Continually improving service delivery is a critical ability for high-performing public agencies at the federal, state and levels — whether it’s innovating to better meet program participants’ needs, increasing efficiency, and solving problems in service delivery. A concept that public managers have borrowed from the private sector to improve service delivery is Lean Six Sigma. It’s a combination of two other management approaches, “Lean” and “Six Sigma.”
As management professor John Maleyeff has noted, Lean Six Sigma “provides a means to improve the delivery of services using a disciplined, project-based approach.” It uses a systematic five step approach called DMAIC. It stands for Define (create problem statement and customer value definition); Measure (map the process and collect associated data); Analyze (identify problems and significant waste); Improve (find ways to eliminate waste and/or add value); and Control (develop implementation and follow-up plan). While those steps are central to the approach, one can use a variety of tools to achieve them, so there is considerably flexibility in one’s approach.
To learn more about the concept and how it can be used in the public sector, we speak with Jim Robinson. He is the Executive Director of The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. He has more than 25 years of experience, particularly in the private sector, working on issues of large-scale organization change and the building of high commitment/high performance organizations.