Celebrating the 96th American Education Week


Celebrate the 96th American Education Week with LEAN Frog as Dave shares the significance of this special week.


At LEAN Frog, we’re thrilled to celebrate the 96th American Education Week!

This year’s theme is: Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility

The American Education Week also includes “National Education Support Professionals Day.” Our public schools’ hard-working, diverse, and unified team of Support Professionals sustain our local community educational ecosystems by providing invaluable and targeted services daily. They are essential and valued partners in our children’s learning and growing processes and they deserve our respect and appreciation!

Here is a video that defines visually the importance and contributions of Educational Support Professionals:

LEAN Frog – having conducted more than 60 assessments in Alabama public schools’ non-instructional departments – has seen first-hand the diligent work performed by Alabama’s Educational Support Professionals. These dedicated librarians, nurses, custodians, secretaries, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, bus driver, technology staff, and others do their jobs with skill every day and provide an environment where our students are safe and can learn, grow, and achieve.

LEAN Frog, utilizing our Lean Six Sigma-based proprietary work cycle of ASSESS-IMPROVE-SUSTAIN, interacts closely with Educational Support Professionals. One example was our work with the Madison City Schools (MCS) in Madison, Alabama. MCS was voted as one of the top 1500 public school systems in the nation by Newsweek Magazine and includes some of the best teachers, students, and staff in the country.

Working with the MCS Human Resources and Finance departments, LEAN Frog reviewed a staffing challenge and the MCS on-boarding process. Utilizing a Lean Six Sigma Tool — Value Stream Mapping — LEAN Frog led the staff through an analyzation of the departments’ work practices and, together, recognized process waste and variations. Then, working shoulder to shoulder with these Educational Support Professionals, LEAN Frog identified concrete opportunities for improvement and implemented results-based strategies for continuous improvement. Key results were:

  • Eliminating over 50 wasteful process steps
  • Saving 25-30 hours per week through improved efficiencies
  • Optimizing NextGen database to serve all users
  • Identifying opportunities to streamline the use of SearchSoft

As John Jones, Personnel & Title IX Coordinator at Madison City Schools, commented:

“LEAN Frog’s Value Stream Mapping process has allowed Madison City Schools to improve communication, teamwork, and productivity by streamlining our hiring process and created new excitement in the way we do things! They teach you techniques needed to be successful along the way. Great product and an even greater investment!”

For more information about this specific project, go to: https://theleanleap.com/results/improve/

As a former collegiate Education Support Professional — 27 years at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland — I encourage you to join me and my colleagues at LEAN Frog in acknowledging our Educational Support Professionals for the GREAT JOB they do every day in public education!

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Better Eating Equals Better Grades: The Relationship of Nutrition and Education


Celebrate World Food Day as Dave shares the correlation between improving nutrition and improving education.

World Food Day infograph

Although dated, this infograph — provided by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) — shines a spotlight on “World Food Day’ on October 16th.  GAIN is an independent, non-profit foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland and was developed at the United Nations 2002 Special Session of the General Assembly on Children.  The founder of GAIN is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its focus is mobilizing public-private partnerships and providing financial and technical support to deliver nutritious foods to those people most at risk of malnutrition.

The top, left statement on this infograph was true in 2014 and is still true today:

“More Children are in Education Than Ever Before

Education has a significant effect on global nutrition

— a child born to a mother who can read has a 50% better survival rate.”

From what we have seen in our small corner of the world (the Southeast US), the LEAN Frog team of professionals appreciates and supports GAIN’s celebratory statement about education and its significant effect on nutrition.  However, we also see this declaration from a reversed point of view as well — nutrition has a significant effect on education!  LEAN Frog, a ublic education software and service provider,  has seen that Students who have proper and regular nutrition in school perform better academically.  This statement is supported by numerous research articles and we have seen it first hand with the enhanced academic achievements school systems have recorded after allowing LEAN Frog to assess and improve their school nutrition programs (e.g., STAR Math scores increased by 15%; STAR Reading scores increased by 20%)

LEAN Frog has provided nutrition support services for large, urban school systems to small, rural school systems and everything size and type of school system in between.  We have helped them develop and implement improvement plans that increased the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of their school nutrition programs.  Partnering with these school systems has generated great results such as

  1. Increased Meals Per Labor Hour (MPLH);
  2. Increased student participation rates;
  3. Optimized work flows for strategic sourcing, ordering, planning, and warehousing;
  4. Documented standard operating procedures for sustainability;
  5. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track departmental and system performance over time;
  6. Cost savings for reinvestment back into the classroom –millions of dollars to date across many school system!

These accomplishments noted above are exemplary, but the thing we at LEAN Frog are most proud of is that many Students– tens of thousands — are now regularly and properly fed at school and that these meals result in a higher level of documented academic achievement.

Could your school system’s nutrition department support your students better in their academic achievements?  Would you benefit from the professional assistance of LEAN Frog?  If your answer is YES, please contact Dave Knowles at:  dave@theleanleap.com.

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It’s Always a Good Time for Pizza . . . and for Lean Six Sigma

DKFGAnother yummy blog from our sales guy Dave Knowles.  See why he thinks you should  Take a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt to Lunch and why the lunch should be pizza!!! #itsalwaysagoodtimeforpizza

Right up front I must confess . . . I LOVE ALL KINDS OF PIZZA!  The pizza can be frozen, homemade, chain-store or independent store; basic or gourmet; thin crust, hand-tossed, thick crust, stuffed crust; made of “dough”, bread, pita, or English muffin–“ I love all of them!”  In fact, I have never eaten a pizza that I didn’t like . . . crust . . . sauce . . . cheese . . . what’s not to like? And I do have a history here: during my 25+ year professional career as the Director of Dining Services and Summer Conferences at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, I was responsible for purchasing, making, and serving, over half a million slices of pizza to my students, clients, friends, family, and myself.


The story of this wonderful food begins in antiquity and the word pizza was first documented in AD 997 in Gaeta (central Italy).  One of the earliest forms of pizza in Italy was a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius. Modern pizza, when tomatoes were added, was developed in Naples in the late 18th century.  Pizza came to America via Italian immigrants in the 19th century but didn’t become popular until after World War ll.

SO . . .Pizza is a delicious and satisfying meal!

What are its similarities to Lean Six Sigma (LSS)?

A.  Both are satisfying and provide VALUE to the customer

Pizza is attractive to view, delicious to your olfactory senses and your taste buds, fills-up your stomach, and is reasonably priced.  (One large national chain still offers a 12-inch pizza for as low as $5.00!) Pizza is Sooo popular that the US pizza market is $44 billion (and the world pizza market is estimated to be $128 billion). That’s a really big deal and a BIG VALUE!

Lean Six Sigma is a methodology used to innovate and solve problems.  It combines the strategies and tools of Lean and Six Sigma. The principles of Lean Six Sigma focus on VALUE – defined from the perspective of the customer.  The goal is to increase value-add activities in a process and decrease non-value add (or wasteful) activities.

B.  Both have basic ingredients/components

Pizza–as anyone over the age of two knows — is comprised of dough (made from flour), tomato sauce, and cheese! (OK. . .sometimes toppings, too.)  The three basic ingredients are usually layered and then baked in a very, very hot oven (500 degrees or greater).

Two basic ingredients of LSS are lean and Six Sigma. Lean focuses on removing wastes while six sigma focuses on removing variation.

Removing waste from processes allows the creation of more value for customers with less work and less resources. The result is an instant gain in the speed of processes and a reduction in the cost of getting things done.

Removing variation from processes improves the quality of those processes because the processes consistently deliver value.

When you combine the efficiency of lean with the effectiveness of six sigma the result is a work team doing the right things (waste has been removed) and doing things right (variation has been removed).

C.  Both engage people

Pizza is loved and eaten by everyone! The pizza industry claims that Americans eat 100 acres of pizza daily.  (I have personally eaten several acres of pizza in my lifetime!) According to research firm Technomic’s 2016 Pizza Consumer Trend Report, pizza consumption has climbed to its highest level in the past four years. 41% of consumers polled say they eat pizza once a week and a Harris Poll found pizza is Americans’ No. 1 favorite comfort food.

LSS utilizes many different tools that actively engage people in the improvement process!  One tool, called “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM), involves a team of employees analyzing and mapping the current state of a process, envisioning the “perfect” state,  and then designing an implementable future state for this process — with the goal of eliminating steps within the process that are not necessary.   Through VSM, trust and transparency are developed within the team and an understanding of each person’s point-of view and the importance of their individual tasks are created.  Engaged team members often develop a greater sense of ownership, accountability, and see an increase in their own effectiveness.

DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) is a structured method for with problem-solving.  The process is robust and engages team members in a systematic order to identify the root causes of a problem.  The results-oriented DMAIC process allows team members to make data-driven decisions about cause-effect relationships.  In short, the DMAIC process can help a team to know what to tackle and in what order to have the greatest impact with problem-solving.


D.  Both are versatile

The 76,723 pizzerias in the US serve a wide variety of pizza:

  • Chicago-style pizza is deep-dish
  • New York-style pizza is wide, thin, and has foldable slices
  • New Haven-style pizza, known as apizza (pronounced ah-BEETS), is not perfectly round or rectangular
  • St. Louis-style pizza is thin crusted and comes in small, handy square servings
  • Stuffed pizzas have a thin layer of dough as a base in a high-sided pan, toppings (meats, basil, and oregano) and cheese placed next and an additional layer of “sealing” dough on top

Do I really need to go on?

Lean was created by Henry Ford and, as a manufacturing concept, focused on creating efficiencies and effectiveness on his automobile assembly line. After World War II, W. Edwards Deming took Lean into Japan and guided the reconstruction of Japan’s industries.  In 1986, Motorola developed Six Sigma to enhance its process development and eventually used it in its manufacturing operations. In the later decades of the 20th century, these two methodologies were combined and became a managerial concept call Lean Six Sigma.  Other industries soon recognized the benefits of this versatile approach. Today, LSS is used widely in banking, healthcare, and the US military.

LSS continues to spread into new areas–like public education– through the work of companies like LEAN Frog!

SO . . .now that you realize that there are similarities between Pizza and Lean Six Sigma, why not “Solve a Problem and Fill Your Tummy” with your new-found knowledge?  This past Tuesday (September 5th) was NATIONAL CHEESE PIZZA DAY.  However it’s always a good day for a good pizza.  Take a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt to lunch and celebrate the joys of pizza and the benefits of applying Lean Six Sigma for innovation and for problem-solving.

nat'l cheese pizza day

And, while you are at lunch- if “The Moon Hits your Eye Like a Big Pizza” — enjoy this Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis rendition of  “That’s Amore

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What Do Barbeque (BBQ) and Lean Six Sigma (LSS) have in Common?

DKFGPlease enjoy this wonderful post from our sales guy and burgeoning blogger Dave Knowles.  Many of you may know that in his former life Dave was Director of Dining Services and Summer Conferences at Washington College.  Dave helps us celebrate National Barbeque month with a “tasty” look at what barbeque and Lean Six Sigma have in common.  As we come off the Memphis in May World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest, we congratulate the FIVE-TIME World Champion Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que and Pig Master Chris Lily in neighboring Decatur, AL.   Enjoy this blog and go enjoy some great barbeque!

What Do Barbeque (BBQ) and Lean Six Sigma (LSS) have in Common?

(Aside from the fact that both have three-letter acronyms)

Well, as they say here in the South . . “y’all listen up.”

May is “National Barbeque Month” and we at LEAN Frog enjoy eating BBQ!  ALL kinds of BBQ with different “rubs” and “sauces”!

We are also deeply committed to practicing LSS to benefit public education.  Using LSS in non-instructional departments, we help school systems find opportunities and implement innovate solutions that result in increased efficiencies, enhanced communications, and reinvested resources for the classroom.

These two seemingly disparate pleasures/activities really have a lot in common.bbq and lss together

  1. Both “work” everywhere
    • Barbeque historically originated with native peoples in the Western Hemisphere and is served today throughout the US — from community celebrations to drive-through eateries to haute cuisine restaurants.
    • Henry Ford, considered the “Father of Lean,” developed a lean approach to create efficiencies in his assembly line production. Six Sigma has its roots in Pareto’s Law in the 1880s but gained momentum in the 1980s with Motorola.  Today LSS is a fundamental component in manufacturing and its practices have transferred into an ever-expanding list of industries (e.g., finance, health care, construction, education, etc.)
  2. Both Incorporate “Common Sense” Processes and Provide Effective Results
    • BBQ is cooked slowly over low, indirect heat and uses smoke at low temperatures (usually around 240-280°F) combined with significantly longer cooking times.  This cooking technique uniquely flavors meats, seafood, vegetables, cheeses, nuts, and beverages.
    • LSS is a collaborative team effort focused on performance improvement.  It systematically removes “waste” from processes and decreases “variance”, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and increased efficiencies. As a result, employee morale and quality of products and services are enhanced
  3. Both Utilize Essential, Specific Tools of the Trade
    • BBQ uses tools such as the following:
      • A wood, smoke-producing fire
      • grill on which items are placed for cooking
      • Tongs/spatulas to “handle” food items
      • Specialized “rubs” to season the raw meat
      • Regional-specific “sauces” to enhance the flavor of the cooked meat
    • LSS uses tools like the following:
      • Standardized work -the optimal combination of people, equipment, materials, and processes to ensure tasks are completed with minimum waste to consistently and predictably meet customer requirements and expectations.
      • The 5 Whys which help move past the symptoms toward uncovering the actual root cause of a problem. By asking the question “Why” five times, the true underlying cause(s) can often be determined.
      • 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) for workspace organization.
      • The fishbone diagram which is also known as a “cause and effect diagram.” A fishbone diagram is a structured tool for brainstorming and is an aid in identifying potential causes.
      • The histogram – a data-containing graph which addresses the shape, frequency, dispersion and other factors. It can deliver a visual representation of data, which can be hard to comprehend in other forms of presentations.
      • Frequency charts, also referred to as check sheets, are used to collect, organize, prioritize, and analyze variation. They can be used to answer the question, “How often is an event occurring?
  4. Both Provide Benefits
    • People love to eat BBQ!  The food prepared by this cooking process infuses the cooked items with a unique and “homey” flavor that appeals to everyone’s desire for comfort foods.  And, it is reasonably priced.
    • LSS engages employees and promotes communication, efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability.  LSS initiatives are reasonably priced. The cost savings and value-add can provide a significant return on investment for organizations.

Both BBQ and LSS are an excellent VALUE to the consumer!

BBQ and LSS – for everyone, everywhere!

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World Compliment Day

Human hands showing thumbs up sign

In 1965, singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon debuted her hit single What the World Needs Now.  Many of us remember the “next stanza” of this popular song as an amplification of the 1960’s call for “love” among all peoples.

In 2017 — 50+ years later — I suggest that in the unsettled and politically divisive culture of education in 21st century America, let’s revise this “next stanza” to say simply, “What the world needs now… is a compliment.”



  1. an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration

  2. a formal act or expression of civility, respect, or regard

  3. a courteous greeting; good wishes; regards

In this spirit:

LEAN Frog would like to compliment:

  • The many, many teachers in America that pour their hearts into helping our children – both academically and socially – grow-up to handle living in a complex world
  • The of the educational support staff that provide a safe and healthy environment  for our children each day
  • Both board of education members and superintendents for providing inspired and innovative leadership that supports our community vision for education and for their direction in competently managing all the business aspects of a complex public organization
  • Students in public education for all their perseverance, hard work and creative and insightful thinking

Next, you might ask what comes after a compliment?  Well, my mother taught me that when you received a compliment, you should say, “thank you!”

So, again in that spirit:

LEAN Frog would like to thank:

  • Those who have taken the time to compliment our work – some of these compliments are available at theleanleap.com/results/testimonials
  • The judge of the American Business Association’s “Stevie” Awards who, in recognition of LEAN Frog’s Silver Stevie-IBA-Silver-Logo-170x300Award in the “Most Innovative Company of the Year” competition of 2016, said:

    “Too few companies have the courage and the compassion required to address the education market because it is not as lucrative as many others—you have to care enough to want to go there and be dedicated to providing real benefit, not just being another parasite on the beleaguered system.  It appears that LEAN Frog has shown the clever, entrepreneurial wit to bring real value where it is much needed.”

Finally, I would like to personally thank all of our friends in public education that, with a smile and a chuckle, have complimented me, Dave Knowles, when I am wearing my signature “frog hat.”




– Dave Knowles, LEAN Frog Sales and Marketing Manager

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Introducing BLOOM – A Digital Behavioral Learning and Discipline Management Solution

LEAN Frog Digital, LLC, a leading digital solutions provider for public schools, is excited to announce the launch of BLOOM – a web-based application that lets you easily monitor overall student behavior and responses.

“BLOOM is a tremendous tool and we are excited to make it available for all school systems,” said co-founder Byron Headrick of LEAN Frog Digital. “This is a tool that will track student discipline and behavior while standardizing workflow and ensuring data integrity.”

School systems can use BLOOM to provide teachers with holistic, individualized student profiles. This ensures that each student is given the highest quality, personalized attention from school systems.BLOOM

“BLOOM is an innovative behavioral learning platform. BLOOM provides the flexibility for school systems to use their own conduct standards, provides a seamless and automated workflow for proactive monitoring, managing, reporting, and standardizing behavior tracking across the school system or at individual schools,” said co-founder and President Bill Johnson of LEAN Frog Digital, LLC. “We continue to enhance BLOOM by focusing on the needs of our customers and partners.”

Using BLOOM will allow teachers and administrators to quickly and easily identify behavioral trends, and provide positive behavior intervention support. BLOOM is tailored to fit individual schools and staffs, and is secure and accessible via your school systems’ network.

For more information about BLOOM, a free demonstration or information on pricing, visit our website at www.LEANFrogDigital.com. The LEAN Frog Digital LLC team can be reached by calling 877-799-532 or by email at info@LEANFrogDigital.com.

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Introducing LEAN Frog Digital

HUNTSVILLE, ALA. (November 29, 2016) – LEAN Frog Business Solutions, a leading continuous improvement solutions provider for public schools, is excited to announce the launch of LEAN Frog Digital, LLC to provide digital solutions for school systems focused on increasing value for students, parents, teachers and communities.LF Digital Logo

“Everything we do always comes back to helping students achieve excellence,” said co-founder Byron Headrick of LEAN Frog Digital, LLC. “Technology is and will continue to be an integral part of education moving forward. We’re excited to help school systems embrace that reality with efficient and effective digital solutions. LEAN Frog Digital will help school systems realize cost savings and efficiencies in back office and administrative software, make the right software investments – whether it’s off-the-shelf or custom, and integrate instructional technology into the classroom.”

LEAN Frog Digital helps school systems unlock the full potential and benefits of instructional technology – from more interactive and immersive learning to increased student engagement and participation. Moreover, LEAN Frog Digital helps school systems get the most return on investments for school systems in a time of scarce funding and budget cuts.

“We are going to drive major changes in the way public education utilizes technology. LEAN Frog has established itself as the leader in Lean Six Sigma-based process improvement.” said co-founder and President Bill Johnson of LEAN Frog Digital, LLC. “LEAN Frog Digital will expand upon their success by deploying efficient, cost-effective and impactful digital solutions.”

For more information about LEAN Frog Digital and how we can benefit your school system, visit LEANFrogDigital.com or contact us at info@LEANFrogDigital.com or 877-799-5327.

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How Do You Tale?


I decided for my son’s graduation present to take him on a “motor head” weekend extravaganza in California. If you knew me, you would laugh at the thought of me and the word “extravaganza” in the same sentence – but that’s exactly what we did.

With help from my wonderful wife, a detailed itinerary was drafted, printed and made into a book to guide our father–son trip (to reduce the amount of awkward guy time). As the dates drew near for our trip, we had settled on several stops filled with cars, awesome restaurants, beaches – and even an aircraft carrier. Also, at the recommendation of my wife, a last minute sailing trip was added.

I have to admit that I was very reluctant of the idea of going on a sailboat. My previous exposure to sailing was next to nothing. What if the boat sank? What if I got attacked by a shark? Worse yet – what if I dropped my phone in the ocean? No, thanks! However, I was able to fight back those fears and a refocus on being the “cool, fun dad” that I envision myself to be. I let go of my hesitations and we booked the trip.

SailStars and Stripes was the name of the sailboat. After learning how the boat was built and understanding that with a 13–foot keel weighing 40,000 pounds under the boat, I had essentially just boarded a large Weeble wearing a cape (if you are my age you may have understood that reference). My fears of the boat going down were greatly alleviated.

I have to admit, looking at the boat, the crew and the other passengers, it didn’t take me long to understand why people love sailing. What more could you ask for than cruising through the water on a beautiful day powered by nothing but the wind – all while getting the satisfaction of seeing a group of individuals work as a team to make it all happen? What an experience!

From the hoisting of the sail to the steering of the boat, everyone worked as a team to move that boat through the water. I love scenarios where everybody has a task, a place to be and singular goal to achieve. I learned a lot thanks to the boat’s crew who truly loved sailing.

Of all of the sights, sounds and feelings I experience on the boat, there was one thing that I can’t get out of my mind. My son and I were positioned on the boat and our task was to crank on one of the boats wenches to “jibe” the head sail from one side of the boat to the other. As we cranked on the wench, one of the crew told me to look up at the sail. In three locations on the sail, there were these small pieces of string.

He told me that when they are parallel to the water, you have a happy sail. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. It wasn’t until the owner of the boat told me later in our trip that those small pieces of string are called “tell-tales.” The light bulb went off in my head and I got it.

The small pieces of string placed in three places on the sail provided the crew the information to see if they were fully utilizing the sail for the wind that was provided. They were indicators to let the crew know what to address to get the most out of the sail and the wind. If the tell-tales were not parallel to the water, the captain would steer the boat to correct – or the captain would have the crew “jibe” the head sail to better utilize the wind – or the crew would tighten the tension on the sail to reduce drag.

The small and seemingly insignificant pieces played a Johnlarge role in a successful day of sailing. This was proven as we flew past another sailor who was complaining that there was no wind at an impressive speed of 10 knots (about 11 and a half miles per hour).

So back to my original question: How do you tale?

In my world at LEAN Frog, our term for tell-tales is key performance indicators or KPIs. Why do I care about KPIs? They’re extremely important because people use them every day. From the instruments in your car, to the state of your stocks, to the statistics of your favorite sports team, people use KPIs every day.

I bet some of you even have KPIs displayed for you on your wrist and get that satisfied feeling when your Fitbit notifies you that you’ve reached your fitness goals for the day. KPIs help us determine where we are and help us act to adjust our actions to improve.

At LEAN Frog, our mission is to help school systems improve performance, save money and provide the best learning environment that they can for students. We preach the importance of KPIs everywhere we go to encourage continuous improvement for school systems to perform at the highest level possible.

In other words, KPIs are financial or non-financial metrics used to measure, control and improve performance with respect to an organization’s goal. The principles on which KPIs are defined are as follows:
• Quantitative and measurable
• Goal-basedPicture1
• Process-based
• Strategy-based
• Time-bounded

We sometimes define KPIs using the acronym – SMART:
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Relevant
• Time-bounded

It does not matter how big or small the school system is – knowing what KPIs to watch and teaching the ability to adjust through continuous improvement is what has enabled LEAN Frog to contribute to over $80 million in savings for school systems over the years to benefit their students.

Encourage your school system use their “tell-tales” to help them successfully navigate through any conditions while working together as a team. Happy sailing!

– John Higginbotham, PMP, BB

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LEAN Frog’s John Higginbotham Receives Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification

DSC_0224LEAN Frog Senior Lean Consultant and Project Manager, John Higginbotham, has completed his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification. John currently supports all aspects of client engagement from scope definition to product delivery while providing insight for improving client business processes, efficiencies, practices and critical business strategies.

John’s certification marks the addition of another Lean Six Sigma Black Belt to LEAN Frog’s staff, further strengthening the company’s overall knowledge and depth of expertise in lean six sigma tools and strategies. LEAN Frog is committed to helping students by freeing up school system resources to focus on education using innovative lean six sigma thinking, systems and tools. Click here to learn more.

Prior to joining LEAN Frog, John served as a Project Manager for a variety of area companies, including URS, Enfinger Steele Development, and most recently, Willo Products as a Senior Project Manager. Prior to that, John worked in the residential construction market in home building and development.

John received his BBA from Athens State University in 2005. He has since earned multiple professional certifications, including his Project Management Professional Certification.

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Best K-12 Practices Contest Q&A with Dr. Sherri Headrick

I’m sitting down today with our own LEAN Frog Co-founder and Director of Sales and Marketing, Dr. Sherri Headrick, to talk about the basics of the Alabama and Tennessee’s Best K-12 Practices Contests.

We’ll answer some questions such as – What is it? Who can enter? What makes a good entry?

Josh: Good morning, Sherri!!

Sherri: Good morning, Josh!

Josh: Tell us a little about the contests and why LEAN Frog sponsors this competition.

StockImageSherri: LEAN Frog’s mission is to help public schools maximize the value they deliver to students, parents and communities. Our goal with these contests is to recognize best practices and innovations in public schools that impact student achievement and promote effective and efficient use of public resources. Often you see a lot of headlines about what’s going wrong in public education. We want to shine a bright light on the good work people are doing every day to positively impact students and their communities. That’s the reason we work with school systems. When resources are used effectively and efficiently, it allows students to learn better and have greater opportunities.

Josh: Why do schools enter the competition?

Sherri: I’d love to tell you that that people enter the contest because they recognize the value of having innovative, quantifiable and sustainable processes that lead to student achievement and that they believe a repository of best practices would be a great asset and legacy for their efforts. I think that is part of it. However, I think the main reasons people enter the “Best K-12 Practices” contest is to:

  1. Win some money
  2. Gain a little publicity
  3. Promote an initiative they believe in
  4. Recognize a group of teachers and/or students that have done something special or unique

I’m fine with that. Whatever motivates people to think about the work they do, document how they do it and continually evaluate how it benefits their students is a good thing in my book.

Josh: What does LEAN Frog look for when judging entries?

Sherri: We evaluate the entries based on three main criteria:

The-Main-Thing_laughsandlove_com_1. Creativity – original programs or initiatives that are not widely used or a unique application of a practice that other school systems are using.

2. Sustainability – a practice with measures in place to ensure the practice continues. We look at whether or not there is a person or a team who “owns” the practice. This ensures that the practice continues to work efficiently and effectively. This tends to be the area where people do not provide as much detail as we would like

3. Impact on students is the final criterion. We look to see how the practice improves students’ environments or wellbeing, how it improves the quality of service provided to students, or how it maximizes resources available to students. Student impact is the whole reason for this contest.

4. This year, we’ve added a small portion (up to five points out of the total possible 35 points) for evaluating the creativity of the media presentation. The presentation can be a video or PowerPoint covering the who, what, how, and why of the best practice (i.e., who started it, what it is, how it is implemented and sustained, why you started it/why it benefits students).  Some of the best presentations have strongly featured students in still pictures or videos.  Our first Alabama’s Best contest winner featured a video created by a student! While the majority of the points do not come from the media presentation, but from the quality of the best practice, we do encourage school systems to use the presentation to showcase their uniqueness.

Josh: What separates a good entry from a winning entry?

winningSherri: When I look back at the Grand Prize winners from 2014 and 2015, I see some “sweat equity,” for lack of a better word, put into the practice. These entries showed that they took some time to assess their current situation, involved their stakeholders in generating improvement ideas, and had a clear vision for sustaining the practices.

For example, Tarrant City Schools reviewed data to determine how many “reduced price” families missed qualifying for “free” meals and by how much. They held a “Kitchen Cook Off” and staff members voted on entrees to improve recipes. They documented increases in breakfast and lunch participation.

Our 2015 winner, Roanoke City Schools, took a standard practice—an Outdoor Classroom—and adapted it to become an agricultural outdoor project-based learning opportunity. The program not only emphasizes cross disciplinary learning, but students also learn about calculating expenses and profit through selling fish from their three fish ponds and fresh eggs from their chicken coop. The school system had the foresight to engage Auburn University’s Fisheries department and the Alabama Forestry Commission to help standardize practices.

Josh: Any final tips you want to give school systems?

Sherri: Remember you have to enter to win. The deadline will be here before you know it. The deadline for “Tennessee’s Best” contest is July 29 and the deadline for the “Alabama’s Best” contest is October 28. Review your accomplishments from the past year (or the previous year) and identify the ones that have repeatable best practices and submit your entry today.

Josh: Thanks so much, Sherri!

Sherri: Thank you for taking the time to ask about this contest and share the answers.

Click here for even more information about LEAN Frog’s Alabama and Tennessee’s Best K-12 Practices Contests and to submit an entry for your school today!

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