Process Improvement to Improve Your Life

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of

Sunday afternoon, as I sat at my kitchen table drinking tea and flipping through the Sunday Washington Post, I came across an article about using process improvement principles in everyday life.  Aha!  My first thought was that I need to share this article with Nicole, followed immediately by another thought – I really need to share this with the students in our HON 300/ISAT 680 process improvement class!

I’m not sure of the exact date when Nicole and I hatched the idea of a process improvement course.  Since we both arrived at JMU in the fall of 2009, we have had numerous conversations about all the cool things we would love to share with students about quality and process improvement.  Those conversations inspire me, and honestly, sometimes they leave me feeling a little overwhelmed.

Whenever it was that we hatched the idea of this course, I definitely had some concerns about the reality of fitting a process improvement project into the time limitations of a single semester.  My concerns were heightened when we decided to structure the course using the DMAIC approach.  All the Six Sigma projects I led as a Black Belt certainly took longer than the approximately 15 weeks allowed for a semester, and I was a full-time Black Belt who (supposedly) knew what I was doing!

Wouldn’t the data collection and analysis overwhelm our students?  Shouldn’t we require some background in statistics as a prerequisite for enrollment in the course?  How would the relationships work with our clients?  Would the students really be able to deliver results in one semester?

Yet here we are, in early February with four outstanding project teams that are quickly moving into the Measure phase.  What’s all that got to do with the Post article?

Process improvement doesn’t have to require mountains of data and highly sophisticated statistical analysis.  The basic principles of process improvement can be used to effect change by anyone, and in almost any situation.  That is really what our course is all about, and the Post article just provided an example we can all relate to.  Who doesn’t wish for more time in their day?

I think we have an outstanding group of students enrolled in our course.  Nicole and I want them to learn, understand, and apply process improvement principles, but not just within the confines of this specific course.  The continuous pursuit of improvement is a lifestyle, and today I was reminded of just how true that can be.

Rebecca Simmons

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