“It’s the human / people element that tends to be the most important aspect in projects.” An Alumni View by Philip Byrne

We ask Black Belt graduate Philip Byrne about his experiences since completing his course. Philip completed his course in 2021 joining our growing number of Alumni practitioners.

To start you might just fill us in on how you came to undertake your Lean Sigma education with us.
After I graduated from college, I started working for a medical device company called Stryker. My first manager had a Black Belt in Lean Sigma, so this is where I got my first taste in the world of Lean Sigma. As a project engineer, I undertook multiple continuous improvement projects under the guidance of my manager. I thought that I understood the principles while doing these projects and it was only until I became more experienced in my job did, I learn to fully appreciate how little I knew! As I progressed through the years, I looked at various options to improve my knowledge and competencies in Lean Sigma. While there were other LS courses available to me through Stryker and also externally, Stockil Continuous Improvement (CI) in MTU was highly recommended by colleagues and managers who previously completed the course so I didn’t hesitate to apply. I was eligible to avail of the Springboard grant which was a huge help financially and allowed me to fully commit to doing the Black Belt course in 2021.

Since graduating from your Lean Sigma Course how have you applied Continuous Improvement and what was most beneficial?

I learned a lot about the fundamentals of Lean Sigma in practice such as DMAIC / DMADV methodology, problem solving, statistics, SPC, team formation, finance, change management, supply chain etc. What I really found beneficial was soft skills on the human element of projects. I learned strategies to get what support and resources I needed for any project / problem that I came across which is a huge benefit to me to this day. Managers have their own goals and timelines for their projects. Often times, projects don’t align to their timelines or expectations and when this happens it is very important to manage key stakeholders closely and keep them all satisfied. I learned a huge number of approaches to building a business case for the project and using this to convince key stakeholders to support me 100% with any resources that I need for the project. I also learned that it is very important to get engagement and buy-in at an early stage from your team to help realise your goal.

What areas have you found to be most difficult to deal with in your Continuous Improvement journey?

For me I find implementing change in an organisation can be a difficult thing to achieve and sustain. I found that if a project isn’t scoped correctly where leadership and people in an organisation don’t fully buy into the project then it is very difficult for a project / change to succeed in the future. Often times, a change is introduced and if it isn’t backed by people then the change can become ineffective and revert back to the original state. The course taught me that change is all about people in the organisation and change management is a useful structure approach for ensuring that the lasting benefits of change are achieved.

Have you see any significant change in the application of Lean Sigma over the last 3 to 5 years?

What I have observed in the past 3-5 years is that Lean Sigma competencies, projects and awareness across all industries have increased significantly and will likely continue to increase in the future due to the nature of continuous improvement methodologies. While doing the Black Belt in Stockil CI, I gained exposure to a wide variety of projects across diverse industries. I thought that principals were only applied to manufacturing in practice but what amazed me was how it was being applied across nearly every industry in some shape or form. It was fascinating to see how Lean Sigma principals were applied in industries such as nursing, hospital wards and service industry and a key takeaway for me is that what I learned from the courses can be applied in every aspect of my professional career and life!

If you were to reinforce one key point you have taken from the classes you attended what would it be?

One key takeaway was the importance of taking the time needed, using a methodological approach, to correctly define the problem and goal before moving into other phases of lean sigma. Often, I would see people rush the ‘Define’ stage of DMAIC / DMADV stage and incorrectly define the problem and goal setting. I saw numerous examples, during the course from peers and myself, when this happened and the solutions that were implemented didn’t fix the root cause of the problem. This led to poor results, or the project did not get the anticipated return on investment upon completion. When this happened, the project would have to go back into the ‘Define’ phase of DMAIC / DMADV or start a new project to address the root cause which is costly and time consuming for all involved. After completing this course, I place huge importance in spending the time needed with my team to complete the ‘Define’ phase to correctly identify the problem and goal statement prior to moving to other phases of the project.

Is there anything extra you feel would be beneficial to the readers?

This course with Stockil CI gives you great exposure to work with people across diverse industries and I learned more from my peer’s projects and their approaches to Lean Sigma than I did with my own project. While understanding Lean Sigma principals is very beneficial at the end of the day it’s the human / people element that tends to be the most important aspect in projects. While I always valued this, the course really taught me the importance of respecting people and their views and that you learn more by listening to what they are saying as everyone is hugely important in a team. If everyone in the team is respected, then it has a much higher chance of succeeding. Through Stockil CI I learned important elements of team formation which I now apply during every project that I’m involved in as this is vitally important for project success.


Thank you Philip for a powerful view into Lean Sigma and your advise on engaging everyone.  We wish you the very best in your ongoing journey.

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