Like many of the tools available for law enforcement officers today, Lean Six Sigma (LSS) process improvement methodologies are only as good as the officer’’s skill level, trained in its use. Firearms, TASERs, pepper spray, batons, are all examples of what law enforcement officers, the world over, are required to achieve proficiency with before hitting the streets on their own. Beyond achieving this proficiency, they must also maintain certification with these tools of the trade on a recurring basis. Now, insert LSS as the new tool of this fast paced profession and great things can happen. Keep in mind though that this is simply another tool. Being such, some officers may reach the proficiency level, while some will achieve expert.
Think of your agency’’s special assignment teams such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Community Oriented Policing (COPS), Bicycle Unit, Apartment Tasks Force, School Resource Officers (SRO), etc. Each of these teams require a special type of individual to help the team be most successful. Not all officers can meet the rigorous demands of SWAT, nor does every officer want to ride a bicycle all day or work at a school. The point being, each of these specialized teams tend to draw officers that have a “knack” for what the team exemplifies. These groups of officers will then receive specialized training that goes well beyond the average officers level of proficiency for that particular skillset. The same should be true for LSS.
LSS thinking is somewhat of a new mindset for law enforcement, in general. Sure, we may have all used problem solving policing in the past, but this is different. LSS teaches us to look at all processes within our agency, not just the crime trends and patterns. While it is always a great idea to train as many people as possible to look at the processes that they work in and challenge them, keep in mind, some officers will simply have the “knack” for it. This doesn’t make them better police officers than the others, or vice versa. What it could mean is that they should be the ones to receive the advanced LSS training. I highly encourage you to give all officers within your agency the basic skillset and understanding of LSS. Then, sit back and watch as those with a passion for improving the core processes begin to emerge. As they emerge, begin building your specialized LSS teams to attack bureaucracy and waste within processes. These special advocates for process improvement will not only deliver the greatest return on investment, but they will also set the best example for the changing mindset that is necessary to sustain a LSS culture.