364 days a year the government with all of its goofy bureaucracy is an easy target for us lean bloggers. On this day, however, Memorial Day 2011, it seems fitting to acknowledge the branch of the government with a long track record of getting the toughest tasks done, and at the same time is committed whole hog to lean principles.
The US Army Office of Business Transformation has schooled over 6,000 kaizen and six sigma experts and deployed them throughout the army and around the world. The results: "Lean six sigma is he army's tool of choice to increase quality, efficiency, and effectiveness while reducing cycle time and variance. Since 2006, we have completed 5,287 projects generating significant financial and operational benefits. There are an additional 1,909 projects under way. In 2009, the army submitted $96.6m worth of projects in an office of management and budget inquiry to support President Obama's $100 million savings goal."
As good as they are, the army folks haven't got much on the US Navy who says, "Our goal of increasing the speed and quantity of science and technology products that transition to the Navy and Marine Corps hinges upon improving our internal responsiveness and agility. It is with that focus that the maturation of ONR’s Lean Six Sigma efforts strives to embrace continuous process improvement principles to further improve productivity, encourage innovation and foster a culture of change in the pursuit of excellence." Sounds to me like they have the idea nailed down pretty well.
"The Office of Naval Research (ONR) began initial Lean Six Sigma awareness training in 2006. Deployment of a command-level continuous process improvement program began in earnest in 2007 …"
At the ASQ conference a few months ago, a guy named Scott Rutherford, an instructor with the Navy's NAVSEA Lean Six Sigma College led a workshop on aligning process improvement initiatives with strategy. He was followed by a guy named Michael Levy with the US Marine Corps, who talked about how they are creating a culture of continuous process improvement and immersing everyone in lean and six sigma in the Corps. The Marines were scary enough when they were just marines. The thought of lean, short cycle time jar heads is truly frightening.
The Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century – AFSO21 (these guys love their initials and acronyms, don't they?) - is grabbing hold in a powerful way. Says Carl Unholtz, deputy chief information officer at Warner Robins Air Base, "When we’re not completely reinventing and transforming … some aspect of our business, then we’re using lean [processes] to continually improve. I’m not sure we can even remember how to do business any other way."
The Air Force has waste pretty well defined: "defects, overproduction, wait time on data, approvals, responses and queues at offices, non-standard over-processing, or changing a process each time you perform it and adding extra steps, transportation, not asking Airmen who work a process day-to-day for their input on how to improve it, motion and excess inventory."
Not to be left behind, the Coast Guard's Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, NC "has been actively engaged in Lean/Six Sigma process improvement initiatives which have resulted in more than $12.8M in projected cost avoidances as well as significant increases in process efficiencies throughout the Command." They won the military equivalent of the Baldrige Award, and I can tell you from personal experience that a Coastie at the ALS by the name of Chuck Bell is as on top of the lean game as anyone I have met in the private sector.
Memorial Day is first and foremost the day to remember the tens of thousands of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. It is also a day to be so very proud of all of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and neighbors who have served or are still serving.
And I think it is kind of nice to think that those of us in the lean community share a common bond with them, and that maybe something we do in the interest of advancing lean thinking in some small way helps make their jobs a little easier, and a little safer.
God bless 'em all, and have a great Memorial Day!