IIL’s Thought Leadership News publication, which connects with business communities around the world, seeks to discover, acknowledge, and bring together into IIL’s global online community strong leaders and changemakers who are active in their communities and making a difference in their chosen fields.
In this exclusive interview, Thought Leadership News chats with Nicole Friedberg, MBA, MBB, PMP, Master Black Belt, Project Manager, and Instructor at University of Michigan.
Nicole shares her insights on Lean Six Sigma and the importance of Lean Six Sigma skills for individuals and teams.
Thought Leadership News: You have over 15 years of engineering and project management experience in the defense, aerospace, automotive, financial, and academic industries. You’re also a Master Black Belt. What is Lean Six Sigma, and why is it important?
Nicole Friedberg: Lean Six Sigma provides a methodology and toolset to identify and address root causes to unknown problems and ultimately improves processes. Lean focuses on eliminating waste, aiming for continuous flow, and promoting standardized work. Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variation by identifying and removing the causes of defects. The combination of Lean and Six Sigma work together to lean out and control processes. It is important to continually look at your processes, and how you perform repeated activities, to look for better ways. This is the concept of continuous improvement, which is vital achieve competitive advantage in an ever-changing work environment.
Thought Leadership News: In today’s business world of constant change and disruption, how essential are Lean Six Sigma skills, and why?
Nicole Friedberg: Change can be difficult and scary. The Lean Six Sigma approach allows the team to truly understand the need for change and develop a solution that addresses the root cause of the problem. The idea of using a team through the entire process increases buy-in from those affected, and provides motivation for sustainment. Other key components to change management are communication, monitoring the processes after improvements are implemented, and celebrating success.
Thought Leadership News: How do these skills help projects?
Nicole Friedberg: I’ve seen projects fail because a team is gathered, time and resources are spent implementing a solution, and then, either the solution isn’t sustained, or it doesn’t address the problem in the first place. Truly understanding the root cause to a problem before identifying and implementing solutions is imperative to success. The Lean Six Sigma approach provides the framework (DMAIC methodology) as well as analytical tools to use data and identify the root cause before brainstorming solutions. I would also recommend a pilot or testing period on a small scale to see if the identified solution does make a significant difference.
Thought Leadership News: Is getting a Lean Six Sigma certification really important? What would you say are your top reasons for getting a Lean Six Sigma certification?
Nicole Friedberg: Achieving a Lean Six Sigma certification indicates to others that you are well-qualified to facilitate process improvement projects using a standard methodology and data analysis tools. The top reasons to get a Lean Six Sigma certification and complete process improvement projects are:
- Understand and meet your internal or external customers’ needs.
- Improve the internal employee experience and alleviate roadblocks in repetitive processes. This can be very important in a job market where there is high turnover and employee retention is vital.
- Increase organizational profitability by increasing revenue or by operating more efficiently.
- Personally expand your skillset with statistical analysis tools.
- Personally advance your career.
Thought Leadership News: If you could share three important pieces advice for business school students and professionals looking for a change or upgrade in their career paths, what would they be?
- Find something that you really connect with and enjoy, then go down that path.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things because you just may find something you enjoy!
- Think about the big picture – how does your project impact the organization as a whole?
I am so thankful that I have found my dream job. As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, I took a Six Sigma course and loved it. After spending some time in the industry (always with at least a hint of Lean Six Sigma in every role), I am now back at U-M on the other side of the classroom. I enjoy completing projects because it helps others with their day-to-day tasks. I also love teaching as I can help others learn new tools and skillsets that will help them be successful. I provide coaching for student projects where I can see students apply concepts learned to make their organization better.
Nicole Friedberg has over 15 years of engineering, Lean Six Sigma, and Project Management experience in the defense, aerospace, automotive, financial, and academic industries. She received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan and earned her MBA from Drexel University with a concentration in Business Analytics. Nicole is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Master Black Belt program. She is also a certified PMI Project Management Professional (PMP).
During her career, Nicole has designed and implemented four lean six sigma training/certification programs and helped develop numerous others. Her focus for training program development is learner-centered, reaching the needs of all students. She has personally facilitated over 80 improvement projects and mentored over 150 Green and Black Belts. As a mentor, Nicole provides valuable project scoping, analysis, and improvement recommendations on projects for many industries in a consultant role.
In addition to Nicole’s Lean Six Sigma experience, she has personally managed organizational projects ranging from program design and implementation to software vendor selection and implementation.
Nicole is a graduate of Lockheed Martin’s Operational Leadership Development Program and continued her career to obtain experience in supply chain, system safety engineering, quality engineering, lean six sigma organizations, industrial engineering, and project management.
Nicole is thrilled to be back at the University of Michigan to pursue her passion for lean six sigma, project management, and teaching.