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Dr. Andrew Parris

Process Excellence Manager, Medair, Lonay, CH-VD, Switzerland

I got my BS in Manufacturing Engineering at UC Berkeley, after which I worked for two years in Silicon Valley. I earned an MS in Technology & Policy and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. My PhD research was part of the “Lean Aircraft Initiative” consortium that sought to find out if and how Lean applied outside the automobile industry. After an interim year at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, I worked as a process improvement facilitator for 11 years in aerospace for Lockheed Martin, mostly on the Atlas rocket program.

Reading the book “Walking with the Poor” by Bryant Meyers, of World Vision (on of the largest, faith-based international NGOs) introduced me to the concept of Transformational Development. To my pleasant surprise, I found that a community development facilitator adhered to essentially the same principles I was adhering to as a process improvement facilitator:

– Ask people what they want they to achieve and work with them to achieve it

– Do not tell people what to do

– Do not do for people what they can do themselves

– Draw on the expertise of people (who know much more than you about their problems)

– Keep ownership of improvement with people

– Expect people to be a key part of making things better

These fundamental similarities between process improvement and community development inspired me to join World Vision and to help them do inside the organization with processes what they were doing outside with communities.

After joining World Vision, these similarities inspired me to develop a vision of Process Excellence that seamlessly integrates Lean Six Sigma with the principles of community development and humanitarian aid practiced by NGOs. The five attributes of an excellent process are: Effective impact, Efficient performance, Appropriate to context, Empowering to stakeholders and Continuously Improving.

I spent three of my nine years in World Vision living in Nairobi, Kenya and working with all World Vision national offices in the East Africa region, teaching and coaching colleagues Lean Six Sigma principles and practices in pursuit of Process Excellence. I developed a one-day Process Excellence Energizer course, which I taught to over 750 people in World Vision, and a one week Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course. In this time, East African colleagues whom I trained reduced annual costs by over $1.5M, reduced span time by nearly 60% on targeted processes, and made many other measured improvements.

Five years ago, I joined Medair, an international faith-based humanitarian NGO headquartered near Lausanne, Switzerland that serves people and communities in crisis in some of the hardest-to-reach parts of the world. As Process Excellence Manager, I continue to teach, coach and promote Lean and Continuous Improvement in NGO work, and see the positive impact it can have even in the very VUCA, challenging context of humanitarian aid.

I am part of the Humanitarian Operations and Supply Chain Management (HumOSCM) Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and co-teach an ETH course on HumOSCM.

I am also consulting with the International Trade Centre to build the capacity of Quality Champions in a handful of developing countries so they can help strengthen quality and organizational performance in local agricultural sectors so that they can better participate in national and international trade.

My career has focused on adapting and applying the principles and practices of Lean in ever-expanding spheres of work – to new industries and geographic areas. These three articles present my experience and thinking over the years:

•           “Improving Processes for Good in East Africa,” (peer reviewed) TQM Journal, 2013

•           “Making Work and the World a Better Place,” ISE Magazine, 2019

•           “What Christian Leaders can Learn from Lean,” (co-author, peer-reviewed) accepted for publication in the Christian Business Review, 2020


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