“Let the data speak for itself”

A LeanOhio interview with Felicia Sherman
Project Manager 2 and Lean Liaison at the Ohio Department of Medicaid

Felicia has been with the Ohio Department of Medicaid since 2014 and has been a proud state employee since 2002. She is a certified black belt who supervises the Lean Six Sigma team and helps mentor other Medicaid trained green and black belts to help them obtain certification.  Felicia is also a PMP certified Project Manager.  Her team is part of the PMO at Medicaid working primarily on Lean Six Sigma projects but they also work as project managers when needed.

Lean Six Sigma seems to fit well in your organization. Why is that?
We are lucky that our agency put lean six sigma as a priority and placed a specific unit that is part of the PMO in charge of lean six sigma activities.   Our team works on process improvement projects throughout the agency.  We are also trying to integrate lean into more of our PMO projects by mapping current state processes and identifying waste and defects before developing system requirements for new systems.  This work fits nicely with the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) which is a federal requirement through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  MITA requires states to improve business processes using as-is business process scores that are identified and published in the agency state self-assessment and improve those scores to achieve a better future to-be business process score that is identified as part of a future vision for the agency.

You've used Lean as a process improvement strategy at multiple state agencies. What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned about implementing Lean Six Sigma in state government?
I’ve actually learned two very important lessons.  First, let the data will always speak for itself.  People have their own perception of the effectiveness of their processes; however, when you gather data and analyze the numbers the picture becomes very clear and it is impartial.  Secondly, always keep your sponsor engaged throughout process.  This is critical to them being on board with the final recommendations and transitioning to the new ideal future state.

What project/event/initiative are you most proud to have been a part of at Medicaid?
There are many projects that I am proud of…one of our most recent projects focused on eliminating a 4 year backlog of over 9,500 notices of deficiencies.  We conducted a 5-day Kaizen event that included staff from various business areas within Medicaid and also included the agency contractor that was in charge of a portion of the work.  The backlog is on schedule to be eliminated within 6 months of completing the Kaizen event. 

What are some tips you can share with others who are putting Lean to work?
Utilize other trained belts in your agency whenever possible.  Having multiple brains at work together makes the workload lighter and helps others who have this very valuable skillset put it to good use.  We typically try to partner one green belt and one camo belt on projects and use our black belts as mentors on most projects.  We may have 2-4 black belt projects any given year but multiple projects that might rise to the level of green belt.  We try to make sure that we help all green and camo belts get certified by having them work together on larger projects.  They can learn from each other, and it also helps keep the excitement level up for camo belts to eventually want to earn their green belt (and eventually black belt) in the future. 

What’s your favorite example of how you have used Lean either at work or at home?
We recently developed a project workbooks and Roadmaps which walk through the process of completing a DMAIC or DMADV project for the agency.  Our lean team mentors other trained green belts on projects but the workbook helps them keep track of everything that will be required to complete a DMAIC or DMADV project plus the workbook allows the green or black belt to keep all work done on their project in one location.  This will help them remember how to complete future projects on their own.

What’s one interesting thing about you that your Lean colleagues don’t know?
I think my team know just about everything about me.  I am a pretty open book.  I hope to one day open a CrossFit gym with my oldest daughter who is in college majoring in physical therapy and nutrition.  Both of us enjoy power lifting and we have discussed how CrossFit can help people of every age to build muscle, maintain an active lifestyle and eat properly so that they can remain independent and avoid or recover from injury when necessary.

  Making state government in Ohio simpler, faster, better, and less costly. .