I met Newt Gingrich at the Ontario Hospital Association conference in late 2009, as I blogged about here: “Meeting Newt Gingrich, a Lean Champion.”
Yesterday morning, I was told that Newt had given an endorsement of the use of Lean and Six Sigma methods to help reduce waste in government, as reported here: “Newt Gingrich first Six Sigma pledge signer.” Later in the day, news broke that there was a mass exodus of his campaign staffers, all quitting his presidential campaign team: “Gingrich Aides Quit en Masse Over Conflicts.”
Let this be an exercise in not confusing correlation and causation! :-)
Newt's pledge to use Lean and Six Sigma comes at the prompting of Mike George, the author and consultant. I believe he was the guy who coined “lean six sigma” (and the oft-repeated mistaken idea that Lean is about efficiency and Six Sigma is what you need for quality). Lean is just as much about quality as Six Sigma, if you actually look at the two pillars of the Toyota Production System: just-in-time (flow) and “jidoka” (quality at the source). It's an incorrect straw man to imply that Lean is only about speed.
From the article about Newt's LSS pledge:
First candidates must promise, “to eliminate spending deficits and start paying down the national debt by 2017 by deploying Lean Six Sigma waste reduction methods to detect and eliminate 25 percent of spending per year across the federal government.”
Then “to attend two days of training on the Lean Six Sigma method and complete a waste reduction project prior to my inauguration.”
Gingrich was the first to sign, but others aren't far behind.
The focus on cost reduction, along with the training and project focus, makes this sound more like Six Sigma than a broader Lean mindset. What do you call this, the “Red, White & Blue Belt“?? Or maybe a “Red Belt” since Republican states are called “red states” on political maps??
Are the candidates going to be Lean and work toward improving quality, worker safety, and waiting times – all while better engaging those who do the work? That would be a great Lean commitment, focusing on all of that instead of just doing cost cutting.
I'm not sure that a pledge like this helps the overall Lean movement. Will this sort of thing just be mocked on “30 Rock” along with other GE-style Six Sigma silliness? I'm not doubting that Lean can be applied to government processes and services (see Iowa) – but wouldn't it be better to train “bureaucrats,” leaders and those who actually do work in departments like the DMV, the Passport department, the military, etc.? I'm not sure that Congressional representatives and senators are going to do a lot of good in reducing waste or, better yet, providing more value or the right value to constituents.
Reader comments on Politico were harsh, if not sometimes misinformed about Lean, including:
Oh great…. I believe that Lean Six Sigma is what Toyota was so proud to have used to increase the reliability of their vehicles, and we all know what the result of that was. Cutting corners at all costs isn't the answer.
Yes, “cutting corners at all costs” is certainly NOT the answer. But neither Lean nor Six Sigma are supposed to be about corner cutting. That and Toyota doesn't use Six Sigma. Other than that – great reader comment! ;-)
I doubt Newt's team quit because of the Lean and Six Sigma pledge. News reports implied they quit for other reasons.
Newt Gingrich‘s presidential campaign imploded on Thursday as his top advisers banded together and resigned, setting off a further exodus of aides and supporters and battering his hopes of a political comeback.
Mr. Gingrich's senior strategists confronted him on Thursday after he returned from a two-week vacation with his wife, Callista, which included a cruise through the Greek isles. Mr. Gingrich defended his holiday as a chance to “get away and think,” but aides chastised him, they said, for lacking the discipline to run a focused presidential campaign that could overcome rising doubts about his candidacy.
The breakup of the Gingrich team, which included a top-to-bottom slate of aides in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Washington and Georgia, provided one of the biggest jolts yet to the 2012 Republican presidential campaign.
The only conclusion that many can draw is that Newt is/was indeed a “vanity candidate” who was really “in the race” for the attention and publicity, not out of any serious effort or desire to be President? As smart as he is and as much as he knows about the history of Lean and Dr. Deming, do you think he is/was serious about applying it to government? Did he attempt to use Dr. Deming's lessons when Newt was speaker of the house?
Newt aside, do you think candidates should be endorsing Lean and/or Six Sigma for government? Or should they just leave it to those to manage and work in government processes?
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