Get Rid of Wasteful Work-Related Tasks Using This Proven Method: Streamlining Business Processes Made Easy!

Last Updated on April 28, 2020 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

In this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast, our guest speaker is expert problem-solving and decision-making facilitator Elisabeth Swan. She talks comprehensively about streamlining business processes, a method to reduce waste, and eliminate unnecessary work-related tasks to improve efficiency in the workplace, using her proven DMAIC method. This strategy saved UC San Diego Medical Center four million dollars and is being used in various sectors today.

She explains the process, how to implement it, and shares her all-time favorite process-related and non-process-related books.

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Key Resource List:

Show Notes: 

0:10 -> Podcast introduction.

1:00 -> Dr. Weisz shares the best software to use for documenting standard operating procedures (SOPs), making it easy and efficient.

2:03 -> Introduction of guest speaker Elisabeth Swan, the best person to talk to if you want to have a streamlined company and be successful.

3:00 ->The guest speaker talks about two effective problem-solving methods used by Toyota and Motorola that break down a system to reduce deficient and wasteful processes in an organization.

5:10 -> How the company uses belt levels to determine where to start streamlining from. 

6:24 -> Elizabeth talks about her streamlining methodology, DMAIC: A Process that Helped King County Improve Suppliers Record Setup by 52%, Reduced travel expenses approval time by 96%, and saved UC San Diego Medical Center four million dollars. The following time markers cover each part of the DMAIC method:          

8:32 -> D

11:56 ->M

13:12 -> A

17:30 -> I

24:30 -> C

22:10 -> No methodology is perfect and exists without issues. Elizabeth Swan discusses the objection about Six Sigma and how to deal with it. 

26:32 -> Companies that have used the DMAIC method and their results.

  •       A pothole repair company
  •       UC San Diego Medical Center (starts at 29:55)

31:43 -> Another tool used by to streamline organizations.

35:01 -> How to get started with

38:48 -> All-time favorite books of the guest speaker:

43:12 -> Concluding Remarks

43:41 -> Outro

Guest Profile:

Elisabeth Swan Chief Learning Experience Officer of

Elisabeth Swan is the chief learning experience officer at, a web-based company that makes it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscles using Lean Six Sigma.

She is the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit: A Surprisingly Simple Guide to Your Lean Six Sigma Journey. Elisabeth Swan also helps clients build problem-solving cultures by aligning their efforts with their objectives and then provides coaching, training, strategic planning, and change management expertise. She has worked with organizations from the top of the Fortune 100 list to a local childcare nonprofit.

Transcript of this Interview:

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. I’m excited to introduce today’s guest, Elisabeth Swan, who if you want to actually have a streamlined company and be successful and problem solve, this is the person to talk to. But before I introduce Elisabeth officially, I’m going to tell you about today’s episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. Now the question, Elisabeth, I always ask people is have you had team members ask you the same question over and over again, and it’s maybe the 10th time you spent explaining it? Well maybe you don’t want to club yourself over the head, but maybe you’re thinking about it because it’s the same thing over and over.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: But the solution SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff, and it’s not just for universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies, but actually I discovered when talking to the founder Owen that first responder government agencies actually use them in life or death situations to run their operation. You can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time, so you can focus on growing your team and empowering to do their best work.Through the podcast, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial with no credit card is required. Go to, that’s sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T,

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Now today, we have Elisabeth Swan, who is the chief learning experience officer at She is the co-author of the problem solver’s toolkit, which is a surprisingly simple guide to your Lean Six Sigma journey. I’m excited too. I’m going to have to get that on audio. Hopefully it’s on audio, Elisabeth. If you have not heard of Go Lean Six Sigma, it’s a web-based company headquartered in Hawaii with team members all over the US. They were on the Inc. 5000 list for 2019. They were named one of Hawaii’s fastest 50 growing companies since 2016, and they combine the Lean methodology and Six Sigma to help organizations with problem solving. Elisabeth, thank you for joining me.

Elisabeth Swan: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I wanted to start with you have a unique methodology called DMAIC, but I want to start with giving people a little bit of background between what is the combination of Lean and Six Sigma.

Elisabeth Swan: Sure. It’s a good question. Lean is really associated with the Toyota production system. This was basically the beginning of what is known as Lean Manufacturing. That takes us back to the ’40s, and the idea of removing waste from systems and relying on your people to become problem solvers, so you have a culture of problem solving. This is tied up with Dr. Deming, who’s a US quality guru, and lots of different folks had a lot of parts in creating what is now known as Lean, whereas Six Sigma is starting with Motorola in the 1980s with an engineer by the name of Bill Smith. It also like Lean is based on the scientific method. Both of these are problem solving methods, with the same arc of looking at breaking down a problem, measuring it, and trying to figure out countermeasures to solve it.

Elisabeth Swan: The two different methods with Lean and Six Sigma are PDCA on the Lean side. That’s plan, do, check, act, or adjust. And then DMAIC that you mentioned on the Six Sigma side. That’s define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. The beginnings of Six Sigma were to reduce defects. Six Sigma means less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities to make a defect. Motorola originally applied this to their pager, so trying to get perfection out of that process.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: If only we could do that with all of our staff, right, and processes.

Elisabeth Swan: We would like that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s why they need Go Lean Six Sigma.

Elisabeth Swan: Exactly.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to get my black belt, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Swan: Do you? You want to jump right to back?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: In Go Lean Six Sigma.

Elisabeth Swan: So you want to jump past … The other thing that happened with the beginning of Six Sigma was these belt levels you’re mentioning. Depending on where you look, it could be a white belt, then a yellow belt, then a green belt, then a black belt. I appreciate that you want to jump right to black, but these are sort of levels of knowledge that you’re bringing to the table.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Where do a lot of people start when they start with you? Do they automatically start in the beginning? Or are some people more advanced? Are companies more advanced? And they jump levels to maybe like yellow. Oh this company plugs in at a yellow. Is there a commonality there?

Elisabeth Swan: No, it’s a huge spread.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You start from the foundation? Most people just start from the foundation?

Elisabeth Swan: No no, I’d say that it’s a huge spread in terms of what people come and want to do. They might come in and say … We leave the white belt, which is an hour, and the yellow belt, which is eight hours, we leave those free. People might want to just come and go, “Okay just give me an hour. I’ve got an hour to spare. I just want to know what is this?” Or they want everyone to become yellow belt trained so they can look for ways to solve problems, or they’ve got a robust problem solving culture and they want people formally trained as green belts so they can run teams and solve problems and take it to another level. There’s a big range.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So let’s break down, I know one thing that we want to talk about is the process of the process walks to get information. You mentioned a little bit the DMAIC process in general, so you want to just tell people what that stands for a little bit? And then we can start with the process walks.

Elisabeth Swan: Sure. So DMAIC is the acronym standing for define, define the problem, the process, the customer, and then measure, M for measure, measure how what’s the baseline of this? If we have a problem, what’s the magnitude? Analyze, which looks at both the process and the data, like why is this happening? And then I stands for improve. What can we do to counteract the root causes of this problem? And then C is control, which is how can we maintain these changes now that we have fixed this process? How do we hold onto the gains?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. And we’ll break those down a little bit more. If anyone is listening, if you haven’t gleaned, you want to reduce errors and you want to be more efficient and have a more successful company, we will talk about some case studies, like the real bottom line, where their processes help save UC San Diego 2000 hours a year in employee onboarding. They have saved healthcare companies millions and millions of dollars, government agencies millions and millions of dollars, by what their process does. It translates to real time saved, and real dollars.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I think there was a case study that I was reading on your site, Elisabeth, that is it saved $4 million at the UCSD Medical Center. Those are real significant dollars, so just to talk about the gravity of the importance of this, of the process, so start off with the process walks, what that is. It sounds like it fits into the first piece of DMAIC.

Elisabeth Swan: It does. The first phase is define, so you’re trying to understand what is this process that isn’t sort of behaving optimally? One of the best ways to understand it is the process walk, and the process walk, the origins go back to the Lean side of the house, and that’s why the word Gemba was used in Japan. That was the real place, or the place where work is happening. If you’re thinking about Toyota, that might have been walking right down to where chassis are coming through on assembly lines, and people are adding doors, so watching exactly how people do what they do.

Elisabeth Swan: Now you take it back to most of the world has applied Lean and Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma to the manufacturing world. Most of it’s happening right now in the transactional world, so the looking at process that you were just describing and hospitals and governments, and we need to understand those processes too. We have to go to the place. Now what if the place is online? What if this is a remote process and I need to see what people’s computer screens are showing me? The idea is just like you would walk into the area where work is happening, you can sort of virtually walk with Zoom or an iPhone or something else to watch how people do what they do, how they enter information, where it goes. I mean you’re still talking and interviewing people.

Elisabeth Swan: So a process walk is a series of interviews of the people in the process. You’ve got to do some planning to figure out what’s the overall process, what are the big steps, and who should be interviewed? You do it as a group, and you do it with kind of no expectations. You’re not there to say, “Wait a second, what do you mean you press that button? You’re not supposed to be doing that.” You’re just listening to see what are they actually-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s probably hard to do, I imagine.

Elisabeth Swan: Oh it is. Right. And I mean companies like Process Street that are into process documentation, what we often find-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: SweetProcess, yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: Sorry. You’re going to have to catch me on that. So a company like SweetProcess, when they document a process, when people document a process, they’re often finding out there’s kind of other routines going on that we didn’t know, or we documented it but it’s been a few months or it’s been a year and people are starting to do something else. The process walk can surface what are those other things that are going on so that we can document those and be more accurate with our recording.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean that makes sense, because you can’t improve the process or make it better if you don’t walk through every step of what’s going on now.

Elisabeth Swan: No, yeah, you have to … Yeah. You just said a great thing. You want to build your profound knowledge of the process, because we get big, we get siloed, I do my thing, I pass it off to you, I kind of don’t know what you do. So this is that moment where we say, “All right, let’s really listen to each other, interview each other, and understand what do you do, and what’s painful about what you do?” I get this and I actually have to clean it up because it’s not in the right format. It’s like, well, we didn’t know that. What is the right format?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. That’s the D part. Go on with the M.

Elisabeth Swan: Great. So one of the thing you’re asking is how long does it take you to do this, the actual work of this process? You’re trying to start building measurements. You’re trying to understand what’s the work time involved here? And what’s the wait time? One big discovery is how little time is spent actually doing something of value, and how much time is spent waiting for information, waiting for someone else to give you stuff. So those measurements help you understand where is the waste?

Elisabeth Swan: Or another thing you’re measuring is how often do I have to redo it? Redos are defects, and that’s the Six Sigma side of the house, looking at how do we reduce that? How do we prevent those mistakes from happening? The measure phase is base lining how long does this take from the moment I get the application from somebody who is … Or say a manager wants to hire someone. So the moment they open a position to the moment that person is hired, what is that lead time and what’s going on? What’s the work involved and what’s the wait involved?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah, and we’ll talk about probably an onboarding example in a little bit because there’s probably a lot of that in there, a lot of waste and waiting, right?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And then what’s the A?

Elisabeth Swan: A is analyze. These things are done in seemingly linear fashion. Define it, measure it, analyze it, but you’re also … You might be analyzing all along the way. You started measuring in define right to get your baseline. You’re now taking stock of okay, in the process walk, we discovered all these pain points where people were waiting, where people were redoing things. Now we’ve got all this measurement we took in the measure phase. We’ve got data, so let’s look at this data and say, “What is it telling us? Where is most of the rework happening? Where’s most of the wait time? Well looks like we send this off to a supervisor for approval, and it could be two weeks before we hear back because they’re out in the field and they don’t have time. So we waited two weeks for that to happen,” and then we ask well how often does the supervisor say no? How often is that approval denied? And they’ll say, “Oh never. Yeah no it’s really just to let him know.” We say, “Well maybe we just turn that around and say okay we can let him know and then move on and don’t wait the two weeks.” Those are the discoveries you’re looking for with both your data and your process.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Is there another simple solution that you’ve discovered or found organizations discover? That’s a really good example of well we’re waiting for approval, but do they never not approve it? And the answer is no. Well then just move on. Is there another good example that sticks out to you of just cutting down or eliminating that waiting period?

Elisabeth Swan: You mean example like the approvals that you don’t really need?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah exactly.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a constant. And also here’s another one. We had this is a hospital. This was a mobile device team, and their job was to set up a mobile device for everyone who was hired. If you think about it, that’s critical. You need people to be able to communicate, doctors, nurses, it’s a big deal. It was taking weeks for people to get their devices. We’re trying to understand what’s the big deal there.

Elisabeth Swan: One of the discoveries, and this we come up with a lot, is that the form said they had to get a VP’s approval on top of their supervisor’s approval. They said, “Well we don’t really need that anymore, but it takes too long to change forms. There’s a form department. You have to submit the change you want to make and that just takes months and months, so we haven’t bothered with that.” But then people are still chasing around, trying to find VPs. This was Alberta, so this was massive territory. It was lots of people, far flung hospital systems.

Elisabeth Swan: They finally got down to okay let’s change the form and pull that signature line off so that that doesn’t … But the other one was also the same thing. Supervisors never said no, so they turned it into we’ll call it opt out. That’s another good technique people use and say you’re … Just so you know, this employee has just applied for an iPhone and if you have a problem with that, let us know. Otherwise, we’re moving on.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. You’re eliminating these bottlenecks. It’s funny, because the hurdle they didn’t even want … It just stayed there because it was too much of a hurdle to even eliminate that step.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. They looked at it and went, “Ugh. As soon as you say the word forms, forget it. We’re not even dealing with it.” It’s like forms are driving whole processes, which is crazy. Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Wow. So check your forms. What can you eliminate, I guess? So anything else on analyze before we get to the I?

Elisabeth Swan: Analyze is a place where depending on the corporate culture or the organizational culture, you can get stuck in analysis paralysis and sort of keep looking at data and keep digging, or you have a culture that is just do it. They might say, “Well we discovered this. Here’s a fix,” without really verifying that’s a problem. One of the things you’ve got to do is verify. Is this truly the root cause of this issue? And feel solid about that before you move onto developing your improvements.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. And so, the I.

Elisabeth Swan: So the I is the fun part. That’s where people want to go as soon as they start in the define phase.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: They’re like, “Let’s skip everything. Give me the improvement.”

Elisabeth Swan: Let’s just fix it. That’s kind of another shift in problem solving mentality that happens when you learn Lean Six Sigma is to do your homework so that you don’t have to do it twice. If you jump right to improve, and you do the thing you think would fix it, you’re often … Well first of all, you’re spending time. The odds of it working aren’t good, and then you have to go do it again. You could make things worse. Getting that discipline amongst folks to really do that, that digging, and the process walk is so great for that because that’s when people make the discoveries and form relationships with other people that they hadn’t really talked to that much. Then their horizons are broadened. They realize oh it isn’t just this is the problem. Actually, it goes deeper than that. They start to broaden the way they look at things, which is what you want.

Elisabeth Swan: By the time you get to improve, you should have really been expansive with who you spoke with, what you studied, what you poked at, and so that when you come to creating countermeasures to address those root causes, they’re going to be solid. They’re going to fix the process once and for all.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Can you, Elisabeth, expand on so I’m sure there’s a lot of like you said people just want to jump right to improvement. Can you talk about an example of someone, the mistake that occurred, or the errors that occurred when someone jumped right to improvement instead of going through the proper steps?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. Oh god, we just had a lot of these. We also teach at UC San Diego, so we have people doing online green belt, and then they have a discussion board. We’ll ask them what was unintended consequence of an improvement that someone just jumped right to it?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right, because I could see myself doing that for sure, being like, “Okay well I think this will solve it,” and not going through those steps.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. There’s one I just was listening to. They eliminated … I think it was a sales position, and they ended up giving the steps to non sales people because it was obvious they had too many people doing the process, so they said, “We’ll just make it easy. We’ll fix it, by giving the job to these non-sales folks,” but the non-sales folks were not being measured the same way the sales folks were measured. They just weren’t following through. There was nothing counting-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There was no motivation, as different motivations.

Elisabeth Swan: No. A lot of times if you jump to a solution, you’re not looking at the unintended consequences. What are the repercussions of doing this?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s good. Thank you for clarifying that. If there’s anything else on improvement, if not, [inaudible 00:20:46]-

Elisabeth Swan: So improve again you’re … And you may have been finding what we call quick wins along the way that you don’t have to wait all the way until you get to the improve phase to say, “Well we can stop reviewing this twice. That clearly isn’t providing any value, so let’s stop that now,” but now you want to … You also may have something that you need to pilot. Especially in hospitals and places where there’s a higher risk for if you change a process, what could be the repercussions? So we’ll do things like walk throughs. Okay, if we’re now going to remove these pieces of information from a form, how does that impact the patient? Let’s do a walk through. Let’s get a nurse. Let’s get someone to stand in for the patient. Let’s get somebody from intake. Let’s walk this process and see how exactly does it work? And then you’ll start to realize as you walk through like oh we hadn’t thought about what if they had a question here? Okay so we have to add that information. Or oh but the patient won’t know this. Well maybe we can put a white board. We can put that on the white board. Okay, great. So you walk through so you can see what are all the permutations that will happen now that we have changed this process.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah, I like that, because someone … An objection may be like well there’s a lot of bureaucracy. This would be impossible to do. But there’s ways to do it without fully changing something. There’s modifications to those changes, I guess.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah and like you just said, you’re up against bureaucracy. So if you pull other people from different departments into help you walk it through to see how’s this going to work, you also have now included them in the solution. They are now part of it. They are helping you problem solve. They’re helping you think about any unintended consequences, and they own it now. They care. They want to see you and the process succeed, and that is huge.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I mean one of the things when I was looking through case studies about Go Lean Six Sigma, what stuck out to me was the bureaucratic organizations you work with. I’m like, “Wow, if they could deal with these organizations, anyone can deal with them,” because you go across education, government, and healthcare non profits. I was like, “Okay, they deal with a lot of bureaucracy in general.”

Elisabeth Swan: They do. We do. And I think you raise a really good point about those institutions and bureaucracy, because if you think about government, if something goes wrong in a process, somebody gets sued, somebody has an accident, or approves something they shouldn’t have approved, what happens is we put in a layer of approval. We just keep adding and adding and adding, and those are all because of one thing. We don’t try to remove the source of it. We often just keep adding layers and layers and layers of approval. It takes longer and longer and longer, and then you get that classic reaction to oh my god I don’t want to do a government process because it’s going to be forever.

Elisabeth Swan: We’re trying to help them peel those layers away, but what’s amazing is it’s very possible. Governments everywhere, I was shocked at how many states are doing Lean Six Sigma. It is amazing, and what they’re able to do is impressive. I had the same attitude. I’m like, “Oh really? Government? This is going to be tortuous.”

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. What about the C?

Elisabeth Swan: C is control. It actually started without a C. It got added. But what people found was back to that excitement of improve, which we kind of want to just go there, man, immediately. But we also want to leave as soon as we’re done. Like oh, fixed, we’re out of here. That was awesome. We shortened that by months, and we reduced the defect rate to nothing. We are good.

Elisabeth Swan: And they walked away, and didn’t measure and keep an eye on the new process. What would happen was maybe old versions of the form came out, or people forgot that there was a new standard for doing this, so they reverted to the old standard. It’s like it comes down from the rafters, like entropy. Entropy is alive and well. You have to put monitoring steps in place so that you keep an eye on it and then you-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah, everything goes to disorder pretty much.

Elisabeth Swan: It does. Yeah. Second law of thermodynamics is alive and well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s the only thing I got out of my physics class in college, so I can this moment understanding what you just said.

Elisabeth Swan: It’s what we’re battling all the time.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. You know, I picture Elisabeth the control part, when you said, “Okay I’m done,” I picture a surgeon just did like a major surgery on someone, closes them up, and like, “Okay, send him home.” They do monitoring of is this person in a certain period of time, how are they going to react to the surgery, et cetera? It just made me laugh internally because it’s similar to someone just putting the improvement in place and then just stepping away and leaving.

Elisabeth Swan: See you. Good luck. Good luck with the new kidney.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Exactly. I hope it takes.

Elisabeth Swan: I hope it takes.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So let’s talk about a few examples. There’s one that sticks out to me, because if it can work for this, it can work for anything, but there’s a pothole repair example.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. That one was interesting because back to that idea of measuring, this is San Antonio, this is the city of San Antonio, and they basically had a process where if someone called and said, “There’s a pothole in this street,” and they put in a process and they responded. They thought they were doing it within, I’ve forgotten what the original timeframe was, but it was like realistic. But then they said, “Okay what was the satisfaction rate with how the city was doing?” And it was 38%. They thought, well how can that be? No, actually, I’ve just realized it’s 48 hours. They were repairing potholes in 48 hours of the request.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Seems pretty good.

Elisabeth Swan: I thought that was great. They were meeting that service level 98% of the time, so why did they have a 38% satisfaction rating? What they found was people felt like why are you waiting for us to call you and tell you there’s a pothole? Why aren’t you just fixing them when they happened?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Good point.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, so it was really more a shift in the attitude about who’s responsible for even seeing these things? So they shifted, and they said, “Okay, so we’re going to now become the monitors of our roads ourselves, and when we see a pothole, we are going to fix it immediately.” That was huge. They went and they fixed more. Before, they’re waiting for a report. So now you’re waiting for someone to say, “Hey there’s a pothole,” as opposed to what a lot of is do is we just like, “Wow this street’s getting bad. I worry about my chassis but I’m not calling the city.” Just think about your own behavior.

Elisabeth Swan: So when they started doing it themselves, they went from repairing 13,000 potholes in one year to repairing 75,000 potholes when they did this project. That’s 480%. On the one hand, it’s like, wow you guys got a lot of potholes. But also it means they probably had a lot fewer the year after, because some of these had been sitting around for a long time. So that’s 480% better, which is pretty good.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s great. Yeah, I mean in Chicago, you can dial … That makes me think of you can get graffiti removed in 24 hours. They’ll come out, they’ll remove it if you see it in an area, and you just dial a number. But it makes me think well are they even monitoring where it is and just going and fixing it or are they waiting for the calls?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. I think that was a big shift way back in New York was … What was it? Bill Bratton, when he was the police chief there, it went to what you’re describing. It was we’re not going to wait to hear about it. We’re going to be vigilant and the minute there’s one piece of graffiti, it’s gone.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Talk about UC San Diego. I mentioned saving 2000 hours a year.

Elisabeth Swan: Okay, so UC San Diego, we were looking at their onboarding process. The problem they were originally looking at is the hiring managers. It was taking a really long time to fill out all the forms. Once again, why does everything come back to a form?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: So they said that the median time, so that’s another way you can measure. You can measure average or you can measure the median, what’s in the middle, was seven days. But they said, “Well 25% of the process took 20 to 104 days,” so I think there’s a joke. What is it? The average age of a diaper wearer is 40 years old. Right? Clearly it’s infants and the aging, but so these middle numbers can hide often what’s really going on. Finding out that the-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s a good saying. I like that.

Elisabeth Swan: Well it just reminds you of you can really hide things with numbers. Yeah, okay we looked at the middle, but that didn’t really tell us what the worst case, and people were waiting a long time. They had they were hiring just … Looking at 184 email notifications per new hire. They had 40 managers to hire, and then you just start multiplying that. Just think about your own inbox. It’s like that’s just a lot of time spent going back and forth on emails.

Elisabeth Swan: So they were looking at another classic tool we use is a Fishbone diagram. That is looking at why things are … Why are we taking so long? Why is onboarding often taking up to 104 days? And people basically didn’t know what was happening in the onboarding workflow. They didn’t realize that there were 184 emails being generated. So that helped them come up with ways to educate folks on all the non value add steps that they were doing, like all the things that … Non value add is a really classic term in our world, where we really poke at things and say, “We’re doing this in the process now. Is it adding any value to the customer?” And that’s a very specific view of a process step.

Elisabeth Swan: What we find is people say, “We need to do that,” or, “I have to do that. I have to check that. Otherwise, it might be wrong.” And we’re saying, “Yeah, but why didn’t we find a way to make sure this wasn’t wrong in the first place?” Or, “Is that the only way we can do things, with 184 emails? Are we really adding value doing that?” So they ended up creating reference guide. Simply, once again, back to that process walk, you walk the process, you find out what it really needs, you find out what it doesn’t need, and then you document. Here’s the guide. Here’s how it works. This is what you should do, and then people can follow it, and they have confidence. Well here’s a guide. I can follow this. They dropped in terms of the money they were spending if you think about they … Just in pure labor hours, that was $50,000 in annual labor, and they saved 413 labor hours just in those removing the 184 emails per hire. They saved … Pre improvement, it was costing about $86,000 per employee, and then they dropped it down to 28,000.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Wow.

Elisabeth Swan: So just …

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s huge savings per employee.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. And a lot of it was just that understanding-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And it’s a better experience. You know?

Elisabeth Swan: Oh god yeah. Yeah. They’re not … Yeah, a lot of these are painful. That’s what we find out in the process walk. And they’re doing what they’re being told, and it’s evolved over years, but it’s painful. Answering all those emails, that’s painful.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You know, so first of all, Elisabeth, thank you. I have one last question. But I want to point people to go to and check out what they have, and I’ll just have you briefly tell people where they can kind of … I mean you have different things that they can engage in on your site, and the company, so I’ll have you talk about that for a second, and then we’ll finish it off with your all time favorite books. It could be related to Lean or Six Sigma, or both, and obviously people can check out the Problem Solver’s Toolkit which you’re the co-author of. Just start, Elisabeth, with where should people start on Go Lean Six Sigma and what other things do you have available there?

Elisabeth Swan: So it’s a great question. Where should they start? There’s actually the menu has start here. You asked me those questions right up front. What is Lean Six Sigma? And how does it work? And which is better, Lean or Six Sigma? Which training is right for me? There’s all these great sort of pages of really basic information like what is this? And we described it before. There’s lots of trainings and the belt levels basically are levels of information. You can get free hour-long white belt training, get free eight hour yellow belt training, or move on. Become a team lead with green belt, or really work to get stat skills with black belt.

Elisabeth Swan: There’s also different formats. All this is online. There’s also what we call flipped classroom training, and flipping the classroom means that whereas teachers used to be tasked with lecture, we’re saying, “Well the student can go learn that on their own online and ingest that technique and those concepts and take a few tests to sort of feel like they’ve mastered it,” and then let’s get together as a remote group and let’s talk through application. What does that mean in your world? What process are you defining that you’re going to work on? Flipped classroom or other forms of remote workshops with groups.

Elisabeth Swan: We also have membership subscriptions, so you can get access to the books, the guides. We have 100 plus templates. You can also get access to lots of single modules. Like what if you wanted to learn about the Fishbone diagram we just talked about? Or how to avoid unintended consequences? Or how to collect data? So if you just want to learn one specific thing, you can get membership and get access to probably … The membership is like 199 and the single modules themselves are worth over $600 already.

Elisabeth Swan: There’s also success stories. You’ve been asking about some great ones. You can look at those by industry to see what have other people done? And how did they do it? And what works? I think it is inspiring to see it happening in government and in education and also healthcare, but we have them all over the place. The last menu item is resources, where we have a super active blog. We have lots of … We write, we also have lots of colleagues who write about things like what I’m talking about today, the process walks, and different aspects of Lean Six Sigma. There’s webinars. Tracy and I do webinars every month, deep dive on topics. This month we’re going to be talking about the A3, which is a problem solving document, and how to coach how leaders can coach problem solvers using this and we’re going to talk about doing it remotely. Obviously really key for people to be able to do things remote right now. The templates are there, tools for organization, we have glossaries. Our whole sort of credo is to make this accessible. There can be kind of an aura of engineering or other language to this, and we just make it simple. It’s really just problem solving. It’s not that complicated. So we try to break things down. We’ve got glossaries, recommended books, and a podcast and things like that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Nice. So everyone check out, and so let’s run out with your favorite books of all time. Could be Lean related, Six Sigma, both, that people should check out.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. I go all over the place. I read so heavily. There’s a great one that I discovered a while back called the Checklist Manifesto. That is by Atul Gawande who was a surgeon. He basically talked about how making a checklist transformed the medical world, just having that checklist to say, “Has the surgeon done this? Has the nurse done this?”

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yes, yes.

Elisabeth Swan: Right?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yes I listened to that one. Yeah.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a game changer I find. He’s a lovely writer, so that was a great one, and it really spoke to me. He was documenting a process. That was a great one. There’s a great one out, the Coaching Habit of Michael Bungay Stanier, and he just wrote another one called the Advice Trap. That is about changing the way we interact and asking more questions as opposed to telling people more. Do more asking, do less telling. I call it the mix between inquiry and advocacy, and I think a lot of us get stuck in trying to explain things to people and sort of put ideas out there and try to get our points across, whereas we actually have a lot more impact if we ask and lead by inquiry. That changed a lot of the way I operate and so there’s the original, the Coaching Habit, new one out now called the Advice Trap.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Nice.

Elisabeth Swan: Those are two. And then there’s some classics, the Toyota Way was just a game changer and great to read, oh god …

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah, what else do you consider classics? I remember listening to the Toyota Way in audiobooks in my car. People don’t even know what cassette tapes are probably if you’re listening to this, but any other classics people should check out?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, the Toyota Way is a classic. It’s a series now, so there’s the Toyota Way for service excellence, and that one I love because as I said you know you came from manufacturing but really now the bulk of process improvement is being done in the service industry, so I love that one. There’s Learning to See. That’s a classic about another guy who was John Shook who was at Toyota in the early years, and how to use again that A3 to understand processes. That’s the classic. Let’s see. What are some other classics? Goodness. I’m just looking on my list. The Engagement Equation, these are two consultants who worked there as kids, like really when they were 19 years old, at the first Toyota plant in Kentucky, and so it was when Toyota brought their methods and their culture to the US.

Elisabeth Swan: There’s a big question of well how’s that going to work? So the people had to rotate back and forth between the US and Japan, and understand how does this work? Because the culture is one of no blame. You want to surface problems, and if you’ve been raised in a culture where what you’ve been told by your boss is don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions, then you may not be in the habit of mentioning when things are wrong, and the culture there is you have to say when things are going wrong. That’s your job is to point out problems. That’s a real shift, and that’s not … People aren’t comfortable with it, especially if they are fearing punitive action for pointing out things that are wrong. That one I think really brought home to me what that meant to how do you bring those cultural pieces? How do you work towards that?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Nice. Well Elisabeth, I want to be the first one to thank you. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and breaking everything down so thoroughly. Really appreciate it. Everyone can check out Also check out SweetProcess if you want to document all your repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time and your team’s time so you can focus on growing. You can plug that into the DMAIC, the whole methodology as well. So thank you, and have a wonderful, wonderful day.

Elisabeth Swan: Thank you Jeremy. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown podcast. Before you go, quick question: do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to Sweet like candy, and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk free 14 day trial.

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