Posted tagged ‘Six Sigma government’

The Unfortunate Death Of Six Sigma In Erie County

January 30, 2012

American City and County Magazine ran an article recently titled Trimming the fat-or-not with Lean Six Sigma by Stephen Ursery. The article refers to the success of Lean Six Sigma in Irving Texas and its failure in Erie County according to Mark Cornell spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

In Irving Texas, according to city manager Tommy Gonzalez Lean Six Sigma has improved operations by:

  • slashing the review time of a commercial building permit application from 49 days to nearly four days;
  • consolidated printers and copiers to save the city approximately $230,000 annually and reduced energy expenses;
  • the city also has eliminated 110 positions, helping save more than $30 million in total over the past five years.

Gonzalez says. “[Lean Six Sigma] is just something that I would really like government to do more off”.

In Erie County Mark Cornell stated the following in an e-mail to American City and County Magazine:

“The current administration (Chris Collins) has yet to provide any proven, quantifiable Six Sigma savings data that can be validated in [statutory accounting principles] or county budget documents.” “The seeming inability or unwillingness to prove the dramatic multi-million-dollar savings claims raises fundamental questions about the reality of the Six Sigma program and whether it is actually generating savings, process improvements or some other outcome.”

In an earlier post I mentioned that when Chris Collins was Erie County Executive the County’s web site listed 35 Six Sigma projects. By utilizing Six Sigma in Erie County the back log of processing child support cases was reduced from 7,281 to 103. Other Six Sigma projects focused on improving the response to after hour sewer complaint calls, and reducing the length of time to process nursing home applications.

These nitty gritty type projects are often not sexy or exciting but they are where citizens needing help get sucked into black holes of bureaucracy. Improving back logs and response time if possible without simply hiring more people is huge. To improve government you have to be willing to wade into the details of process and procedure to find where the bureaucratic glitches are. Chris Collins to his credit did that in a very specific way in 35 documented instances. Perhaps some of the Six Sigma success in addressing back logs or response time cannot be specifically quantified in dollars and sense perfectly, but such performance improvements are still meaningful and important.

Chris Collins’ arrogant personality hurt the image and acceptance of Six Sigma in Erie County. Newly elected county executive Mark Poloncarz’s personal dislike of Collins and everything Collins stood for has caused the unfortunate death of Six Sigma in Erie County.

Six Sigma has been successfully implemented in many private and public sector organizations and I believe that it was worthwhile continuing in Erie County. Governor Cuomo in fact has been utilizing Lean successfully in several state agencies.  Organizational change does not happen on its own, it has to be encouraged through an identified process or procedure. If Poloncarz is not going to use Six Sigma, then what process is he going to use to improve the operation of county government?

In addition to private sector companies such as Toyota, Lean has been implemented at the following municipalities and governmental agencies: San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, King County, Washington, Brown County, WI, Fort Wayne, Ind., Hartford, CT., Cape Coral, FLA., Jacksonville, FLA., Grand Rapids, MI., Florida Dept. of Revenue, Washington State Dept. of Licensing, Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, Maine Dept. of Labor.

To learn more about utilizing Lean in government check out the following links:

http://www.businessofgovernment.org/sites/default/files/MaleyeffReport.pdf

http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2007/04/lean_government.html

http://www.epa.gov/lean/government/starterkit/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_Government

Utilize Lean Principles To Improve Government

November 16, 2011

With the election of Mark Poloncarz as Erie County Executive hopefully new ideas for improving how government operates will emerge. Poloncarz has already stated that he plans to scrap the Six Sigma program implemented by current County Executive Chris Collins. As a certified yellow belt in Six Sigma, I believe that Six Sigma methods can have a positive impact on improving government. However, Six Sigma with its heavy emphasis on statistical analysis is not the best fit for measuring and improving government performance.

A better fit for government is to utilize the concept of Lean. First pioneered at Toyota over 50 years ago, Lean is a philosophy and long proven approach for organizations of any size or type to continuously improve. With Lean there is a focus on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continual improvement in an organization. Lean is built on the philosophy that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements overall.

Lean is a much easier process for folks to grasp as a key part of it is to simply map out the steps of a particular process in a visual way for all to see. Lean does not utilize different color belts or the heavy statistical analysis of Six Sigma. Lean seeks to foster a culture where employees are empowered to identify and solve problems. Lean organisations empower their members on the front lines by teaching them how to identify ‘waste’, or anything that doesn’t add value to the process.

  Eight Common Wastes

Any process, whether it be to meet client needs or creating products, is susceptible to eight common forms of waste that are often roadblocks to efficiency:

1.      Overproducing: unneeded reports, doing work not requested.

2.      Waiting: time for approval cycles, waiting for information or decisions.

3.      Transportation: unnecessary movement of reports, storage of documents.

4.      Inventory: backlog of work, (permits, plan approvals) excess materials/info, obsolete databases/files.

5.      Unnecessary motions: trips to printer and copier, unnecessary movement to find files and supplies, travel to meetings.

6.      Processing waste: spending time on unnecessary processes that do not add value to the customer.

7.      Defects: data errors, missing info, errors in documents, wasted effort on inspection or re-doing work that was already done.

8.      Unused human potential: not fully utilizing employee problem solving skills to add value to the customer or the company.

Every program/department in government can be improved by addressing the eight items above. Government employees who have to live with overly bureaucratic procedures have lots of ideas as to how operations can be improved, they are unfortunately rarely asked or made part of any decision making process.

While the arrogant personality of out going County Executive Chris Collins has left a bad taste for many people regarding Six Sigma, I believe that it would be a mistake to eliminate Six Sigma without developing a process to engage employees in improving government performance. There is no process in most organizations for obtaining employee ideas to improve operations. While Chris Collins had difficulty working with others, his Six Sigma effort did have some success in improving government operations.

Lean is a proven way to engage employees and improve organizational performance. In addition to private sector companies such as Toyota, Lean has been implemented at the following municipalities and governmental agencies:  San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, King County, Washington, Brown County, WI, Fort Wayne, Ind., Hartford, CT., Cape Coral, FLA., Jacksonville, FLA., Grand Rapids, MI., Florida Dept. of Revenue, Washington State Dept. of Licensing, Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, Maine Dept. of Labor.

What do you think about utilizing Lean to improve government?