In the wake of mounting influx of refugees that adhered to the Amhmadiyya Muslim beliefs and resettlement challenges, AMJ Canada Inc, a religious organization and a registered charity turns to Six Sigma for rapid achievement of its goals and objectives. Several projects were initiated targeting various traditional department, e.g. Document Management System, development of policies and procedures, and streamlining business processes. However, in this case study I present four extremely unique projects with excellent long-term results post execution. Although there were no monetary savings from these projects, but the achievements were priceless for the community.
Introduction to AMJ Canada Inc.
This was one of the unique places for the deployment of six sigma methodology. To provide a full context, I would like to give here, a brief introduction of the organization. AMJ Canada is a charitable religious organization that started in British India in 1889. The founder of the movement claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah as prophesised by the leaders/founders of all major religions. Most of the Muslim clergy considered this claim to be heretic and thus the members of the movement have been facing excessive persecution in most of the Muslim countries forcing the members to flee the persecution and resettle in the western countries like Germany, UK, USA and Canada. The movement is very progressive, and its members (Called Ahmadi/s) are very highly educated, including doctors, engineers and scientists with PhDs.
Those who chose to immigrate to Canada, had another dilemma to deal with, depending on where they received their education, either their credentials were not recognized, or they were told in the job market that they do not have Canadian experience or qualification. Most of the new immigrants would volunteer at the community offices as a service to humanity in various capacities. This also provided them valuable Canadian experience for better luck in the job market. The organization had multiple chapters and for organizational purpose was divided into various administrative departments. Since most of the work done was by volunteers, the processes were inefficient.
Administration wanted to create a win-win situation where it could do something valuable for the volunteers who devoted significant amount of their valuable time, while at the same time needed Canadian experience and qualification to enter the job market. It was decided to launch a Six Sigma Program where as a volunteer instructor I donated my time to train and coach the candidates. The launch was initiated with the champions training to the administrative heads of the national departments and some other key personnel. This was followed by coaching provided to the champions for the appropriate scoping of the project and selection of suitable candidates for the execution of the green belt level projects. The trainees were assigned process improvement/new process development projects to work on for the purpose of their practitioner’s certification within the organization. This was during the tail end of 2007.
Six Sigma was gaining a lot of momentum in the Canadian industry at that time and this provided significant boost to the demand for Qualified Six Sigma practitioners. A lucky advantage the Six Sigma program at AMJ Canada received during the training phase was that, one of the trainees while getting his training was also applying for jobs. Although an electrical engineer himself, wrote on his resume that he is obtaining Six Sigma Green Belt certification. One of the organizations he applied to called him for an interview and said to the candidate, that the job you have applied for, you do not qualify, but if you promise to complete your Green Belt Certification, we have a job for you. Which he took. This fortunate event was a significant morale booster and provided excessive marketing for the Six Sigma Program generating many requests for signing on to the free training to the extent that I had to decline many requests because of the shortage of class spaces. In this case study, I would like to provide high-level details of four unique projects that were executed at this organization for the benefit of readers and to motivate other similar organizations.
Development of an effective system for promotion of excellence in higher education
The community in general is considered to be the most highly educated community with literacy rates mounting to 99%, and is the community that gave the first Nobel Laureate to the Muslim World, the first coloured President to the United Nation’s General Assembly, the first coloured secretary general of the United Nations and a president of the World Bank. However, a general trend in Canada was observed amongst the youth in the community where excellence in higher education was not valued. This resulted in an alarming number of high school and college dropouts within the community. This project was launched to develop a process and a system to steer the tendencies among community youth towards the higher education. At the launch of the project an analysis was performed to assess the baseline and it was observed that in Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where a large majority of the community members resided, there were only few students enrolled at any of the 3 main GTA based universities (numbers were less than 10).
Interviews with students, drop outs and those who went on to obtain higher education, fed into a cause and effect diagram to analyse the root causes of the situation. Major reasons identified included:
- Parents being too busy in their resettlement and breadwinning efforts to provide motivation and drive to students for higher education.
- No support system within the Canadian community to motivate youth for the higher education.
- Influence from peers in the wider Canadian society and lack of contact with universities.
Based on the findings and brainstorming, a FMEA was developed to weigh the probability of success for each of the proposed fixes and these were then prioritized. This project then developed and launched three major initiatives Canada-wide, firstly, to promote STEM subjects, it launched science fair for elementary and secondary school students. A local support system was developed to help and motivate students to participate and develop projects for demonstration at the fair. In the second initiative, it launched free tutoring services Canada wide for the members of the community to provide help to elementary and high school students in all of their subjects. Most of the tutors were university students, this initiative helped develop an early connection between school and university students. For the 3rd initiate, the project proposed and launched a program for student visits to the university research labs during the summer for high school students providing them a first-hand experience in the labs and motivation to get into university for research. The results of these initiatives were overwhelming, to the extent that just within 5 years in 2012, the total enrolment of the community members just at York University (one of the 3 GTA universities) amounted to over 450 students.
Improving and streamlining the financial business processes at the headquarters
Being a charitable organization, AMJ Canada was fully dependent on the generous financial donations it received from its members. AMJ has a policy that it will not accept any donations or grants from any Government organization or political party. Almost 90% of the funds collected by the organization were spent on the purpose they were collected for. This required significant streamlining of the financial processes. At the launch of this project it was observed that the then current financial collection processes were not efficient enough to meet the needs of community. Finance, especially donation collection process is the key to success for an organization, therefore a need was identified to develop an effective and efficient donation collection system and to improve on the funds collected.
During the analyses of the system, it was observed that there were 3 types of donors, firstly those who were very regular in meeting their donation pledges and would religiously donate a set amount every month. The second category of donors was that of those who needed a reminder and when approached would pay. The third category was of those who needed several reminders and would always pay if approached personally. However, the process at that time was that all the volunteer collectors were provided a flat list of donors to collect from. Most of the collectors would then approach the regular donors and have a feeling of overwhelming success even though they would have paid anyway. This project proposed a process change where every month all the regular donors (the ones who would pay on their own) were removed from the list, and a list was produced of donors who would need a reminder and another list for those who would need to be visited for collecting the donations. This process change was launched as pilot and a 40% improvement in the collection was observed at the pilot stage.
Development of an effective system for prevention of social vices among youth
In the wake of radicalization around the globe, the organization was worried about its youth and wanted to develop a system where preventative measures are implemented to safeguard the youth. Root cause analysis, cause and effect and FMEA were used during the “Analyse” to identify and prioritize key root causes and reasons that pushed youth to indulge in social vices. Figure 1 below shows the root cause and their relative importance in terms of having an impact on the Youth.
Project proposed to address and focus on the top three root causes and for this purpose launched parents’ education sessions where information was provided to parents to promote a cordial and more understanding relationship that would bridge the cultural gap and allow children to talk to their parents freely for advice. Parents were also informed about resource available to them within the community as well as in the wider society that they can utilize in a effort for safeguarding their children from social vices.
In parallel educational and informal sessions were organized for the youth as “Students’ evening” where youth can openly discuss their concerns and seek answers. A process was developed and launched for the engagement of youth in community services. Follow-up projects included “one million pounds of food campaign” (http://www.millionpoundsfood.ca/) and “Stop the CRISIS Campaign” (http://www.stopthecrisis.ca/forms/) and several other activities that heavily engaged youth in social services to the community eliminating their chances of getting radicalized.
Establishment of a system for promotion of marital harmony and successful family life
The influx of immigrants brought scores of families from a very conservative family set-up into a completely new and very open culture. Many families had difficulty in coping with newfound freedom and thus it was felt that something need to be done in this regard. The project was initiated, and it was discovered that there existed no system for premarital education/ counselling for bride and groom nor was there a programmed approached to guiding and helping married couples in marital and parenting issues. The counselling available in the greater Canadian society was not sensitive to spiritual and religious needs of the couples and thus only few of the couples availed themselves of such services, resulting in an increase number of divorces. Thus, a dire need for the establishment of a system that promoted matrimonial education at all levels, family harmony and successful family life was felt. This project developed educational materials as well as established processes for the education and counselling of the members in matters of family life.
Dr. Ijaz Rauf, Master Black Belt.