Walt Songaila -- preaching the gospel according to Lean Six Sigma
June 25, 2008
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, IL. - Walt Songaila sits comfortably in his chair located on the fourth floor of the Joint Munitions Command headquarters building. He has a sly smile on his face. Could it be the spring time weather' The fish are biting' Or possibly the sunny disposition of the command's Lean Six Sigma program.
"We're doing well compared to other agencies in the Army, Department of Defense," said Songaila, JMC's LSS executive director since its beginning in September 2005.
In fact, since the formal start of the JMC LSS program in September 2005, the command has completed 272 projects representing 43 percent of all projects completed by the U.S. Army Materiel Command and 21 percent of all Army LSS projects.
Reflecting on those three years, Songaila admits the transformation from the beginning until present is astonishing.
"(Several) weeks ago, Col. Amodeo, chief of Department of Army LSS PM office came out to attend black belt class," he said. "Two of our MBB candidates, Cindy (Medinger) and Pat (McIllece) taught the class and Col. Amodeo was very impressed with Cindy and Pat. Col. Amedeo said, 'JMC is the model LSS deployment.' It is a huge compliment to our program were the head Army LSS organization comes visit us firsthand and says we're doing well. JMC LSS taught the Army Sustainment Command BB class. It was the first organically taught class by our MBB candidates."
The first organically taught JMC BB class started June 2.
Currently, JMC has no LSS contractor support at JMC headquarters, Tooele Army Depot, Crane Army Ammunition Activity, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant or the Defense Ammunition Center.
"The second best thing JMC ever did concerning LSS was hiring the George Group," Songaila said. "The first best was firing them and standing on our own. Without a strong push from Gen. Griffin and Brig. Gen. Rogers, we would not have done the first best thing so quickly. Letting go of the George Group pushed my comfort factor, but has shown us just how self-reliant we are."
According to Songaila, eleven master black belts are trained and working on their certification. Nine have taught or begun teaching the green belt/black belt curriculum. And eight are on track for the Department of the Army's certification between September 2008 and January 2009.
"The quickest road to self sustainment is having your own (Army) certified master black belts. The longest pole in accomplishing certification is each (MBB) having to teach two BB classes," he said.
Songaila said the command's goal is to always have two to three MBBs located at headquarters and one at each government-owned, government operated facilities.
"Feedback I get from the organizations (sponsors, GB/BBs) is that they like working with our JMC BB/MBBs better, 'because they have a better understanding of our mission.
"It is another goal of the command to have all GS-14's and above Green Belt or Black Belt trained with project experienced, and 60 percent of our GS-13's Green Belt or Black Belt trained, 40 percent certified by September," he said.
Dislike and hatred have often been words thrown toward Songaila's direction.
"It has not been an easy road. Our leaders and organizations did not like being measured and monitored. This was required to get the LSS ball rolling. Not a single hail and farewell has occurred since I came to the LSS office were a director has not tried to retire or fire me. Early on they were serious, but I think (hope) it is just for fun. The culture is changing. My biggest adversaries have become my best allies."
Songaila recently returned from the Lean and Six Sigma Summit in Chicago sponsored by the Worldwide Conventions and Business Forums, Inc.
"It was an outstanding conference. The best conference I've been to for Lean Six Sigma," he said. "Very top level people there."
The conference involved companies outside the government that are using Lean Six Sigma including Walt Disney Corp., Osram Sylvania, Xerox Corp., and EBay health companies.
"The biggest take away from the conference was that each of the CEOs has a (LSS) matrix meeting every week and go over data," he said. "So I've started to have one-on-one meetings with the principal stakeholders in this process to move JMC in that direction. We currently review very little data at staff meetings. These top companies look at performance data every week."
And any advice or encouragement from Brig. Gen. Rogers, JMC commanding general, on all the information received at the conference.
"He said, 'Go forth and make it happen.'"
That's a message that's three years strong and still going.
Editors Note: According to Songaila, the fish are biting. He caught a 30-inch walleye on a recent fishing trip to Canada.