Guest post from Col. Don Dellinger, Director, National Guard Continuous Process Improvement Office
The military and Department of Defense, very much like the private sector, face a tough economic environment with constrained resources.
The National Guard’s tightening budgets and increased participation in missions since Sept. 11, 2001, combined with a continued decrease in resources, created a big challenge.
It became necessary to find ways and tools to allow our servicemen to work smarter, be more efficient and effectively target resources to the most important strategic priorities.
This was the main reason the National Guard gravitated toward continuous process improvement and IBM business analytics to provide us with access to accurate and timely information to better understand past, current and future performance and drive smarter outcomes.
As director of the National Guard Continuous Process Improvement Office, it is my responsibility to deploy continuous process improvement and lean six sigma tools to all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Even though we are the resource manager for these 54 entities, the National Guard Bureau does not have direct command and control because the adjutant generals who lead these organizations directly report to the governor.
Therefore, our use of analytics helps change organizational behavior so leadership can see the value of using process improvement to better develop metrics that are tied to the strategic plan to achieve objectives.
Gaining Acceptance and Driving Results
In the military when faced with problems, we have always been taught to immediately find a solution. This culture doesn't always lend itself to in-depth analysis and the use of analytics to dig into the data to find the problem.
It has always been difficult to get leadership to buy into process improvement because they were so used to making quick decisions off of years of experience. In most cases, they were able to achieve some level of success, but it might not have completely fixed the problem, and often these same issues arose once those leaders left the organization.
However, once we are able to show the powers of process improvement and root cause analysis, we can begin to link strategic planning with measureable objectives. In this case, we have seen an incredible ability to influence project selection, shorten cycle times and better determine where to direct our scarce resources for the biggest value and return.
A great example is the Defense Logistics Award we won in the cost avoidance category. There is an air wing in West Virginia that does maintenance on the C-5 aircraft. Through our use of process improvement and analytics, we were able to reduce the number of days it took to service one airframe from approximately 100 days down to 30 days.
Over the course of a year, the Air Force was able to now maintenance ten airframes compared to three, saving approximately $1.9 million of manpower costs per aircraft. Not only did they decrease cycle time for one aircraft, but they increased its operational capability because the aircraft was back in the fleet and running missions in 30 days.
Constant Communication and Identifying Champions
I always find it amazing to see the looks we receive when we get to the measurement phase and present our findings, especially to those who were skeptical. Suddenly, the data has meaning and they see things either they didn’t know existed or they find time and resources were actually focused on the wrong issue.
That’s when it really clicks that using process improvement and analytics is important and can be extremely successful.
For anyone who is striving to integrate process improvement or analytics into their organization – government, commercial or academic – my advice is simple: create a good plan, be passionate about it, communicate and educate every step of the way, and ensure that leadership is championing the projects and holding everyone accountable.
And most importantly, be certain that everyone understands the value these projects are delivering.
This will allow you to transform the entire organization with data and analytics guiding decision making.
For more information:
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