Interview with Brian Kornfeld – How Lean Six Sigma Drives Innovation

Interview with Brian Kornfeld – How Lean Six Sigma Drives Innovation

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Brian Kornfeld 684w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px">Brian Kornfeld once played in the World Series of Poker. Oh, and he’s also an actual rocket scientist.

It’s hard to say which is more impressive (OK, it’s probably rocket scientist). One thing is for sure, though. When he agreed to talk to us about process improvement, we certainly wanted to listen.

Kornfeld holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and also has an impressive educational background – two degrees in aerospace engineering (undergraduate from the University of Michigan, graduate from the University of Florida) and an MBA from the University of South Florida. He’s worked in industry, started his own software business and co-founded a nonprofit to support entrepreneurs.

In short, he’s seen and done a lot. And among the lessons he’s learned is that Lean Six Sigma is going to continue to be popular with both existing companies and startups.

Asked to name the next big trend in process improvement, he responded:

“The next big trend in process improvement will continue to be Lean. People are often looking for ways to save time and money. That won’t go away anytime soon.”

Working with Entrepreneurs

Kornfeld first became interested in process improvement during an internship with Honeywell in 2004. He became certified as a Green Belt in 2008 and a Black Belt in 2012.

He said he pursued his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt because he wanted to make sure he had “the right tools to continually measure and improve processes.” Those tools allow him to use data to identify areas of waste and allow for more data-driven decisions that lead to improvement.

It’s served him well during his career. Among his many jobs, he’s worked for a defense contractor, managed $25 million in software development for Nielsen and launched his own company, Popkorn Apps, in January 2014.

In 2016, Kornfeld started the nonprofit Synapse with Marc Blumenthal and Andy Hafer. The organization’s overall vision is to connect people in the innovation economy in Florida, growing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which individuals “collide with business” to connect and grow.

With process improvement, Kornfeld said that “problem solving is something that came natural to me. I am able often to see past symptoms and get into the true why. I also am often able to see ahead and see risks.”

He’s applied process improvement to take a multinational process that on average took 30 days to complete and reduced it to just three. He’s taken a product that averaged 15 customer-facing issues a month and reduced it to just two. He also has integrated processes of a billion-dollar acquisition.

Here’s our interview with Kornfeld, who has earned a strong following in the process improvement and entrepreneurial communities for good reason. He especially focuses on using Lean for startups, a concept that is increasingly taking hold. He also explained why he’s a big fan of the Five Whys.

Six Sigma Daily: The overall vision of Synapse is to be an all-encompassing, interactive, and flexible methodology for building, facilitating and exposing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of Florida. As a nonprofit business, how does process improvement play a role?

Kornfeld: Process improvement plays a big role in Synapse as we are often trying to solve problems of those in the community. Very often, people will say that the biggest problems are a lack of money, talent and customers. Those are the pains people feel but aren’t really the true problems. By creating more of a process and structure of the innovation community, it becomes repeatable across many groups or innovation partners and solves the true issues.

SSD: Some critics of process improvement methodologies like Lean Six Sigma have claimed that these methodologies stifle innovation. As an innovator and proponent of efficiency, how do you feel about that?

Kornfeld: I could not disagree with this premise more. Efficiency enables further innovation. It frees up resources, whether they be time or money. Efficiency allows you to get away from the status quo. So many times, I have asked people why they are doing something, and their answer is that they have always done it that way. Process improvement enables innovation, whether it is doing a job a new way or creating new products. Imagine a world where the innovators aren’t dragged down in the land of human mind waste and they are able to do what they do well.

SSD: Lean and Six Sigma were once known as only being applicable in the manufacturing industry, but in the last decade, the concepts of Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement methodologies have been applied in a ton of industries. Why do you think there’s been such an expansion?

Kornfeld: I believe people are starting to see the benefits of efficiency. We are in a “win now” world. Either people fail fast or succeed. If you are inefficient, in a sense you are delaying the inevitable. People also get very bothered by wasted time. It is why in meetings three quarters of people are lost in their phones or laptops. Move quickly and you can keep everyone engaged.

SSD: Engineering is no stranger to efficiency. How is Lean Six Sigma (or process improvement in general) applied in aerospace engineering? Any examples you can share?

Kornfeld: The easy answer is that the aviation world has one of the highest sigma levels of any industry, close with medical. We all want flying to be safe and you can see track records over the last few years of aircraft incidents, particularly in the USA.

My first job I was a test engineer, pre-flight testing a satellite. If that thing failed in outer space, it would become a $500M piece of space junk. We had to be spot on.

SSD: Can you summarize how adopting Lean can save time and money when launching a business?

Kornfeld: Many businesses as a whole are extremely inefficient. The average business works at about a 20-25% efficiency. Although many think startups would be very efficient, they are actually worse. The biggest problems startups encounter is they don’t add value to customers as they are creating something they think is cool but customers wouldn’t pay for. Right there, a startup is set up to fail, many of which do. By taking a Lean approach, it enables a way to find financial growth and establish a base while innovation continues toward making the product of your dreams. Start small but dream big.

SSD: What part of process improvement is not being talked about or put into action enough?

Kornfeld: The part of process improvement that is not put into action enough is the culture. There MUST be a cultural buy-in for improvement or everyone is wasting their time.

Many will work hard to create amazing processes but regress to the mean. Think of the gym in January. Everyone has New Year’s resolutions. They go to the gym every day in January. In February, a few excuses creep in and it is three days a week. By March, it is once a week and by April it is back to zero. It is because there is not a cultural buy-in. Ensure a business has a true process improvement culture, looking at continuous improvement.

SSD: Imagine you’re talking to a group of executives about applying Lean Six Sigma in their business. Give us your elevator pitch.

Kornfeld: The average company works at 20% efficiency. Imagine your bottom line if you cut out even a quarter or half of the waste in your business. Without cutting costs, you can be open to grow your revenues exponentially. It is not hard, but the process stops at the top with you.

SSD: Do you have a favorite Lean or Six Sigma tool/concept that you find yourself using frequently?

Kornfeld: I find myself using the “Five Whys” a lot in root cause analysis. I do it first because it is fun and opens up conversation. The other reason is because I want other people to help come up with root causes. I can’t be a master of all processes. Those who own the process need to truly know the inefficiencies. It is so fun to see the light bulb turn on in someone’s head when they realize why their process is broken. I also utilize process maps a lot. Everything is a process. Documenting processes and showing improvements is very powerful.

SSD: In addition to your Black Belt certification, you are a certified Scrum Product Owner. Talk about the value of earning certification as a complement to gaining industry knowledge.

Kornfeld: I have done a lot in my career as it relates to software development. Being able to develop a product from concept to completion using tools from different skill sets helps to build something strong.

There isn’t one way to build products. In my software development company, Popkorn Apps, I started it because I used skills from both to greatly reduce cost to get a product to market, enabling other ideas from other entrepreneurs to get out of their heads and into app stores.

Both sides stress figuring out how to be iterative and continually measure and improve. By using all the tools possible, I can help to create some magic.

SSD: Do you have a favorite process improvement-related quote?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

SSD: What’s one fun fact about you?

My three seconds of fame came in 2006 when I was on ESPN for playing in the World Series of Poker.

The post Interview with Brian Kornfeld – How Lean Six Sigma Drives Innovation appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

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Posted: March 5, 2019, 12:00 pm

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