Day in the Life of a VP of Service Excellence

Deanna Cousino

Have you ever want to know what it would be like to work in a different job or industry within process improvement? PEX Network's twice monthly "A Day in the Life" series continues this week with Deanna Cousino, vice president of service excellence (operational excellence) at Arbitron Inc., a United States-based media and marketing research firm.

I'm charged with leading and guiding the Lean Six Sigma and quality management initiatives at Arbitron Inc. Since Arbitron is a media ratings organization, this means that I’m leading these initiatives in a transactional environment. My title is vice president in charge of service excellence, and this title stems from the service orientation of our business. I have a team of Lean Six Sigma, quality management and program management/business continuity professionals that report to me.

Allow me to recap a recent work day. A portion my team is currently laying out the formal structure for our quality management initiative. We are about to implement a pilot self-assessment program to gauge our current adherence to ISO 9001:2008-based quality management principles and requirements. I spent the first two hours of this day reviewing the documentation and training materials that my team had prepared for the pilot participants.

Deanna Cousino is the Vice President of Service Excellence at Arbitron Inc.

I then moved to a kaizen event report-out session. The initial focus of our Lean Six Sigma initiative was on the lean side of the house, and we always have a number of kaizen events that are in various states of completion – from planning, to execution, to final report-out and wrap-up. On this particular day, we were looking at one of our quality control processes. Arbitron is in a regulated industry and is required to conduct ongoing quality control tests to maintain our certification. The kaizen leaders presented their improvement recommendations and received approval from their leadership team to move forward.

From the kaizen event report-out session, I then hosted our service operations management review meeting. In our efforts to adhere to the ISO 9001:2008-based quality management principles and requirements, our leadership team conducts regular management review meetings. In this particular management review meeting, some of the process owners reported on the status of kaizen event results. We want to ‘sustain the gains’ from our continual improvement efforts, so we review the results on a scheduled basis to ensure that actual performance is meeting expected results and to discuss plans to address issues that may arise.

My last meeting of the day was spent helping a green belt trainee practice her Define phase tollgate presentation for actual delivery on the next day. Arbitron is going through its second wave of DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) training for green belts, and we are using our Lean Six Sigma professionals to deliver the training and mentor the green belts. This particular trainee was very nervous about her tollgate and I wanted to spend time with her to ensure that she would be ready.

When I went home a little later, I ate dinner and spent time with my family. After everyone was asleep, I started my preparations for the next business day. I was looking forward to doing it all over again. Although I wouldn’t necessarily be working on the exact same things, I would be working to achieve the exact same results: improvingthe efficiency and effectiveness of our business processes to meet our customer and business requirements.

I consider this role to be my dream job. I spend a large share of time mentoring, coaching, training, encouraging and energizing people to help them understand the value of continual improvement and that they can play a direct part in making our company a better place to work.

I’m a natural problem solver, and I’m a mathematically inclined, detail-oriented person. This is a great combination for someone in the business of continual improvement. I graduated from the United States Military Academy, and I have an undergraduate degree in operations research. After leaving the academy, I spent more than six years as a logistics officer in the U.S. Army. I did tours in Korea, Central America and the Middle East. My primary objective was to provide the supplies that our combat soldiers needed to be successful. This was my real work experience in a service environment; but in this particular case, the customers’ lives depended on my ability to meet their needs and requirements.

After leaving the U.S. Army, I went to work for General Electric, where I was exposed to the Six Sigma methodology. I eventually became a business unit quality leader. After leaving GE, I either led, or assisted with, the implementation of Six Sigma programs at Armstrong World Industries, Gateway and Avaya. I am a certified Six Sigma master black belt. I also have an MBA from the University of Chicago with concentrations in statistics, finance and marketing.

I believe that all of my career and education experiences have prepared me for the dream role that I currently have today!


Do you want to share your story with PEX Network? If you work in process improvement we'd love to hear what your day is like! "A Day in the Life" submissions should be between 700-1000 words and can be sent to us at Please include a brief professional biography, and a jpeg photograph. Please note: submission does not guarantee publication.