Podcast: “In all organizations there is an opportunity for processes to be improved”
In this week’s podcast interview, Carolann Wolfgang, continuous process improvement program manager at the NAVFAC EXWC otherwise know as the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center discusses the need for continuous improvement at all organizations.
Recorded at OPEX Summit San Diego, Carolann Wolfgang joins us and takes us through what she’s doing in continuous improvement for NAVFAC EXWC otherwise know as the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center.
NAVFAC is a subset of the Navy which is onshore based but directly supports the warfighter. Carolann shares that in all organizations there is opportunity for processes to be improved or implemented even at a place which is already in ship shape.
She notes that there are so many tools out there so the set of tools that you choose to use depends on the culture of the organization.
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(The following is an automated and unedited transcript. Please be aware that errors may be present.)
Interviewer: Seth Adler
Guest: Carolann Wolfgang
Seth Adler: Carolanne Wolfgang joins us first of supporters to thank and thank you for listening.
This episode is supported by pro Map Team engagement is the key to successful VPM. That's why pro map EPM software is simple social and shareable with pro map business teams find process information useful and easy to improve. Clients like Toyota McDonalds and Coca-Cola Amatil agree help your teams work smarter and safer everyday. Go to pro map dot com slash PEX to request a free trial that's pro map ending in two pieces as in process and PEX as in process excellence. Chrome app dot com flash packs. :
This episode is also supported by the process Excellence Network PEX network is a global community for process professionals business leaders and executives who want to improve their businesses through process and operational excellence. With a global membership of 130000 plus and a burgeoning global portfolio of live events webinars and networking opportunities FX Network provides access to experience process professionals and industry insider insight. Go to PEX network dot com for more information recorded at our backs summit San Diego Carol and Wolfgang joins us and takes us through what she's doing in continuous improvement for. Fack x WC otherwise known as the naval facilities engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center. That fact is a subset of the Navy which is onshore based but directly supports the warfighter. Carolanne shares that in all organizations there's an opportunity for processes to be improved or implemented even at a place which is already in shipshape.
She notes that there are so many tools out there so the set of tools that you choose to use depends on the culture of the organization. Welcome to PEX network Godbey to be IQ I'm your host Seth Adler download episodes on PAX network Dom or through our app in iTunes within the iTunes podcast app in Google Play or wherever you currently get your podcasts. Carolanne Wolfgang NAPF. Expeditionary engineering Warfare Center part Miami California.
Seth Adler: 02:13What is this for us for we who are not in the military please tell us more.
Carolann Wolfgang: 02:19Now fack is a subset of the Navy naval facilities so on shore type of work owning things construction different things like that and as a warfare center we directly support the war fighter.
Seth Adler: 02:34And thank you for that right. Do you have military experience yourself I wonder.
Carolann Wolfgang: 02:39I do not speak honestly in private industry. So it's federal government is new for me.
Seth Adler: 02:46How did you find them. How did they find you I wonder. I
Carolann Wolfgang: 02:50actually was working. That's a good question. I was working with the company and was a contractor for the federal government. So eventually I had a role as a safety professional with them. And now I'm in a role for continuous process improvement for them which and I love it.
Seth Adler: 03:08Now it makes sense why we're talking in terms of process improvement in such a place. What are you actually focused on what do you need to be kind of employing what what did they know and what don't they know and how new is it for them and how easy is it for you. Those
Carolann Wolfgang: 03:27are all good questions. I think in all organizations there's some level of consistency where we're you know we can always make things better. There are always processes in place. There are processes not in place and we can do some improvement using there's so many tools out there right to use. And I find a lot of the same things that different organizations I've worked a lot of different places around the world from private small companies through large Fortune 500 companies research organizations. And there's you always get the sense that there are things that you can improve and the set of tools you use depends on the culture of the place right. What people are used to what's really acceptable to that culture and how much you can push forward through that culture to to make a change. Sure something innovative.
Seth Adler: 04:23Yeah. What I've heard though from other process excellence executives is it's the process that matters. The brand doesn't matter. The culture doesn't matter. The you know what we're selling or what we're doing or what the output is doesn't really matter. I've heard that I've also heard we in-process excellence have to really be married to the very front line of the customer's experience and make sure that we're you know aligned and measuring to that and now I'm hearing that it has to do with the culture what tools you employ has to do with the culture you are within. So tell us more about do you know I guess this military is pretty good about process right.
Carolann Wolfgang: 05:10So you're starting from there I would imagine they have a lot of good processes. To me that people matter whether their customers internal external stakeholders people who are implementing the process. So I would first say that people matter and I'm in a position now to support those people to make a change and an improvement. So whatever I can do to help them be able to use the tools that are out there. So so often in business practices you know we want to be problem solvers. We
were all there making these decisions sometimes without data. So the data driven process aspect is important of course to me and and helping people to see how data driven decision making can be neutral and objective and really helped to solve the problem. Better is a focus for me take the emotion out of it.
Seth Adler: 06:10Let's look at this data. Take
Carolann Wolfgang : the emotion out of it. There is a place for emotion short but I think that when we present things with the data in this neutral objective way whether we're using graphs I'm talking about showing data in various ways analyzing that using analytics different parties with different agendas that become involved in the process improvement project see that low pay they're not blaming me for this problem it's not a personal thing which is what we're always trying to get to. It's we're not looking at a person as a problem it's a system or a business process. That's the problem. And so I just find yeah focusing on really supporting people helping them see what the goals are and the intent and using data where I can and showing people hey you have a problem. Use the tool use the fish bone diagram use some impact effort matrix analysis something really simple get into this habit as as an individual and as a team to help solve problems. There
Seth Adler: 07:17you go. All right so that you sound like a wise individual and you've mentioned that you have worked all over the world. So kind of let's start at the beginning geographically where are you from. I'm
Carolann Wolfgang: 07:30from Pennsylvania.
where in Pennsylvania a very small town called Ashland is near Lancaster Pennsylvania is kind of near Lancaster. I've been to Lancaster. It's beautiful. It's amazing. It's wonderful. So it's small town yes small town right. Yes. OK. And what were you doing in the small town when you were a kid. What
were you into what we all do in small towns as kids were outside exploring with other kids in the village and I spent a lot of time observing we were Pennsylvania is full of really great natural areas and so I spent a lot of time and became a real sort of observation naturalist type person. And that fed into going to school initially as a geologist my undergraduate degree. Right. So I love being outdoors and just watching nature which ended up for me being a great first effort to look at things as a system which is very beneficial now has a process in place.
How does this nature thing all work. Right. Right. We need these disgusting little bugs to me for my niece she loves them. Yes but there is a reason why they're there and this is what they do and this is how it all plays into it.
Absolutely right. OK. Seeing things holistically and as a system growing up really helped me and I didn't even know that at that time you got your geology degree. Were
Seth Adler: 08:59you a geologist of any kind in any way.
Carolann Wolfgang : was not. But when I graduated there is you know it's cyclic geologist so everybody for everyone it's true. Well the joke when I graduated was what do you tell a geologist and it was thanks for the you know delivering the pizza. It was hard to get jobs then. But I did. I landed a job and a great place in Boulder Colorado.
Seth Adler: 09:22That's also another beautiful place. Yes. But let's let's skip forward I guess past geology although I'd love to talk about it too. You know what I would imagine would have been a change in your career at some point right.
Carolann Wolfgang: 09:35Yes.
Carolann Wolfgang: 09:36So because geology jobs were not so easily to come by and I became more or less sort of project manager and really getting into that aspect of environmental projects and than being a scientist and so as I went into that role more and more I became more interested in basic project management and processes and found that I was naturally skilled with looking at the process. And I loved that I loved seeing things like that like a process. So marrying that as I did my Ph.D. program where at the Australian National University.
Carolann Wolfgang: 10:17Ha ha ha Jalia which just off the coast towards the middle. It is the only place that really doesn't have the only city that really doesn't have an ocean that's now of any size.
Seth Adler: 10:31I was in Australia for for new years 2001 to 2002 and on the television or telly the next day it was reported that Canberra forgot to do a celebration of New Year's which is my relationship to Campbell What were you doing there.
Carolann Wolfgang: 10:52I was doing a Ph.D. program and Natural Resources Management so project management for natural resources basically was that was one aspect of it and so looking technically with my geology background I was looking at water resources management specifically which is a problem in California which was probably in many places your world.
Carolann Wolfgang: And so eventually I saw for probably the first time that the technical aspects of dealing with this problem were difficult but I could ask someone or read a book or rely on some experience and figure out some solution the really difficult challenge was working with people about these issues and I had no training in that. So I started to see people as mattering more and I did some mediation training to solve conflicts then and that was fascinating and so I think that journey really took me more to where I'm at now where I'm even further away from science but you know the people aspect and you know making meetings be productive seeing how they manage the culture formed culture all these things became more interesting fascinating to me and they were a bigger challenge to me than a technical problem.
Speaker 7: 12:08What was the next stop after Australia I wonder how long you spend there by the way I spent a few years there getting my doctorate and then I moved to Europe.
Carolann Wolfgang :I was in the Netherlands and Germany and I worked in the Netherlands during that time what kind of company what kind of organization. It was a large organization that did research. So what I was doing there was working on a job.
Carolann Wolfgang: 12:30It was a EU contract looking at water resource issues and also mega sites contaminated mega sites so-called so what are those. I
Seth Adler: 12:42don't know what you mean.
Carolann Wolfgang: 12:43There are large areas say all of Rotterdam harbour could be a mega site. There's
Carolann Wolfgang: 12:49a lot of environmental problems lot different contamination issues a lot of social different social issues economic issues and technical issues associated with that one big area. But it's all a problem that needs to be dealt with and so I was with this EU project and that was fascinating. We worked with many cultures we had engineering companies that partnered with us. We had other research universities that partnered with that project. And that really gave me a great exposure to different cultures and again working through these technical challenges with people. What
Seth Adler: was the output of that project. I wonder because now we're in a it seems like a time in your career where you actually kind of sort of maybe in charge a little bit right. So what was the output what you know what did you achieve.
Carolann Wolfgang: 13:42Well I achieved a lot of cultural understanding personally. But the project.
Carolann Wolfgang: 13:48One of the goals was to do some scientific studies and also look at a way to have a management system a management system for these large sites that wouldn't break a bank so-called clean like you know some of these sites you can't clean up so you know how do you manage that site in a way that falls within the regulations but considers the boundary problems the conditions the social economic conditions that we have to deal with to clean that site.
Seth Adler: 14:19Let's look at this really big problem. We know that we're not going to be able to do X Y and Z but what is a B and C and how do we accomplish that. Yes is some risk risk management is just chessmen risk assessment right. All right. So so far we've got the science and then now we've got the process we've got the people now we're kind of managing projects and understanding risk.
Carolann Wolfgang: 14:43What was the next stop. Back to water resources again as I moved back to America. And so I was involved with a large company that did water resource management where in California. Okay. Been in California for a while there we go. What part of California Central Coast and Southern California.
Seth Adler: 15:04It's also beautiful. You tend to gravitate to beautiful places I think yes it's a good it's a good life choice. And what were you doing there.
Carolann Wolfgang: 15:14I was acting as a scientist for some large teams and projects that were dealing with the big challenges of water resources. And I continued to do that I ended up then in a safety Occupational Safety and Health role. Again most of these with environmental engineering type companies. So I was doing Occupational Safety and Health again it was people oriented people matter. Discipline and it was a technical discipline that I found pretty fascinating and a risk assessment based again. So I have that and risk management looking at that as a process that it just seemed to fit. So I did that for a while and I continue to do that in the government role for a while and then switch to the continuous process improvement role. So I just because I see strategy is easy for me to see and processes are easy for me to map out in my mind. So naturally I'm using some of my strengths.
Seth Adler: 16:14Finally in my career right now and you know I was just going to say I'm so glad you said that because I was going to say it seems like the job function comes naturally to you I guess. Yes pun intended. It is the people that it creates somewhat of an art to the science that you need to apply. So talk about as far as people management all over the world and you've now proven that right from all the way from Australia to Europe to the U.S. What is the trick here as far as managing people within continuous improvement within processor excellence.
Carolann Wolfgang: 16:57Well I don't know if it's a trick. It's just respecting their perspective and agenda and really seeing the human element. So when we have we have a continuous process improvement project and we have a cross-functional team of say subject matter experts come to such a big meeting. They're all coming with their own point of view. They're all coming with issues. They're all coming with day to day reactive issues. And so I guess having understanding being able to listen to them and get the discussion in this dialogue to be productive build rapport with them. All of those things is the key. Sure
Seth Adler: 17:45it's the trick but those are the assemblies right. In essence those are the doers. So once you do kind of find where they are you know then okay fine we can we can go. What about management whether it be middle management or upper management you know above those semi's how much more difficult is that how much or how much easier is it to kind of figure that out.
Carolann Wolfgang: 18:09For me it's not any more difficult. I
Carolann Wolfgang: 18:11think I'll just focus with them more on business case establishing business case with them and being very concise as to expectations and results so that they can see. Of course the bottom line change perhaps you know potential and they relate to it like this is this is going to help me. This is going to help the organization. I can see that. So for me it's not harder to do that. But I think it's just a different way to course approach shows people.
Seth Adler: 18:46Yeah. You seem like a very kind person. You have to be. The golf course of course and I try to be and most folks you know do effort the cause. But you seem like a naturally kind. I wonder who are are your parents like you were you like your parents in that way.
Carolann Wolfgang: 19:10Well I think it's another choice as I'm an introvert. And if you test me with all those things that are out there to test personality wise yeah I show up as a very extreme introvert.
Seth Adler: 19:23And so moving through several years of my career as an introvert not really being able to engage in meetings not being able to have the voice or speak up just because of my personality after those years passed I gain more confidence and move forward in my career. I am very aware of it. And so as a facilitator now I think I became a facilitator because in my experience I was you know I couldn't engage in the meetings I wanted to be able to help other introverts and help people engage and so that being and being like that and having that personality was I think a a y a big Y. Yeah I do this. And originally and just how I ended up being aware and I'm okay for people to speak up. Yeah I want to help them to do that. Yeah cause it was terrible not to be able to do that.
It's interesting I in meetings usually don't have a problem. It's it's the other people that have a problem with me usually. Right. And so my perception was that I was an extrovert but then I've heard that actually it's where you get your energy. And so I do like to get my energy quietly and alone. And so it's been proposed to me that perhaps I'm an introvert which is doesn't make sense based on the way that I go about life. What are your thoughts as an introvert. My
Seth Adler0: 20:51thoughts on that exactly are that sometimes if we understand to survive we need to build extroverted skills then we do that in business. I've certainly I'm in a position as a facilitator or as a leader to be an extrovert to the extent I need to be. I simply built that skill because I knew I needed a subsidy.
Seth Adler: 21:14So necessity is the mother of invention I believe is what they say exactly right. So I've got three final questions for you I'll tell you what they are and then I'll ask you them in order. OK. What has most surprised you at work. And we've kind of been through various positions along the way. What's most surprised you. What's most surprised you in life and then on the soundtrack of your life. One track one song mascot to be on their first things first though what has most surprised you at work.
Seth Adler: 21:41The biggest surprises again come from interacting with people. And I guess I would say that having someone who at first thought because sometimes we judge first opinion or whatever and think not going to get something creative out of that person doesn't person doesn't seem to want to be involved. And all of a sudden this beautiful thing emerges from their mind very creative thing. And that's always a surprise. It's a great surprise. But again to to see that happen is fantastic.
Seth Adler: 22:16Yeah that's yeah people are always surprised when they come out with it's almost do you see it as a gift to that thing that is created. Yes. Right. And the process of of course what's most surprise you. That's a big one. So I wonder what most surprised you in life of course that could be that. But what's most surprised you in life what might be something else. I
Seth Adler0: 22:38think especially in a career but in life generally the organic way things evolve. I certainly am a planner and wanted to plan some straight shot to a goal and I've done that with smaller goals but my career is just as have implied and this conversation has just evolved and twisted around and become something that I appreciate. Only now. And so I think that's a big surprise that sometimes the planning you don't have to plan let it go and see what happens and make decisions just to see how it goes. Wow.
Seth Adler: 23:15Right. And you can almost take comfort in that even though that seems like it might be uncomfortable to do. Yes. Yes. And when all else fails go to the water it feels like for you. Right. Almost always involved in water in some way with naval connections here. That's right. Today So on the soundtrack of your life one track one song that's got to be on there.
Carolann Wolfgang: 23:39Oh my gosh. You know what pops into my mind is odd but it's Dreamweaver. Yeah sure. Which has been around for a while and I've had great experiences listening to that song again climbing mountains in Colorado and doing different things that just popped into my mind as I did not even say what the song is about but it has just played at different times when I've been having a great experience.
Seth Adler: 24:09I would imagine I mean I know the song very well. It seems like it would go it would it would marry well with being on a hike somewhere or perhaps in a canoe. Yeah exactly. Thank you so much. Very much appreciate your time. You're welcome. Keep going. I
Carolann Wolfgang: 24:28would have never known you were an introvert until you told me about that. That's great. And there you have Carol and Wolfgang helping people to see how data driven decision making can be neutral and objective and really help to solve the problem should be the focus. And we're not looking at a person as a problem. It's a system or business process. That's the problem. Very much appreciate Carolyn and her time very much appreciate you and yours. Stay tuned.