Process Palooza: Learning to Do More with Less Using Principles of Lean Six Sigma

By Jennifer White

These days, everyone is asked to do more with less. Finding a way that both inspires and provides results was the focus of a recent UC San Diego event. Dubbed Process Palooza, UC San Diego staff and faculty recently attended a first of its kind conference and competition that showcased the practice and benefits of process improvement using Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology with the hopes of bolstering the practice throughout campus.

Dr. Elizabeth Simmons, UC San Diego’s new executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, kicked off the event, explaining how important process improvement was to UC San Diego’s ongoing success – especially as the university moves forward with its ambitious plans for growth.

“With all the construction and expansion going on, this is the perfect time to think about how we can improve our business processes,” she said.

Simmons, who is a particle physicist, also likened her field with that of process improvement because both require observation and inquiry into why things happen the way they do. She said it is critical to ask questions about how and why things are done a certain way to encourage innovation and improvement.

“This is one way we embrace the non-tradition of UC San Diego,” Simmons said.

Already, staff in various departments throughout the university are using Lean Six Sigma after going through the either the green or black belt training provided by UC San Diego Extension. Lean Six Sigma has three tiers of training: yellow belt, green belt and black belt. Each tier offers more in-depth analysis and the ability to save an organization an increasing amount of money.

The goal of the Nov. 8 event was to strengthen that community of peers steeped in Lean Six Sigma’s ways as well as encourage more employees to incorporate process improvement into their job. To that end, more than 400 UC San Diego employees signed up to check out booths about the program and learn first-hand from their colleagues about how process improvement can save money, streamline operations and improve service.

Hugo Villar, associate dean for professional and continuing education at UC San Diego Extension, said the event and the Lean Six Sigma program was making big differences at the university.

“When we started the LSS program, we didn’t know the demand was so high. So far, we have trained over 100 UC San Diego employees who have saved tens of millions of dollars for the university,” said Villar. “We want to bring awareness that people are devoting three months of their time to make improvements and bring huge savings to campus.”

The real star of the Process Palooza, however, was the competition between six teams who were tasked with tackling two real campus issues. The teams, which had colorful names like Orange is the New Black Belt and Lean Green Machine, used Lean Six Sigma’s methodology to come up with a plan to improve either the parking and commuting application process for new employees or the Associated Students employee travel request process.

All participants in the competition had to already have received either a yellow, green or black Lean Six Sigma certification and were given just a few hours to come up with a realistic solution with tangible results.

Paul Krueger, a project manager for IT Services and a member of the winning team, Turquoise Top Guns, saved his department $100,000, with their work on improving the process for new hires signing up for parking and commuter options, said he was impressed by the day.

“We are all about Lean Six Sigma and process improvement in my department and it is great to try and empower every department and every person throughout the university to find new ways to help,” he said.

Tracy O’Rourke, a green belt instructor for UC San Diego Extension (who also emceed the event along with fellow instructor Ric Van Der Linden), said she is thrilled that the university sees the value of process improvement.

 “UC San Diego is practicing what they are learning, and continue to send employees through the Lean Six Sigma program,” she said.

Mojgan Amini, director of Process Management & Continuous Improvement, and her team spearheaded the event in collaboration with UC San Diego Extension. Other partners who helped put on the event included the Associated Students Administration, Business Excellence-Community Practice, UC San Diego Health Information Systems and the office of the Vice Chancellor-Academic Affairs. Sponsors included the Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives, Resource Management & Planning, Lyft and SAP who contributed generous prizes for the raffle and competition winners.

To learn more about Lean Six Sigma, explore our website or contact Angela Cook at or (858) 534-8133.


UC San Diego Extension
Pavan Luk, that's amazing! We love to hear stories like that. Thank you so much for sharing yours.
9/1/2020 4:30:15 PM

Pavan Luk
The most awesome Lean 6Sigma alumnus group I've interacted with and learned from.

I'd been doing lean and six sigma driven projects for almost 20 yrs before I got a formal credential from UCSD.
Tracey said $40k savings to qualify and advance to Black Belt.
So I overdid it and increased throughput revenue by $40k/day, instead of just one project with $40k savings. Still not enough time to come back and get my BB...some time soon though.
9/1/2020 3:03:10 PM

Samara Tauber
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course was the best educational Investment to date. Thank you UCSD Extension, Ric and Angela!
11/19/2017 1:07:38 PM

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