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Digital Excellence... A Conversation with the "Ladies Who Lean"

Posted June 29, 2020 by Yvette Branch, introduction by Gail Birks.

Recently, the "Ladies Who Lean", Yvette Branch and Gail Birks collaborated on putting Digital Excellence into the context of Lean Six Sigma Methodology.

So many believe that Lean Six Sigma is only for the industrial and/or Technical industries. But when I find myself in a conversation with Yvette, it brings technology into an entirely new perspective. The bottom line is that when managing solutions for Sustainable Success, there will typically be a digital component to it.

A recording of the conversation will be available in the near future so that you can "take it all in" in your leisure. But being the "Ladies Who Lean", we wanted to provide you with a summary of the conversation because we "lean" that way.


Digital Excellence in the context of Lean Six Sigma places the impetus is on finding technology to close gaps in performance. Lean Six Sigma is typically associated with process improvement. Lean is concerned with speed and the Six Sigma tenant is quality. Digital technology brings both speed and quality to the forefront. When speaking of digital technology, the concept that is widely used to represent internal Information Technology (IT) tools. Historically, there has been a tremendous focus on the “technology,” which inevitably brings about speed, as technology can process multiple actions in milliseconds. But most all leaders forget about the “I” in IT, which is the information we use to make critical decisions about the operations. In Lean Six Sigma, the information of data is the most critical element in solving problems. Data comes out of these systems to provide measures for any phenomenon that is in question. That data transforms to information so that practitioners can find root causes of problems. This article focuses on digital excellence on two fronts: looking for digital technology to identify trends in data as well as digital excellence to close gaps in processes. Inevitably, technology tools can be used in multiple realms to garner operational excellence. DIGITAL EXCELLENCE IN DATA ANALYSIS In Lean Six Sigma, tools like logistic regression, FMEA, CHAID analysis, CHISquared, neural networking and artificial intelligence are used to determine or predict the likelihood of events happening or occurring in the enterprise. In a manufacturing setting, data is used to determine whether compliance to specifications exist. This analysis can provide leaders with information to make decisions about behaviors of customers, financials, or the operations. Each of these tools are used based on the type of data elements (discrete or continuous) and the problem to solve. The goal is to simply identify trends and patterns in the data for leaders to make informed decisions. So, having digital tools is critical to the success of an organization because leaders are making decisions to ensure a going concern. DIGITAL EXCELLENCE IN PROCESS MANAGEMENT In the Lean Six Sigma, we utilize the DMAIC (Define- Measure- Analyze- Improve- Control) methodology. Specifically, during the Improve phase of the methodology, practitioners should identify opportunities to use technology tools to enhance processes. Tools can be inserted into the improved process to enhance speed and quality. This is particularly important when there are gaps in performance or hand-offs. With hand-offs, workflows are designed to reduce waiting periods between activities. Technology can eliminate the challenges organizations face when data, processes, or services transition between departments. We must also realize that many opportunities exist beyond the supply chain. Organizations’ responsibilities do not end after a sale transaction is completed. Ultimately, the company’s responsibility ceases at the end of the customer lifecycle. Resultantly, there is also a need for digital technology before the sale and after. The current trend before the sale is customer relationship management (CRM). These tools are phenomenal in capturing information about the potential relationship. The information helps Executives make decisions about products and services provided and their associated service delivery promise.

While many take advantage of CRM systems, a number of companies choose not to take advantage of digital technology after the sale or service. Healthcare is a prime example In Healthcare, after you leave the hospital, there are no tools or strategies in place to monitor the health of the patient. Acute care providers are never abreast of who might enter or re-enter the hospital or why. There are no front-end predictive models that determine what is happening in the communities the hospital serves. On the back end of the service, neither data or information exists about a patient or the community’s health status. So, providers are operating from a deficit from the onset.

The same is the case for Health Insurance providers, the prison reform system, and financial services companies. In a recent engagement with a banking firm that was a credit card servicer, the data was not used to understand the customer lifecycle. The servicer processes claims for credit card disputes. Although the process was well defined, the purpose was misunderstood. As such, the servicer’s purpose was to provide enough time for the merchant and the customer to manage the dispute before the servicer adjudicated the claim. The servicer missed the opportunity to use digital excellence tools to manage its processes effectively. Archaic tools prevent speedy adjudication and cost millions of dollars in the face of business growth.

The solution was to use logistic regression to score cases to manage losses. This tool would allow the servicer to prioritize cases by goodwill, likelihood of loss and likelihood of recovery. Again, the credit card servicer did not optimize the available technology to maximize operational performance.

There are also tools such as notification and alerts that will provide end to end lifecycle support for organizational success. In our healthcare example, partnering with a cable company that can deliver notifications to customers you have in common via commercials, is one way in which a hospital system could support care. Notifications and alerts may include reminders to take medicines or doctor’s appointments. They can be used to deliver notifications about discharge instructions. Although a hospital might not possess the communication capabilities, they can partner with other companies to deliver on their service delivery promise of improved health.


Amazon has raised the level of expectations for all. In an age when we know everything about our orders: when to expect it, when packed, when shipped and when delivered, the expectation is transferred to other parts of our lives. Healthcare institutions are expected to have more answers about a patient’s wellbeing. Credit card service providers are expected to handle disputes and other transactions expediently. Prisons are expected to reform prisoners, so they are integrated into society after rehabilitation. In every aspect of life, digital technology can help organizations meet their service delivery promise. Enterprises must think of customer engagement in terms of a lifecycle. The lifecycle must have a digital technology component throughout to impact the overall performance.

To "Explore the Obvious" with the Yvette and Gail, contact the Ladies Who Lean at 954-476-3525 or 404-964-4480. If you would like to connect via email,

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