Mark Patton’s picture

By: Mark Patton

The U.S. Army aims to make ill-fitting uniforms and protective gear things of the past when it completes a body-measurement survey next year.

Supply officials ran into difficulty acquiring the correct sizes of chemical gear and body armor for troops at the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “Something was happening, and we didn’t know what or why,” says Cynthia Blackwell, survey program director for the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, which is spearheading the survey.

Army officials say data from a 1988 survey are still being used to design gear, but that body types have changed significantly since.

A pilot study conducted by Natick in 2007 found the obesity epidemic plaguing the general population was “somewhat reflected in our troops,” notes Blackwell.

The height of active-duty male soldiers in 1988 averaged 69.1 in. (5 ft 9 in.) and weight was 172.7 pounds. By 2007, the average height stayed pretty much the same, but weight shot up to an average of 184.1 lb. Chest, waist, and hip girth all increased, with the average waistline expanding from 34 in. to 36.3 in.

Arun Hariharan’s picture

By: Arun Hariharan

In part one of this article, I explained the technique of root cause analysis (RCA) in an easy-to-understand manner with simple examples. In part two, we looked at some critical success factors to get maximum results from your RCA. In part three, the conclusion to this article, we’ll take a look at the remaining critical success factors. These are based on lessons learned from experience and from mistakes made. As RCA and other quality techniques are relatively more common in manufacturing, several of the examples in this article are drawn from service industries to offer a broader perspective. The article is equally relevant in manufacturing and service businesses as well as government and not-for-profit organizations.

(Click image to enlarge)

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Let me begin by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Mike Micklewright’s achievements and contributions in the realms of business, training, and writing. I feel the need, however, to explore the nature of his reasoning in reference to his “Croc of the Month” article published in Quality Digest Daily on March 10, 2011.

In fact, my hackles went up from the first paragraph and little alarm bells rang in my head throughout the entire article.

Micklewright’s disdain for reward systems in general is well known, and though I’ve had reservations concerning his opinion on the subject, I feel that this particular piece unduly “smushes together” several concepts and warrants review.

“Smushed together” stuff

Not exactly a technical term, but helpful in describing a fault in reasoning whereby an explanation combines more than one concept as if the concepts were inextricable from one another. The “smushed” concepts are then used as a singular point of reference for further explanation. The problem with “smushing” is that if one of those concepts is based on faulty assumptions, the logic that follows may also be faulty.

American Sentinel University’s picture

By: American Sentinel University

Critical care units at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, New York, were faced with a formidable task. They had applied to receive the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence, a distinction given only to the top intensive care units in the United States. One of the components on which they would be judged was how they assessed patients’ pain levels in a critical care environment, and that’s where they hit a snag—until a nursing student stepped in.

“The staff and I were measuring pain levels using a tool that was outdated and not suited to ICU work,” says Christopher Kowal, who in addition to being a full-time staff nurse, was pursuing a master’s degree in Science Nursing Education at American Sentinel University.

Using change-management skills he’d gained from his studies, Kowal was able to identify a more appropriate pain-assessment tool and designed a pilot program to study its effectiveness. The results were remarkable. “I was able to better manage patients’ pain and get them out of the intensive care unit (ICU) more quickly,” Kowal says. “And the new tool improved productivity at the same time.”

Mary F. McDonald’s picture

By: Mary F. McDonald

Every human being, over time, yearns to put his life in order—to have his expectations met, and to use filters to help him know how a situation will resolve itself. Consequently, we subconsciously strive to put new information into existing categories, based on previous patterns and preset concepts that have been formed during our lifetimes. Our preconceptions may be as innocuous as, “I’m going to watch this actor because she always stars in a romantic comedy, and I enjoy that genre,” or, “It’s the last week of the quarter, so we’re going to be pushed for sales this week; what can we bring in from next quarter, what can we expedite out the door?” or even, “My spouse is going to blow his top when I tell him I want to go away for the weekend with my pals.”

In a work context, preconceptions limit our ability to see what “reality” is, and therefore provide meaningful feedback to our organization about what needs to be addressed. The concepts of lean involve gemba, going to “the actual place” and jidoka, having “respect for people.” Yet, if we walk into an area and have preconceptions about it, or do not have respect for the people we are interacting with, then we thwart the very concept of improvement.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s picture

By: Georgia Institute of Technology

We couldn’t pass this story up. Sure, this toy isn’t anywhere near as accurate as a Steinbichler or Capture3D or Breukmann or any of the others, but it is really cool.

Leave it to an iPhone app developer to turn a tool that cost hundreds of dollars a year ago into something that can be done with a 99-cent app. Grant Schindler, research scientist in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, created Trimensional, the first app that allows users with an iPhone 4, iPad 2, or recent iPod Touch to take 3-D scans of faces or other objects and share them by e-mail. Now in the latest update, users can also e-mail animated videos of their 3-D models. For a few dollars more, artists and designers can even export their creation to CAD programs or 3-D applications such as Maya.

Trimensional works by using the iPhone’s screen to shine four different lighting patterns on the subject while also using the device’s front-facing camera to snap photos. It produces a full 3-D model that you can zoom into, pan around, and view from any angle.

Arun Hariharan’s picture

By: Arun Hariharan

In part one of this article, the technique of root cause analysis (RCA) was explained using simple examples. Part two contains a detailed list of critical success factors to get maximum results from your RCA. These are based on lessons learned from experience, including mistakes made. Because RCA and other quality techniques are more common in manufacturing, several of the examples in this article are drawn from service industries to offer a broader perspective. The article is equally relevant in manufacturing and service businesses as well as government and nonprofit organizations.

The technique of RCA is summarized in figure 1 below. We will continue to refer to it in this article as we look at the various critical success factors and lessons learned in RCA.

(Click image to enlarge)

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.  —Alfred Korzybski

Over the last several years, I’ve studied a lot of processes and watched communities grow around them. I’ve been a member of many of these communities. As processes gain credibility, they generate excitement. As excitement mounts, the human desire for perfection plays a funny trick on us: We begin to identify with the process.

The fact that we get our Black Belts or certifications doesn’t help with this. We’ve now invested ourselves in the process, and we want to use it. And why not? By and large these processes are pretty cool. We see ways they can make life better. And we love taking the easy way out, so we treat the process as an absolute.

But by now we’ve all read the news that the map is not the territory.

A guy named Alfred Korzybski said this, and if you don’t know him, you should. He was a smart guy. He is the father of something called general semantics, which basically says that language is fallible and it messes with our minds, our relationships, and our ability to get things done.

Art Petty’s picture

By: Art Petty

When we focus on not failing, fear rents most of the space in our minds, and we see monsters in need of slaying everywhere we turn. We lose track of the original vision that propelled our actions, and the sheer act of working becomes at best a passionless exercise and at worst, drudgery.

Sadly, many leaders provide fuel for the “don’t fail” machine through their actions. Show me a project team or functional group that exhibits all the energy and passion of a collection of late-night television zombies, and I’ll guarantee there’s one or more dysfunctional and often micro-managing leader at the source of this environmental problem.

Often, these leaders are motivated by some perverse view that success comes from not having their name associated with screwing up. As a result, their every motivation is to make certain you and your co-workers achieve that objective. Although they may succeed in helping their teams navigate the issues of “not failing,” these leaders suck the life out of their teams in the process.

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

By: Michelle LaBrosse

Are you proactive or reactive in your work and personal life? Think about your career. Do you jump on tasks as they pop up, putting out fires as you go? Now consider your weekend. Do you wait until plans come to you, or do you make plans to ensure that you are having the kind of free time that you want with family and friends?

Much stress in life comes from not feeling in control and maintaining a state of reactivity to deal with issues and problems that arise. The good news is that there is another way! When you learn simple project management (PM) processes, you can reduce your stress load in every facet of your life. Here at Cheetah Learning, we call this “being a Cheetah.” Cheetahs don’t allow stress to control them; they strategically plan out the best route to achieve success, and they stick with it. To be a Cheetah, there are some important concepts to remember.

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