Some companies are developing their own business process methodologies — such as GE WorkOut and fast track decision making (FTD) — to cost-effectively streamline processes and address the rapid changes in the market. But why? Aren’t the proven Six Sigmas, Lean and other business process methodologies of the world doing the job?
IBM’s 2009 Global CIO Study, released this week, revealed that more than half of the 25,000 CIOs surveyed said they plan to implement low-cost business processes this coming year. I started to wonder which low-cost business processes they were talking about and why they were suddenly on the rise. I did some research and came across two business process methodologies that could be considered “low-cost” — the GE Workout business process and fast track decision making.
The GE WorkOut business process isn’t new. GE developed it in the late 1980s as a way to help its own organizations and others become more lean, efficient and responsive to changes in the market. The GE WorkOut process works by bringing together a cross-functional team to solve a business challenge in 90 days. Taking on an issue identified by senior leadership, the team creates a plan with actionable items that must be implemented within the 90 days.
Companies using the GE WorkOut process — including L.L. Bean, Frito-Lay, IBM and Metropolitan Life Insurance — are doing so to streamline and simplify processes, eliminate non-value-added work and speed up the decision making process, according to C.A. Schifman and Co., a training and consulting firm. The process also allows companies to break down silos and improve employee morale.
The fast track decision making approach, meanwhile, is a rapid problem-solving method developed by the North Shore-LIJ Health System in 2002. The organization developed the process to deal with change and allow the right people to make decisions based on their areas of expertise. The LIJ was continuously struggling with change issues from corporate initiatives such as merging 18 individual hospitals into one health care system. The FTD process works by allowing teams of people closest to the process in need of improvement to develop and implement appropriate solutions. The process includes team involvement and in-meeting decision authority.
These two methodologies sound a little like “light” Six Sigma and Lean to me. They allow companies to build their own process methodologies at a low cost and customize them to their own business culture. So if you’re looking to use a low-cost framework and find Lean and Six Sigma intimidating or expensive, these two might work better for you.