Broadly speaking Lean is the process of reducing waste, while Six Sigma is a tool which seeks to identify and reduce variation and defects. Both are focused on improving processes, quality of service and therefore customer satisfaction.
As a skill set which originated in manufacturing it has now spread to encompass all industries. The Not-For-Profit sector however is an area where these skills are sorely needed yet rarely used.
The Richard Bransons of this world are calling for more philanthropic ideas, with initiatives such as ‘Class of 15’, or BTs ‘Improving Lives’ scheme which has seen Big Data aiding people in the developing world.
As an Operational Excellence recruiter I speak to countless candidates on a daily basis; after a successful career many feel a moral responsibility to give back to their society. Some look towards their communities, their local councils, the NHS or even voluntary work at local Small Enterprises close to their heart.
However you’re no longer a school child at the local charity fete; you have a lot more to offer than just your free time and baked goods. Your professional technical skills can, in theory, ‘teach a man to fish’ rather than offering a one off contribution.
Your skills in Lean and Six Sigma could offer long term improvements and benefits to a Not-For-Profit organisation’s processes and quality of ‘service’.
A successful example of the use of Lean and Six Sigma in a Not-For-Profit organisation is at Aberdeen Foyer. This Scotland based charity works to prevent and alleviate homelessness and unemployment in the youth underwent LSS optimisation to improve their recruitment processes. After one year the recruitment of the same number of staff could be achieved with a saving of £43,830 per year and a reduction of 1,234 staff hours.
On a larger scale ‘Improve Africa’ has created a business case for Improving the Aid processes of Large and International Not-For-Profit organisations. This was created in response to the Taxpayers Alliance article. This article expressed public concerns with the poor value being received for each donation of Tax Payer money through Government Aid. They state that a large donation for the provision of health care facilities could require an unacceptable 2 year wait till the benefit of the Aid is seen on the ground; simply due to the lack of operational and organisational effectiveness. Issues which ‘Improve Africa’ seeks to rectify through Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques.
However, it should be noted that Not-For-Profit organisations are a very different beast when compared to a manufacturing plant or a banking office in Canary Wharf. Are there dangers in viewing charity based work in a calculating Six Sigma view point?
Statistics and metrics can be threatening to any individual when they are the one being measured. But how far can the charitable work of these Not-For-Profit organisations be boiled down to decimal places?
Numbers simply cannot provide a holistic representation of a charities work. Numbers and statistics are an abstraction of reality and therefore cannot represent the complete picture. People can often forget this simple fact and begin to think of customers and employees as revenue or cost sources, complaints, or something other than the complete human beings that they are.
In conclusion, ‘a process is a process’ and Not-For-Profit organisations have them too. Therefore Lean and Six Sigma practitioners can offer lasting benefits to charitable organisations through using their tools to create faster, more efficient processes which provide a better service to those they provide for. However, tread with care; you are not improving ‘customers’ experiences, but the giving of aid to people in desperate need.
So… would you gift your LSS skills to benefit a Not-For-Profit organisation?