"I love that data can tell us a story"

A LeanOhio interview with Julie Trackler
Assistant Director • Ohio Department of Aging

Julie has long been an active Lean Six Sigma leader, earning her Black Belt in the original group of trained practitioners in 2012. She has led and facilitated improvement projects, customer surveys, training sessions, strategic planning, and more -- in her previous roles of Chief Strategy Officer (DAS) and Agency Lean Liaison (DAS), and her current role of Assistant Directory for the Ohio Department of Aging.

What sparked your initial interest in Lean Six Sigma?
I was looking for a project management model that would tackle process improvement – that’s what led me to the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology (define, measures, analyze, improve, control). I attended Green Belt training, put the tools to work, attended Black Belt training, put the new tools to work. Too often, people attack the symptoms of a problem, but Lean Six Sigma digs deeper. Six Sigma tools in particular give us a proven way to get to the root cause. I love that data can tell us a story. Data is so cool!

“Data is so cool” – you might be the first person to say that.
I doubt I’m the first, but if I am, I make no apologies for it. And let me add that using data to make good decisions is even cooler than simply having data.

What has been your biggest success to date using Lean Six Sigma?
It was the “spend analysis study” I did several years ago. It all started with a recommendation to review procurement data – and it turned into a project that contributed to the modernization and reform efforts for enterprise spend data. The results included reduced variation and increased standardization to improve the quality of the enterprise spend data sets. (Click to open the visuals from Julie’s project presentation from 2012.)

What is the biggest Lean-related lesson you've learned so far?
Don't let a lack of data or weak data or a difficult process scare you away from an opportunity for positive change. When the situation poses its biggest challenges, we need to brave up and lead. Plus, with the growing LeanOhio network, it's easy to call up a Belt friend and ask for help.

What is your favorite Lean Six Sigma Tool?
In Lean, I like Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA). It’s a useful utility tool because I can use it in nontraditional ways to get to the information that I need. If we’re talking about the heavier stat world of Six Sigma, I really like correlation tools because they help you see relationships.

What is your favorite Lean Six Sigma mantra?
Variation is evil!

What advice do you have for individuals who are new to the Lean Six Sigma community in government?
Keep your skill set fresh, and use the tools whenever you can. Also, call a Belt friend when needed because two heads are better than one.

You have a reference tool that you want to share with your Lean peers.
It’s a chart I use when doing any kind of process improvement work. It lists 13 key statistical tools with descriptions, tips on when to use which tools, and more. There’s even a column that tells users where they can find the tools in Minitab. (Click here to download Julie’s summary of statistical tools.)

You’re definitely a Six Sigma enthusiast.
And proud of it!

Interviewed by Meghan Altier • October 2015

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Cindy Money • Ohio EPA Team members

Julie Trackler • Aging
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Joe Rust • AOS
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Tom Melfo • OOD
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Wendi Faulkner • DYS
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Mike Lucid • BWC
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