American Indian Science and Engineering Society Leadership Summit 2017

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

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

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

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 …

Hands In

I learn more about leadership, motivation, and training in 60-minutes by coaching a 7-8 year old basketball team than I could learn in a month on the job.

The reason is a little counter-intuitive. I can make 100 leadership mistakes in a minute at practice, maybe more. I have my own little 10-person developmental laboratory where I can try out leadership strategies, write and revise training plans, and directly apply motivational techniques with the ability to get immediate feedback on their effectiveness. In this case, my DPMO (defects per million opportunities) is quite high --- but I learn something from each mistake.

This picture was taken right after a 32-8 victory. During this game, I learned (1) many hands make light work, (2) most production will almost always come from a core team, and (3) all role players are star performers in the right circumstances.

On the last point, one of our role players had not scored up to this point in the season. In an effort to motivate her, …

CMMI for Service as Process Improvement

Capability maturity models answer the question: What are the characteristics of a high functioning organization? The defacto standard maturity model is managed by SEI ( and provides a detailed description of what highly mature organizations do.

As a process improvement tool, a CMMI model provides a standard against which the baseline organization can be compared. Any gaps between the standard and the baseline organization points the way for future improvement plans. The value of the model lies in the assessment material; it forces you to look across a broad array of processes and compare your organization to a consistent standard. Because the standard does not change, any reduction in gaps between the baseline and the standard represents progress for your organization.

The summary graphic shown here is my depiction of the CMMI for Service standard. It consists of 24 must-do processes that define a highly mature organization. Each abbreviation brick represents…

DMADV for Travel Claims

The Navy's annual budget for Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves is roughly $800 million. That sounds like a lot of money until you consider the scope and size of the effort. Between 110,000 and 160,000 PCS travel claims are processed each year. These claims include various allowances for time in training, family relocation, temporary lodging, and house hunting.

Because the Navy relies on rotational duty assignments by design and Sailors are entitled to PCS-related compensation by law, the expenses associated with PCS moves are a predictable cost of doing business.

However, the speed and accuracy of travel claim settlements has a significant impact on the operational availability of funds during the execution year. Adequate funds to safely cover all PSC-related expenses are obligated in advance of travel, and these funds must be held in abeyance until the travel claim is settled once travel is completed. Any excess obligations can then be de-obligated and used to fund addit…