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:

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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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A Lean Christmas Carol

Photo by Jeff White

Photo by Jeff White

“Everything is different and yet everything is the same”.  This is a phrase I heard a couple of years ago from a man I was helping in reference to a tool he had just borrowed.  At the time, I grinned, said ‘yes sir’, and thought that was a silly thing to say.  What a major contradiction, right?

As time has gone on, I think about that saying all the time and how true it really is.  Things in this life tend to be similar in many ways, yet overall they are very different.

Case in point:  I recently have been helping with the local Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater as they prepare for their annual performance of A Christmas Carol.  Truth be told, I would not be there, except that my two oldest children decided to audition and were selected to be carolers in this year’s production.  I was amazed at the level of expertise this group demonstrated.  The logistics that have to come together for this production to open is overwhelming.  Every aspect, from the assembly and dressing of the set to the technical components of the show to the management of the actors, ensures a great performance.  You might ask, what does this have to do with anything?

I remember another phrase: “Everything has a place and everything in its place”.  As to the exact origin of this phrase, you could travel down many paths.  Its origin could be as a Benjamin Franklin quote, a practice by soldiers keeping their packs ready for war, or sailors securing their gear from strong ocean storms.  Even farmers use this philosophy to keep from misplacing their tools, saving them money to feed their families. This phrase has been used to teach a mentality of work that helps lead to success.  It is no different in the theater.  See the illustration below:

The proper place for Tiny Tim’s Crutch! 


I was intrigued with this find.  I love seeing how people size up work, tasks, and projects, then utilize ideas to ensure success.  In this case, ensuring a necessary prop is ready for the big performance.  Great process – right out of the Lean 5S (Workplace Organization) playbook!  It is one of many I have experienced with this group.  I have to say the Technical Producer Lynn Broad (In House Production for Von Braun Center, Huntsville AL) is impressive, as well as the Director Jeff White of Jeff White Photographer.   These two, along with their entire team, have done an incredible job.  They have a process for everything.  There is even a process for the management of dressing the actors.  Makeup….costumes…..microphone hookup…….sound check………voice warm-up……….props…….etc.  It has been fascinating to watch!

As a member of LEAN Frog, a LEAN Six Sigma “process” company, I am always thrilled to see great practices, no matter what industry or profession.  Look at the similarities in the process the theater group uses and the system a school uses for maintenance of facilities, such as beltsMobile County Public School System.  The Building Maintenance Engineer at this school numbers his needed parts per heating and cooling unit that he maintains and stores them on the wall in clear view to ensure he has the correct part in case of a failure.  It reduces time looking for the part and helps him know visually that he is prepared.

The LEAN Tool 5S (Workplace Organization) is based on practical organization approaches like those pictured but goes further to systemize the organization process, making it sustainable over time.   It is a simple five step tool that gets its name from each step, starting with the letter “S”:

  • SORT – Evaluate and remove unnecessary items
  • STRAIGHTEN – Decide where to keep necessary items. Organize items by frequency of use and clearly designate their correct location. Make it easy to find items when needed. Make it visually obvious when they are not in their correct place.
  • SHINE – Clean everything inside and out. Find ways to prevent dirt and contamination from occurring. Adopt cleaning as a form of inspection. Make cleaning a part of everyday work.
  • STANDARDIZE – Establish routines, procedures and standard practices for regularly and systematically repeating the first three “S’s”.
  • SUSTAIN – Document how organizing and cleaning will be done and make standards visible. Maintain and monitor the first three “S’s” on a regular basis.

Organization such as this reduces time to complete tasks, and THAT saves money!  Preparing properly helps provide a great learning environment for our students, so that failures and tasks can be managed quickly, effectively, and with LESS money.   No Scrooge could argue with a mentality like that!

Blog Post Author:  John Higginbotham

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LEAN Frog – Outsourced Continuous Improvement or How We Do It


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LEAN Frog has saved school systems in the southeastern United States over $80 million dollars over the last six years.  I am often asked by superintendents and school board members how we do it and what exactly we do.  These are good questions.  Honestly, what we do is very unique, not only in the Southeast, but also nationally.

Over the years, LEAN Frog has developed a proprietary approach to using Lean Six Sigma to help school systems save money while increasing the value of services offered to students, parents, staff, and communities as a whole.  Lean Six Sigma is a method of creating a culture of continuous improvement within your school system.  It focuses on improving both efficiency and effectiveness.  It means doing the right things, the right way, eliminating wasteful activities and reducing variation in schools and departments and in school system processes.  Unlike traditional approaches deploying Lean Six Sigma that focus on starting nearest to the customer, we have learned that the most benefits are achieved by starting in non-instructional areas.  This does not mean our tool set cannot drive innovation or problem-solving in instructional areas.  It is just that most often non-instructional areas have not been a focus.

LEAN Frog President Byron Headrick works with Oak Ridge Schools to drive improvements through facilitating the development of the Vision and Strategy for their 1:1 digital initiative.

LEAN Frog President Byron Headrick works with Oak Ridge Schools to drive improvements through facilitating the development of the Vision and Strategy for their 1:1 digital initiative.


Due to the No Child Left Behind laws, school systems have focused on improving instructional areas over the past few years, while non-instructional areas are often only addressed if a significant issue arises.  As a result, there are often significant opportunities to improve the level of service and reduce cost in non-instructional areas.  We find these opportunities, innovate solutions, and develop standardized, repeatable, and measured processes to ensure the innovations last through our proprietary LEAN School Management Services™.  This is a flexible, expandable service that fits school systems of almost any size.  We become your school system’s outsourced continuous improvement department, which allows you to purchase what you need as you need it at substantially less cost than hiring a Lean Six Sigma expert to be on staff.  This is more economical for your school system.  Our team has developed unique proprietary tools geared especially for K-12 public schools.

Here’s how it works:

ASSESS:  Our FREE Lean Opportunity Readiness Assessment® alone has identified over $15 million dollars in potential improvement opportunities for over 46 school systems.

The ASSESS Phase often begins with a client school system asking us to perform a FREE Lean Opportunity Readiness Assessment® (LORA) of up to three non-instructional departments.  As part of the LORA, we also conduct a Performance and Process Management (PPM) System Maturity Level Assessment™ and an Organizational Change Readiness (OCR) Level Assessment™.  At completion, we have a strong understanding of opportunities that may exist within your school system to save money or improve services or both.  We will also be able to identify whether your organization is ready to easily implement change and what approaches will best make improvements last.  This information is provided to the school system in a formal report.  Our FREE Lean Opportunity Readiness Assessment® alone has identified over $15 million dollars in potential improvement opportunities for over 46 school systems .

While the LORA does identify potential opportunities, it is important to remember that it is based on a snap shot of data and brief interviews with school system staff.  A deeper look may be needed prior to developing a Detailed Improvement Roadmap™ complete with detailed implementation recommendations.  Therefore, the Assess Phase often continues with Detailed Efficiency Reviews™ (DER) or Organizational Reviews™ (OR), or a combination of both.

The DER is our “deep dive” into the efficiency and effectiveness of a department’s internal processes.  This formal review process involves detailed analysis of data provided, interviews with administrators and staff, onsite observation of work processes as they occur, and workflow analysis.  We provide commendations along with practical, actionable recommendations, and a Detailed Improvement Roadmap™ that details how to implement the recommended improvements.  The detail steps for each proprietary DER is different based on the assessed non-instructional department, as well as the size of the school system.

The OR analyzes your school system’s organizational structure, communication channels, and performance management systems.  We provide recommendations for improved organizational and reporting structures along with job goal recommendations to promote greater accuracy, accountability, and alignment of resources.  At the request of clients, we also sometimes develop new detailed job descriptions and perform compensation analysis as part of the OR .

LEAN Frog team member Chasitie White conducting a Detailed Efficiency Review of Human Resources at Tuscaloosa City Schools.

LEAN Frog team member Chasitie White conducting a Detailed Efficiency Review of Human Resources at Tuscaloosa City Schools.


Either of these assessments may be performed for a single department/function, multiple departments/functions, or for the entire school system as a whole.  After completing these assessments, we will develop a custom Detailed Implementation Roadmap™ based on the school system’s resources, needs, and speed of change required .

IMPROVE: Our tools and experience allow us to implement improvements more efficiently and effectively.

During the IMPROVE Phase, we will support the implementation of our recommended improvements.  The level of support needed is flexible based on the needs of the school system.  This support can range from a single team member onsite one day per month to a team onsite one week per month to full-time support members onsite through the duration of the IMPROVE Phase .  We become your outsourced continuous improvement department.  Our flexibility allows you to purchase these services at a lower cost than you could hire a Lean Six Sigma expert or team of experts.  Our Lean Six Sigma experts at LEAN Frog have unique proprietary tools and approaches that have been designed over the last five years solely for the purpose of improving K-12 public school systems.  We call this the LEAN School Management System. Our tools and experience allow us to implement improvements more efficiently and effectively.

LEAN Frog team member Fred Kemp conducts Leader Development training at Huntsville City Schools to help staff sustain improvements.

LEAN Frog team member Fred Kemp conducts Leader Development training at Huntsville City Schools to help staff sustain improvements.

SUSTAIN: We help you lay the foundation for continuous improvement within your school system.

Once we have implemented improvements and laid a foundation for continuous improvement within your school system, we will begin the SUSTAIN Phase of support.  This is an economical maintenance level of the LEAN School Management Services™, in which we can assist your school system with the following:

  • Documenting and maintaining “best-in-class” procedures and key performance indicators
  • Training and certifying internal staff members to lead improvement projects
  • Developing stakeholder-driven strategic plans and/or annual improvement plans
  • Complying with state/federal monitoring and the re-accreditation process
  • Performing annual assessments to highlight new improvement opportunities

In the end, “how we do it” all comes down to working shoulder-to-shoulder with our client school systems in order to provide the most benefit to students, parents, staff, and communities .


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