Getting Lean: SON Teams Work to Make the SON Work Better

You may have seen it up there on Carrington’s fifth floor conference room — a pink sign guarding the door: “DO NOT ENTER. Lean Work Groups at work.”

If, like me, you haven’t encountered “Lean” before, you might reasonably imagine the room is playing host to a much-needed support group for recently carb-deprived colleagues. It isn’t.What is going on in that room is a lot of dedicated work by staff and faculty to make the SON run better and smarter.

How so? Read on for a quick primer on the School of Nursing’s Lean Initiative.

What is the Lean Initiative and what is it intended to do for the SON?

As the School of Nursing uses it, “Lean” is shorthand for a methodology called “Lean Six Sigma” which is used by institutions like the SON to streamline processes and eliminate waste in operations and administrative structures. The approach relies on teams who are specially trained in Lean Six Sigma principles to work together to analyze current processes and outline improvements.

Boil it down and the SON’s Lean Initiative is intended to improve the way we work by:

  1. developing and training teams in Lean Six Sigma principles and
  2. having those teams take a hard look at our current processes, break them down into components for analysis, and then build them back smarter, leaner, faster, better.

How did Lean get started at the SON?

The School of Nursing instituted the Lean Initiative a few years ago with the opportunity to train through UNC Health Care’s Office of Operational Efficiency.

Who at the SON is involved in Lean?

Various SON staff and faculty have volunteered to undergo different levels of Lean training, which graduate through colored belts a la karate (Yellow Belts receive basic training to understand, recommend and assist with improvement projects; Purple Belts receive further Lean training and fully participate in improvement projects; Blue Belts are leaders who can sponsor projects, and so on). Once trained, the staff and faculty participate on a team devoted to addressing a specific process.

So far, the following SON staff and faculty have received training and are currently serving on project teams together:


Darlene Baker
Amy Burdette
Carol Durham
Arian Gerstel
La-Tressa Lane
Greg Workman


Cheryl Blake
Sam Deal
Coretta Jenerette
Jessica Lambert-Ward
Solomon Valentine
Jia-Rong Wu


Jan Blue
Joe DiConcilio
Karen Echols
Jill Fuller
Carlee Merritt
Anita Tesh

What processes are the teams working on?

The first of the SON’s Lean Teams to be trained and formed (Track 13) has been working on improving our process for Clinical Site Placements. Their work is nearly done and will be implemented shortly. The Track 29 team is working on our Clinical Faculty Hiring Process, while Track 30 is working to improve our on-boarding process for new SHRA employees relative to IT.

How can I get involved?

There are a number of ways to participate in the Lean Initiative.

  1. With the support of your supervisor, you can volunteer for training to serve on either of the upcoming tracks:
    1. Track 35 — Purple Belt team of six. (Please note there are mandatory training dates of 9/19/16 (yellow), 9/20/16, 10/12/16, and 11/10/16 with project work to be completed following training.)
    2. Track 37 — Purple Belt team of six. (Please note there are mandatory training dates of 11/7/16 (yellow), 11/8/16, 12/14/16 and 1/27/17 with project work to be completed following training.)
  2. If you are a supervisor, you can encourage staff to participate and support their efforts.
  3. If you are contacted by a Lean Team for information on a process they are working on, respond promptly and thoroughly to their requests for information or assistance.

I have questions, who should I talk to?

Please contact Lisa Miller with any questions you have about the Lean Initiative.