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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

My New Year’s Wishes

Hey… give me a hug.

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 - 05:30

The year 2009—it was a year to be relegated quickly into obscurity. Nothing seemed to go right. Automotive sales were in the dumper. Home foreclosures continued to be in the news wreaking havoc on millions of people. The health care debate divided the country into vociferous groups in a verbal war. Fires destroyed California’s forests. There was the usual amount of tornadoes and floods. Unemployment reached record levels. Two wars continued to be fought on foreign soil. Long lines for swine flu inoculations tried our patience. Airline security became a concern again. And, of course, the Detroit Lions renewed their losing record.

We like to think that making New Year resolutions will somehow alter the outcomes, but frankly I see little of a positive nature on the horizon. Regular readers of my column know that I am usually upbeat and like to interject humor but there wasn’t a lot to laugh about in 2009. Sorry for being the Grinch who stole 2009, but laughter and happiness for the coming year looks limited, too.

Reminds me of the song “The Way We Were.”

If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember

So here’s hoping we can add some laughter to our lives in 2010. I know that will be on my schedule. But in the meantime, here are some wishes I hope will materialize in the coming year. Some concern quality and customer service while others are simply daily irritations.

I wish: Automotive companies and other organizations that received money from the government bailout program would pay back the funds quickly so that Uncle Sam can be removed from their daily lives. Having the government intervene in the management of our American companies spells disaster. The U.S. Post Office and Amtrak are prime examples of how the government runs organizations into the ground. The words “quality” and “performance excellence” are not in the lexicon of our government.

I wish: Our personal financial information would be guarded more carefully. Each day brings news that private information on Americans has been compromised due to someone pirating the information or some irresponsible clerk allowing his or her laptop containing sensitive information to be stolen. Here’s my solution: anytime a laptop is stolen from someone’s car, office, or home, that employee is automatically fired—no questions asked.

I wish: Anyone who gets lost and needs rescuing after embarking on a quest for recognition by climbing mountains, soaring to heights in a lawn chair bedecked with helium balloons, or participating in some other dangerous, risky activity would be charged for being rescued. Putting the lives of rescuers in jeopardy in an attempt to rescue these idiots should have consequences. If it were my decision, I would let these people languish for several hours before rescue attempts are started—but that’s just my sensitive side speaking.

I wish: Anyone who was jailed would have no right to publish memoirs or write a book for profit. Frankly, do we care what Bernie Madoff and O .J. Simpson are doing to occupy their days? And convicted pedophiles should remain in jail forever. The recidivism rate is too alarming.

I wish: There was a better way of selecting airport screeners. Since the Transportation Security Administration has taken over the job of inspecting luggage there have been close to 400 arrests of employees pilfering luggage—and some were supervisors. How about more cameras in luggage areas, although I understand that some of the stealing took place in the bellies of airplanes. Really makes you want to send your luggage ahead with another carrier such as FedEx or UPS doesn’t it?

I wish: Reality TV shows would come to an end. Give me reruns of “Seinfeld” or Peter Falk as Detective Columbo anytime.

I wish: Management would understand that before making wholesale changes in products or services, customers should be contacted and asked for input. I see that Domino’s Pizza is celebrating its 50th anniversary by changing the recipe on its pies. With a new garlic seasoned crust, robust sauce and more flavorful shredded cheese, Domino’s new hand-tossed pizza has been reinvented to deliver more taste, so says its management team. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into another “New Coke” fiasco.

I wish: More service and manufacturing companies would consider benchmarking against the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria. Seems only health care and education have recognized the importance of Baldrige Criteria.

I wish: When I take the time to participate in a survey, the company would at least have the courtesy to provide me with the results of the survey. For 2010 I will not complete any surveys unless I receive some remuneration and a guarantee that I will see the results.

I wish: Most financial institutions would have a two-week mandatory vacation policy. The rationale is that any embezzlement should come to light during that time. As a former bank auditor, I can personally attest to the value of that policy, as I was able to uncover and prosecute many a crook. I would hope that other organizations would at least make a one-week vacation mandatory. Surveys indicate that a majority of employees are not taking vacation time for fear of losing their job. As such, many workplaces have become intolerable because of overworked, burned out employees.

I wish: We would do away with “The Best of… ” surveys, wherein readers of various newspapers or magazines are asked to vote for their favorite restaurant, hotel, barber, movie theater, spa, etc. Since all of these surveys are bogus, based not on quality but on ballot stuffing, I ignore the results. How about only relying on survey results from bona fide companies such as J. D. Power and Associates?

I wish: There would be a moratorium on firing or releasing employees during December.

I wish: That we had more professional personnel managers. Does a highly-qualified applicant really need to answer ridiculous questions such as her favorite magazine or the attributes of his worst boss? Getting those kinds of questions (what kind of tree are you most like?) should signal you to seek employment elsewhere.


Now as ominous as my rants sound, there may be some reason for optimism in 2010. But that optimism has to come from us as individuals because the world around us seems to be in a bit of disrepair and confusion. Our job is to get up every morning and approach the day with a positive attitude and a smile. Ignore the darkening clouds of despair and gloom that arrive every day in the newspapers or on TV and create your own world of enthusiasm and upbeat attitudes. If that sounds like I am becoming a Pollyanna, so be it. Perhaps if each of us spreads a bit of cheer in our everyday activities it will become infectious and hopefully spread to others. Frankly, I see no other way of conquering the malaise we have been in. So if you bump into me during 2010, be prepared to be jocular and exuberant. Because as the song says, “It’s the laughter we will remember.”



About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.