FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
Employees at every level and location of the Defense Logistics Agency are hearing the phrase “process excellence” as they work toward perfecting the agency’s operations.
It’s not a new slogan, nor a complicated concept. Instead, it’s about simplifying and streamlining DLA’s processes from beginning to end, then standardizing those processes throughout the enterprise where it makes sense, said Angie Evans, chief of DLA Strategic Plans and Policy’s Enterprise Process Integration Division.
“Every day our employees take a series of steps to produce a service or product for our customers. It generally starts when the customer sends us a requirement, at which point we take several actions to fulfill that requirement with acquisition rules and regulations in mind,” she said.
Other processes, or end-to-ends, that require multiple steps include product delivery, property disposal and employee hiring. In many cases, those processes require coordinated input from employees who work in separate functional areas ranging from procurement and finance to distribution.
The goal in every case is to be effective, efficient and reliable, Evans said, and processes that consistently deliver those three outcomes are exactly the ones DLA wants to preserve and spread.
DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch solidified the agency’s commitment to process excellence by making it the fifth goal in DLA’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2022.
“Process excellence encourages simplification, improves performance and helps DLA better achieve the outcomes warfighters expect,” Busch wrote in the plan. It includes implementing proven, repeatable processes and strategies to maintain cost savings and audit sustainment, increase speed and improve quality, he added. It also includes the management of processes by which new ideas are discovered, evaluated and implemented.
The agency’s approach to enterprise process management is based on process reengineering concepts by Michael Hammer and Lisa Hershman, authors of “Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done.” Their research indicates that most people want to do a good job and strive to meet specific goals, but they get so lost in fragmented processes that they never truly understand how their job fits into their organization’s goals or overall purpose. That changes when employees think beyond their own work and consider the numerous tasks that make up the entire process.
“Some companies explain it to their people with the phrase ‘look left, look right.’ That is, don’t just pay attention to your own job, but think about the work that comes before you and the work that comes after you; think about the totality of work that is creating value for customers,” Hammer and Hershman wrote.
DLA Strategic Plans and Policy is leading the enterprise process management initiative and has partnered with Hershman to provide process-management training to employees throughout the agency. A DLA-specific “EPM 101” course is also being developed for future training.
Because it doesn’t own any of DLA’s business cycles or functional processes, the headquarters-level directorate can enable positive interaction and collaboration among key stakeholders, Evans said. Also, specialties such as risk assessment, policy management and continuous process improvement already fall under DLA Strategic Plans and Policy and can be seamlessly integrated into process management efforts.
As employees throughout the agency evaluate processes in their own work areas and develop suggestions for innovation or improvement, the Supply Chain Integration Council will assess potential impacts to other functional areas that also have a role in process completion. The group, which comprises leaders at the GS-15-level from field activities and DLA Headquarters directorates, will evaluate and recommend approval for process changes before they’re presented to executive-level leaders.
“The council provides us with a routine methodology by which we can manage process change, measure success and integrate multiple end-to-ends with all the key players and stakeholders,” Evans said. “Usually there is a lot of dialogue that needs to occur to hash out the final details of whether a change is recommended and how that change will take place. The Supply Chain Integration Council will help ensure there’s a smooth recommendation for the way ahead by the time process changes are presented to senior executives.”
The agency already has four DLA director-endorsed continuous process-improvement efforts underway to improve and sustain its current performance. The on-time delivery project will ensure supplier contract terms and conditions are met 100 percent of the time and contract closeouts occur within 120 days of receipt. A disposition and distribution project is expected to eliminate double handling of material, decrease transportation requirements and reduce infrastructure at 17 locations.
The reject resolution lead time project will reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a purchase request that was rejected for reasons such as pricing or a lack of bids. And a project on workload management and prioritization will develop standard enterprise processes and tools to ensure priorities are synced across the enterprise and provide optimal outcomes for customers.
The formal CPI tools and techniques in these projects give employees a structured process for mapping, measuring and managing process change, said Heather Vickers, a senior CPI analyst for DLA Strategic Plans and Policy.
“CPI provides DLA with methodologies to create efficient, effective and reliable processes. As a part of enterprise process management, CPI helps to create a culture of improvement to build and maintain process excellence, fostering a sense of process ownership and innovation,” she said.