Lean Six Sigma for Good
Lean Six Sigma for Good
Brion Hurley
Buy on Leanpub


I have mixed feelings about writing this book. I have almost 20 years of Lean and Six Sigma experience, but only 2 years as a volunteer with nonprofits. Although there are more qualified people who could deliver this message, there is an urgent need to get this message out into the world. I would have preferred to wait until I have many more years of volunteer experience under my belt, but it seems irresponsible for me to stay quiet.

My goal for this book is to motivate existing Lean, Six Sigma and continuous improvement practitioners to use their skills to help the greater good.

There are two ways I’d like to motivate you:

1) Help your current company get more engaged in addressing community, global and environmental issues. Your company needs to get involved in order to tackle some of these major problems (which we will discuss in Chapter 4). It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for their reputation, which is good for their bottom line!

2) Help you spend some of your free time (outside work) helping nonprofit organizations become more efficient, so they can have a bigger impact on their mission with their limited funds and resources.

The book is concise, and will not teach you anything technical about Lean or Six Sigma. There are numerous books and websites that do a good job of that (see Resources section at the back of the book).

If you don’t have a background in these skills, please continue to read. You have other skills and experience (project management, team building, facilitation, management, event planning, grant writing, teaching, etc.) that are useful in solving problems within your community. You might also become more interested in Lean or Six Sigma.

If you enjoy this book, please pass it along or share it with others!

I have setup a Facebook group to connect you with other readers, to learn how you can get inspired to get more involved in your community: https://www.facebook.com/LeanSixSigmaforGood/

Special thanks to friends and family who have given me feedback on this book: Diane Lahr, Kjell Van Zoen, Matt Horvat, Will Gray, Tate Hamann, Nick Novotny, Keun Lee, Rick Lahr, Rachael Woodley, Marcelo Pinto, Pat O’Connor, Tiff Cremer, Carl Zemanek, Andrea Hoffmeier, and Aaron Spearin.

Chapter 1 - Why Lean and Six Sigma?

Before you read this book from the beginning, you can skip to the heart of the book in Chapter 6 - How You Can Get Started

I accidentally fell into my job. I was good at math in high school, and I was forced to pick a major in college. After stuggling with computer science and biology, I went back to what was working, Statistics. Later I would realize that there was a need for this skill, and companies would pay me money! I feel fortunate that I landed in this career path almost by accident.

In the late 1990’s, Six Sigma was gaining momentum in industry, and coincidentally my skills would be even more in demand as I entered the workforce in 1999. I started working full-time at Rockwell Collins1, a large aerospace manufacturer near my hometown of Iowa City, Iowa. That’s where I picked up my knowledge in Lean principles, which is another popular approach to solving problems. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been trying to take the best of both approaches, and to apply the correct approach to whatever problem I was working on. Practicing these two approaches over many years has given me the confidence that I can solve any problem thrown at me. What an amazing feeling!

What makes the Lean and Six Sigma methodology effective is the structured ways in which problems are solved. There are many ways to solve problems, and most companies and organizations often solve these problems incorrectly. They are inconsistent in how they handle problems, with an incorrect focus on quick, short-term cost reductions to meet financial metrics. For publicly traded companies, they are even more incentivized to achieve short-term goals to align with quarterly and annual reports.

How companies solve problems can vary greatly, even from department to department. Some follow the Lean approach, while others embrace Six Sigma. Some create their own approach, while others do not use any formal methodology. It also depends on how committed they are to the approach. Some say they are using Lean or Six Sigma, but when you dig deeper, there usually isn’t much going on. Others make it the way they run their business, but don’t talk much about it. Bottom line, how a company solves problems should be assessed based solely on their actions, not what they say.

Going forward, if I refer to an organization using Lean Six Sigma, I’m assuming they are actually adopting and implementing the principles to the best of their abilities, not just using the tools on special occasions.

An organization that is fully implementing Lean and Six Sigma should be following a structured problem solving approach, and looking for the best long-term solution. The solution should maintain or increase employee and customer satisfaction. They should collect and analyze data to reduce waste and inefficiency, which will free them up to increase customer and stakeholder value. If a company uses Lean and Six Sigma to lay off employees, they are implementing it incorrectly, and this negatively impacts employee morale! No one will want to participate in future improvement work if they feel their job might be in jeopardy. There is usually plenty of work that needs to be done within an organization, so free time should be used to work on these other tasks. This should lead to more value for the customer, without adding additional people.

Let’s look at an example.

If an organization is looking to reduce health care costs for the bottom line of their company financials, and they follow the traditional cost cutting approach of solving problems, they might come up with the following quick, short-term solutions:

  • Increase co-pays to employees for physician visits.
  • Increase deductibles to employees for medical bills.
  • Decrease quality of services to employees.
  • Decrease number of places for employees to obtain services.
  • Decrease access to services for employees.
  • Use cheaper and less effective healthcare providers.
  • Use cheaper and less effective medications.

The typical organization might achieve their cost reductions in the short term with these solutions, but at what expense in the long term? The costs are shifted to the employee, and services are reduced, or the quality of care is degraded. Employees may decide to delay care, leading to higher costs overall, both to the employee and the company. The company may have achieved short-term cost reductions, but sacrificed employee satisfaction while increasing long-term costs. Employees will more likely leave the company, which will increase costs to re-hire and re-train new employees.

In contrast, a Lean Six Sigma organization should look for waste and inefficiency in the process, and will likely come up with the following analytical, long-term solutions:

  1. Identify the top drivers of health care costs by symptom or treatment.
  2. Investigate the root causes of the top drivers through analysis, experimentation, employee interviews, and observations.
  3. Change and improve the process and incentives for employees, to reduce long-term costs for the employee and the organization.
  4. Track and monitor costs to identify when changes occur in the future, to quickly identify health care cost increases.

The company might offer health screenings at work, subsidized gym memberships, incentives to bike to work, improved food in the cafeteria and snack machines, or even personal trainers for at-risk employees. The end result is that the organization will reduce long-term health care costs to the employee and the organization, while maintaining or improving the quality, access, and number of services available to the employees. A win-win for everyone!

They might take a little longer to get to their cost reduction goals, but the employee satisfaction will not degrade (and should improve, if done correctly). The long-term costs will be much lower, not only in health care expenses, but could reduce worker compensation issues, or reduce missed days due to injury or illness.

This is the reason why Lean Six Sigma has been so successful within some organizations, but has been rejected or abandoned at other organizations. It comes down to whether the organization leaders are looking for successful, long-term financials results, or simply using the tools to achieve short-term results, but potentially negative long-term results.

It’s easy to blame the organizations for this incorrect thinking, but many improvement practitioners act just like the companies they work for, making short-term decisions that impact their long-term success. They make decisions every day in their personal life that save them money in the short term, but end up costing them more money or stress in the long term. You might opt for the less expensive vehicle, but pay more in gasoline over the life of the vehicle. You might buy less expensive food, but have more health issues and costs in the future. You might take that job offer that pays more money, but leads to more stress and less free time with your family.

Key takeaway for Chapter 1: Are you focused on your short-term financials (your paycheck), or your long-term happiness and success?

In the next chapter, I will give you some ideas on how you can start to shift towards more rewarding work, using your process improvement skills.

Chapter 2 - Beyond Profits

A Lean Six Sigma approach works for almost any kind of problem, not just those within for-profit companies and organizations.

Did you know that nonprofit organizations and non governmental organizations (NGO) have documented the following successes using Lean and Six Sigma?

  • Toyota Production System Support Center helped decrease time to deliver food to Hurricane Sandy victims from 3 hours to 1.2 hours2
  • World Vision International helped decrease costs for mosquito nets and office supplies in East Africa by $100,0003
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton helped reduce volunteer sign up times by 50% and reduced overtime by 65%4
  • Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania helped reduce the cycle time of a donor reporting process by 70%5
Toyota employees teach Hurricane Sandy food bank staff how to reduce time to distribute food in New York
Toyota employees teach Hurricane Sandy food bank staff how to reduce time to distribute food in New York

Even though there is plenty of opportunity to implement Lean Six Sigma in for-profit organizations, I’d like you to shift your focus and skills in a new direction, to help improve the environment (planet), or help address societal (people) issues.

As I mentioned before, there are two ways you can do this:

1) Help your current organization do good (while you get paid)

  • Improve environmental (planet) issues caused by your current organization, such as carbon emissions, water and air pollution, toxic waste, water usage, solid waste to the landfill, and depletion of natural resources.
  • Improve social (people) issues in your local community with the support of your organization, such as trash clean-up events, holiday adopt-a-family programs, clothing and canned food drives, nonprofit fundraisers, and volunteer team building days.

2) Volunteer your time outside of work hours to help others do good (unpaid on your own time)

  • Improve environmental (planet) issues at a local or global level, such as promoting clean energy, pollution prevention, green buildings, protected lands, water rights and conservation, reductions in toxic waste, increasing composting options, and energy conservation.
  • Improve social (people) issues at a local or global level, such as unemployment, pet overpopulation, homelessness, access to education, access to healthy food, access to health care, disease prevention, disaster relief, and animal rights.
Lean Portland volunteers Chelsey McIntyre and Matt Horvat (back) work with Leif Amundson and Tom Patzkowski (front) at The Rebuilding Center to review possible layout changes in Portland, Oregon
Lean Portland volunteers Chelsey McIntyre and Matt Horvat (back) work with Leif Amundson and Tom Patzkowski (front) at The Rebuilding Center to review possible layout changes in Portland, Oregon

I would encourage you to start within your own organization. Even if you get approval to spend only one hour per month on these programs and initiatives, you will still get paid, and it will improve your organization’s brand and reputation within the community. Start by asking your manager if they will let you spend some time on a people issue in your community, or a planet issue caused by your company. You might be surprised at their answer, even if you perceive that your organization is not concerned about these issues. That being said, I feel that volunteering your time outside of work should be part of your plan, regardless if your organization agrees to pay for your time during work hours.

Key takeaway for Chapter 2: How could your organization benefit by spending time on Planet and People issues in the community?

Let’s discuss this in the next chapter on Sustainability.

Chapter 3 - Sustainability

What is Sustainability?

There is a lot of confusion about the term “sustainability.” Most people think that sustainability refers to long-term results that are maintained after process improvements. While that is true, sustainability has a much broader definition than that.

Here are some definitions I find useful:

  • “…meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”6
  • “…the capacity to improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s supporting eco-systems.”[^fooIUCN]
  • A long term perspective of an organization that leads to “…successful operations for at least 1500 years”7
  • Decision making based on the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit)8

How do you define sustainability? Use whatever definition bests suits you, as there is no one right answer.

To keep things simple, let’s focus on the “triple bottom line” definition, where decisions should be made that equally weigh the trade-offs between people, planet and profit.

Sustainability exists in the overlap between People, Planet and Profits
Sustainability exists in the overlap between People, Planet and Profits

Profit is already the primary focus. That is how most companies and organizations make decisions today. What is needed is more focus around people (social) and planet (environmental) issues.

There is a perception that organizations that start to focus on people and planet will have a negative impact on their profits. However, when people and planet are not considered, an organization cannot survive in the long term. They cannot continue to provide their products and services because raw materials are depleted or become too expensive, or they cannot attract and retain employees to work for them. This negatively impacts quality and delivery to their customers, and their business suffers.

A new focus on the “triple bottom line” can actually drive profitability and growth to companies. It can bring in stronger candidates for job openings, open the market up to new customers, and reduce the risk of fines, penalties and negative publicity (such as those experienced by BP9, Wells Fargo10 and Apple11).

According to SustainAbility and GlobalScan’s Sustainability Leaders Survey in 201712, the most sustainable organizations are:

  1. Unilever
  2. Patagonia
  3. Interface
  4. IKEA
  5. Tesla
  6. Marks & Spencer
  7. Natura
  8. Nestle
  9. General Electric (GE)
  10. BASF
  11. Nike

These are well-known and successful businesses that place a strong importance on People and Planet.

That being said, being on a sustainability list doesn’t mean these companies are free from controversy, or are doing things perfectly. They are simply balancing the triple bottom line better than the majority of organizations (across a wide range of sustainability categories). There are other rankings and lists you will find online, so this is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of sustainable organizations. Each ranking you find looks at different aspects of sustainability. using different data sources and weighting criteria.

Another way organizations can show that they are attempting to be more sustainable is by publicly communicating their progress and impact. One popular framework is the Global Reporting Index (GRI)13, which is the first and most widely adopted global standard for sustainability reporting. You can visit the website of any organization to see if they are publicly sharing their sustainability or social responsibility report.

Patagonia created the Footprint Chronicles, which displays detailed information about the sustainability of their entire supply chain on their website for anyone to search
Patagonia created the Footprint Chronicles, which displays detailed information about the sustainability of their entire supply chain on their website for anyone to search

Aside from all the rankings and reports, here’s another test to determine the sustainability of an organization. How do they currently make business decisions?

  • Is it weighted by 33% profit (makes them money), 33% people (good for community or employees) and 33% planet (less harmful to environment)?
  • Or is it 80% profit, 10% people and 10% planet?
  • Or worse yet, is it 100% profit, 0% people and 0% planet?

The triple bottom line thinking became quickly apparent to Roberto Pedote, Vice President of Finance at Natura Cosmeticos, S.A. (tied for 5th on the list above), a successful cosmetics company in Brazil.

“I was asked to analyze three possible sites for a new service center and make a recommendation to the executive committee. Following my presentation and recommendation, I was asked “What impact does this decision have on employment opportunities and income distribution in the various regions? What are the possible environmental impacts of each alternative and what are the different levels of carbon emissions for each possible location?” It was an experience I will never forget and it served to demonstrate that sustainability is a serious issue to Natura’s leadership.”14

If most of the decisions at your company are based on profit, you may have a harder time finding rewarding work within your organization. You may need to spend time outside of work to have a real impact on Planet and People, or potentially look for a different employer.

Key takeaway for Chapter 3: Your improvement skills are valuable, and we need those skills to help make our world a better place!

In the next chapter, we’ll go into more detail about People and Planet by looking at some sustainability goals established by the United Nations (UN).

Chapter 4 - U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

On September 25, 2015, the 193 countries of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda15, which consists of 17 goals and 169 targets.

Here are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s):

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Let’s first look at the goals that fit into the People section…


© Ivansabo | Dreamstime.com - Homeless in Bogota
© Ivansabo | Dreamstime.com - Homeless in Bogota
  • (Goal 1) No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere - 20% of people in developing regions live on less than $1.25 a day.
  • (Goal 2) Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture - 795 million people are undernourished (about one in nine) in the world today.
  • (Goal 3) Good Health and Well-Being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages - Every year, more than 6 million children die before age 5.
  • (Goal 4) Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all - Globally, 103 million youth lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60% of them are women.
  • (Goal 5) Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls - In developing countries, girls still face barriers to entering primary and secondary school.
  • (Goal 8) Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all - Global unemployment has reached 202 million in 2012, and stable and well-paid jobs are needed to eradicate poverty.
  • (Goal 9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation - 800 million people lack access to water, and 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation.
  • (Goal 10) Inequality - Reduce inequality within and among countries. More than 75% are living today in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s.
  • (Goal 11) Sustainable Cities and Communities - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable - Over 800 million people live in slums today.
  • (Goal 16) Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels - Bribery, theft, tax evasion and corruption cost about $1.26 trillion USD for developing countries each year.
  • (Goal 17) Partnerships for the Goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development - More than 4 billion people do not use the internet, and 90% of them are in developing countries.

Now let’s look at the goals that fit into the Planet section…


Mount Hood as seen from highway near Portland, Oregon
Mount Hood as seen from highway near Portland, Oregon
  • (Goal 6) Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all - 663 million people are still without access to drinking water sources.
  • (Goal 7) Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy for all - 20% of people lack access to modern electricity, but it is also the primary contributor to climate change.
  • (Goal 12) Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns - The equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles at the current rate of population growth.
  • (Goal 13) Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts - Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50% since 1990.
  • (Goal 14) Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources - As much as 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including loss of coastal habitats, depleted fisheries, and pollution.
  • (Goal 15) Life On Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss - Globally, 74% of the poor are directly affected by the 13 million hectares of forest being lost each year.

You can read more about each goal on the UN SDG website16

These goals do not cover all issues that you might be passionate about. These are meant to give you some topics to consider. Regardless of your interests, the idea is to select a cause that does not have a profit motive, and put some of your time and effort towards this cause. But don’t forget to bring your Lean and Six Sigma skills with you! Too often people volunteer with organizations and leave their work skills at home!

Key takeaway for Chapter 4: What cause resonates most with you?

Chapter 5 - How I Got Started

I’d like to share my journey towards volunteering my skills, to give you some more background on why I am writing this book.

One of the most rewarding volunteer projects for me was my work on increasing recycling rates at Kinnick Stadium.

I grew up in Iowa City my whole life, and that is where the University of Iowa is located. Kinnick Stadium is where the college football team plays their games. I attended many games growing up, and my dad worked security on the field for the team during my youth. During high school, our football team would clean up the stadium on Sunday mornings (after the Saturday home games). It was not much fun, since it was usually early in the morning and cold outside (two things I dislike).

After high school, I attended school at the University of Iowa, and I was fortunate to play football in that stadium for 4 years.

During my awakening to the problems of climate change, and the impact that humans are having on the planet, I decided to go back to school to get more education. I enrolled in a sustainability certificate program at the University of Iowa in 2010. After taking a few classes, I started to make new connections within the university, specifically in the Office of Sustainability, and the Athletics and Facilities departments.

For about 6 years, I had moved away from Iowa, and was living in Florida, so I hadn’t been attending football games very often. When I moved back to Iowa, and started to attend football games again, I started to notice the lack of recycling options inside and outside the stadium.

A light bulb went off in my head (probably a solar-powered LED bulb)! Here is a problem that I knew how to solve, and I probably have the network and connections to do something about it. Thus began my first volunteer project to apply my skills to a cause I was passionate about!

In fact, this was the first time I had ever initiated a volunteer activity. In the past, someone had to ask me to volunteer, or it was required or mandatory. I had been so focused on my own personal and professional goals that I never stopped to look around me, or think about how I could help others. At the time of the recycling project, I had been practicing Lean and Six Sigma for about 10 years, and was gaining confidence in my ability to successfully solve problems.

Volunteers perform a 'Dumpster Dive' waste audit after a football game in Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa
Volunteers perform a ‘Dumpster Dive’ waste audit after a football game in Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa

I approached the problem like a Lean Six Sigma project, with a Project Charter, baseline data, sponsors and champions for the project, and lots of enthusiasm to make some improvements. It was not a very complicated problem, but there were some challenges.

After evaluating many different options with many stakeholders involved, we decided to add recycling bins on the outside of the stadium, and better educate the high schools students about what can be recycled on Sunday mornings (the same group that I was forced to volunteer with during high school). Each bin outside the stadium was staffed with student volunteers, to help educate fans about what can and cannot be recycled. After the first year, we were able to increase recycling diversion rates from 25% to an average of 50% in the first year. To sustain the improvements at around 40%, the Delta Tau Delta fraternity agreed to take over the coordination of the volunteers17. The project started in the fall of 2012, and it is still going today, which makes me very proud!

Around the same time as the football stadium project, I also kicked off an electricity reduction project at work. Coincidentally, this was the most rewarding project at work I ever had.

Looking at the company’s carbon footprint report, it was easy to find the largest building within the company with the highest electricity usage. I wanted to make a significant reduction in the carbon emissions, and prove that Lean and Six Sigma could be used to address environmental impacts within this organization.

This project was more complicated than the recycling project, so I had to use my statistics background to help accurately estimate the potential cost savings, and sell some of the improvement ideas to upper management. We determined that the biggest opportunity was to reduce the heating and cooling that was running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After analyzing employee occupancy in each area of the building, and addressing concerns from the employees, we were able to set back the temperatures during off-hours. This led to a cost reduction of $300,000 per year, and saved around three million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity! This equates to powering 400 homes per year, or the removal of 500 vehicles off the road.

These projects didn’t happen overnight. It took years to get into a position where I could launch these projects, and execute them successfully.

If you’d like to learn more about these projects, I’ve compiled some details on my other website: https://www.LeanSixSigmaEnvironment.org 18

The success of these projects is what made me decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping others apply Lean and Six Sigma techniques to address people and planet issues, as well as helping companies increase their business, reduce risk and save money.

The topics I’m concentrating on right now are as follows:

  • Vegan: Promoting a vegan lifestyle to reduce animal harm and the environmental impacts of meat production19
  • Solar: Increasing solar energy adoption to reduce carbon emissions
  • Food: Reducing wasted food going to the landfill to reduce methane emissions impacting climate change
  • Coffee cups: Promoting reusable coffee cup usage to reduce tree cutting and cup production impacts

Key Takeaway for Chapter 5: If you don’t like the direction your life is headed, only you have the power to make a change

Chapter 6 - How You Can Get Started

Making money is not the primary driver of motivation and job satisfaction for a majority of people20. The need to satisfy intrinsic motivation was described in the book, “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink21. He states that when we achieve profit goals, the satisfaction is short-lived. We are happier when we pursue purpose goals (people and planet).

Not only is purpose a good thing for society, it’s also good for us as individuals.

Volunteers assemble furniture at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Anaheim, California
Volunteers assemble furniture at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Anaheim, California

Here are some steps I would recommend for moving towards more rewarding and purposeful work.

  1. Pick a problem or cause that you feel passionate about - If you don’t have a passion around something larger than you, others will push you towards their own goals and agenda. Go back and review the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Chapter 4 if you need some ideas.
  2. Decide if your current work is aligned with this cause - Determine if your company or organization is currently working on, or actively supporting this cause. If they are, then simply get more involved with that effort, using your improvement skills. If they are not, then determine if it is a cause they should get more involved with. Regardless of how strong your organization is currently supporting this cause, ask your manager if they are willing to allow a few hours per week or month to support your time on this cause while getting paid. Another option is to propose a volunteer event with your favorite nonprofit as part of your department’s team building efforts. Managers are often looking for ways to get their teams together outside of work (with pay), and helping a nonprofit is a perfect solution. These events can be coupled with a team lunch, dinner or happy hour after the event. In fact, many companies are already doing this:
    • Salesforce.com allows employees 7 days of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) per fiscal year for a volunteer activity of their choosing.22
    • For over 20 years, Timberland has allowed full-time staff up to 40 paid hours for community service every year.23
    • McKesson’s volunteer program provides grants linked to individual volunteer involvement with nonprofits, with extra dollars donated for serving on board of directors and achieving milestones for the number of hours logged.24
    • West Monroe Partners has a 1+1+1 program, giving back 1% of their time, talent and treasure to the greater good. They also established a fellowship program that gives employees’ a 3-6 month compensated leave to support their philanthropic and humanitarian interests.25
    • Rockwell Collins donated their lean consultants to help facilitate events and projects within the community, such as leading a 5S event in a prison facility26, streamlining the state government processes, and improving healthcare by reducing variation in patient anticoagulation test results.27
    • The Standard Insurance employees are eligible to receive up to 8 hours of company-paid time annually to volunteer in their communities, either during work hours or after hours, based on their preference.28 If your company won’t allow time for you to support your cause, and if you want to keep your current job, you’ll have to volunteer outside of work. Unfortunately, this is the case for most people. Another option is to find a new job, where you can get paid part-time or full-time to support this cause. The goal for step 2 is that you commit to spending time (paid and/or unpaid) towards a cause that you care about.
  3. Find an organization that is already working on this mission - If you are having trouble getting your company or organization aligned with your cause, find a relevant nonprofit organization (in your area or online), and get engaged. A simple internet search using your city and some keywords related to your favorite cause will help you find organizations you can get involved with. If nothing exists, maybe you should start your own nonprofit organization!
  4. Reach out and make a connection with the organization - Most organizations have a website with contact information. Review their website, attend an upcoming meeting or volunteer event to learn more about what they do, and find out what their challenges and struggles are.
  5. Offer your assistance and expertise - Once you’ve made some connections within the organization, the next step is to prove your commitment to the group. This can be done through attendance, participation and volunteering numerous times. After you have built up some credibility, then you can discuss your skills and background with them, and how you think you can help them improve. Please avoid explaining how you’re going to fix them, and how terrible their processes are during your early meetings with them. We always need to show respect anytime we are helping an organization make improvements.
  6. Identify a specific problem - Work with the organization to identify what problem they need the most help with, and give suggestions on how you think your skills can help address this problem. Do some research online to find Lean or Six Sigma case studies that relate to this cause, so you can help the organization see how your skills can be useful to them. The Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) website29 has excellent videos showing the work they’ve done with nonprofits. I’ve also created a website of case studies, videos and interviews explaining how Lean and Six Sigma have been applied to government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Visit https://www.LeanSixSigmaforGood.com30 to search by industry, country or keyword. If you find examples that are not listed on the site, please contact me using the forms on the website.
  7. Conduct an event or project - If you’ve got a strong Six Sigma background, start with a Project Charter, and fill it out with the leadership in the organization. Once approval is gained, mentor and coach them through a DMAIC project. If you’ve got a strong Lean background, suggest a kaizen burst event or gemba walk to observe the problem firsthand with a small team of people, and help identify waste and quick process improvements. If you’re interested in learning more about DMAIC, gemba, or other Lean and Six Sigma concepts, see the Resources section. If you are supporting causes far away from where you live, consider traveling to see firsthand, do research online, or watch videos to really understand the current state. This is why it is ideal if you can find local causes and organizations to work with, so you can go to the “gemba” and provide hands-on support. If that’s not possible to visit in person, but you are good with a computer or on the phone, you might be able to help with social media, website updates, automation of processes, raising money, or data entry.
  8. Document results - Once you’ve identified improvements and are seeing some success, capture the improvements through anecdotes, observations, photos, videos and metrics. Remember, you should have good baseline metrics before you start, so you can compare before and after results. Share those results with your friends, family and co-workers. Pictures and videos are essential in today’s world, and social media is a great avenue to get the word out. Post it to the Facebook page31 for this book, so others can see what you’ve done. Make sure you keep it focused on the organization and cause you are working towards, and avoid too much self-promotion.
  9. Repeat - Once you’ve had some successes, go back to Step #1 and make sure you are still passionate about the cause you selected. Maybe your experience was not what you expected, and you want to pick a new cause. Perhaps you are still passionate about the cause, and want to continue with another problem within that organization, or perhaps shift directions and work with a different organization.

Some of you might be thinking about donating money instead of volunteering your skills, since you are limited on time. However, if the organization is inefficient, then your $50 donation might only get $25 worth of value towards the mission. Your skills could help that organization get $35-45 of value from all future $50 donations, which is far more impactful than your individual donation.

When you decide that you are still passionate about the cause, you might look more seriously at changing jobs. Some organizations offer part-time and full-time work, although the pay may not be as competitive as what you are getting at your current job. If you’re not ready to make a career change, you can also investigate a reduction in hours, so you can spend more time pursuing this cause.

During my last six months at Rockwell Collins, I wanted to increase the number of volunteer hours I could contribute each week. I requested and received a reduction in hours from 40 to 30 per week. This freed up 10 extra hours available during the week to pursue my passions (including writing this book). This did reduce the amount of money I brought home, but the rewarding work I was doing with my free time more than made up for it, and I didn’t feel like I was working two full-time jobs anymore. In addition, I still maintained a couple hours per week of paid time to continue my environmental efforts within the organization, which I really enjoyed.

Although I have focused mainly on helping not-for-profit organizations in this book, and I have even suggested you leave your current organization to pursue causes you are passionate about, I don’t want you to give up on your current job quite yet.

I encourage you to make an honest attempt to change the culture from within your for-profit organization. You’ve already started to change the culture using Lean Six Sigma, so that experience will be helpful in making your organization more sustainable.

In fact, I think you are one of the most qualified individual in your organization to lead this effort!

This quote from a book titled “Finding Purpose: Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling”32 by Andrew J. Hoffman accurately describes my feelings about sustainability and business.

“Never forget, the market is the most powerful institution on the planet, and business the most powerful entity within it. Businesses can transcend national boundaries and often possess resources that exceed those of many countries. You might lament that fact, but it is a fact. If business does not lead the way toward solutions for an environmentally sustainable, carbon-neutral world, there will be no solutions.” - Andrew J. Hoffman

Key takeaway for Chapter 6: If you don’t help your organization move in this direction, who will?

Chapter 7 - Strength in Numbers

One of the reasons I put this book together was to share the excitement I had with my own journey towards helping others, and reducing our impact on the environment. My excitement was fueled in large part by my experiences with two volunteer groups, and one benefit consulting company.

The first group is the Sustainable Development Division33 of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE). The group was established in 2011 by John Corliss34. Although I’m not an Industrial or Systems Engineer by education, I was impressed with their drive to embed sustainability into these disciplines, and they were one of the few organizations promoting sustainability along with process improvement. I decided to start helping out by becoming the webmaster for the division, and I started attending the board member call-in meetings once per month. They also host numerous meetings and networking activities during the annual conferences. I’ve been fortunate to speak on Lean Six Sigma and Sustainability topics at every annual conference since 2013.

I’d like to tell you about two wonderful people I met through the division.

Joel Brock35 has been using his Industrial Engineering skills to help local animal shelters run more effectively. In addition to applying his skills to the cleaning and feeding processes for the animals, he’s also gained valuable leadership and job experience, learned about new industries and processes, has made great connections in the community, and has learned new skills. He often reminds us about the many opportunities within nonprofits, such as board leadership, strategic planning, volunteer recruiting and management, paid staff positions, grant writing and fundraising, campaign development, community outreach and event management. These experiences can give you a competitive advantage when pursuing new work opportunities (within or outside your current company). You can learn more about Joel’s experience in a 2017 IISE webinar36.

Kate (Fisher) Groot37, a consultant with Nationwide Children’s Hospital38, helped setup the first community service project for IISE. Volunteers attending the annual conference sign up to help a nonprofit located in the area of the conference. Not only is the work rewarding, but it gives volunteers a chance to network with other like-minded conference attendees. The first event was a beach clean-up in Puerto Rico. The project is usually held the day before the conference starts, and volunteers help the nonprofit organization with whatever project they deem important. After the half-day event, the volunteers make observations and provide feedback on how the volunteer work could be done more efficiently. I helped organize the service project prior to the 2016 annual conference in Anaheim, California. We helped build furniture and unpack donated dishes at the Habitat for Humanity Restore39.

Ricardo Thierry Aguilera and Joel Brock help organize donated clothes at Le Chaînon, a women’s shelter in Montréal, Quebec (Canada), prior to the 2014 IISE Annual Conference.
Ricardo Thierry Aguilera and Joel Brock help organize donated clothes at Le Chaînon, a women’s shelter in Montréal, Quebec (Canada), prior to the 2014 IISE Annual Conference.

The next group I got involved with is Lean Portland40, a volunteer group of Lean and Six Sigma consultants in Portland (Oregon), which was established in 2012 by Matt Horvat41. The group started small, with just a few consultants and one nonprofit. Over the past few years, it has grown to dozens of active consultants, more structured meetings, and more defined roles and responsibilities. The short-term goal is to make meaningful impact with dozens of nonprofits. In the long term, I am hoping to help spread the program outside of Portland. The team has twice-monthly meetings, a monthly happy hour, and regular meetings with the nonprofits. Having a large team of resources is essential, to ensure there is no breakdown in support for the nonprofits when life gets in the way (which happens often within a volunteer group).

Setting up a local Lean and Six Sigma volunteer consultant group might be a good option for you, especially if you are hesitant to get started on your own. Lean Portland started out as a LinkedIn Group, and grew from there. Contact me if you are interested in setting up a similar group in your community, or visit the Lean Portland website42 or LinkedIn Group page43 to follow our progress.

The third group I’ve been involved with is the Sherpa Sustainability Institute44. Holly Duckworth and Andrea Hoffmeier have taken their passion and experience for process improvement and sustainability, and developed a program called Continual Improvement for Social Responsibility (CISR). Along with online training, they have developed a support network of coaches to help individuals follow a structured process to make an organization more socially responsible and sustainable. I was one of the first coaches in the program, and highly recommend you check out their program offerings (even if you don’t have a strong Lean or Six Sigma background).

Key takeaway for Chapter 7: Are you willing to help setup or join a volunteer group in your local area?

Chapter 8 - Summary

You have a powerful skill set that can make your current organization more sustainable, which is good for business.

Those skills can also help not-for-profit organizations become more effective and efficient, which is good for society.

If you are excited about those two statements above, please follow the steps below:

  1. Decide on a cause that motivates you.
  2. Get involved in the cause by volunteering for a related nonprofit or mission-driven organization.
  3. Determine if your current job aligns with that cause.

    Yes? Get additional time approved to support that cause during your work hours (and get paid).

    No? Talk to your organization to see if they would allow you to volunteer during work hours and get paid. If not, you might consider looking for a new job that is more supportive or better aligned.

  4. Launch Lean events and Six Sigma projects to improve the cause you are passionate about within that organization.
  5. Share your successes with friends, neighbors, online websites, and social media. Visit the Facebook page45 for this book to see what others have accomplished.
  6. Repeat and go back to Step #1.

Thank you for taking the time to read this book. I hope you found it valuable.

If you like this book, please share this with other Lean and Six Sigma practitioners you know. The preferred method of sharing is by directing people to the book page46 to download it digitally for free, or download the audio version.

And don’t forget to connect with other readers on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LeanSixSigmaforGood/47

In my next book, I’ll be gathering stories of people just like you, who have taken the next step, and used your skills to make a difference in the world!

Key takeaway for Chapter 8: What is the ONE next step you are going to commit to take after reading this book?

50% of all profits from this book will be donated to Everybody Solar48, a nonprofit organization that provides solar power to local charities to help them reduce electricity costs and direct their limited resources to the communities they serve. This donation applies only to hard copies sold, not to the free downloads (of course). If hard copy books are printed, every attempt will be made to print them in the most environmentally-friendly way, using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper with the highest recycled content available, petroleum-free inks, and the least impactful transportation methods.

Donated solar panels are lifted to the roof of the nonprofit organization Committee on the Shelterless (COTS) in Sonoma County, California. © Everybody Solar.
Donated solar panels are lifted to the roof of the nonprofit organization Committee on the Shelterless (COTS) in Sonoma County, California. © Everybody Solar.


Lean Six Sigma and Sustainability Books

A link to all the books above: https://bit.ly/2i35jvC

Lean Six Sigma and Sustainability Websites

Lean and Six Sigma References

Lean and Six Sigma Podcasts

About the Author

Brion Hurley is the owner of Business Performance Improvement (BPI), a Lean Six Sigma consulting firm in Portland (Oregon) focused on sustainability. He currently teaches Six Sigma and Lean classes, facilitates lean events and kaizen workshops, performs statistical analysis, and mentors practitioners through improvement projects in manufacturing, service and office processes.

Prior to BPI, he spent 18 years at Rockwell Collins49 as Principal Lean Six Sigma Consultant. He was hired in 1999, and has worked out of 3 different facilities: Cedar Rapids (Iowa), Melbourne (Florida) and Wilsonville (Oregon). He drove sustainability efforts at both the corporate and regional level by applying process improvement techniques to reduce electricity and solid waste. He also established and managed multiple green teams and Earth Day Fairs.

He is certified as a Master Black Belt and Lean Master, and has numerous sustainability certifications, including CISR Certified Practitioner50. He has a bachelor’s degree in Statistics, a master’s degree in Quality Management and Productivity, and lettered four years in football as a placekicker and punter at the University of Iowa.

He volunteers his time with local nonprofits through Lean Portland51, and is a member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Sustainable Development division, which is working to bring sustainability to the engineering field. He is currently President of Recycling Advocates52, a nonprofit organization in Portland that is “dedicated to creating a sustainable future through local efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Key Sustainability Projects

  • Enhancement to the recycling program at Kinnick Stadium, which increased the diversion rate from 25% to 50%
  • Led Six Sigma project on electricity reduction that saved $300,000 per year
  • Led Rockwell Collins (Wilsonville facility) to the Clackamas County Leaders in Sustainability Gold Certification

In his personal life, he has installed solar panels on his home in Florida, went a summer without air conditioning in Florida, cut out all meat and animal products from his diet (vegan), downsized to a single-wide mobile home, takes his coffee cup and to-go container with him everywhere he goes, collects detailed data on his personal carbon footprint, and is currently leasing an Chevy Spark electric vehicle (EV).

His wife Vera was integral in helping him understand how his actions were impacting the environment. They have been married since 2008, and have lived in Portland since 2013.

You can learn more at http://BrionHurley.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn53. He is available to speak to your Lean and Six Sigma department or networking group on this topic, either in-person or via webinar.


1Rockwell Collins, https://www.CollinsAerospace.com

2Toyota Production System Improves Meals per Hour (video), https://bit.ly/1czyno8

3Improving Processes in East Africa, https://bit.ly/2joj6Ch

4Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton Reduce Overtime and Increase Volunteers: https://bit.ly/2xrQCik

5Two Years in Tanzania and a Whole New Understanding of Purpose https://bit.ly/2y97Mjq

6United Nations General Assembly (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development - Our Common Future, https://bit.ly/1kxW7OR

7A Six Sigma Approach to Sustainability - Continual Improvement for Social Responsibility, Holly A. Duckworth, Andrea Hoffmeier, https://amzn.to/28Sx45A

8Cannibals with Forks - The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, John Elkington, https://amzn.to/28XDndT

9Deepwater Horizon oil spill https://bit.ly/1xqaYQv

10Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million for Fraudulently Opening Accounts https://nyti.ms/2poL53K

11Apple’s Chinese workers treated ‘inhumanely, like machines’ https://bit.ly/2gClFgA

12The 2017 Sustainability Leaders, https://bit.ly/2tsf5lk

13Global Reporting Index, https://www.globalreporting.org

14Natura Cosmeticos, S.A., Harvard Business School, https://hbs.me/2lUfDfK

15United Nations website, https://bit.ly/2i3roua

16United Nations website, https://bit.ly/2i3roua

17Kinnick Goes Green with Game Day Recycling (2016), https://bit.ly/2xt350B

18Earth Consultants - Lean Six Sigma and the Environment, https://bit.ly/3znP2Mn

19Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK, https://bit.ly/2lo751c

20Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research https://bit.ly/19wgits

21Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, https://amzn.to/29uAVrl

22SalesForce Volunteers, https://bit.ly/21nNcWc

23Timberland Corporate Responsiblity, https://bit.ly/2iXrrfj

24McKesson Corporate Citizenship, https://bit.ly/1IYAjmm

25West Monroe Partners - Volunteer Programs, https://bit.ly/2isinLT

26Rockwell Collins and Iowa Prison Industries Event, https://bit.ly/2v4guPV

27Using Lean Six Sigma Tools to Compare INR Measurements from Different Laboratories Within a Community https://bit.ly/2jGMqjv

28The Standard, Employee Programs https://bit.ly/2rNuFFO

29TSSC Nonprofit Projects, https://www.tssc.com/projects.php

30Lean Six Sigma for Good book, https://www.LeanSixSigmaforGood.com

31Lean Six Sigma for Good Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/LeanSixSigmaforGood

32Finding Purpose - Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling by Andrew J. Hoffman, https://bit.ly/2ioZD01

33Sustainable Development Division of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) website, https://bit.ly/2i3CjbY

34John Corliss LinkedIn page, https://bit.ly/2isvmNC

35Joel Brock LinkedIn page, https://bit.ly/2z0YXcn

36Joel Brock webinar - Career Benefits an Engineer Can Receive Through Non-Profit Leadership, https://bit.ly/2gKyLIr

37Kate (Fisher) Groot LinkedIn page, https://bit.ly/2j6GHnn

38Nationwide Children’s Hospital, https://bit.ly/1N2I4K9

39Recap of 2016 service project at Restore, https://bit.ly/2i7Hw0U

40Lean Portland, https://www.LeanPortland.com

41Matt Horvat LinkedIn page, https://bit.ly/2iWZ7K4

42Lean Portland, https://www.LeanPortland.com

43Lean Portland LinkedIn Group, https://bit.ly/2iWWGr8

44Sherpa Sustainability Institute - Coaches, https://bit.ly/3DLVob4

45Lean Six Sigma for Good Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/LeanSixSigmaforGood

46Lean Six Sigma for Good book, https://www.LeanSixSigmaforGood.com

47Lean Six Sigma for Good Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/LeanSixSigmaforGood

48Everybody Solar, https://www.EverybodySolar.org

49Rockwell Collins, https://www.CollinsAerospace.com

50Sherpa Sustainability Institute - Coaches, https://bit.ly/3DLVob4

51Lean Portland, https://www.LeanPortland.com

52Recycling Advocates, https://www.WasteFreeAdvocates.org

53Brion Hurley LinkedIn profile, https://bit.ly/2ipgPm0