Denise Robitaille’s picture

By Denise Robitaille

One of the most interesting books I’ve read is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon and Schuster, 2006). It’s a historical narrative of Lincoln’s administration, focusing on the dynamics of his cabinet.

Lincoln was dedicated to preserving the Union. At the time of the Civil War, the United States was less than 100 years old. The system of government “… of the people, for the people, by the people…” was unique in the world. Lincoln perceived that if our nation was dissolved, the great experiment of self-governance would have failed. The notion that common people, leading everyday lives, could make a difference would have been invalidated.

Implicit in Lincoln’s stance is an unerring comprehension of the importance of people to any organization, community, or enterprise. This attitude is echoed in the words of Carl Sandburg in his book, The People, Yes. Later, W. Edwards Deming added, “Drive out fear…,” which is No. 8 of his 14 points for management. These are the steps we walk in.

The voice of the people is a big deal. People matter. The work they do has value.

H. James Harrington’s picture

By H. James Harrington

Given all the campaigning by Barack Obama and John McCain, including the many promises they’re making that I believe won’t be kept, I recall my own predictions and visionary assurances a decade ago concerning the quality profession in the 21st century. When I was asked during the mid-1990s, “How do you see the quality profession changing to meet the needs of the 21st century?”, this is how I responded:

Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

John, Acme Corp.’s new CEO, just heard a brilliant idea for making his numbers this quarter. He needed it. During a conference call with the financial press last month, he made certain promises. If he couldn’t keep them, the company’s stock would surely take a hit. The trouble is, John’s estimates assumed that Acme’s biggest customer, We Be Widgets, would place its usual large order for widget subassemblies. However, due to the sluggish economy, the order was smaller than expected. The result: revenues amiss and earnings below expectations for the quarter.

Fiona, Acme’s chief financial officer, had a suggestion that could save the day. “We have that order from Widget International for next quarter,” she observed. “If we fill and ship it early, we could make this quarter’s numbers.”

John smiled. “Let’s do it.”

Jack E. West’s picture

By Jack E. West

Perhaps no concepts have been more abused than those related to controlling measurements. For decades it was common in many industries to calibrate measuring and test equipment to ensure it met its own specifications for accuracy and precision. Complex and expensive systems were developed to do the calibrations as scheduled. There was little emphasis on controlling the relationship between the requirements being measured and the precision, accuracy, and stability of the overall measurement system. I’ve seen many situations where measuring devices had tolerances that were looser than the tolerances of the characteristic being measured, and caused the entire control loops to behave erratically--and the managers all wondered why.

By the time ISO 9001 was first issued in 1987, this had begun to change. Some industries had begun to emphasize what should be measured so that appropriate measurement equipment was selected. Still, even today it’s not uncommon to see the wrong equipment being used for a measurement. The most important focus in this area is to establish controls to ensure that measurement capability exists. In other words, the measurement system must be accurate and precise enough to ensure that measurements meet measurement requirements.

Denise Robitaille’s picture

By Denise Robitaille

On several occasions while conducting a third-party surveillance audit, I’ve gotten the following query--or a variation thereof: “One of our customers called us last week and wants to come in to do an audit in three weeks. Why can’t they just accept the results of the audit that you’re doing? After all, they’re auditing us to the same requirements. Isn’t registration to ISO 9001 supposed to stop these multiple customer audits?”

It does seem to be a dreadful waste of time. When any auditor comes in, there’s the need to have staff available for interviews. There’s at least one individual--usually the quality manager--who loses one or more days escorting the auditor throughout the facility. Schedules are disrupted; important tasks get sidelined.

Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

Recently I called a friend, Ethan, to catch up on things. Ethan is a former student of mine who now holds a senior leadership position. He has been “tainted” by process excellence in the sense that because he understands the importance of processes, he can no longer practice traditional management by results. When an employee announces that he intends to reduce costs, Ethan wants to know the specific process that will be followed to accomplish the goal. In an effort to understand how this improvement will be achieved without causing harm elsewhere, Ethan asks such questions as, “What are the high-cost areas?” or “What are the major drivers of costs in these areas?” or “What are the root causes underlying these drivers?”

During an all-hands meeting at Ethan’s company, the new CEO was asked about his views on Six Sigma. The CEO responded he was in favor of Six Sigma’s emphasis on continuous improvement, but he wasn’t too keen on the “Belts.” In fact, he didn’t see a need for them.

I beg to differ.

Scott Paton’s picture

By Scott Paton

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s probably no surprise to many of you that magazines and newspapers are struggling to survive. Daily newspapers are getting smaller and smaller; magazines are getting thinner and thinner. This issue of Quality Digest is the smallest we’ve ever produced. The long-predicted “end of print” seems to have finally materialized. The recession, the high price of fuel last year, and the popularity of the internet have all radically changed the balance sheet for traditional print media.

U.S. News & World Report will cease publication this year and be available only online. The Christian Science Monitor and PC Week will do the same. Even Entertainment Weekly is mulling a move to a strictly online presence. Many daily newspapers, including both Detroit newspapers, are moving to a mostly online presence. The New York Times is rumored to be in serious financial condition and may run out of cash as early as May.

H. James Harrington’s picture

By H. James Harrington

I’m often asked, “Of all the stakeholders, which one is the most important? Which one is the most valuable resource that the organization must be sure is satisfied?” Let’s look at who the stakeholders are.






Employees’ families


Special interest groups


Investors. An organization promises the investors an income that is better than what they could get from any other place. As a result, they invest their hard-earned money in the organization.

Management. Managers are promised a good income if they can develop the organization and make it profitable. They often work 50 to 60 hours a week, giving up a lot of their family life. Certainly the organization has an obligation to its managers to provide them financial security and give them meaningful work assignments.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By Donald J. Wheeler

I recently received a data set consisting of the number of major hurricanes in the North Atlantic from 1940 to 2007. (Major hurricanes are those that reach Category 3 status or higher at some point during their existence.)

The first step in analyzing any data set is to look at the data. This means plotting the data in some meaningful format. With data that form a time series, the simplest and best format will be the running record where the data are plotted in time order. The running record for the number of major hurricanes is shown in figure 1.

The first question of data analysis must always be whether the data are homogeneous. If the data are, then we can use them with the various computations commonly taught in statistics classes. However, if the data aren’t homogeneous, then the question becomes, “Why or when did the changes occur?”

H. James Harrington’s picture

By H. James Harrington

I believe that most manufacturers have mistakenly focused on initial quality and reducing cost and cycle time during the production and delivery cycle. This has come at the expense of reliability.

Customers buy for the following reasons, listed by top priority:

Customers come back based on:

A customer puts quality last when making a purchase because quality is generally good no matter who the supplier is. In the same plant, the same people make Toyota and General Motors cars. Quality isn’t the problem; yes, there are “lemons” out there, but the top half-dozen name brands do a good job of producing initial quality. Why, then, have Ford and GM given way to Toyota as the No. 1 producer? Because Toyota is the best at producing reliability.

Let me give you some examples. The Toyota Yaris hatchback has 81-percent fewer problems during the first five years of ownership than the average car, while the Pontiac Solstice has 234-percent more problems than the average car.