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Be Efficient or Go Home

Goal #5 of UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan is: Creating an agile, sustainable and supportive infrastructure by ensuring a dedication to service, people and financial stewardship. Various forms of the word “efficient” are used 11 times to further explain the goal.  

Translation: Be nimble, do more with less. For UC San Diego, that means any savings in time or money gets directly reinvested back to the university’s core mission.  

“Continuous improvement” is the mindset, and Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is one way to do it. LSS is all about eliminating waste and reducing defects. The practical effect is that users have a shared language and practice to streamline and optimize to improve quality. The principles apply to all facets of campus: academic units, medical center, research administration and so on. There are over 3,200 certified LSS practitioners at UC San Diego who have earned Yellow (beginner), Green (intermediate) and Black (expert) belts through the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) and UC San Diego Extension.  

Meanwhile, starting in 2017, momentum was building on multiple fronts: 

  • A handful of people with interests in change management, continuous improvement and project management were meeting informally to grapple with merging all three concepts.  
  • The university was in the early phases of kicking off Enterprise Systems Renewal, a massive ERP effort with process optimization at its core. 
  • Leadership from IT Services, UC San Diego Extension and the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) knew employees were getting LSS training and wanted to show value to campus executives.  

We had the skillset, the interest and need, but something was missing: A way to bring LSS practitioners together and harness the collective knowledge.  

2017 Continuous Improvement Event 

What’s the best way to bring everyone together? Conference? Expo? Workshop? Competition? In the name of efficiency, we decided to do them all at once. Thus, Process Palooza was born! 

Everyone made the invite list: faculty, students, researchers, staff, LSS practitioners, non-practitioners and UC San Diego extension LSS alumni. Conference goals were twofold: 

  • Provide each attendee an opportunity to experience, learn about and grow LSS practices across campus.  
  • Bring together LSS enthusiasts and deploy their collective knowledge in a structured, impactful way.  

Process Palooza, co-sponsored by IT Services and UC San Diego Extension, is truly a three-in-one event – after all, it's put on by people specializing in efficiencies! Components include: 

  1. Process improvement competition – aka, The Great LSS Race 
  2. Learning tracks centered around LSS, project management, organizational change management and more
  3. Networking and community building  

The Great LSS Race

A key goal is to show process improvement in action. And what better way to do that than with a competition? Attendees with at least a Yellow Belt certification are eligible, and there are usually enough to make six teams of six. The idea is to put their skills to the test by analyzing a messed up process and havjudges evaluate just how significantly they improved it.  

Here’s what sets the competition element apart: We use actual campus business processes 

Want to know what the Great LSS Race is really like? Check out these news stories, which also include team rosters:

Conference: Learning, Sharing, Inspiring 

Process Palooza component #2 consists of a traditional set of breakout workshops, covering everything from LSS basics (in a quickie White belt session) to use cases showing how LSS is being applied at UC San Diego. Meanwhile, series of posters showcases university efficiency efforts by visually displaying problems, the LSS effort, outcome and value.  

Miss a session or want to relive the excitement? Visit the Past Events page for workshop recordings. 

Connecting: Networking, Recruiting and More 

Throughout the day, opportunities for networking and making connections are in abundance, including networking lounges and booths for departments and workgroups to either showcase their projects or ask for help – including for BECOP and Lean Bench.  

Lasting Impact

Process Palooza 2017 was a smashing success, and the co-sponsors decided to make it an annual event. Participation soared to over 800 just one year later, and invitations were extended to other UC campuses and across the California higher education landscape, as well as to local businesses and non-profits. 

Process Palooza also helped launch UC San Diego's Lean Bench and Business Excellence Community of Practice. The process improvement ideas proposed during the Great LSS Race were embraced by the sponsoring departments and successfully implemented. 

In 2019, we hosted the Continous Improvement Summit powered by Process Palooza, during which vice chancellors and other campus leaders showcased the measurable results of continuous improvement efforts in their areas. 

Our 2020 event was transitioned to a virtual format consisting of weekly webinars. Over 2,100 people tuned in for inspiring stories of adapting to the COVID-19 and other continuous improvement success stories. 

Read more in the Impact section!