Debbie Curl-Nagy, Regional Director BPG Kentucky Office

Debbie Curl-Nagy, Regional Director BPG Kentucky Office

Continuous improvement driven by data analysis comes naturally to Debbie Curl-Nagy. Trained as a Social Worker, Debbie’s first exposure to Lean Six Sigma (LSS) was provided by General Electric in 2007.  Debbie was involved in STRIVE, a project focused on improving urban education from cradle-to career. General Electric partnered with STRIVE to develop and facilitate LSS training for the social sector.

Debbie’s career has evolved from Social Worker to business consultant, trainer, and coach.  In 2010 she earned her LSS Black Belt from the International Association Society for Six Sigma Certification and in 2019 her Master Black Belt from Breakthrough Performance Group.   Debbie and her husband run Marcus Management Consulting, providing assessment, consultation and training in the areas of workplace civility, continuous improvement and organizational development.  And, in late 2019, Debbie was named Regional Director  of BPG’s Kentucky office.

We asked Debbie :

WHAT SHE WANTS PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT LEAN SIX SIGMA

o   The most important part of Lean Six Sigma is the people part.   Improving processes and profits impacts the quality of life of people working on the front lines – in any field, not just manufacturing.

o   The most important tool in the Lean Six Sigma tool box is YOU. Your job as a Six Sigma leader is to help people look at things in a different way so solutions to problems can be achieved

o   Use data to help you test hypotheses and gain support for your recommendations

TO SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF LSS IMPACTING PEOPLE ON THE FRONT LINES — as well as customers.

Debbie was called in to help a hospital improve the coordination of care for oncology patients.  Two groups, Oncology and Hematology-Oncology, were involved in a Kaizen event*. The coordination issues that needed to be improved sometimes resulted in delays in treatments and included timeliness of tests and procedures

Before the project team could identify and address those issues, they had to stop blaming the other group for the service issues. To begin, Debbie employed some basic project management practices:  The team was allowed storming and norming time after ground rules (which included “no screaming or crying”) were established. Next, Debbie got the project team members to talk – and listen – to one another. That allowed them to see they shared the same goal: to improve the care of their patients – and to begin using LSS tools to solve the problems. That’s  what Debbie means when she says the most important tool in your LSS toolbox is “you.”

Within one week of that first meeting, the team experienced initial success and reported their outcomes — reduced time for certain test and plans for further reductions — to senior management.  The results were jointly reported by the two nurses who had been the most hostile at the start of the process. The managers were impressed with the improvement in care achieved by the team; they were moved to tears by the improvement in the relationship between the two groups.  That’s what Debbie means when she says the most important part of LSS is the people part.” 

TO SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF USING DATA ANALYSIS TO GAIN SUPPORT

While involved in the STRIVE project, Debbie worked with art educators who believed that art education improves performance in other subjects. To get funding for art programs, the educators needed to collect and analyze appropriate data to test their hypothesis.  Uncomfortable with the statistics involved in LSS, the educators collaborated with a volunteer GE Black Belt who performed regression analysis* on their data. The analysis showed a clear correlation between art education and improved performance in other subjects. As a result, the art education programs were better able to demonstrate their importance to schools and funders, allowing expansion of arts education programs that were at risk of being cut. The art educators were so excited by the results they started looking for other data they could collect and analyze to get funding for their subject.

HOW BPG STUDENTS CAN  LEVERAGE THEIR LSS TRAINING

  • If you are looking for work, seek out companies that respect their employees, retain them, and engage them in improving the organization.
  • If you are interviewing with (or working for) an organization that does not have a LSS program, focus on – and sell – the skills that you bring to the table as a Black Belt.  Don’t talk about DMAIC; talk about your systematic approach to problem solving! Respect and problem solving – what LSS is all about.

*Click here to read Debbie’s suggestions for leading a successful Kaizen event.

**Statistical method that allows you to examine the relationship between one or more independent variables on a dependent variable.