Leading by Example
Several years ago, NRC established a center for excellence in Business Process Improvement (BPI). Our methodology of choice has been Lean Six Sigma, however other methods are used as well. Lean Six Sigma is a world class business strategy which is used to improve business processes primarily by eliminating non-value added steps, improving cycle time, and reducing variation.
Currently, the NRC is facing a significant increase in its workload as the result of applications for several new reactor designs, multiple new commercial nuclear power plants, and several new fuel facilities. In addition, the NRC’s responsibilities are continuing to grow within the global nuclear community.
As part of the NRC’s efforts to continuously improve, combined with its increased workload and global involvement, the implementation of a Lean Six Sigma program is viewed as an opportunity to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of many of its processes, programs, and operations. In addition, Lean Six Sigma promotes a common vision for improvement and will help institutionalize a standard agency-wide approach to process improvement.
Lean Six Sigma has proven its validity as a process improvement methodology in transactional and service environments including the Department of Defense and the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Other agencies have begun tailoring LSS to their own programs as well. All Federal agencies are under budget constraints in the coming years. The NRC has undertaken an initiative called the Transforming Assets into Business Solutions Task Force (TABS) to enhance or maintain performance while reducing overhead and eliminate unnecessary duplication of efforts. In addition, there is a risk to the agency regarding enormous loss of knowledge and expertise with the potential for buyouts and early retirements. This developing situation has created an urgent need for each office to identify ways to enhance or maintain the current service level with reduction in available resources. We are currently using Business Process Improvement methods, including Lean Six Sigma, to create efficiencies in our processes and streamline services.
The BPI specialists will discuss concerns about certain processes with the owners of those processes. Then, a team of process stakeholders and subject matter experts will be established to review and better define the problem(s), baseline the process, and measure current performance. The team will analyze the underlying issues, identify root causes, and brainstorm a series of potential solutions. Finally, we will implement the best, most effective solutions for the maximum benefits and capture data to show improvements. All phases of the project are documented and shared. This structured and systematic approach helps to achieve organizational goals because:
- Stakeholder and subject matter expert involvement, especially in decision making, generates the best ideas, buy-in, and support.
- Continuous structured communications with stakeholders ensure all aspects of the problem are evaluated and solutions developed provide the most effective response to the problem(s).
- Open discussions among team members facilitates critical and creative thinking.
- Control Plans ensure structured implementation in a timely fashion to realize gains as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Clear delineation of team members’ roles & responsibilities achieves success.