"It's critical to involve staff from all levels"

A LeanOhio interview with Wendi Faulkner
Bureau Chief, Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement • Ohio Department of Youth Services

Wendi has worked for the State of Ohio for 20 years and came to the Ohio Department of Youth Services in 2010. She is the Chief of the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement, which includes Information Technology Services. Well versed in Lean tools and techniques, Wendi works not only to improve daily operations for staff and youth, but also to provide strategic leadership for ODYS.

How did your career journey lead you to where you are today?
Looking back on my career, I have always been involved in process improvement, but that term was rarely used. I always found myself serving as a change agent in the roles I held within DYS as well as other agencies I have worked for previously. So, becoming involved with LeanOhio has actually formalized what I've been doing for years.

What is the most important lesson you've learned from your Lean and Six Sigma experiences?
It's critical to involve staff from all levels in any process improvement effort. You really have to be flexible and know that your results might look a little different than what you thought. Always look at data when making decisions. You find there are rumors about what's going on, but the data really helps to clear up any misconceptions and helps people make informed decisions.

What would you say is the number one thing that is needed to sustain an improvement effort?
Follow-through. Staff have seen process improvement efforts come and go. They need to know you're serious about their voices being heard and that you will involve them and help them see the end product.

What's your favorite example of how you have used Lean either at work or at home?
We now have a "Brian Rule." Brian is an employee who came to a Kaizen event and asked, "Am I going to lose my job because of this?" So, we now have a "Brian Clause," which means that we make sure people know that is not the case -- and that if anything, we will make their lives easier and that we can help redirect some of their hours to more meaningful activities.

What are the major challenges your agency faces in instilling a Lean culture?
Implementing the major changes and everything that comes with that, such as large-scale policy and IT changes. It's difficult for staff to see movement of the implementation because it takes time. We try to show short-term changes and communication after each event. We started a newsletter called the "Kaizen Connector" -- all of the Kaizen events we have done are highlighted, and we give a quarterly update to communicate progress to everyone.

What project/event/initiative are you most proud to be a part of at DYS?
I am most proud of the Activity Management System (AMS) Lean Routine that we did. I was proud of our ITS staff for actually requesting it. They wanted to be at the table and came to me asking for the event.

What advice would you give to someone who's starting out in a role similar to yours?
This might be an overused term but, transparency. When dealing with staff on any issue, change, or initiative, you need to be honest about your goals, intentions, contributions, and expectations. Also, you must have follow-through or you'll lose buy-in on any future projects. Promise what you can deliver, and if you can't do it, then make sure you say that. Staff need to know that when you say something, you mean it.

What's next for DYS?
I just want all five Kaizens to come to a conclusion. Actually seeing it work is what I am looking forward to.

Interviewed by Denae Kotheimer • October 2015

  George McNab • Agriculture Team members

Cindy Money • Ohio EPA Team members

Julie Trackler • Aging
Team members

Joe Rust • AOS
Team members

Tom Melfo • OOD
Team members

Wendi Faulkner • DYS
Team members

Mike Lucid • BWC
Team members

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