HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. --
Part of the Pa. National Guard-adopted Lean Six Sigma (LSS) program, nearly 30 Guardsmen studied the customer-oriented business practices of a popular online merchandise vendor Jan. 31, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Reconnaissance of successful enterprise is a source element of LSS – a program that studies techniques and tools to improve processes and quality by identifying and removing defects.
Programs like LSS help construct a keystone of the National Guard: readiness.
“Visiting our civilian partners who practice aspects of continuous process improvement helps our Guardsmen visualize many of the concepts in LSS,” said Maj. Kathleen Pearson Fabrizi, the Pa. Air National Guard Joint Operations Center operations officer, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. “We’ve already had quite a few LSS projects around the State that have directly increased our readiness.”
LSS works on a system of project levels based on achievement, indicated by earning different-colored belts, and two organizational support elements. Fabrizi is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt earned from a Villanova University, Pennsylvania, program, and also is the Pennsylvania National Guard director of continuous process Improvement.
Fabrizi noted that members of the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg Air National Guard Base, Pennsylvania, have implemented these practices to create more time for training during their regularly-scheduled drill (RSD). Constant training is noted by the National Guard Bureau as a cornerstone of readiness, leading to an increasingly capable force.
While difficult to determine when the National Guard first implemented LSS, it was adopted by the Army in 2005 as a strategic approach for continuous process improvement. After proven to be a method of gaining efficiency and effectiveness at home station units, the program spread to support in-theater operations according to a 2010 article posted on army.com.
During the Pa. Guard’s recent tour, members experienced the syndicate’s system of identifying defects and forming solutions -- methods Fabrizi feels are applicable to the defense enterprise -- and sounded akin to military maxims. The host company’s totem of bias for action, hiring and developing the best, ownership and being vocally self critical were touted as imitable elements to motivate and maintain combat-ready personnel.
The Pa. National Guard 28th Infantry Division Chief of Staff Col. David Wood stated, “I think the important part of today was seeing how the company looks to their people for answers – people are everything in an organization. Their process improvement begins with the lowest-level folks and this action is empowering.”
Wood stated that gaining the right people and then enabling them with opportunities to improve on procedures fosters job skill and enthusiasm. Therefore, this can be a force multiplier.
Training opportunities provided by the Guard’s LSS program might appear unconventional in providing ready forces to meet the State and federal needs. But the program is structured to prepare service members for success in an array of global challenges.
Fabrizi said, “Being able to see representatives from an organization talk about looking to the front lines for solutions instead of [always to higher-ranking leadership]… and going through processes backwards is a great way to start the paradigm shift we need to meet future mission requirements in both combat and domestic operations."
LSS students are expected to spur innovation, which will aid them in adapting and developing solutions at home station and on the battlefield.
“We are not getting more people, more money or more space,” said Fabrizi. “We have to maximize what we have and ‘right size it,’ if we are going to meet future challenges.”