NH Lean Black Belts Reflect on Achievements and Lessons Learned from Lean

June 21, 2018

by UNH IT Staff

(L-R) Amy Maltagliati, Lean trainer Dag Vlahos, and Dan McCleod

On Friday, June 1, Amy Maltagliati from Granite State College and Dan McCleod from UNH Professional Development and Training both obtained their Lean Black Belts from the State of New Hampshire. Both Amy and Dan engaged the long road to their achievements by first taking the UNH Intro to Lean Class, moving through the Yellow Belt Training, and receiving their Green Belt certifications through the lens of facilitators over various UNH projects.

Lean is an approach to running an organization or process with a focus on continuous improvements and innovative ideas that create great results. At UNH, the UNH IT Project Management Office (PMO) Lean Team offers tools, training, mentoring and a host of services to support University objectives and successes.

UNH Signals: IT News recently sat down with Amy and Dan to discuss their achievements, and what it means to be a certified Black Belt.

Signals: How long have you been involved with Lean?

Amy: I took my first Lean class about two years ago.

Dan: I have been involved with Lean for about 2 years now.

Signals: What was your prior knowledge before you took training classes?

Amy: My brother uses Lean in his job, so I was somewhat familiar with what Lean was prior to it being introduced to GSC.

Dan: I had been exposed to Lean and constant improvement concepts from my time in manufacturing and Okinawan martial arts but had little formal knowledge until my training with UNH.

Signals: What is an example you’ve seen at your institution where Lean has benefited a project?

Amy: Within our department, we have been able to make small incremental changes for things as simple as automating tasks so they aren’t manually populated, to improvements as complicated, full departmental realignments. Having input from those that do these tasks every day is vital to us getting to the best result. This is one of the reasons why I love Lean so much- it allows everyone to have a voice that is heard and respected. 

Dan: I have seen Lean benefit large projects like the UNH mail room redesign and small day to day department processes like PD&T customer communication workflows.

Signals: During this process, you both had capstone projects. Please describe your projects and how they benefited from Lean.

Amy: My capstone project was on building Lean culture during a time of realignment, so I focused a lot on the Shingo model, especially the cultural enabler dimension. During this time of change, it was paramount that my staff had input in the new model as we were creating. Their guidance, contribution, and feedback were instrumental to us getting to where we are today. Without Lean, I know we never would have made the improvements we did and I credit their commitment to our students and our mission for putting the work in to get us here.

Dan: The project I worked on for my black belt class was to improve the intake process of bringing users onto the Destiny One Platform. This platform will be replacing the Events Management System (EMS) at UNH. Lean methodologies helped create a more streamlined intake process that allows us to intake more groups in parallel than before. This process will allow us to bring the University onboard by July 1, 2019.

Signals: Why did you choose to pursue Lean Black Belt?

Amy: As someone who is always yearning to find ways to improve and reduce waste, I thought it would be a tremendous benefit to my department and to me professionally to continue to develop my Lean skills and knowledge. 

Dan: I enjoy it. I have always taken to a mindset of continual improvement and I wanted to learn more ways I could help myself, my team and our organization improve.

Signals: What did you get out of the class?

Amy: I think one of the biggest things I got from the class was the opportunity to learn more about how others use Lean. Lean in higher education is fairly new, especially for us at GSC, so it was nice to listen and observe what is working well in other sectors of the state.  

Dan: I have a better understanding of Lean structure and framework and it exposed me to new tools that can be used to help an organization. It inspired interest in learning more about root cause analysis.

Signals: What does it mean to be a Black Belt?

Amy: I think being a Black Belt represents two things. First, I think it shows your ability to not only do Lean, and facilitate Lean, but also integrate Lean into everything that you are part of. Many times Lean is seen as an event with a start and end. Being a Black Belt, there is no turning it on or off, the lens in which you look at things is forever changed by your ability to see improvements and decrease waste for the betterment of your customer and company. 

To me, the second aspect of being a Black Belt is the need to be strategic about how to use Lean and how Lean can benefit your customer the most. For me, it means being able to look at things both granularly and also globally while making sure that the sum of all the parts creates a larger impact than them all individually.

Dan: Black belt, like in traditional Okinawan martial arts, is simply a mastering of the basics. It is the first step to really understand the Lean mindset and developing your own style within the framework.

For more information on Lean at UNH, go to http://unh.edu/lean


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