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The Lean Six Sigma (LSS) program recently added 23 green belt civilian and military practitioners at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).

"The Lean Six Sigma Program is integral to everything we do at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center," said Rear Adm. Alton Stocks, commander WRNMMC. "It is undeniable our use of Lean Six Sigma contributed to our recent successes with the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) integration and Joint Commission survey. We will continue to call upon these talented practitioners to assist our clinical and administrative leadership in continuous survey readiness. We are committed to using these methods to further enhance our practices throughout the medical center. These cross-functional teams working 'together' to solve issues have unified two extraordinary medical centers. This commitment from the staff has propelled us towards the organizational goals at Walter Reed Bethesda," said Stocks.

The LSS program office frequently hosts on-site green belt and black belt courses, targeted at military and government service civilians. The training provides an introduction to a broad range of basic principles, practices, tools and business models that personnel can apply to identify and implement efficiencies throughout the medical center. The courses cover Lean and Six Sigma to establish greater awareness of the respective concepts together.

“Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two different theories and methodologies," said Lt. John Gardner, national capital region program director. "Lean is focused primarily on reduction of waste, while Six Sigma is focused on the reduction in variance. For example, when dealing with variance, a person might get pathology reports in one day and the next time it may take six days. By reducing the variance, you are able to help achieve consistent cycle times. The lean techniques identify how each step in the process adds value to the production of pathology reports while clearly identifying those steps that do not."

The green belt course is five days and will be offered three more times this year. The next course will be June 11-15, with the remaining classes taking place Aug. 6-10 and Nov. 5-9. The black belt course is 15 consecutive days and will be offered June 11-25. This course is offered to practicing green belts that are prepared to tackle the additional analytics and statistical analysis.

At WRNMMC, there are currently 15 black belt and 104 green belt officers. The training goal this year is to add at least 80 more green belts and 15 black belts to help the command meet the challenges faced every day. "Over the past three years, we have successfully completed projects in every directorate and touched almost every aspect of service within the hospital," said Brian McCormack, chief performance improvement officer for the National Capital Region at WRNMMC. "We have a diverse team that comes together to solve a problem that no single group could resolve on their own. I am very proud of everyone involved when a robust multi-discipline solution is implemented that meets the objectives and things are put in place that ensures these gains are sustained."

McCormack, a senior master black belt, said a typical day consists of meeting with process owners to define the problems that have been identified, obtaining sponsor commitments to the teams, helping the green belts or black belts creating agendas and prepare for their meetings, and participating in the teams as a mentor for the belts.

"After more than 25 years of implementing quality management systems for some of the largest for profit and non-profit healthcare organizations in the country, I am honored to be working at the military medical center implementing a program that contributes to the delivery of high quality care for all those who depend on us. LSS is creating value, one project at a time," he said.

Eligibility requirements for the course include a commanding officer recommendation, completion of the Lean Six Sigma "white belt" introductory course and completion of the introduction to statistics found online at Navy Knowledge Online (NKO).

To sign up for the next class, contact Gardner at 301-295-2037.