Could our Intelligence Agencies learn something from the Fortune 500 and Six Sigma?

Sep 12, 2018 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

In memory of those lost in 9/11 I wrote this piece as a wake up call. It should continue to serve as a template for what is amiss within and without our intelligence agencies and the Executive Office. There are many critical lessons those in charge could learn. I hope it’s not too late!

CIA HQ.

Since the 9/11 commission handed down their final report as to what we, as a country and those in the intelligence arena, could do to avoid catastrophes like those of 9/11.  I’ve thought about how we can make do with what we have.  I really don’t think that the answer lies in appointing another person to collate and distribute intelligence data to the various agencies we already have, but instead all agencies could better be served by adopting the Six Sigma that Jack Welsh instituted for GE.  You may ask what is Six Sigma and how can it improve the performance of our intelligence agencies?  I’m about to enlighten you!

Six Sigma is the relentless quest for perfection through a disciplined, fact-based and data-driven approach. Six Sigma is the way to capture the collective intelligence and abilities of employees, …”.  (www.6sigma.us)

From the above statement regarding Six Sigma we can tell that it is, and has been, an effective tool in the business sector, but can that information and collaboration be transferred to the intelligence agencies of the US government.  I think it can.  Let me show you how.

William Demming was one of the first people to write about what quality improvement was and is.  That was 1986.  (www.luftigwarren.com) Here is what he said;

 

Granted this example is targeted at business manufacturing, but can also be tailored to fit any number of organizations missions and visions if better quality and more productivity is what they want and what we, as American’s, deserve from our government.

What’s Involved In a Six Sigma Initiative? Below taken from www.luftigwarren.com

There are six generic implementation phases for Six Sigma:  I’ve consolidated them into four paragraphs.

First we need to establish an executive commitment from G.W (now Obama and Trump too). on down. Why?  Because good leadership skills should begin at the top and funnel down throughout the entire body of our government.  When each department within our government buys in to the big picture, works as a cohesive team, and holds a stake in its success they can achieve great things.  The problem is, and has been, that G.W. and Trump are not a team players and thus has rather poor leadership and communication skills.

Jack Welsh was one of the frontrunners in implementing Six Sigma at GE with proven results and here is how his plan unfolded.  He had a vision of what he wanted GE to become and a plan for how to achieve it, unfortunately this is something our current Administration is yet to understand and something that our intelligence community needs desperately to address.  However, without good leadership that may be an impossible task.

Next, you decide which processes or people to improve upon and train your employees in what Six Sigma is and how it can help them to be more efficient and enhance their productivity while cutting overall costs and eliminating costly mistakes.  (www.businessweek.com)  Costly mistakes like the intelligence bungle at the time of 9/11 are critical issues that need rapid detection and identification, information sharing between all involved parties becomes an absolute must, and certain and well thought out plan(s) of how to best attack the issues at hand imperative!

Once you’ve established the parameters you can decide how to measure your results, what information needs to be reviewed on a regular basis, and by whom.

Upon review we find that;

All US intelligence agencies could use a little schooling in how to improve the quality and quantity of the information they generate, collate, and disseminate.  Case in point-the 9/11 Hearings and Commission Suggestions.  Below is a simple diagram of how that process should flow.  (www.luftigwarren.com)

Define Opportunity
Measure Current State
Analyze Causes
Improve Performance
Control Improved Process

 

The crux of Six Sigma is a team based approach to management and to getting the job done!  It virtually eliminates departmental heads and duplication of unnecessary tasks.  It places all upper and mid-level managers on the same playing field, thus the same team.  Hence, the job gets done via teamwork; instead of competing with each other they compete against a benchmark and continually strive to beat that mark.  The end result is continuous quality improvement in all phases and all departments.

How do you begin?  Streamlining the current workforce is the first phase.  Jack began by cutting the work force by 1/3, including more than half of GE’s salaried staff.  (www.businessweek.com)  He suggests that you must be fair and open in doing so, but those that don’t, or didn’t, perform don’t make the cut!  While this may not be a popular move it is a necessary move all the same and one we can easily do in our intelligence agencies across the board.

“Six Sigma initiatives use well-defined strategies to identify, select, and improve….performance.”   Furthermore, “sigma is a measure of conformance to specification.”  (www.luftigwarren.com)

Couldn’t the current Administration use a heavy dose of conformance to specification?  They can’t even agree on what they are going to say or not say next let alone identify strategies that could improve our performance, actions, and reactions around the globe.  Let’s see what Jack says about how to get there.

Jack is also an amazing communicator and he stresses how important good and effective communication is in seeing this transition/transformation to fruition.  With Six Sigma all bonuses and rewards are tied to performance and before they can be achieved they are communicated clearly and understood by all participants.  Each team and each team member is an integral part of the organization’s overall success and needs to know what is expected of them in order to ensure this success.

Each employee is invited to write out what their strengths and weaknesses are, developmental needs, as well as short and long term goals in the Six Sigma program.  (www.businessweek.com)  Long and short term goals are outlined and weekly progress reports are submitted to all members of all teams to see where there may be areas that still require improvement.  According to Jack “what counts is what you deliver. “ (www.businessweek.com)

Assessments made by each team’s leader are all placed into each employee’s file.  These are reviewed at regular intervals.  As one goal is achieved it is crossed off and new ones are made to reflect their progress toward the end result.  Goals for each person are tied to the overall goals for the organization showing how each person’s contribution takes them one step further in their organizations success. (www.businessweek.com)

Mentoring programs are created to help keep minority and women employees involved in this Six Sigma process. (www.businessweek.com) Jack believes that in this man dominated world we need to promote women of equal talent the same as we would a man.  This rings true in our governmental sector too.

Back to the basics; Intelligence and Governmental excellence still requires;  (www.luftigwarren.com)

  • Strong leadership
  • Solid infrastructure
  • Sound strategic planning and deployment
  • Exceptional process management
  • Effective management of human resources
  • Community responsibility

Without all of the aforementioned ingredients our current Administration is destined for certain failure.  In G.W.’s bullheaded quest to conquer Iraq and avenge his father’s shortcomings from his previous war in the Middle-East he has alienated us from our allies and the remainder of the world by acting singularly, without forethought, appropriate planning, or the consequences for such actions.  That however is ancient history.  What can we do about that now?

Some helpful suggestions might be;

Why don’t we merge all of our intelligence agencies into one big happy family instead of segregated units that are no good at sharing?  Then, let’s cut all people that have become complacent and stagnant in their current positions and fill those slots with team players that have a can do attitude.   Let’s cap upper management’s salaries at say $100,000 per year and tie their bonuses to their actual performance instead of dolling them out carte blanche.  Then, let’s see what they can deliver.  And instead of creating one figurehead leader or Czar to replace those we already have why don’t we create teams to do specific tasks like trying to find Osama Bin Laden or locate those persnickety WMD’s in Iraq  Of course we will also need to monitor their performance by performing regular checks and tweaking any and all processes that are not working at par for best results, but this could work!

Or better yet, why doesn’t G.W. appoint Jack Welsh to do the job since he is unable to grasp even the most simplistic concepts of Six Sigma!  After all, Jack has a proven track record in corporate America and he knows how to motivate, train, and educate employees across the board!  Lastly, what communication skills and social graces G. W. lacks, and those are many, could be more than made up with the communication skills and business savvy of Jack Welsh.  Why not Jack Welsh for US Intelligence Czar?

Reference:

www.luftigwarren.com

www.businessweek.com

www.6sigma.us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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