Year in Review
Author: Russ Aikman
Posted: December 2020
By tradition, we have reserved our December blog for a look back at the past year. And what a year 2020 has been, unlike any in my experience. From natural disasters – including record-setting hurricanes, storms, and wildfires – to civil unrest to a tough election season. Most challenging has been the impact of the pandemic, starting in March and ongoing to this day.
First, I’d like to thank our customers for another great year. Despite the many challenges noted above you found ways to be successful. Special thanks to the students who showed their flexibility and resilience back in the spring when we had to switch from in-person to online classes. The hard work and ‘can do’ spirit of this group allowed them to persevere during difficult times. The old adage ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do’ rings true.
We got the year off to a good start in January with our 4th Annual LSS Champion Roundtable. Speakers included Joel Smith (Keurig Dr Pepper), Kristine Bradley (Firefly Consulting), Steve White (University of Texas at Dallas), Kurt Middelkoop (TMAC), and an executive panel made up of Tom Sanderson (Transplace), Will McDade (Interstate Batteries), and Chris Lawson (Exactus).
February was our busiest month as we kicked off four new Lean Six Sigma classes, starting with a LSS Black Belt course in Arlington. My colleague Alberto Yanez and I taught this course which had 13 students from nine different companies. We also had a LSS Green Belt course which started that month. That class had 10 students from eight firms and was taught by Diana Martinez and Chris Meeks. Another class launched this month was a dedicated GB class for Oncor. It was taught by Diana Martinez and Satya Kudapa. Finally, we kicked off a Master Black Belt course. Notably, two of the students were based outside the US – one in Brazil, the other in Russia. I always enjoy teaching the MBB class with our partners at Firefly Consulting, Kimberly Watson-Hemphill and Chuck Cox.
The month of March started normally, with week two of training for the BB and MBB classes at our facility in Arlington. Late that month I was planning to make a presentation at the Annual Lean and Six Sigma World Conference in Orlando. But the news about the coronavirus kept getting worse as the month wore on. As you would expect, the conference was canceled and The University of Texas at Arlington – where TMAC is based – shut down all in-person classes. TMAC staff and LSS students made the switch to online training starting the week of MAR 23-27. Special recognition to Chris Meeks, Diana Martinez, and Eduardo Amezcua for their hard work in leading the effort on this transition.
By early April we had completed both of the Green Belt classes. Later that month we wrapped up the Master Black Belt course. I was amazed at how well the MS Teams software worked for LSS students based all over the USA, and even our two MBB students who were in Russia and Brazil.
In May we finished the Black Belt class which had started back in February. That group of students got to experience two weeks of in-person classes, followed by two more weeks of online classes. Their hard work and flexibility were impressive throughout the course. Special recognition to my colleagues Alberto Yanez and Eduardo Amezcua for helping make this class a success.
Eduardo led our efforts on a relatively new feature for our online classes: The Mentimeter (or Menti, for short). Instead of our usual morning review sessions we switched to Menti which added an element of fun and competition. Although we had used the Menti software on a trial basis in the past, the online format pushed us to use it more broadly. Based on student feedback, this is one feature we plan to keep going forward.
Also in May we launched a Summer LSS Black Belt course. This was TMAC’s first all-online Lean Six Sigma class and it required reworking several exercises and simulations. Once again, our students were flexible and adapted to this format.
During the month of June our TMAC colleagues in Houston began an online LSS Green Belt course for Ball Metal Beverage Packaging. This class was taught by Esteban Pedraza and Monica Cortez. They also provided project coaching to those GBs. In addition, Esteban and Monica recently taught three White Belt workshops for Drager, Inc.
September was another busy month, with two different online LSS Green Belt classes. One was an open enrollment class, taught by Chris and Diana. Another was a dedicated class for Oncor, taught by Diana and Satya. These were our first fully online GB classes.
A little internal news: In August we taught a Green Belt Train-the-Trainer course for TMAC staff at offices around the state. The goal is to begin offering GB training locally at TMAC offices in other parts of Texas. This class was taught by Alberto, Diana and Chris. Secondly, TMAC Special Events Coordinator Rebecca Holmes completed LSS Green Belt training this fall. Rebecca has been with TMAC for about a year and does a great job coordinating our classes from marketing to registration to ordering training materials and handling catering.
One area where TMAC has remained busy throughout the year is in providing coaching to LSS Green Belts and Black Belts. We have provided hundreds of hours of coaching to dozens of GBs and BBs since January. The majority of those receiving coaching were belts at either Oncor or Knauf Insulation. The individuals who’ve done the most coaching work this year are Diana Martinez, Alberto Yanez, and Satya Kudapa.
I would also like to recognize two other TMAC staff: Yesenia Zamora and Cheryl Rybka who lead our marketing efforts. Along with Rebecca Holmes, this team handles everything from updating our website to assisting with registration to coordinating events. Their support behind the scenes is key to our success.
Looking forward to 2021, we expect to have two other TMAC staff take a more prominent role in teaching and coaching for Lean Six Sigma: Mike Boyte and Eduardo Amezcua. Both are experienced practitioners, and have already been assisting with coaching and training this year.
Special recognition to all the belts who completed their requirements for certification in 2020. These individuals found a way to complete their project work despite the many challenges they faced. Total certifications for the year were 27 Green Belts (aggregate financial impact of $2.8M), 18 Black Belts (financial impact of $3.1M), and 2 Master Black Belts. At the bottom of this email is the list of certifications for the second half of the year.
Finally, I would like to again thank each of our customers. Everyone at TMAC appreciates your support, guidance, and insight. Without our customers TMAC would not exist. We know your hard work and commitment to excellence make the results achieved possible.
At times like this I reflect on the many GBs, BBs, and MBBs that TMAC has worked with who have solved major business problems in 2020. I am reminded of the most important skill identified for successful belts in a survey of LSS companies: The ability to overcome obstacles. That is key to success in business – and in life.
All of us at TMAC wish you Happy Holidays, and much success in the New Year!
More about Russ Aikman:
Russ is the LSS Program Manager at TMAC, and started the program in 2003. He is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 30 years of experience working in a wide variety of industries, and with small firms up to Fortune 500 companies. He has taught dozens of LSS classes from Yellow Belt up to Master Black Belt. He has also coached hundreds of LSS practitioners on their projects and advised managers on their LSS program. Before joining TMAC he worked at George Group, the first firm to integrate Lean and Six Sigma.