Despite Success, Lean Six Sigma Ending in Erie County

Mark Poloncarz
Mark C. Poloncarz
Erie County Executive

According to an article in the Buffalo News Mark C. Poloncarz plans to drop Lean Six Sigma from Erie County government when he takes office as county executive in January. Poloncarz, who is currently county comptroller, has been critical of the Six Sigma program and told legislators last month during budget hearings that he had no plans to continue it. “Good government is good government. You can call it what you want,” Poloncarz told legislators. “We’re still going to be working to create better, more efficient government, but I do not see Six Sigma continuing in my administration.”

Perhaps an indication of what Poloncarz considers “good government” is the fact that he will not eliminate the money allocated for the salary of the Lean Six Sigma executive. The $116,000 salary for the director of the corporate efficiency program is still in next year’s budget. “Is there going to be a Six Sigma director at $116,000? No,” said Mark Cornell, a spokesman for Poloncarz. “However, no decisions have been made specifically as to how best to allocate those dollars.” The position of Six Sigma director is currently vacant. James E. Melton, who had filled that role since February, left the post in October.

Current county Executive Chris Collins has credited the Six Sigma program for helping to reduce the size of government by roughly 900 jobs during his four years in office and said Poloncarz will be the “beneficiary of all the efficiencies that we brought to government.”

“Those savings will be part of my legacy,” Collins said. “I’m just disappointed, very disappointed, that he won’t continue that journey.”

In a recent interview with ABC news I pointed out some of the many challenges facing the adoption of Lean Six Sigma in government. One of my observations was that without an initial transformation of the way government works any gains that are made through LSS could be erased with every election. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see things like this coming. With Lean Six Sigma we focus on drilling down from outcomes to root causes. The inefficiency in government and the failure of governments to embrace the most successful approach known for improving efficiency is a matter of cause and effect. This won’t be resolved with leadership change, it will require transforming the system of government itself. I plan to provide a framework for doing just that in an upcoming book. In the meantime, don’t get your hopes up for Lean Six Sigma having a lasting impact in improving government efficiency.

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Author: Thomas Pyzdek

Consultant, author, owner of The Pyzdek Institute