>Lean Six Sigma and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture is one way for an organization to drive business process improvement and technology enablement. Another way is through Lean Six Sigma.

Federal Computer Week, 3 March 2008, reports that “DoD rallies around Lean Six Sigma: The methodology has become the Defense Department’s ‘tool of choice’ for business transformation.”

“Lean Six Sigma is simply a process-improvement method for reducing variability and eliminating waste.” With Six Sigma (developed by Motorola), the idea is to make processes efficient and repeatable, so that there are fewer than 3.4 defects per 1 million. The Lean (developed by Toyota) concept refers to “eliminating any steps that don’t add value.”

In Lean Six Sigma, process improvement is enabled through the following steps:

  1. Define—identify problem and measures
  2. Measure—capture data points
  3. Analyze—discover areas for process improvement
  4. Improve—implement process changes
  5. Control—verify and validate that improvement is attained and sustained

In 2000, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England made Lean Six Sigma the foundation for DoD’s continuous process improvement program.

Currently, “about two-thirds of DoD organizations by some estimates are committed to Lean Six Sigma.”

DoD is training their people in Lean Six Sigma and intends to have 5% of its employees attain Green Belt (involves typically a week of training) and 1% reach Black Belt (typically involves approximately two years of training in math and statistics and several years experience working on projects as Green Belts).

However, DoD has been criticized by some for focusing more on the training, than on translating that training into practical on the job know-how to transform the Department.

Yet, by some measures DoD has made improvement. The Army claims to have “completed 770 Lean Six Sigma projects, from which it estimated savings of $1.2 billion in 2007.”

To me it seems like enterprise architects would do well to work in partnership with Lean Six Sigma professionals in order to understand the business processes, improve them, and identify requirements to technology enable those. In User-centric Enterprise Architecture, business drives technology rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. Lean Six Sigma can help business led the way for truly useable and usable technology solutions.

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