CRANE, Ind. - Self improvement can be difficult for an organization, but spotting where and when change is needed and applying it evenly over a long period can be downright tricky.

That is why the success of the Crane Army Ammunition Activity Lean and Six Sigma program is a source of pride to everyone involved in the effort.

"Change by its very nature is difficult. Therefore, implementation of a program rooted in the principle of change cannot be easy. CAAA LSS deployment, though arduous, has been successful primarily through a few key factors. These key factors are leadership, dedicated resources, focused priorities, and initiative visibility," CAAA Supervisory Continuous Improvement Specialist Lara Zilafro said.

The hard work put into Crane Army's LSS program has helped the activity to accept the idea of change. Now, the program is being recognized at levels beyond Crane's rural Indiana setting as a good model for other Army continuous improvement programs.

"Crane Army Ammunition (Activity) has an Army top-of-class LSS program that is one of the best in AMC at integrating Lean and Six Sigma methodologies into an effective continuous process improvement program," Army Materiel Command CPI Director Susan Cole recently wrote.

Cole encouraged other continuous improvement offices to look at what drives CAAA's efforts on its LSS program presentation located on the Army Knowledge Online portal. She also stated that it would be well worth the time of other CPI offices to discuss or visit CAAA in order to understand the mechanisms behind its model, as well as "take a look at a few of the lean and six sigma focused projects that have made positive impacts to both internal and external customers."

Zilafro explained that an important part of CAAA's success has come from its ability to fight inertia; in order to do this the improvement effort must complete initiatives and show gains.

"The challenge to LSS deployment success is the organizational culture. Therefore, the CAAA leadership at all levels encourages and demands support of continuous improvement initiatives while the overall culture develops its buy-in. In doing this, our leadership sets the example and communicates expectations of improvement."

She added, "It's a snowball effect; you will never collect snow (buy-in) without rolling the ball (making improvements). With the dedicated support, initiatives can be properly planned to increase the chance of success. Leadership actively assesses the progress of planned, ongoing and completed initiatives. All of these activities give visibility to improvement initiatives. Visibility illustrates leadership's commitment. Leadership's commitment catalyzes cultural buy-in. Cultural buy-in institutionalizes LSS principles."

The sentiment by Zilafro is also reflected in the comments by the activity's top leadership. According to CAAA Commander Col. Charles Kibben, "No one is really going to have a great Lean Six Sigma program unless you have buy in from the rest of the individuals who are actually out there doing the work."

He added, "Change is something very difficult for people to accept and you need to build an atmosphere where they will want to accept it."

Zilafro said that not only her office, but all of CAAA, is thrilled to be recognized for their achievements and look forward to sharing their success and challenge stories with anyone. She said, "All CAAA projects are loaded into DA's project tracking system Power Steering, and are available to anyone with Power Steering access. We work closely with deployment directors and Master Black Belts from other installations for support and lessons learned. We maintain an open door policy; anyone who wants to call or visit is welcome. With that said, we take advantage of other open door policies and participate in government and private industry site visits to learn from other organizations' experiences."

CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.