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England Seeks to Boost Efficiency, Smooth Path for Next Leaders

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2008 – Vowing to leave the next presidential administration no “spaghetti” to deal with at the Defense Department, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England today called on the department to speed up process improvements he said will reduce disruption when a new administration takes charge in January.

In support of that goal, England announced plans to institute throughout the department organizational efficiency and effectiveness strategies he introduced last year within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Video

Speaking at the department’s first Continuous Process Improvement Symposium in Leesburg, Va., England praised strides made since OSD implemented continuous process improvement and Lean Six Sigma business-improvement strategies in April 2007. He announced that he signed a directive yesterday establishing policy and assigning responsibilities to institutionalize the effort throughout DoD.

England urged participants at the three-day conference to be leaders in putting these strategies to work within their organizations. “You need to be out front, encouraging everyone in your organization to participate,” he said.

That leadership will be critical as the department prepares to face a period of disruption during the upcoming presidential administration change, England said. “Regardless of what administration comes in, there is a disruptive period,” he said, with the exodus of current leaders and influx of new ones.

How the department deals with this disruption will be critical, he said, particularly in light of two ongoing wars and other operations around the world. “So we in the Department of Defense have a special responsibility to make sure this transition goes as smoothly and effectively as we can,” he said.

England said he vows to leave the next administration an orderly transition.

“I don’t want to hand any bowls of spaghetti over to the next administration,” he said. “We will bring things to a conclusion, or at least have things packaged in a way that they can easily transition to the next team. The best thing we can do for that next team is to have our processes as good as we can get them – as straightforward and understandable -- so we can move in the next administration with as little confusion as possible.”

A big step in that direction, he said, is to work to embed the continuous process improvement and Lean Six Sigma mindset throughout the department.

These strategies provide a well-grounded, well-thought-out management approach to improving organizations, England told the group. “The whole program is aimed at organizational effectiveness. It’s ‘How do I do things better?’” he said. “And I am convinced that when you do things better, it costs you less.”

People want to work in effective and efficient organizations, England said. He cited one of his leadership principles – that leaders provide an environment for people to excel – and said continuous process improvement and Lean Sigma Six strategies help to provide that kind of environment.

Air Force Lt. Col. Brou Gautier from the Air Staff’s continuous process improvement office said the symposium is helping participants see how they can better apply proven industry processes within their own organizations.

“Our job here, in part, is to try to translate that this is not just about producing Camrys off of the Georgetown, Ky., [production] line,” he said. “It’s about applying process improvement into all facets of the DoD mission: maintenance, operations, administrative transactional areas, logistics, medical, energy. “All of those have many processes, and all can stand to be improved.”

Navy Capt. Francis Tisak called today’s conference an opportunity for the military services and DoD organizations to share ideas and success stories.

“It isn’t about the numbers,” said Tisak, chief of staff to the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for management and budget. “The numbers are nice: projects, how many people trained, dollars,” he said. “But what’s really more important is the mindset. If you have a process improvement mindset, the dollars will always follow [as savings].”

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