Lean Blog — 491: From Biologist to Black Belt: Sarah Tilkins’ Lean Journey

Episode page with video, transcript, and more

My guest for Episode #491 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Sarah Tilkens, an experienced Lean Leader with a demonstrated history of working in construction and manufacturing.

She is a senior manager of operational excellence at GE Healthcare. 

Sarah’s a Six Sigma Black Belt, a certified life coach / executive coach, a lifelong learner, leader, mother, and CEO and Founder of her company, The KPI Lab. She earned her bachelor’s in Biological Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Sarah’s Lean journey is intriguing as she sculpted her Lean management skills on the manufacturing floor at GE, despite her background in Biological Sciences. Interestingly, her Lean journey extends from being intrigued by her colleagues pursuing Six Sigma certifications to studying at GE’s Lean Academy in Japan, where she observed the best Lean practices.

Moreover, she details her unique philosophy about Lean mindset, the significance of continuous improvement, and her holistic approach to coaching–indispensable factors in her role as a Lean Leader. She also talks about her personal transformation during the pandemic, integrating coaching skills into her professional life, and why self-care is a priority. Tune in to this engaging discussion to learn about Sarah’s Lean journey as she shares her most significant learnings and experiences.

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • Tell us your Lean or OpEx origin story…
  • Did you get exposed to Lean when you worked in construction?
  • Why construction? – went into sales, to a place of discomfort 
  • How was the shift to manufacturing?
  • Hired as a Lean Leader – learned it there at GE
  • How did they educate you about Lean at GE?
  • You joined GE Healthcare in November 2018 — right after CEO Larry Culp was brought in as the first outsider CEO, right? 
  • I was able to attend the September event that was hosted by GE (including GE Healthcare) called The Lean Mindset – how do you describe that mindset?
  • 1×1 fit – each coachee as a customer?
  • Creating PULL for projects?? — better defining problem statements
  • Tell us about getting certified as a coach?
  • How can you take care of yourself so you can better help others as a leader?
  • How long should we give an experiment before deciding if we should adjust or try something new?

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in its 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast was also brought to you by Arena, a PTC Business. Arena is the proven market leader in Cloud Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with over 1,400 customers worldwide. Visit the link arenasolutions.com/lean to learn more about how Arena can help speed product releases with one connected system.

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