Army official urges strategic use of Lean Six Sigma

A growing cadre of process improvement experts at the Defense Department might not feel universally appreciated now, but their expertise will be sought when defense spending declines, as it inevitably will, according to an Army official who spoke at a recent Lean and Six Sigma for Defense Conference in Washington.

“It’s probably fair to say the taxpayer expects us to use resources as wisely as we can and that if we’re doing something in 10 steps and there’s a way to do it in seven, we ought to figure out how to do that,” said Mark von Heeringen, deputy program director of Army Lean Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma is a process-improvement methodology that DOD has endorsed departmentwide.

DOD organizations should anticipate and even be ahead of deep cuts in defense spending, von Heeringen said at the June 11 conference sponsored by Marcus Evans, an events and information company.

Von Heeringen talked about the importance of selecting process improvement projects that support the strategic vision of the Army’s senior leaders. “Go after the really big things, and try to get those right,” he said.

In a departmentwide directive issued May 15, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England instructed all DOD components to use Lean Six Sigma to improve productivity, mission performance, safety, flexibility and energy efficiency.

Von Heeringen said the DOD directive will help bring process improvement to the attention of Army senior leaders. “Anytime you put something on paper, it helps get it one step closer to reality,” he said.

Organizations have a natural resistance to process improvements, he added. “We find ourselves so busy sometimes doing the process that we don’t get to a point where we step back and [ask] ‘Does everything we do here make sense?’”

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