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Great LSS Race Winner Tells His Story

By Michael Kirkpatrick, Embolden Golden Team

Michael Kirkpatrick, far left, receives his winner's ribbon.

My experience with Lean Six Sigma started shortly after joining UC San Diego, when I attended yellow belt training. Coming from the corporate world, I was expecting a dull, dry session. What I got was completely different! I discovered how fun, exciting, interesting and engaging Lean Six Sigma can be.

When I heard about Process Palooza, it was a natural fit. As an undergrad here, I loved getting involved with things and meeting new people. My organization was supportive, so I went for it!

When the day arrived, it was exciting to wake up and know I would be part of a big event. I had not been at Price Center for many years, but it definitely brought back memories. Also, having it at Price Center really made Process Palooza feel like it was the center of campus for that day. It was even broadcast live on the Internet.

I showed up not knowing any of my teammates, and got assigned to Embolden Golden. We were all issued yellow aprons – our team uniform, which conjured memories of old gameshows on Nickelodeon and sparked a lot of camaraderie.

Now down to business! We were assigned to examine UC San Diego Health’s patient transfer process to see if we could improve the patient experience and identify efficiencies. Immediately our team of five split in two – with some of us beginning work on a process map, while others performed more background research based on LSS methodology.

The beauty of the division of labor ending up being that we could focus on the existing process and identify areas for improvement. The process map served as an amazing tool that was simplified and easily understandable. That goes a long way to understanding what the customer – in this case, the patient – needs.

By now, we were ready to reunite with the other half of the team. Fortunately, they had come up with similar insights, which was amazing because we had a common direction on how to improve the process. Splitting up helped us solve the problem faster because we developed a strong, cohesive story for a solution that would be beneficial for patients, doctors and the system overall.

The work wasn’t done, though. We still had to come up with a brief presentation for the judges, including diagramming out our solution.

And this is where the pressure mounted. By this time, it was midafternoon and the ballroom had cleared out – except for the other teams running around and filling up whiteboards. Their worked looked impressive - I couldn’t help but wonder how our solution compared to theirs. I hadn’t expected to feel that competitive!

Each team had fewer than 10 minutes to make their case. The clock ran out just as I was handed the mic, leaving me only the chance to say “Thank you!” But during the day, I had been texting some staff friends, and I know they were tuning into the livestream. Even though they were spared listening to me drone on, it gave them better context about what the event was all about. Plus, getting seen on 'TV' was really cool!

To our team’s great surprise, we won our category. It was a really thrilling moment for our team, and very unexpected. But winning validated the work we put in, and our insights for improving the process in a way other teams hadn’t delivered on. It felt really good!

I’ll definitely be ready for the next Process Palooza, and am even considering earning a green belt in the meantime.

Michael Kirkpatrick is a former project manager in IT Services.