Lean Center of Excellence training at UAA Staff Development Day 2016. Matthieu Ostrander/UAA.
Lean Center of Excellence training at UAA Staff Development Day 2016.


  • Identify UAA processes that could benefit from Lean to enhance operational excellence and improve customer focus aligned with measureable UAA objectives.
  • Develop leaders in all key UAA functional areas trained to conduct Lean events and implement a “train the trainer” approach to expand campus wide participation and engagement.
  • Break down functional silos and create, recognize, and reward cross-functional continuous improvement.
  • Develop a process to identify and select high-leverage candidate processes for Lean Six Sigma Kaizens (rapid improvement events).
  • Conduct Lean events and value stream mapping to release creative and resource potential and produce measureable gains.
  • Foster open communication and engagement with UA partners, UAA leaders, faculty, staff, students, alumni, industry, the State of Alaska, and the community-at-large.
  • Demonstrate and promote the positive impact of Lean Six Sigma process improvements within UAA and across the UA system. 


In July 2015, Vice Chancellor Bill Spindle launched the UAA Lean Initiative by mobilizing a cross-functional team composed of members from Administrative Services, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Project Management graduate department within the College of Engineering. Led by LuAnn Piccard, the team was expanded to include University Advancement, Student Affairs, Governance, and experts from across Alaska. In addition to UAA, the team partnered with the Business Enterprise Institute to propose a UA-aligned Lean approach that was submitted to UA President Jim Johnsen.   

UA Lean Framework
UA-wide Lean Framework



Who we are

Since formation, the UAA Lean Steering Committee has led the development of the initative. In January 2016, 22 individuals were trained as Lean Six Sigma Green Belts by the University of Washington. Thereafter, over ten White Belt trainings have been offered to UA employees free of charge each month. In May 2016, the UAA Lean Center of Excellence (LCoE) was formed as a coordinating entity to oversee and facilitiate Lean Six Sigma implementation efforts. With financial support from the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services, the LCoE hired a full-time project manager to work on continuous improvement projects and facilitate employee training. In 2017, UAA Green Belts led numerous Kaizen events, trained over 150 UA employees in Lean Six Sigma concepts, and successfully deployed a UA-specific Green Belt curriculum, with an inagural class in March and an academic offering through the Project Management department in the Fall. By the end of 2017, the Lean Center of Excellence had recaptured over $1.13m of value by streamlining processes. By mid-2018, the Lean Center of Excellence had trained over 400 employees and expanded offerings for employee development to include monthly process improvement workshops. 


What we do

Lean Six Sigma is a a combination of Lean and Six Sigma—business process improvement methodologies that empower firms to drastically improve their bottom line by designing and monitoring everyday business activities in ways that minimize waste and resources while increasing customer satisfaction. The term Six Sigma comes from the notion that if one has six standards of deviation between the process means and the nearest specification, there will be practically no items that fail to meet specifications.

Ryan Buchholdt of F&CS instructs fellow employees in Lean Six Sigma Concepts. Matthieu Ostrander/UAA.
Ryan Buchholdt of F&CS instructs fellow employees in Lean Six Sigma Concepts.

At UA, Lean Six Sigma is a process designed to bring about rapid, planned, controlled and measured change or improvements to the performance to our institution through overhaul of the value stream. This process focuses on the value of every action, elimination of waste, and continuous incremental improvements. In recent years, Purdue University has pioneered an approach branded as Strategic Doing. This approach is a strategy or discipline designed for open, loosely connected networks of people. Strategic Doing in this instance means bringing UA teams together in new, more productive collaborations.



UAA and UA join several other institutions who have adopted Lean Six Sigma principles. 

  • Purdue University
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of Akron 
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Missouri
  • Cornell University
  • University of Washington