Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Maximizing Lean Six Sigma Financial Returns

By Keith Gardner

Many organizations fail to get the most out of their Lean Six Sigma Programs because they fail to lay the proper foundation for success. Before training green belts and black belts, organizations need to create a framework that will empower and enable the Lean Six Sigma program participants to maximize the financial return to the company. Failure to follow the framework will result in a failure to maximize financial returns on the program. Specifically, there are seven key phases that the program champion needs to lead the company through.

Engage the Leadership
Before doing anything else, it is imperative that the organization’s leadership be aligned in terms of the vision for productivity and quality improvement, as well as the goals and objectives of the Lean Six Sigma program and the resource commitment that will be required.

Create Deployment Plans
As with anything else, “a failure to plan is a plan for failure.” Detailed deployment planning that lays out the tasks that must be undertaken, along with timing and responsibility, is key. This ensures that all necessary tasks are identified and provides a roadmap to measure implementation success.

Establish Project-related Processes
It is through the successful selection and completion of projects that an organization derives the financial benefits of Lean Six Sigma. Ensuring that a robust process is in place to select, support and track projects is key to maximizing financial returns.

Create Supporting Infrastructure
The degree of infrastructure required depends upon the size and complexity of the organization. For larger organizations, setting up IT infrastructure for things such as project tracking, communication, knowledge management and program reporting may be required.

Deploy Resources
This involves not only training the champions (black belts and green belts) but also ensuring that the right people are selected for the training. Concurrently, mentoring and coaching systems need to be set up to ensure adequate technical support for people leading project teams.

Institutionalize the Program
Integrating Lean Six Sigma into existing systems is a key for program sustainment. Weaving the Lean Six Sigma program into systems such as employee reviews, communication tools, etc. is critical for making the program an integral part of the way the company does business rather than “just another program.”

Continuous Improvement
As the saying goes, “Eat your own cooking.” A robust “things gone right/things gone wrong” analysis with every project needs to be combined with management feedback and other information sources in order to drive continuous improvement activities. Over time, additional activities such as extending the value chain to customers and suppliers need to be undertaken.

If organizational leadership simply trains a group of green belts and black belts without consideration to the above areas, success will be limited. In this case, the shortcoming is not with the ability of Lean Six Sigma to transform the organization, but rather with organizational leadership that is looking for a quick or easy fix. There is no free lunch. The organization will get out of Lean Six Sigma what it puts into Lean Six Sigma. 

Course Schedule (Click titles for details.)

The Center for Quality & Process Improvement at the University of North Florida offers a combination of training, consulting and facilitation designed to meet each client’s unique needs. UNF offers online and instructor-led courses, as well as contract classes, consulting and facilitation in in more than 40 topics all related to continuous improvement and enhanced organizational performance. Visit for more information.

Keith Gardner has been consulting and training in the area of quality and productivity improvement for the past fifteen years. As the lead instructor, his primary focus at UNF is Lean Six Sigma. He regularly consults with managers and senior executives in the implementation and enhancement of organizational Lean Six Sigma programs.

Gardner has worked with hundreds of clients in 24 countries in telecommunications, logistics, health care, call centers, staffing services, governmental agencies, the military, engineering services, food, automotive, metals, electronics, chemicals and furniture. He has a degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an MBA from the University of Michigan and is an ASQ-certified Black Belt.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Learn something for the fun of it - Now at a YMCA near you

The name says it all - LEARN Jacksonville - where classes are created for adults to participate in fun activities and learn new skills. LEARN Jacksonville has partnered with YMCA of Northeast Florida to bring affordable personal enrichment programs to a location near you.

Discover everything from foreign language classes to kayaking lessons. Five local Y branches, including Arlington Family YMCA, Brooks Family YMCA, Flagler Center Family YMCA, Williams Family YMCA and Yates Family YMCA, will offer 17 unique classes beginning in May. Starting at $25 per class.

“The Y never stops exploring new ways to partner within the community and cultivate a healthy, active First Coast,” said YMCA of Florida’s First Coast President and CEO Eric Mann. “We are pleased to join forces with the University of North Florida to provide area residents with extensive educational resources that improve individual well-being.”

You do not have to be a Y member to take classes at your neighborhood Y. Everyone is welcome to attend classes at either UNF or YMCA locations. But Y membership does have its perks. First Coast YMCA members will receive 15 percent off registration for all classes taking place at Y facilities.

“As LEARN Jacksonville has become increasingly popular over the past years, it’s only natural for us to expand our reach by serving a wide variety of carefully selected classes beyond the campus walls,” said Edythe Abdullah, interim dean of UNF’s Division of Continuing Education. “The alignment between the Y’s commitment to strengthening communities and our division’s long-time goal of personal improvement will further facilitate a healthier Northeast Florida.”

Through this partnership, the new classes offered at First Coast Ys include Healthy Living in a Toxic World, Introduction to Spanish, Creative Mosaic Workshop, Crash Course in Screenwriting and more. 

Visit for a full list of classes. Y members must register through in order to receive their discount. 

Click here to view the digital catalog or here to download a mobile-friendly PDF.

The Y
For more than 100 years, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast has been providing men, women and children of all ages, and from all walks of life, opportunities to build stronger bonds, live healthy and become more engaged with their communities. Learn more:

University of North Florida
UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Advantages of Online Learning for Boosting Your Career

In today's competitive job market, knowledge and skills are ever-increasing importance, and education in a relevant field is the ideal way of boosting your value to employers. However, if your time is already filled with work and life commitments, making room for a traditional class isn't always practical. Online learning offers many benefits and advantages for busy people who want to add new qualifications to their resume.

Flexible Hours for Learning
The single greatest advantage of online learning is the ease with which it can be made to fit into your existing busy lifestyle. There's no need to rearrange your schedule to fit in classes or fixed appointments. With online learning, you receive your study materials along with a deadline to be met, and from then on, it's up to you to study at your convenience. This makes it ideal for people with jobs, children and other commitments that make it difficult to find time for more traditional courses set to formal hours.

Variety of Study Subjects

With night classes at a local college, your choice of courses is limited to what's on offer within reasonable traveling distance. This isn't the case with distance learning. Whatever topic you wish to study, chances are you'll be able to find it as an online or distance learning course somewhere in the country. You will often find it easier to choose the level of qualification you want, from an introductory certificate to a full degree because this format offers much more flexibility than traditional adult education classes.

Online Support, Networking and Resources

Online learning usually makes excellent use of the internet, with online communities of students available to offer each other support and help at any time of day, along with online tutor consultations, coursework submission and study material downloads. Naturally, all of these features can be a part of traditional learning as well, but the nature of distance learning means that these facilities are often the foundation of the course, and are given a high priority and offer high value.

Up-to-date qualifications and expertise are prized by employers, and can make all the difference in building a successful career. For the reasons discussed above (and more), online learning with a reputable institution is an ideal way for busy people to give their employment prospects a powerful boost, and experience the personal fulfillment that comes with increased knowledge and skills.

UNF Continuing Education is please to announce a new partnership with Career Step, a leading provider of high quality online career training. Programs include, Pharmacy Tech, Medical Coding, Medical Transcription, Computer Technician, Veterinarian Assistant and many more. Visit our online learning page or join us at our Online Career Training Information Session at 6 p.m. on May 5 to learn how you can train for an in-demand career in one year or less! RSVP today! 

About Career Step:
Career Step is an online provider of career-focused education and corporate training. The company has trained over 100,000 students for new careers, has more than 150 partnerships with colleges and universities nationwide, offers a variety of continuing education courses for healthcare professionals and has educated more than 8,000 health information professionals through its Corporate Training Division. Career Step provides training for several of the largest and most respected healthcare employers in the nation and is committed to helping students and practicing healthcare professionals alike gain the skills they need to be successful in the workplace—improving lives, advancing careers and bettering business results through education.