UC Santa Barbara’s Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training program celebrates first birthday

Lean Six Sigma instructors, pictured left to right: Marsha Robertson, Jacob Ofilas and Katie Mankins

By Marsha Robertson, Jacob Ofilas and Katie Mankins. November marked one year since UC Santa Barbara launched its Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training program. With over 240 graduates from 80 departments across the UC Santa Barbara campus, and with rosters filling up every month, the Yellow Belt training continues to be popular.

Happy birthday! What is Lean Six Sigma? 

Thank you, and we are glad you asked. Lean Six Sigma combines the concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, which are separate methodologies used to address different aspects of process improvement. Six Sigma is used to reduce variation, defects, and errors in a process, while Lean helps make a product or service faster and more efficient by identifying and eliminating waste. Taken together, Lean Six Sigma marries the efficiency and speed of Lean methodology with the quality control of Six Sigma. This allows teams to improve process performance based on the perspective of the customer, and to switch from reactive problem solving to proactive problem prevention. 

What is the Yellow Belt?

If you have ever been around a martial arts class, this term is probably familiar. Similar to martial arts, belt colors are used to identify the progression of skills and experience in Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques. Depending on experience and expertise, you can train for any color belt. At UC Santa Barbara we are able to support delivery of White, Yellow and Green Belt training.

Description of the four colored Lean Six Sigma belt options on the UC Santa Barbara Lean Six Sigma website.
[Image depicts a description of the four Lean Six Sigma belt color/level options on the UC Santa Barbara Lean Six Sigma website.]

240 graduates are a lot. Did you expect the program to grow to become that big?

Isn’t that great? Katie Mankins, Director of Process Management in UC Santa Barbara’s Office of the CIO, managed the backlog of applicants for the Green Belt training and saw that there was more demand than could be served with only one training opportunity a year.

Mankins planned to offer Yellow Belt training more frequently and without as much of a time commitment as the Green Belt training. She believed that anyone who completed Yellow Belt training would be an effective resource on a process improvement team led by a Green Belt, and would be able to identify and implement process improvement opportunities within their own organization. 

College of Lean Six Sigma Attendees
Collage of Lean Six Sigma Attendees

Are there tests or homework? How do grades work?

The game-based learning platform, Kahoot, is used for daily review. Trainees can also opt to skip Kahoot and take a short quiz in Google Classroom instead. There are no grades. Participation in all three parts of the training, a total of 12 hours of class and around two hours of homework, entitles the trainees to the rank of Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, and to a certificate suitable for framing or posting on social media.

Would it be a problem if a location was not using Google Classroom?

Not at all. The technology used for the Yellow Belt training is a mix of familiar and new, so an optional “tech check” session is offered the week before the training. Zoom is familiar to almost everyone by now and all sessions are still taught virtually, but some features may be new to some trainees. The team was asked to pilot Google Classroom as a course management tool, and it has turned out to be useful for the small class size. Kneil Aparte, a trainee in the very first Yellow Belt cohort, provides Google Classroom training. All of this functionality is demonstrated in the tech check so that any issues can be resolved before the training sessions begin.

How did you start a program like this?

With help from UC colleagues, of course. Mankins reached out to Antonio Nava, Senior Strategic Programs Manager, Operational Strategic Initiatives at UC San Diego, to ask if we could leverage their virtual training material. Nava offered to let Mankins sit in on one of their Yellow Belt classes, and then provided some “train the trainer” sessions for the UC Santa Barbara instructors. Our team of instructors, Katie Mankins, Marsha Robertson, and Jacob Ofilas, all Lean Six Sigma Green Belts, worked with Antonio for three pilot training sessions in 2021. After that, we were off on our own and began offering the class on a monthly basis.

This all sounds good. How much does the Yellow Belt training cost and where can the UC IT community sign up?

Good news! Anyone affiliated with UC, as an employee or student, can sign up for the training. Initially the cohorts were entirely made up of UC Santa Barbara staff members. However, since then, two cohorts of IT interns have taken the class, along with other student workers and graduate students.

Even better news – the Yellow Belt training is free! There is no charge to you or your department for this training.

Word about Lean Six Sigma has spread around the UC Santa Barbara campus from its origins in the IT community. Departments have requested their own Yellow Belt sessions and an introductory White Belt class. The IT department does its best to accommodate any special requests, again, without cost to the departments or trainees.

For more information about the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt class or its spinoff classes on Process Mapping with Promapp or Practical Problem Solving, please visit Lean Six Sigma | UC Santa Barbara Information Technology and Process Mapping | UC Santa Barbara Information Technology, or contact Katie Mankins at kmankins@ucsb.edu

About the authors

Lean Six Sigma instructors, pictured left to right: Marsha Robertson, Jacob Ofilas and Katie Mankins
Lean Six Sigma instructors, pictured left to right:
Marsha Robertson, Jacob Ofilas and Katie Mankins

Author Bio’s

Marsha Robertson is a QA Engineer, Quality Analyst and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She came to UC Santa Barbara in 2017 after 20 years’ experience in programming, testing, and quality assurance at a wide range of companies in the private sector. She also has expertise in customer support and agile development. Since attaining her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification in 2021, Marsha has been co-instructor for the Yellow Belt and Practical Problem-Solving training at UC Santa Barbara. 

Katie Mankins is the Director for Process Management in the Office of the CIO.  She joined UC Santa Barbara in 2015 with over 25 years of management and technical experience in various industries. She is well-versed in the practices that enable projects to deliver promised customer value, and she has rich and deep expertise in business process improvement, project, program, and portfolio management. She received her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification in March 2019, and she is currently working on her Black Belt certification. Mankins is an instructor for White Belt, Yellow Belt, Practical Problem Solving, and Process Mapping training at UC Santa Barbara.  Her Lean Six Sigma experiences have reinforced her love of engaging people from a cross-section of backgrounds to find common goals and improve the way we do our work on campus.

Jacob Ofilas is the Director of Client Success with the College of Letters and Science IT Department at UC Santa Barbara and has been in this position since January of 2020. Previously he held IT Leadership roles in healthcare organizations in California and Hawaii. He currently manages the staff responsible for supporting students, staff and faculty at Letters and Science as well as leading a team dedicated to process improvements using Lean Six Sigma methods and tools. Jacob is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and is co-instructor for the Yellow Belt training at UC Santa Barbara.