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Lee: Outstanding CIOs rare and invaluable

Sheila Lam | Feb. 15, 2013
King Lee talks about Six Sigma implementation and being a CIO.

Computerworld Hong Kong: GE is known for its Six Sigma implementation. How does it play a role in today's operations at GE?

King Lee (KL): Six Sigma, in my opinion, is a methodology that takes a real live problem and turns it into a mathematical formula. You solve that formula, then convert back to the situation.

It has been an effective solution and it went beyond our expectations. Six Sigma not only helps us to improve processes and maintain focus on improving service delivery, it also provides us a common language within the company.

When people move between business units, this common language makes it easier to understand each other. It also allows us to benchmark and collaborate across GE.

CWHK: Does Six Sigma help in IT management?

KL: It is absolutely useful for IT management. Lean Six Sigma (Lean is defined by Wikipedia as: "a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful") closely ties IT and operations.

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) brings a structured methodology to improve the process and pin down a target before digitizing it.

At GE, we always say "lean before digitization." It's critical because you don't want to bring IT solutions into a process that is not effective. If you do that, you're making more mistakes in a shorter time. Therefore, we always simplify the process before putting in a solution.

LSS ties so closely with IT that many IT leaders at GE, including myself, also hold LSS roles. We started with relying on Six Sigma to remove defects. In the recent years, we focus on lean--which is about waste reduction and simplifying processes to be more effective.

An LSS role is different from that of a COO--the role does not own the process. It's more like being a consultant: advising the process owner and helping them fine-tune their processes.

CWHK: GE started the Global Growth Operation in 2011 to develop growth models across business units. How does LSS help in the GGO structure?

KL: I won't say we launched a LSS project within GGO, which is a global business unit that cut across different GE businesses. But LSS is part of the DNA at GE. So when we are trying to connect business units together, we think about LSS.

There are many different stages in the LSS journey. In the early stages, you'd probably launch a lot of campaigns to make sure every single employee is trained.

But we've passed through that stage. We've come to a stage where whenever we plan, strategize and execute, LSS is part of our culture.


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