Lean Six Sigma Can Help Agencies Manage Stimulus Funds

In a recent interview on Fox Business channel, I had the opportunity to discus how effectively the stimulus funds are being deployed. The discussion focused on how federal and state agencies now are not prepared for the challenges of such an enormous task. In fact, APQC recently reported that only 24% of state and federal agencies reported being fully prepared to manage the $787 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Not only are agencies unstaffed to handle the increased volume of applications, proposals and permits, but the processes associated with the management of funds, accountability and measurement systems are not in place.

Fortunately there is a solution to speed things up and quickly deliver results. By adopting the principles and tools of Lean Six Sigma, agencies can rapidly streamline processes and accelerate the results from the stimulus funds.

Lean Six Sigma, the cornerstone of what helped propel Toyota to the world’s leading automotive manufacturing company and made GE one of the most admired companies in the world is now migrating to a few enlightened state and federal agencies. The State of Iowa, State of Montana, County of San Diego and Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporate – to name a few – have begun adopting Lean Six Sigma tools and principles founded in industry to rapidly streamline processes, provide better services for taxpayers and reduce the amount of time and effort required from staff to get things done. More importantly, they accomplish these results within a few days or weeks making the approach a perfect fit for agencies under pressure to effectively and efficiently manage the ARRA funds.

Certainly these are uncommon times with uncommon challenges. Fortunately in Lean Six Sigma there is a basic, common sense approach which can rapidly help government agencies get over their most significant hurdles to effectively managing the stimulus funds.

By Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions
Post taken from The Ascent Blog: http://blog.guidonps.com

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Les Yamagata

Interesting insights. Many agencies and departments are adopting L6S or have already inculcated its tenets, but if the framework and experience are not in place, would it be too late to implement and cascade L6S in an organization to effectively handle stimulus projects? There should have been L6S performed on the contractor/government reporting requirements aspects as codified in the ARRA.

Ron Wince

The short answer is no but it will incorporate more of the lean tools and fewer of the six tools. One of my first projects outside of manufacturing about 10 years ago was working in a site that processed imigration applications. The leadership of the site was at the end of their rope – the could not hire people due to background checks – they were 6 months behind and growing further behind each day. With a series of kaizen events to rework processes, some routing standardization to attack complexity and a focus on some of the less used tools (beyond flow and waste, etc) the site was stablized in 4 weeks, working down their backlog within 6 weeks and completely on-time within 3 months.
While the ARRA issues may not completely parallel this example my point is that the the approach can be used for what I call “hot spots” along with transformational work.
Last comment – true L6S processes are agile processes and allow for ramp up and down based on volumes and segregation of complexity – if the symptoms are that agencies are not prepared, that processes are combersome and slowing down spending, etc., etc. then it sounds like there is still some great opportunity to apply the tools and approach. The good news is that resources are already there and can jump in with direction from leadership to attack the problems quickly.
Sometimes there is a gap in true understanding with the leadership on how best to leverage the methods, principles and tools and they fall back on their success using fire fighting methods.

Enrique Gomez

I am a certified Six Sigma Black Belt (ASQ) and a recent hire to the US Government (working in IT software devleopment). I had envisioned some serious opportunities for both Lean and Six Sigma projects with the current state of the economy, the advent of the stimulus programs, and the increasing demand for visibility and accountability in projects. This has not been the case.
It is my opinion that unless programs like these are demanded from the top down, they will never be initiated. I am not entirely certain if this is as a result of the fad like nature of improvement methodologies (let’s face it, Six Sigma is a “classic” but not exactly the hot item right now…) or as a result of business cultures in a non-profit, government environment. Even those seeking to create mature process models (like CMMI level 4 processes) will require a set of tools that deliver controlled, statistically managed processes. But, no one seems to be setting the bar high enough to create the demand… Anyone have any comments on this? Has anyone seen positive efforts towards implementing either lean or 6S programs as a result of these new stimulus projects? Just wondering…

Ron Wince

Hi Enrique – congratulations on the new job with Uncle Sam.

In actuality there are some great examples of work in government space. Mostly in the Dept of the Army from the military side and U S EPA from the agency side. You will find that most are focused on lean versus six and having good success.

A couple of suggestions – look at the EPA website, they have some good getting started information and some good examples of their success.

I would also suggest you look at the State of Iowa website. They have some great info there as well.

Last thing for you – below is a link to an article from the Washington Post that will at least give you some hope.


Give me a ring if I can send you any other info or steer you a different direction.