In June 2012, Professor Ron Schulingkamp’s MBA students at Loyola New Orleans College of Business had a noble goal: help reduce the euthanasia rate in their parish animal shelter.
The overall result of the pilot: a 30% reduction in the euthanasia rate and a 45% increase in adoptions.
To accomplish that goal, the students introduced the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter (JPAS) to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Working with shelter staff, the students designed a month-long pilot to improve the process of selecting homeless dogs for euthanasia, finding caring homes for 60 dogs who otherwise would have been put to sleep.
According to shelter director Robin Beaulieu, the Lean Six Sigma project was an introduction to the Baldrige Criteria, which provided "the overall framework and mental model that focused on systematic performance improvement and alignment of all of the activities." The pilot was the shelter leadership team's first introduction to the Baldrige Criteria and "the knowledge required to understand and 'operationalize' the Criteria, including Lean Six Sigma, process management, and project management," she said. The pilot has provided the baseline for improvement efforts ever since.
The MBA students taught the shelter about alignment and integration of processes and the basics of Lean, said Beaulieu. The Lean “5S” concepts were applied to reducing the time for potential adopters to select their new family members, from one hour to 15–20 minutes. This cycle time reduction was the result of the shelter director's identification of a major “adoption bottleneck” that related to the animal selection process.
To eliminate, or at least reduce, the bottleneck, the shelter developed a process with the help of volunteers to profile shelter pets on the Jefferson Parish SPCA Facebook website, so that by the time an adopter comes to the shelter, he/she has an idea of a potential match. At this point, the shelter ensures that the pet is a good match for the forever home to reduce returns.
The shelter has also improved how supplies are organized (set in order) and the cleanliness of the kennels (shine). JPAS operates two animal shelters in Jefferson and Marrero, LA. The shelters hold lost animals for owners to reclaim, adopt out homeless animals to new owners, and quarantine dogs and cats that have bitten. In addition, the shelter investigates complaints of cruelty or neglect of animals. The shelters accepts all animals turned over to them.
Beaulieu said the shelter is at the “beginning stage” of using the Baldrige Criteria, but the Criteria have assisted shelter staff in saving animals’ lives. "The Baldrige Criteria have provided a foundation to build a sense of purpose and method of questioning ourselves and reflecting on how to improve our performance and save lives," she said. "Every day is a struggle and we [dedicated staff and volunteers] feel for each animal that comes through our doors. As a municipal shelter, we are challenged and are a reflection of the community. We are never satisfied with our performance, but we are systematically improving, and the numbers have shown how much we have improved."
As an example of those numbers, in 2010, JPAS accepted 12,744 animals; in 2013, the total was 11,222. Although there is little difference in intake, Beaulieu said the shelter's two key measures—euthanize and adoption rates—have significantly improved from 2010 to 2013: euthanasia reduced by 67% (8,077 to 5,433) and adoptions increased by 75% (1,661 to 2,224).
This decrease in euthanasia is in line with JPAS's goals to no longer have to euthanize animals for reasons other than aggression or medical problems where the animal cannot be treated or rehabilitated. The euthanasia rate is directly related to JPAS intake. Intake numbers have stabilized and have slightly decreased as a result of a partnership with the local SPCA to provide low-cost spay and neuter programs to reduce the number of strays.
JPAS and the SPCA use intake data by zip code to target locations for low- or no-cost spay and neuter and vaccination promotions, as well as trap and release programs. JPAS also uses intake data to justify continued funding for the spay/neuter partnership. These data are monitored on a quarterly and annual basis, with long-term trends tracked on control charts. JPAS also uses data to show the Jefferson Parish Council that the shelter will not be negatively impacted financially by holding reduced cost adoption promotions and reducing the number of animals in the shelter through increased adoptions.
Future Loyola MBA classes have assisted the shelter in maintaining these results and completing a Louisiana Quality Foundation application. To complete the application, the shelter referenced the Baldrige Criteria to outline some key information to guide its processes. The MBA students identified the underlying focus of the shelter's purpose, vision, mission, and values (PVMV): to improve the community and end the suffering of animals. Following the Criteria's spirit of alignment across the organization, according to JPAS's shared application, "the PVMV ensures the creation of strategies, systems, and methods for achieving excellence, stimulating creativity and innovation, and building trust in the community."
And according to Beaulieu, thanks to the Criteria, "the staff now has a mission, not just as a government job with a paycheck. Instead of waiting to be told what to do, the staff has authority defined by the PVMV. The Criteria are being used to help us create the systems and processes and focus on the future."
Have you considered volunteering at your local animal shelter and collaborating with staff on process improvements from the Criteria? ---- JPAS Culture Statements (PVMV) Purpose: To Inspire and Engage the Community to End Animal Suffering
Vision: We envision a community where all people demonstrate compassion and respect toward animals and where all companion animals have loving homes.
Mission: The mission is to improve the community through the practice of compassion by saving and protecting animals, providing care and treatment through education advocate for their welfare and to enhance the human-animal bond.