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Six Sigma Can Improve Government Practices

Government bodies at any level, local, state, and Federal, can implement Six Sigma to improve customer service and increase the effectiveness of government. Although Six Sigma has its roots in private-sector manufacturing, it works just as effectively in governmental organizations and government will reap the same benefits as corporations.

Many top companies have produced outstanding results with Six Sigma, dramatically cutting costs, increasing profits, and improving customer service. Governments aren't looking for profits, but they still have motivation to reduce their costs and reduce the inefficiency and waste that causes cost overruns. The reduction of variation and defects within processes is the goal of Six Sigma and that goal is just as valid in government as in any other industry.

Any government institution is a service organization and its customers are the citizens it serves. Like a private sector service business, a government benefits when it learns how to serve their customers better by increasing quality and efficiency. In any service organization, the critical factors in quality and efficiency are the flow of information and interaction between people, especially interactions with customers. Transforming the process of these flows will yield quality results. At the heart of every service business are the opinions, behaviors and decisions made by people. Analyzing and modifying human performance in service environments is as complex as any manufacturing situation. Six Sigma achieves documented bottom-line strategic business results by initiating an organization-wide culture shift.

The governmental institution must understand that it needs to redesign its processes from the ground up to be as efficient as Six Sigma enables. No more "business as usual." Until a process focus?rather than a task focus?is developed, the scope and endurance of improvements will be limited. Analyzing and modifying human performance in these environments is complex, but Six Sigma provides the tools and methodology required to achieve significant long-term improvements.

Six Sigma will help government operations groups, such as public works, law enforcement, and sanitation improve their processes to deliver services more efficiently. It will help departments that handle transactions, such as finance, libraries, and human resources, improve their processes to reduce waste and save money. It will help relationships with contractors and assure that contractors apply best practices to their own programs. Six Sigma will also instill a new attitude of efficiency and responsibility from governmental employees. The organization-wide culture shift comes from Six Sigma's recognition of meeting the needs of customers and the value of lower-defect business processes.

Six Sigma is still new to government. Fort Wayne, Indiana may be the first City in the country to implement Six Sigma. The City of Fort Wayne is using Six Sigma to initiate improvements in a number of different departments, including fire, community development, water pollution control, right of way, human resources, street, transportation engineering services and solid waste. Six Sigma has decreased costs, improved customer service and increased productivity throughout city government. Projects have resulted in over $3 million of savings or cost avoidance for the City.

The use of Six Sigma demonstrates a government's commitment to innovation and continuous improvement. Leaders in government will find many benefits to adopting Six Sigma methodologies and training their employees in Six Sigma.

Peter Peterka is President of Six and has over 15 years experience including implementation of Six Sigma in Government with a variety of organizations. For additional information please contact Peter Peterka at

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