I’m no Disney princess, but I KISS a lot of frogs. I use Lean and Six Sigma to help teams turn problems into efficient, elegant processes. By Keep(ing) It Simple & Smart (KISS), anyone can turn a froggy frustration into a princely procedure that improves both the customer and employee experience.
When I tell people I’m a Lean and Six Sigma Black Belt, their response is often a head nod, a blank stare, and a stiff smile. “Oh, that’s nice!”, they say, nodding. Then comes a 4.3-second silence, followed by a curious-puppy-dog-head-tilt at 45 degrees to one side, “Is that some new form of karate?”.
Lean and Six Sigma (LSS) aren’t martial arts. They are process improvement frameworks that help organizations create better experiences for their customers and employees. People tend to assume process improvement doesn’t apply to them or their small company; others think it’s too complicated. I believe anyone can tackle decisions or problems — whether business or personal — by using some simple Lean and Six Sigma concepts. Let me show you how this magic KISS works in real life.
Recently, I was working with a small administrative team that processes disability benefits. Their workload seemed to exceed the team’s current capacity, and they wanted to determine whether or not they needed more staff. At our first meeting, I briefly reviewed a few core principles:
- The goal of Lean is to reduce waste
- The goal of Six Sigma is to strive for perfection or have zero defects
Next, we mapped out the team’s processes and pinpointed areas of frustration for either the staff or their clients. We discovered clients weren’t signing all required areas of the electronic form that kicked off a benefit claim, spurring extra emails and phone calls. Clients and staff were complaining about the amount of time required to simply start a benefit claim.
I asked the team what their clients would want from this process. They responded with two goals:
- Minimal “back-and-forth” to get all of the required signatures (in other words, reducing waste with Lean); and
- A claim processed with the first submittal (or having zero defects with Six Sigma)
Once the ‘frog’ was framed this way, the team needed just a few minutes of brainstorming to arrive at a simple solution to meet both goals. In fact, the Administrative Assistant said it would take only 20 minutes to make the recommended changes! What was the solution? A quick redesign of the electronic form to highlight required signature blocks in yellow, and to restrict the tabs to scroll only to the highlighted blocks. The manager looked at her team and said, “Well, THAT was easy!”
And it often is that easy — once the frog is identified and framed correctly — to create a simple, effective solution. As we continued to analyze the rest of the team’s processes with the same KISS approach, using Lean and Six Sigma as our foundation, we were able to find several elegant solutions that could be quickly implemented with existing resources. We concluded that no new technology or additional staff was needed.
I believe anyone can use the core principles of reducing waste and striving for perfection to improve their business and streamline their personal life. The next time you have a problem that’s slowing you down, causing frustration, or is taking up more mental space than it should, try giving it a KISS. I’ve seen all kinds of gnarly frogs transform into elegant princes, and you can too!
Marliese Bartz is a business improvement strategist dedicated to helping companies run better — for employees and customers. Her consulting approach blends experience as a designer with Big Business toolsets from Lean, Agile, Change Management, and Six Sigma — bringing visual problem-solving to life through colorful StickyNotes and infographics. With over 25 years of business experience, Marliese is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a Certified Change Management Professional, and holds an MBA in Marketing and Management.