Open Letter to a Military Base Commander

Dear Commander:

You have got to be prepared to take those risks or you … are never going to make that leap in life that you need to make to be a great leader” – Retired Admiral William McRaven.
Some Benefits of the Toyota Production System

Firstly, let me paint a picture of your future base organization after implementing the expertise of the Toyota Production System. The advantages of a maniacal  focus on process and system improvement:

  • Above all, everyone in the Military System is directed toward success and the War Fighter,
  • Subsequently, the Military System attains Profound Knowledge of Military Processes, and
  • A new winning culture is attained,
  • Consequently, the Military System Seeks Perfection:
    1. At a rate of 11 ideas per military employee per year,
    2. Command Management defines the direction of all these ideas,
    3. Toyota will not expand to a new plant unless they have a critical mass of employees that know this procedure,
    4. This is the reason no competitor will ever catch Toyota, and
    5. Your culture improves to one of winning.
  • Above all, organize your Military Suppliers into at least 7 categories:
    1. Tier 1: Strategic and deliver Just-in-Time,
    2. Tier 2: Strategic and meeting Sigma Performance Requirements,
    3. Tier 3: Strategic and desired Just-in-Time deliveries,
    4. Tier 4: Strategic and not meeting Sigma Performance Requirements,
    5. Tier 5: Not Strategic and Just-in-Time,
    6. Tier 6: Not strategic and not meeting Sigma Requirements, and
    7. Tier 7: Not Strategic and Meeting Sigma Requirements.
  • Firstly, everyone on the service or product line becomes a quality inspector through the use of andon:
    1. andon is the stoppage of a system when a defect is detected,
    2. Continuously remove operational defects.
  • Implement the Pull Methodology wherever possible. It increases process speed and minimizes inventory waste,
  • Implement Lean Six Sigma to:
    1. increase Military process velocity,
    2. Decrease process costs, and
    3. Increase process quality.
  • Success metrics are periodically reported to management,
  • You attain Profound Knowledge of your whole Military System, and
  • Your System will get stronger year after year.
In Summary

The Toyota Production System is a 6+ Sigma System and there’s no reason your Military System cannot strive for that level of performance. Focusing on Operational Excellence delivers progress toward a Malcolm Baldrige Award (indicating the realization of Operational Excellence as a strategic advantage). The Military operations will improve and War Fighters will attain a fighting advantage.


Jim FitzGerald

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt


Apply the Tools of The 6+ Sigma Toyota Production System to the Military System