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News | March 8, 2023

Lean Six Sigma training boosts problem-solving skills

By Cindy Pray DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

Thirty Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime employees gained valuable continuous process improvement skills during a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course held at Defense Supply Center Columbus, Feb. 27 – March 3.

During the 40-hour course, instructed by eight Lean Six Sigma Black Belts and two Master Black Belts from across DLA Land and Maritime, students learned Lean and Six Sigma principles and tools, and how to implement them successfully. 

“This course empowers people to speak up when they see a problem and take an active role in creating a solution,” said Michael Lanning, Land and Maritime Continuous Process Improvement branch chief and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. "It gives employees a voice."

“We want people to go through the processes, see the problems, bring them to us and help to create solutions. By training more people we get more ideas, rather than just a top-down approach to problem solving.”

The progressive course builds upon concepts with a simulation model. As new concepts are introduced, they are added to the simulation so that students can see what those concepts contribute to the whole dynamic.

Group work is key to successfully navigating the course, and groups of students were formed to ensure diversity within teams by personality type.

Students walked away from the week-long course having gained not only problem-solving skills, but confidence and an appreciation for diverse and dynamic teamwork.

“My favorite part of the course has been the open dialogue conversations we’re having,” said Marybeth Tkac, DLA Land and Maritime business process analyst. “If I see a problem, others can give their feedback. I can see how everything weaves together to benefit someone else as well.”

“We are creating a culture of problem solvers,” Lanning said. “We want people who can recognize opportunities for Land and Maritime to become more effective in processing work.”

The Lean Six Sigma course is part of the DLA Land and Maritime Continuous Process Improvement plan, Lanning said.

All CPI projects are aligned to DLA’s Strategic Plan and Strategic Goals, and Lean Six Sigma directly aligns with Land and Maritime’s People and Culture Plan, he added.

Lanning credits the program’s success to numerous factors, one being that the instructors are not just from the CPI team, but from other areas within Land and Maritime. They bring their own project experiences from different areas of the organization, so it becomes relatable.

“If you just teach someone concepts but they don’t understand how it relates to what they do, you don’t make that connection,” Lanning said. “It’s also about working cross-process to come up with a holistic solution to a problem that benefits the entire organization.”

Tkac concurred adding that each instructor brought value to the course by offering something from their own experiences.

Upon course completion, students must complete a follow-on project to fulfill certification requirements. Black Belt instructors will coach and mentor the students to develop and complete these real-world projects within their work environment – in turn bringing relevant process improvement to Land and Maritime.

Students will then present their projects to command leadership, which is where Lanning’s goal comes to fruition.

“My goal is to show value in the course. I want leadership to know that their investment is not wasted,” Lanning explained. “We’re not looking at projects of putting the paper closer to the copier, so we don’t have to walk as far. We’re looking at projects that are proactive and delve into root causes to make us a better organization.”

“The command fully supports CPI and our offering of this course,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have [Lean Six Sigma] champions in SES positions here.”

Land and Maritime offers Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training twice per year. The next course will be held in August.