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Gingrich Campaign Press Release - Newt Gingrich's Call for Lean Six Sigma Deserves a Chance

August 22, 2011

By Rick Haglund

This commentary piece by Rick Haglund discusses what Lean Six Sigma is and how first Newt and subsequently other Republican candidates have embraced it as a cost cutting measure.

While channel surfing the other day, I came across Newt Gingrich talking on C-SPAN about a big idea for eliminating the federal budget deficit without raising taxes or cutting entitlements.

This was not surprising. Ideas burst from Gingrich's brain like cannon fire at a Civil War re-enactment.

But it turns out his latest passion, something called Lean Six Sigma, is catching fire among Republican candidates for president.

Implementing Lean Six Sigma throughout the federal government could cut program costs as much as 25 percent a year, its devotees claim, ending the threat of Social Security benefit cuts for baby boomers and Medicare death panels for Grandma.

And billionaire Warren Buffett could stop wasting his valuable time writing op-eds proposing that the federal government raise taxes on him and all his friends.

The methodology

Just what is Lean Six Sigma? It combines lean manufacturing processes that reduce waste with Six Sigma, a methodology used to cut defects and improve quality. The processes are widely used in manufacturing.

Retired Texas business consultant Mike George, who claims to be the creator of Lean Six Sigma, is attempting to get all the presidential candidates (including President Barack Obama) to pledge to eliminate the U.S. budget deficit by 2017 using Lean Six Sigma practices.

They also would agree to attend a two-day Lean Six Sigma seminar and complete a waste reduction project prior to taking office.

Citizens also can pledge to support candidates who embrace the cost-cutting methods on George's website, Strong America Now.

Gingrich, naturally, was the first to take the pledge. He soon was joined by Republicans Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, who has since dropped out of the race.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who just dropped into the race, also is expected to sign the pledge. He already is supporting a bill in the Texas Legislature that would implement Lean Six Sigma in the Texas Workforce Commission.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a strong advocate of measuring results, is not using Lean Six Sigma in his administration, according to a spokesman.

Heard of it?

While there appears to be a lot of nerdy excitement for it among GOP presidential hopefuls, I'm guessing you haven't read a thing about Lean Six Sigma.

The national media is mostly ignoring the issue.

In searching the websites of USA Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, I found just one story addressing Lean Six Sigma in the presidential race.

What would you expect from the "lamestream" media?

Lean Six Sigma, with its "black belt" practitioners, probably seems a little loony to political journalists investigating serious questions, such as whether Mitt Romney is weird or Bachmann believes the pope is the anti-Christ.

There also is a debate about how effective Lean Six Sigma has been in the business world. While its methods have improved product quality and cut waste, its impact on the overall success of companies is mixed.

Using Six Sigma and lean manufacturing processes didn't prevent General Motors and Chrysler from falling into bankruptcy. Chrysler was led at the time by Lean Six Sigma apostle Bob Nardelli.

But maybe this Lean Six Sigma thing is worth a try. Congress has punted its responsibility to cut the deficit to a super committee of its members who already appear polarized on solutions.

Gingrich recently called the super committee "the dumbest idea to come out of Washington in my lifetime."

Even Grandma might be in favor of giving Lean Six Sigma a crack at saving her Medicare.

Newt Gingrich, Gingrich Campaign Press Release - Newt Gingrich's Call for Lean Six Sigma Deserves a Chance Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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