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Packing the Room at Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers National Conference

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For the Navy Lean Six Sigma workshop at Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers National Conference, we expected 48 attendees based on pre-registrations. When 113 people showed up, we worked with the conference staff to bring in some extra chairs and pack the room.

The attendees were very engaged throughout the workshop and left with a fundamental understanding of lean, six sigma, and theory of constraints.

Note to the fire marshal: we stayed within the 159-person room capacity limit.

Just Hanging Out with an Astronaut

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I recently attended the 2017 American Indian Science and Engineering Society National Conference in Dever as a presenter. During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Navy CDR (ret) John Herrington, the first person registered with a Native American Tribe to go into space. He was really interesting and friendly. He is pictured here in the center.

Hawthrone Effect, Theory of Constraints, and Travel Claim Processing

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While not a controlled experiment, I had the opportunity recently to observe a version of the Hawthorne Effect applied to travel claim processing.

For decades, the standing goal for travel claim processing has been 30 days from the end of travel (TVL End) to paid. Conventional wisdom viewed the standing goal as somewhat unrealistic though, because a portion of the timeline is dependent on the customer's timeliness. Wisdom says that if the customer submission lag is very long, then the travel claim processor cannot meet the 30-day goal.

In mid-July, a large backlog of claims at JAX caught the attention of upper management. The backlog was not unusual, but management interest in the backlog was something new. Upper management began to pay a lot of attention to the JAX travel claim processing operation and communicated this interest with frequent inquiries.

Without any additional resources, the JAX team shifted into high gear and wiped out most of the backlog by the end of the mont…

American Indian Science and Engineering Society Leadership Summit 2017

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At the AISES Leadership Summit, I had the opportunity to deliver a white belt workshop while in uniform. It was a great way for me to support the active duty recruiting mission as a reservist.

Students and professionals from all over the country converged in Chandler, Az to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans in science and engineering. We trained a small group in the principles of Lean Six Sigma in preparation for the larger national convention later this year.

Capability Maturity Model: Reassessment

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Our initial capability maturity model assessment in March of 2016 was eye opening. In spite of using an informal and internal assessment method, the assessment results were a little shocking to the system. An 'F' was the final score; we scored an 'F' even though we provided all of the ratings ourselves based on our subjective understanding of organizational operations.

We also discovered that understanding the CMMI model is a lot easier if you can anchor the conversations in a concrete analogy. We chose hotdogs. As we went through each of our focus questions, we compared our operations against a hotdog stand. So, for Requirements Management (REQM), we asked, "if we were a hotdog business, what level would our requirements management process fit?" At level 0, we are not currently making hotdogs (i.e., not doing Requirements Management). At level 1, we can make hotdogs but we do so inconsistently (i.e., we do Requirements Management sometimes but not others). …

Green Belt Triple Crown Winners

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In the green belt course, the process simulation calls for teams of 4-6 students to manufacture 'hits' by shooting ping pong balls from a catapult onto a target.

The simulation has evolved slightly over the years to emphasize specific learning objectives. In its current form, students also track yield and net profit.

In a class size of 20, four teams compete with each other to improve the process. It is rare for one team to win the competition in all three categories.

In fact, the first triple crown was awarded in August of 2016. Congrats to the Juan Won One team!

Running Faster by Improving the Accuracy of the Stopwatch: When the Preferred Solution is to Blame the Data for Poor Performance

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In August of 2015 (nine months from the time of this writing), I was asked to help improve to process of retiring medical treatment records when service members separate. With clear direction from senior levels of the organization, the urgency of figuring out how to retire the medical treatment records in 45 days or less was palpable.

The problem of late records, at least on the surface, was very solvable. First, the record had to be located. Next, the record was shipped to a scanning facility. Finally, the scanning facility would produce a digital image of the hard-copy file and archive it electronically.

Fourty-five days seemed like plenty of time to accomplish the task. The scanning facility, by contract, had 14 days to complete the scanning and archive functions, so the medical treatment facilities had 31 days to locate and ship the record. Because service members generally begin the separation process months in advance, the medical treatment facilities could actually start the …