Tag Archives: Public Sector

Transformation and Redesign

photo of the White House

Photo of the White House, see more of my photos of Washington DC.

Here is an excellent article from 1999: Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) (pdf link) by March Laree Jacques

This article describes an organizational transformation effort undertaken at the White House Communications Agency. It shares the Agency’s efforts through the period of 1992-1998, beginning with a Deming-based approach to continuous quality improvement through implementation of a total organizational redesign using systems thinking precepts. It describes the obstacles to implementing quality concepts in a high visibility, high security organization and examines the influence of Agency’s organizational culture on quality performance and improvement. The discussion examines the applicability of several broadly accepted quality concepts to the “ultimate command-and-control” organization.

The article is informative and interesting, enjoy. A couple years after this article I went to work for Gerald Suarez at the White House Military Office (WHMO). WHCA is one of seven operational units of WHMO, others include: Air Force One, Camp David and the White House Medical Unit.

See more management improvement articles including in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library.

Related: articles and podcasts by Russel AckoffDeming on ManagementDeming related blog postsPublic Sector Continuous Improvement Site

SWAT Raids – Systemic Failures?

I have mentioned Reddit (an online community that is highly skewed toward software engineers who are a bit irreverent) before: Dell, Reddit and Customer Focus. The site highlights stories voted up by the community and so the makeup of the community has a huge impact on what is highlighted. The users are very willing to challenge authority (and in fact anxious to do so I think). So some topics are common: criticizing DRM, science, criticizing the United States’ role in the war in Iraq, programming, iconoclasts, xkcd, criticiszing stupid corporate behavior, Paul Graham, criticizing Fox.

Lately there have been a large number of stories on people being killed in raids by police on the wrong house: police in full swat gear storming the wrong house by accident and then killing occupants. The media in general sees these as “special causes” – isolated incidents. So while tragic the strategy is then to examine what mistake in this unique situation lead to tragedy. I believe that the readers of Reddit sense this is a systemic problem and therefore see the proper examination to undertake is to look at the whole system. That is, to use the common cause improvement strategy – when the tragedy is seen not as an isolated incident but the result of a system.

It seems to me the Reddit readers are right – I think the users natural tendencies (a willingness to question authority and a trained sense of what is a special cause and what is a common cause, even if they don’t use those terms) result in the stories gaining traction within Reddit. To limit future tragedy the system as a whole needs to be examined. Do not seek to find the special cause that led to the problem in one instance. Look to the system and see why this trend has increased. I don’t actually have good data – I am making a guess that this trend has increased in the last 20 years (getting some decent data on what is really going on is obviously one of the first things to do in looking at this issue).
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It’s Easy Being Lean

Nice article, nice title too, a bit overoptimistic maybe but still nice 🙂 – It’s Easy Being Lean [the broken link was removed]:

The program advocates lean manufacturing, whose main tenet is that the processes used to produce things can be made more efficient and therefore more profitable. The steps can be as simple as bringing the machines used to create goods closer together on the plant floor. Since lean manufacturing is a permanent way of doing business, not just a short-term fix, supporters of the concept say it can take years to implement fully.

Loderstedt says NJMEP helped companies develop 338 projects last year. Of these, 160, or 47 percent, focused on applying the principles of lean manufacturing. That was up from about 25 percent in 2003, he says.

NJMEP is part of the national Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. There are 350 such locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, which operate through a mix of state and federal grants and revenue from private companies.

Related: Wisconsin ManufacturingGlobal Manufacturing Jobs DataApplied Quality Engineering Educationlean thinking articles

Newt on Management History

The new Newt thing [the broken link was removed]

“I don’t mean to be argumentative,” he says, as he scribbles a chart on the history of management reform, tucking dates alongside names like Motorola and Deming and Ohno, all the while peppering the group with questions. “But I’m dubious about externalized systems. It becomes a cult.”

No one is insulted. On the contrary, everyone is enthralled by Gingrich and his well-informed romp through management history. (“There’s this whole romantic side to him,” Gingrich says enthusiastically about management guru W. Edwards Deming. “He wrote religious songs.”)

I am not really sure what he means by “externalized systems.” He does actually know about Deming’s idea and management history. For those outside the USA he is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Republican Presidential candidate.
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Customer Un-focus

Counties caught in conundrum: getting Amish to take food stamps [the broken link was removed] by John Horton

Accepting public assistance is verboten within the Amish culture. It simply is not done. But Taylor is under orders to at least try to get them enrolled. The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services has asked Geauga and Holmes counties, which feature the state’s largest Amish populations, to lift dismal food-stamp participation rates.

Taylor and his Holmes counterpart, Dan Jackson, called the mandate a waste of tax dollars, time and resources. In their eyes, the directive is government bureaucracy that ignores the obvious in setting an unrealistic goal.

Taylor and Jackson said they’ve both asked the state to readjust participation goals for their counties. Carroll said the request is under consideration. This is the first year for the performance standard.

Data, such as participation rates can be used as in-process measures to help you locate areas to look at for improvement. When you discover a good reason for the numbers then look to other in-process measures. Don’t make the mistake of managing to the measure. The measure should help you manage. Improving the number is not the goal. Improving the situation that the number is a proxy for is the goal.

Related: Another Quota Failure ExampleForget TargetsWelfare waste

via: Amish Refusal to Accept Food Stamps Makes Welfare Workers Look Bad

VA Medical Care

The Best Medical Care In The U.S. [the broken link was removed]

studies show that 3% to 8% of the nation’s prescriptions are filled erroneously, the VA’s prescription accuracy rate is greater than 99.997%, a level most hospitals only dream about.

This data certainly should make most hospitals interested in learning what is going on.

And for the past six years the VA has outranked private-sector hospitals on patient satisfaction in an annual consumer survey conducted by the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan. This keeps happening despite the fact that the VA spends an average of $5,000 per patient, vs. the national average of $6,300.

Overall this is an interesting article. I am sure there are plenty of problems in the VA system – it is huge and complex. However, they may also have valuable ideas for the health care system that is very much in need of improvement. Also see: PBS documentary on improving hospitals.

When hospitals were evacuated from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the VA’s patients were the only ones whose medical records could be accessed immediately anywhere in the country.

Univ Michigan Hospital Adopts Toyota Methods

U-M hospital takes page from Toyota [the broken link was removed] by Sharon Terlep. This continues the trend (trend rather than fad because I like that it is happening :-)) of hospitals adopting lean management methods.

In health care, the one-at-a-time approach could mean taking a patient’s call, pulling the patient’s records, scheduling a visit and performing the exam that day, rather than creating a backlog of appointments or letting people crowd a waiting room. That way, if something goes wrong, it’s easy to target where the problem happened and fix it right away.

This article gets some of the ideas down but I think presents them in a fairly confusing way. So take this for what it is a report on one more hospital trying these ideas. Then read the many available resources to learn about one-piece flow, poka-yoke, eliminating waste, identifying errors, kaizen… rather than relying on this article. The purpose of this article is just to report on the new methods being used at the hospital not provide a detailed report on exactly how the new methods actually work – that would take a much longer form of presentation than a short newspaper article.


Army Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma eases fiscal constraint challenges [the broken link was removed] by Beth Reece, Army News Service:

During fiscal 2005, the Army Material Command saw $110 million in savings and cost avoidance by implementing Lean Six Sigma practices. By removing waste and better controlling output, for example, Letterkenny Army Depot, Pa., reduced costs by $11.9 million in Patriot air defense missile system recapitalization. And Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark., reduced repair cycle time by 90 percent and increased its production of M-40 protective masks by 50 percent.

Another press release on the Army’s use of Lean Six Sigma. See: online six sigma resources and lean manufacturing resources.

Lean Library

Library becomes a lean machine [the broken link was removed] by Morgan Jarema:

“I spent parts of three days looking for that book,” Hoyles recalled. “On the fourth day, I found it. I called the patron and he told me he’d gone out and bought it.”

In November, library employees, who are responsible for checking in from 4,000 to 10,000 returned materials at a time, were asked to help reduce the reshelving time, which could be as long as two weeks.The average time now is 36 hours, though most materials can be found on rolling carts in the section where they belong the same day they are returned.

Related lean thinking idea: 5s. More lean manufacturing/thinking articles.

Kaizen Event Research Project

NSF Funded Kaizen Event Research Project [the broken link was removed]

First, this research seeks to identify the most important factors influencing successful outcomes (both technical and social)…The second objective investigates the sustainability of Kaizen events over time.
The research team has visited numerous organizations utilizing Kaizen events across
multiple areas. Leaders in some organizations acknowledge that some areas will quickly (within 6 months to one year) revert back to the pre-Kaizen performance levels. Yet other organizations appear successful in sustaining results, even improving them further over time. Thus, this research will seek to identify the most important factors influencing sustainability of outcomes.

There is an opportunity to have your organization studied – see the article for contact details. Companies involved in textile manufacturing, food processing, or other continuous manufacturing process industries are of special interest.

Description on NSF web site

The NSF Innovation and Organizational Change (IOC) program supports scientific research directed at advancing understanding of how individuals, groups and/or institutional arrangements contribute to functioning, effectiveness and innovation in organizations.