Sterling Heights

Training lean, keen, thinking machines: Q&A with Patrick Rouse

Sterling Heights and Macomb Community College (MCC) have teamed up to pioneer a new training program that targets city employees. The goal of the Lean Six Sigma Municipal Training Program is to eliminate work "waste" and develop problem-solving skills. We sit down with MCC director Patrick Rouse to ask about what kind of impact the initiative may have, and how people's views of continuing education programs like this are changing.

Q: You have 44 city staff currently in the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB) training program, what does it involve? 

A: The training is over a period of 12 weeks, with the first eight weeks housed at Macomb’s University Center, one day per week; while the remaining four weeks will be utilized on-site at city offices, with comprehensive, customized, departmental project coaching.

Q: Which departments are you working with?

A: We are working with the city manager, Mark Vanderpool, and his outstanding team, in coordinating goals and objectives in lean process improvement for a variety of their departments, including the fire department, human resources, library, parks and recreation and the police department.

Q: What changes do you see happening in Sterling Heights, as a city and community, because of the training?

A: The city is taking a look at key processes and looking at ways to improve quality and services and reduce costs, allowing them to utilize savings for added value to their constituents. They are working hard on well-developed, department-related, job-specific projects. These initial projects will create the model for all departmental continuous improvement.

Q: What are the biggest challenges to your work in Sterling Heights?

A: While some might find being able to train only one day a week a challenge, in reality this is of benefit, as employees can take what they’ve learned and bring it back to their offices, apply it to real, and ongoing, work and report back the following week.

Q: How have you seen continuing education changing over the years?

A: There was a sense that post-secondary education was cumbersome or out of date with the needs of industry. What we are doing here at MCC is transitioning this narrative by offering students training in a variety of facets that provide them to become the life-long learner we all need to be in this technologically advance society.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at