sigma. Here’s How:

“Every year we go out to these conferences and trade shows and exhibit the QI Macros, and I get a chance to go see some of the presentations that people are doing. About two years ago I started to notice an interesting trend, and so I got some observations out of this whole thing.

“So about two years ago, I was at the Lean Six Sigma conference in Phoenix and Christus Health was presenting about their quality journey. They said, “Well we tried to Train Green Belts and Black Belts, and we tried to get projects going, (and all this other stuff) but we weren’t getting any traction. Our management team said, “We’ve got these problems that need to be solved; can you narrow this training down into a one-day thing that’s focused on people learning stuff and getting results?” “Well, we’ll try.”

“What they did was they went ahead and did that and they found that the people coming in with data about their problem could actually start to solve things in one day. Now, I’ve been doing this for several decades, but this was them discovering this over and over again. I call it “Agile Lean Six Sigma” or “Agile Process Innovation.”

“Now the next year I saw another presentation: this was by Novartis, a drug manufacturer. They were having trouble getting samples to their reps and they didn’t have time to do the whole “Big Six Sigma” thing. What they did was they came up with a two-day training and worked on doing analysis in those two days and getting all of their people who served the sales rep team who delivered these samples to work on collapsing the cycle time to get samples to the reps, so the reps could go visit doctors and make sales. Guess what? They started getting big results out of that process… hmmm… it was like a one-day Yellow Belt (or almost a two-day Yellow Belt) training. You know, it might be a little longer than it might have needed to be, but you get the idea. What they’re doing is collapsing the training into two days.

“This last year I was at the World Lean and Six Sigma Conference down in San Antonio and what we saw there was there was one presentation by Underwriters Laboratory. They’re spread out all over the world and so they were having trouble, saying, “Well, we can’t do these big 2 week or 4 week trainings. We can’t have people out of out of pocket for that long, so what are we going to do?” They’d been trying some things like classroom-based training and whatever, and they changed their mind they said, “Let’s do a blended learning: we’re going to do some online training and then we’re going to have groups meet and actually work on problems. (This is as best as I can remember of these presentations, but this is the kind of the gist of the presentation.) Guess what? In a matter of about a day of online training and half a day of doing these little workshops, they started getting results and improvements and things like that. Wow! More of what I call “Agile Lean Six Sigma.”

“Then I saw a consultant and he refused to divulge [the name of] his client, but what he did say was they said, “We’re not going to do this crazy Big Sigma stuff. No, you’ve got to come up with a one or two day little Yellow Belt training, and we want to focus on results.” So he did that, and they started doing these one and two day trainings and started getting results. What? How’s that possible? The other thing that came out of all of these teams (as far as I could tell) was you begin to notice who’s a natural – who just has the improvement genes or mentality or whatever it is. These are the people that might go on to become a Green Belt and tackle bigger problems that are more cross-functional or whatever it is.

“That’s what I call “Agile Lean Six Sigma”: one-day Yellow Belt trainings. And again, you can take that for free on our website at I also have an Agile Train-the-Trainer course out there that’s free and will teach you how I’ve been teaching this for the last several decades. You get an understanding of what’s possible with a tool like the QI Macros to collapse all that learning into a single day and focus on improving something. When people think they’re improving their job they pay a lot more attention than they do when they’re just in class. So this is a way to start to get people trained and get results and figure out who the vital few are: the people who can go on to become a Green Belt and start tackling bigger and bigger more complex kind of projects in your organization. That’s Agile Process Innovation.

“I’m Jay Arthur, author of Agile Process Innovation and QI Macros. Let’s go out and create a hassle-free world, a hassle-free America. Let’s go out and improve something this week. “