Meet Jennifer

Sep 10, 2019

Our featured IPE and Team Science team member for September/October 2019 is Jennifer Sprecher, MS.

Jennifer Sprecher, MS, is the Director of Lean Performance for the UW Institute for Translational Health Sciences (ITHS). She works with organizations to achieve excellence through Lean Project Management*, balanced scorecards, change management, benchmarking, team problem solving, team and leadership coaching. 

Jennifer is a strong team facilitator, called upon to facilitate high-level teams where interaction and reaching objectives are critical. Sample facilitations include strategic planning, building collaborations, designing and developing new services, products and processes, implementing process improvements, implementing research studies and creating new research centers.  She has worked extensively in the past few years within the arena of team science and applying team concepts to innovative development and research teams.

Prior to ITHS, Jennifer spent 7 years as Executive Director of the Washington State Quality Award (WSQA), a Baldrige-based non-profit organization. With a background in Industrial Engineering, she has been working with process improvement for over 25 years using continuous process improvement methods including Lean, Lean-Sigma, Plan Do Check Act and 6S (5S workplace organization combined with Safety) and Total Quality Management. 

Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, a Master’s of Science in Management Systems, is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and an International Coaching Federation ACC certified Leadership Coach.

Our CHSIE team first began working with Jennifer in 2016 when she developed a series of Lean workshops for the Train-the-Trainer (T3) Interprofessional Team Development Program. Jennifer continues to be a core member of our T3 facilitation team. In 2017, the ITHS received funding from a Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) program to partner with our T3 faculty, Brenda Zierler, PhD, RN, FAAN and Erin Blakeney, PhD, RN, to develop a Team Science training program for translational health sciences research teams and develop best practices for UW Health Sciences Schools and the College of Engineering appointment, promotion and tenure criteria that includes interdisciplinary research and scholarship.

Since 2017,  the Team Science training team has trained over 600 individuals, including UW faculty, health care providers and researchers from ITHS, Seattle Children’s, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and other local and WWAMI institutions.

Read our interview with Jennifer about her work with Team Science, below.

CHSIE: Tell us how you became involved with Team Science training?

Jennifer: As someone who has lived in the process improvement world, my works’ focus is with teams.  This includes project teams, research teams, work teams, center teams, divisions, departments- all types of teams.  When Brenda Zierler came to me asking to integrate key lean project management competencies into some of her IPE training, the fit was absolutely perfect.  Teams are strengthened by a clarity of goals, roles and processes.  Without these both the work and the relationships suffer.  My work focuses on providing systematic tools to improve goal alignment, role clarification and processes including processes for developing innovative solutions to complex challenges.  I loved the CHSIE team approach to training and the emphasis on experiential learnings.  Some of these skills can be intellectually understood without ever changing the behaviors needed to have effective and efficient teams.  The CHSIE approach supports both the intellectual and behavioral support.  Through the CHSIE training, the experiential learning begins to form the muscle memory needed to put the concepts into action. 

CHSIE: What do you believe are the benefits of Team Science training?

Jennifer: Clearly more and more work is occurring in teams.  The approach of throwing people together and calling them a team is both inefficient and often ineffective (even in the long term).  Team Science brings the research to bear on what makes a team work, how teams can learn these skills in the most effective way and how the material can be presented with the greatest amount of uptake.  This is occurring in all areas within the University as more and more grants are asking not only who will be a part of the team, but how you will obtain and measure the effectiveness of team functioning.  It is shown through teaching as the workforce is seeking students who can demonstrate their ability to play well within a team, and the students are asking for integrated knowledge (which requires more than just guest speakers, but an integrated approach to teaching).  Clinically, quality patient care research is driving care providers to work together.  This type of integration requires a new set of skills.  Competencies to remove the barriers of hierarchy, biases, communication and personal styles are essential in this new environment.  Understanding how to engage in constructive conflict, providing respectful feedback, facilitating challenging meetings and even basic meeting management skills provide very rapid return for teams.

CHSIE: What are some highlights from leading Team Science training? 

Jennifer: I can be a very pragmatic person, so my highlights are in the results.  Teams that have come back to me and said- this training was such a commitment, but in 2 months the return has been phenomenal.  People are able to step back and let the team move at their full capacity and they are all moving together.  Things like “my team has completely transformed”.  People actually enjoy being part of an effort that is larger than themselves.  Team science provides an opportunity for team members to engage with passion.

To read more about Jennifer’s work with ITHS, read their interview with her at https://www.iths.org/blog/news/qa-jennifer-sprecher-director-lean-performance-iths/.

*Lean Project management is a methodology developed by UW-based divisions of: ITHS, Organizational Excellence, Facilities and Finance and UW IT that combines project management, agile and Lean to gain project success in terms of on scope, on budget and timely project completion.  This methodology is built on principles of teamwork, customer engagement, continuous improvement and data driven decisions.