WIESBADEN, Germany - Geographic diversity, customer variety, organizational structure differences and a presence worldwide have led to varying business practices established across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This became even more apparent when USACE employees deployed to support operational missions post-Katrina, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. They realized everyone had a different way of doing business, said Ken Turner, a program manager with the Europe District. Imagine personnel for 40 districts coming together and everyone having a different way, sometimes the wrong way, of doing a standard business process.
"Because they did things slightly different from each other, they had to take time away from conducting business to standardize their team practices," Turner said. "Because business processes around the Corps had not been standardized, documented properly or readily available, the team replacing them would have to take a chunk of time away to standardize the team again."
USACE decided to initiate a quality management system throughout the divisions, labs and centers of expertise to document and consolidate all business processes in one location so every employee has access to them.
Access issues related to many offices storing business processes on their own Intranet site is no longer a barrier with QMS. In addition, the QMS is interactive, meaning any person can comment on any process for improvements or corrections at any time. Once comments are received, the responsible process champion will evaluate comments, coordinate changes with affected offices, and improve and publish the revised process. The QMS follows the ISO 9001 process of "Plan-Do-Check-Act" cycle for continuous improvement.
Currently, both final and draft processes are documented on a Web-based system using Microsoft Sharepoint technology.
"Then everyone will be working off the same sheet of music making us more efficient," said Turner, who is the District's QMS manager. "Not only is time saved, but employees who move from one district to another can pick up where their predecessors left off without familiarizing themselves with the procedures."
The goal of QMS is to standardize business practices to increase efficiency, effectiveness and product quality with minimal on-site training, according to the new USACE QMS Web site.
The District's efforts are teamed up with the North Atlantic Division, whose vision is to implement QMS within NAD in a way that instills the concepts of quality into every-day operations and allows for continual improvement, according to the NAD QMS Web site.
NAD's goal is to continually improve processes and put training in place to ensure employees are working within pertinent regulations to deliver quality products and services, said Lt. Col. Anela Arcari, Europe District's deputy commander and the District's QMS champion.
"QMS is a valuable asset to the Corps of Engineers - not only will it help us efficiently deliver on our promises to customers, it also demonstrates our commitment to excellence," she said.
NAD recently completed a gap analysis review on published national standard business processes to compare how the Division and Districts are conducting business to the baseline procedures and is waiting for the results of that analysis, Turner said.
"By standardizing these practices, employees will be able to work with each other across the spectrum, and new employees will have a resource available to them," he said.
Due to the nature of the District's locality, some processes will be adjusted to keep in accordance with German law, Turner said. So once the documents are finalized, supplemental practices will also be submitted and sorted according to district.
The next step in the process is to work with NAD and HQ USACE to develop procedures for managing QMS, including updating and revising current processes as well as creating new processes when needed.
"We envision this as a dynamic system allowing us to respond to changing missions and lessons learned while quickly educating the workforce when new processes are needed," Turner said.
Once the system is set up, periodic quality assurance checks will be made to determine how closely our documented processes match how we are conducting business, Arcari said.
"Training will be available eventually, but until then, I encourage District employees to check out the Web site to make comments and take the tutorial that is available," Arcari said. "Standardized business processes available in QMS will provide the framework for how we consistently deliver quality products and services to our customers."