Dennis F. Haley’s default image

By: Dennis F. Haley

(Academy Leadership Publishing: King of Prussia, PA) -- When news headlines trumpet story after story about fiscal mismanagement, unchecked greed, massive bankruptcies, and rampant downsizing, it’s hard to believe there’s any good news about the business world. Indeed, it’s almost impossible not to conclude that our nation’s decision makers have lost their way. But despite the turmoil that’s recently rocked corporate America—or perhaps because of it—a growing number of companies are suddenly remembering who they are.

That’s right. There’s a definite trend in the corporate world to return to the basics of good business. This encouraging change in attitude is described in my new book, The Core Values Compass: Moving from Cynicism to a Core Values Culture (Academy Leadership Publishing, 2010). Through personable case studies and discussion, the book explains how leaders are realizing that consistently putting short-term results and performance measures over long-term adherence to corporate purpose and values just doesn’t work. It eventually backfires.

Michael Leary’s default image

By: Michael Leary

In the classic Aesop fable, “The Fox and the Grapes,” a fox desires some grapes hanging high overhead. When he is unable to come up with a way to reach them, he convinces himself that the grapes are probably sour and therefore not desirable anyway. “Sour grapes” has become an idiomatic expression to convey simply the universal human condition of feeling disdain for something that one could not attain.

During the past decade working with life sciences companies, we have seen our fair share of “sour grapes” applied to quality systems and, more specifically, laboratory automation. Although most life sciences and consumer health care companies are in a position to reap significant benefits through process improvements coupled with automation of their laboratories, the cost, resource requirements, and limited flexibility of their systems have remained largely unreachable and therefore, perceived as “sour.”

Our perspective remains that cost reductions, efficiency gains, and increased compliance position should not be so unattainable as to call to mind the unreachable fruit. As life sciences and consumer health care companies embrace the concepts of laboratory automation, they can reap benefits that include:

•Efficiency gains in sample throughput time 

H. James Harrington Ph.D. and Frank Voehl’s default image

By: H. James Harrington Ph.D. and Frank Voehl

Some things never cease to amaze. We are meeting with the executive committee of a major global company, and we have just asked if innovation is one of their top strategic priorities. Their unanimous answer is “yes.” We then ask about their individual responsibilities. “Which one of you is the CFO?” “Who is head of HR?” “Where’s the CIO?” One by one their hands go up. Yet, when we ask to see their global director of innovation, nobody raises a hand. Everyone just looks around the room with blank expressions. So, sure, this company understands that innovation is imperative. But nobody in its leadership team is directly responsible—or accountable—for making innovation happen across the organization. And in many instances, they don’t even seem to be aware of the paradox.

Davis Balestracci’s picture

By: Davis Balestracci

Customer satisfaction data resulting in various quality indexes abound. The airline industry is particularly watched. The April 10 Quality Digest Daily had an article with the title "Study: Airline Performance Improves" and the subtitle "Better on-time performance, baggage handling, and customer complaints."

The analysis method? In essence, a bunch of professors pored over some tables of data and concluded that some numbers were bigger than others...and gave profound explanations for the (alleged) differences. If I’m not mistaken, W. Edwards Deming called this “tampering:” They treated all differences (variation) as special cause.

How much information like this gets published and how much of this type of (alleged) “analysis” are we subjected to in meeting after meeting…everyday?

“Released during a news conference at the National Press Club, the rankings show that of the 17 carriers rated in 2008 and 2009, all but Alaska Airlines had improved AQR scores for 2009.”

So, given 17 carriers, 16 had numbers bigger than last year. It sounds pretty impressive.

Paul Leavoy’s picture

By: Paul Leavoy

If analysts are correct, the recent economic downturn may be slowing and even changing direction. The recession's effect on operations, however, has barely begun to manifest. Training budgets are typically the hardest hit when economic times are tough or corporate purse strings are pulled more tightly. The effects of a reduced training budget might not be evident immediately but over time will show up as cracks in product and service quality.

“The result of poor training management is an interesting cause and effect relationship,” says Mark Jaine, president and CEO of Intelex Technologies Inc., a Toronto-based company that provides training and environment, health, safety and quality (EHSQ) management software solutions. “The ‘cause’ is the decision to slash training budgets and neglect training programs. The ‘effect’ is poorer employee performance, compromised product and service quality, and diminished employee retention. However, sometimes these effects aren’t realized until one, three, or even five years later, depending on the company's size and the extent of the neglect.”

Systems make mistakes

Although the connection can seem tenuous or indirect, proper training has a direct effect on quality, just as it has on every aspect of business.

Tony Shaw’s picture

By: Tony Shaw

A woman in Southern California’s Inland Empire, age 53, is suffering from an unidentified neurological disorder. It started as an odd numbness in her left arm, and now she feels an uncomfortable, persistent tingling and prickling pain from the bottom of her feet to the top of her eyebrows. She feels these symptoms to varying degrees at all times of the day and night.

The woman brought her symptoms to the attention of her doctor who, baffled, sent her to a specialist. The specialist ran a number of tests and ruled out all the most likely possibilities, but like the woman’s general practitioner, the specialist was left puzzled. The specialist presented the woman’s case to a panel of leading neurologists from the state’s top hospitals, but no one could make a diagnosis or offer an effective plan of treatment.

This woman’s case is not a hypothetical situation, and unfortunately, it is not a unique situation.

GKS Global Services’s picture

By: GKS Global Services


n 2006, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) kicked off a project called the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS), which today has grown into a large international consortium of teams from universities and innovative companies seeking, among other pressing global needs dealing with energy and transportation, to develop a vehicle that uses dramatically less energy, materials, and toxic substances. 

Jacques Hoffmann’s picture

By: Jacques Hoffmann

Not too long ago, when you wanted a product to be leak-proof, you simply put it under water, made sure it didn’t bubble, and thereby concluded there were no leaks. Such “bubble testing” takes time and depends on the operator’s ability, making it totally inappropriate for the modern production environment. Also, it doesn’t generate the quantitative measurements that are the lifeblood of quality assurance engineering.

Dry-air leak testing methods—some of which can detect leaks as small as 0.01 standard cubic centimeters per minute (sccm)—are the methods most commonly used today by a wide range of industries—from medical devices, to automotive, to appliances, and aerospace, among others. These dry air methods enable quality managers to define leaks quantitatively. “No leaks allowed” standards are concepts of the past.

Pete Abilla’s picture

By: Pete Abilla

Some time ago, while consulting for a huge call center, I took a group of customer service agents for a little gemba walk and a quick activity to demonstrate a few lean fundamentals. What was scheduled for a 60-minute exercise turned out to be an experience that awakened the agents, several of whom went on to create reports based on Toyota's A3 problem-solving method and on the plan-do-check-act cycle (a method for learning and improvement developed by Walter Shewhart), that added value to the customer and the company.

Stand in a circle

I gave each of the customer service agents a pencil and a piece of paper. We then stood quietly in the middle of the call center for five minutes. There was no talking. We wrote down as many things as we could observe during those five minutes.


With a white board, still in the middle of the contact center, I had one of the agents create a tally of the items observed. I showed the team how to create a simple tick sheet and then I asked them, “What’s a good way to visualize this data?”

Jamie Flinchbaugh’s picture

By: Jamie Flinchbaugh

Managers get a lot of training on how to solve problems. They get no training on their role in problem solving. Many managers have come up through the ranks and it is most likely that their skill at solving problems and the knowledge gained from solving a lot of problems got them promoted into a management position.

This happens continually in the management chain. What leads to success in one role is often different in another role. We cannot take a super worker and make them a supervisor without changing his or her role and skills. So what happens to managers when they get promoted? How do they start to engage in the problems of the organization? Many experience what I call “The 25 Problems Problem.”

If you have five direct reports and each of them has five problems they are working on, how many problems do you have? If you didn’t think I was setting you up, most would answer 25 problems. But that’s the wrong answer. Your team has 25 problems. But those are not your problems. Those are your team’s problems. If you see them as your problems, you will do everything wrong. 

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