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execute. There are a lot of people who can
develop ideas. I call them idea ducks: They
waddle around the barnyard laying idea
eggs. But there are very few people that
can sit on the clutch of eggs and see the
eggs hatch, because it's just a lot of work.
I think it's absolutely essential that you
get everyone down at the lowest levels
involved in developing the vision for
the organization, developing the idea of
where you want to go, developing the
goals and the objectives. And once it's
decided, once you've collaborated, it takes
leaders to just press that home on a daily
basis. If you don't, change doesn't happen.
And it's hard even if you do it that way.
Q. The Army encourages the application
of Lean Six Sigma principles to identify
opportunities for greater efficiency and
effectiveness. What do you see as the
greatest value of the Lean Six Sigma and
other quality improvement processes?
A. Here in VA, the Veterans Health
Administration, for one, is an absolute
role model in embracing Lean Six Sigma
concepts---identifying and removing
causes, defects, and errors in the deliv-
ery of their daily health care services. But
we're doing the same thing in the pro-
curement arena. We haven't always done
it this way, but in the last year, year and
a half, we began measuring the health of
our procurement organizations across VA.
We do this based on agreed-upon metrics.
There are 11 metrics we use.
We've created a pod of systems analysts in
my office who develop quantitative busi-
nesses cases for changes in the way we
procure. It's very difficult to find people
with quantitative skills in the government
because we haven't emphasized that in the
past. So in this instance, the majority of
them are suppliers we've hired. What they
do is, they develop hypotheses. These
hypotheses say if we do x, we can save y.
And then we require them to prove their
hypotheses with a business case, and in
doing so they develop a range for return
on investment. And once a business case
is approved, it might tell us we need to
standardize. We did this, for instance,
with office supplies.
Then the same analysts are required to
bird-dog or monitor that program so
they can tell us what we're actually saving.
These analysts---I call them my ORSA
pod, Operations Research Systems Ana-
lysts (sort of like an orca pod)---are doing
a great job.
While I promote Lean Six Sigma and its
tenets, I've seen many times in my career
that my bosses were willing to spend
money on total quality initiatives, such as
Lean Six Sigma, but in many cases they
weren't willing to spend the money on a
group of people like we have here in VA
who could actually put the business cases
together and then bird-dog those deci-
sions down the road. My leadership has
allowed me to hire people I need. We
think there's going to be a large payoff.
We've got a long ways to go before we can
We're working with VHA to stand up
seven program offices. Each of these
program offices will have a portfolio of
products. For instance, a portfolio could
be surgical. And so, this portfolio man-
ager and others who work for him or her
will know everything there is to know
about products ranging from staples to
scalpels, for instance. They will know
what the market is, they will know what
new products are being developed by
industry, and they will in turn work with
the analysis team, this ORSA pod, who
will constantly develop new business cases
for them. Requirements will then be sent
to the Strategic Acquisition Center in
Fredericksburg, VA, which will put these
requirements on contract.
So we've got a three-leg stool. We'll have
program managers, spend analysts, and
contracting officers working in concert.
We will make data-driven decisions, and
we'll collect data after we make our deci-
sions to determine if we made the right
decisions. This has never been done in the
past here at VA.
If the Army medical folks are doing
[portfolio management], that would be a
perfect way for us to collaborate.
Q. Do you have any final words of advice
for Army AL&T professionals trying to
support a climate of efficient and effective
business practices and to succeed amid
global change and constant competition
A. I hope VA and DoD endeavor to work
ever more closely together as we move into
an ever more constrained budget environ-
ment. It's going to take leadership from
the top down to make this happen. Lead-
ership, leadership, leadership. Without it,
nothing seems to take place. It seems every
well-intended move to save the govern-
ment money has some corollary political
or turf issue associated with it. We've got
to somehow get over those issues and get
over them quickly, because there's gold
in those hills to be mined. We owe the
American people, I think, our best efforts,
and so my advice is we all sit down and
work collectively and demonstrate superb
leadership in making it happen.
This Critical Thinking column is condensed
from a Nov. 28 Army AL&T interview
with Jan R. Frye. Read the full interview
online at http://asc.army.mil/docs/
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