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By Scott M. Paton

Scott M. Paton

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” So begins A Tale of Two Cities , Charles Dickens’ epic novel. Dickens’ words are just as apropos to today’s uncertain times as they were during the French Revolution, when the novel is set.

Although we’re not in the midst of a bloody civil war, these are the worst of times. We are waging a new and unknown kind of war against an unseen enemy. Gasoline prices are skyrocketing. The Big Three are once again faltering (Will they ever learn?) The airlines are in trouble, too. (See the note about the Big Three.) We’ve just been through a historic (and exhausting) presidential primary race. We’re hemorrhaging jobs to foreign markets. The dollar is at its lowest level in decades. The dotcom bubble of the 1990s looks minor in comparison to the housing bubble of today.

H. James Harrington’s picture

By H. James Harrington

The most important requirement for actuating the improvement process of your management system is to have your full management team participating before the nonmanagement employees become involved in the process. Management must be totally dedicated and actively participating in the improvement process before and after it is presented to the employees. If the process is to work, management must set the standards.

Managers get work done through other people. Their success should not be measured by what they do but by what they can inspire others to do. Managers who treat employees as they are will keep them as they are; but managers who treat them as they could be will cause them to grow and become more than they would have been. As managers, we need to let employees know that we believe they can do better. We must expect them to do better and help them set goals that stretch and exercise their abilities.

Jack E. West’s picture

By Jack E. West

Does ISO 9001 require controlled processes for improvement? By now, I think most users would agree that it does. The requirements for that controlled process are simple to describe. They start with planning.

To meet the minimal requirements of ISO 9001, an organization must have thought through, planned, and implemented its processes for improvement. However, ISO 9001, even when we refer to the definition of “continual improvement” in ISO 9000, doesn’t provide us with a complete understanding of the concept. ISO 9000--”Quality management systems--Fundamentals and vocabulary” defines continual improvement as:

“Continual improvement--recurring activity to increase the ability to fulfill requirements.

“NOTE: The process of establishing objectives and finding opportunities for improvement is a continual process through the use of audit findings and audit conclusions, analysis of data, management reviews (3.8.7) or other means and generally leads to corrective action or preventive action.”
(Source: ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9000-2005)

John E. (Jack) West ’s default image

By John E. (Jack) West

Without a doubt, the most significant issues about implementing the control requirements in section 7 of ISO 9001 have been related to subclause 7.3 on design and development.

During the early days of ISO 9001:2000 implementation, many organizations had been certified to ISO 9002:1994, a standard that, unlike ISO 9001:1994 and ISO 9001:2000, didn’t include the design control requirements. Many organizations had opted to use ISO 9002:1994 because their design and development departments didn’t want to implement the required design controls. Yet most would admit that the majority of product-related problems had root causes either in the design process itself or in the design-to-manufacturing or service-delivery process. ISO 9001:2000 offered such organizations the opportunity to “exclude” design and development only if the requirement “… cannot be applied due to the nature of an organization and its product…,” as might be the case for a machine shop that only machines parts to other companies’ drawings. Many organizations found themselves having to meet design and development control requirements that they’d never really considered before, as specified in ISO 9001 subclause 7.3.1--”Design and development planning--The organization shall plan and control the design and development of the product.”

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By Scott Paton

I am a creature of habit. I have favorites (authors, foods, directors, friends, family members, books—not necessarily in that order) that I like to revisit every so often. This is particularly true when I’m stressed out. I reread The Hobbit and Siddhartha every few years, and, of course, I have my annual So I Married an Axe Murderer movie festival.

I have to admit that although I will willingly reread a novel or watch a movie several times, I’m not so good at rereading nonfiction works. I suspect most people are the same way. It’s easy to watch a fun movie every few months or years, but reread a business book or a textbook?

If you’re like me, your reading falls into two categories: want-to read and have-to read. I want to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; I have to read Getting Things Done. Because I’m an editor and publisher (and I just love to read), I read a lot, and I read very fast.

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By Scott Paton

It’s that time of year when we look back at what we have accomplished, at what we’re thankful for, and what lies ahead in the year to come. What a year 2008 has been: skyrocketing (and plummeting) fuel prices, an election that seemed like it would never end, a flood of foreclosures, a bunch of bank failures, and a sinking stock market.

As I write this, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s always a good time to stop and think about what we have, not what we want. I think this is particularly true this year. Here’s my list of what I’m thankful for. First, the obvious:

My family. Although having twin 2-year olds and a 7-year-old boy can be challenging, I am truly thankful for them and my incredible wife, who works 10 times harder than I do to raise our family.

My job(s). I have two jobs: My work at Quality Digest and running my own business, Paton Professional. Both of these jobs allow me to do what I love: write, edit, create, manage, and research. (I’m such a hopeless geek.)

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By Scott Paton

As of this writing (mid-July 2008) gasoline at my local Chevron station is selling at $4.57 per gallon; rows of giant SUVs sit unsold at the local car dealers; my home energy bill for month of June was $527; airlines are parking jets, dropping routes, and charging passengers for checking bags and seat selection; politicians argue over drilling offshore, building new nuclear power plants, and installing wind farms off the scenic shores of famous politicians’ homes; and, somewhere, Al Gore is smiling.

He may be smiling, but there are a whole of lot of unhappy people in the United States: people who can’t afford to heat or cool their homes, who are having a hard time buying $4.57-a-gallon gasoline, and who are losing their jobs because of the high cost of energy.

The solution? It’s easy. Drill for more oil. No, wait, that’s bad for the environment. Build nuclear power plants. No, wait, that’s too dangerous. Build windmills. No, there isn’t sufficient transmission capacity to get the power from where the wind blows to where the people live. Solar? Too expensive to produce enough power at present. Biofuels? Ugh, at present their water consumption and transportation costs are too high and their energy output too low. In addition, growing corn for ethanol has contributed to rising food prices. Hydrogen? Not ready yet.

Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

The quality and process improvement professions tend to rely heavily on statistical information. The very science of quality control can be said to have begun with Walter A. Shewhart’s development of the control chart and discovery of the concepts of special cause and common cause variation. But few would argue with the statement that there is a downside, and a dark side, to statistics. I hereby present a few examples of good, bad, and ugly statistical usage.

Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

The gold standard for modeling the future in a business environment is the designed experiment. Design of experiments (DOE) is a well-developed approach to planning and executing controlled manipulations.

Somewhat less respectable are models derived from historical data. It makes sense to utilize as much of this information as possible, but caution is required. Problems you may encounter are:

Measurement error . Historical data are often recorded by untrained people, or the precision required for day-to-day use of the data may be wide compared to what you need for modeling. Errors that aren’t important in the data’s original use may wreak havoc on your model-building activity.

Range restriction. Operational systems are deliberately controlled to minimize the effect of system variation on results, meaning that the allowance for variation of system parameters is very small. It is very possible that the response we are modeling will not be affected by variation of inputs in this range, but that doesn’t mean that the responses wouldn’t change if the inputs were varied over a larger range. The result is a model that gives misleading results by excluding important parameters.

Jack E. West’s picture

By Jack E. West

If any clause in ISO 9001 has increased in importance since the release of the standard’s 2000 edition, it must be subclause 7.4 on purchasing. Not that the relative importance of the words has changed, but rather purchasing and outsourcing have become much more common and important in our day-to-day business. So the relatively small subclause on controlling purchasing may be much more important now than it was back in 2000. (I addressed outsourced processes in my May column, “Is a Controlled QMS Possible?” More about them later.)

The requirements described in ISO 9001’s subclause 7.4.1 on the purchasing process permit an organization to decide the “type and extent of control” to be used for purchasing. The organization’s selection of controls should be based on the effect of the purchased material or services on the product realization processes and on the finished products delivered by the organization to its customers. If purchased materials or services have little effect (e.g., a threaded fastener that’s used inside a noncritical subassembly), then minimal control is needed.