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The Value of Teams at Work

The Value of Teams at Work
And first a quote:
Teamwork is the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes blurry.
Author unknown
“Why use teams?” The use of teams in the work environment is definitely not a new concept. It still surprises me the extent of companies that do not utilize teams in many of the situations in which much value can be obtained. It is common sense (to me) that the combined brainpower of a work team made up of the right people will be many times more than that of any individual. This is true regardless of whether this person is the company President, Lead Engineer, Plant Manager or Quality Manager.
There is a simple team exercise that I use in some of the problem solving and refresher classes to illustrate this point. It consists of a box of numerous unrelated items (example – paper clips, thread taps, end mills, pencils, post-it pads, etc…) that is first shown to each individual where they record as many as they can remember after viewing the items. Next, I form “teams’ where they review each of the individual lists and compile a “team” total. In every instance of using this exercise the team always has a larger list. Why is this? It is because each of us have different backgrounds, knowledge, experiences, fields of study, etc… that allows us to recognize the items that fall within those boundaries. Others in the team have different experiences, backgrounds, etc…As a team however, we are able to capture all of these different experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, etc… and benefit from them. A very simple but great way to illustrate this point.

Potential Uses of Teams at Work:Below is a list of typical situations in the work environment that I believe the use of teams is justified and of great benefit:
a) Problem Solving
b) Advanced Quality Product Planning (APQP)
c) Planning a Quality System
d) Continuous Improvement Projects
e) Brainstorming Sessions
This list is not exclusive but just a starting point.

Why Teams Work So Well:Besides combining the total brainpower of the group, teams also satisfy many basic human needs.
a) Social Needs (Belonging) – the sense of belonging and being part of a larger group is filled when on a team that works well together. This is very similar to the reason that tribes have and are formed. The group is working towards a common goal (survival for example),
b) Esteem Needs – The feeling of having improved something in the work area, etc… is a great feeling of achievement. Many firms will openly post the achievements of teams as well which also falls into the area by rewarding those on the teams and reinforcing their use.
c) Self-Actualization – Solving problems is a natural human trait in my opinion.
d) Safety – Many times the teams may be fighting for the survival of the organization. Possibly solving a problem or issue that could result in the closure of the company, loss of a customer, etc… This is one of the more basic level needs of people which is to be employed, have a roof over your head, etc….

Infrastructure/ Support Systems/ Starting Steps:
Deciding to use teams in the work place is a decision that has to be made by management. The management team makes the commitment of freeing personnel from daily duties to participate on the team.

Most people do not naturally start out of the gate being able to work effectively and efficiently on a team. There are well known stages of teams that progress from the initial stages and continue until they are a well functioning team. These steps are as follows:
– Forming – early stages in which cohesiveness is not there yet.
– Storming – members are learning their roles and may be somewhat confrontational at times.
– Norming – members start to function as a team and work towards the goals of the team.
– Performing – members are versed in team dynamics, are achieving goals of team, operate smoothly.
Some things that a company can do to help alleviate the early stages of team ineffectiveness is training, assigning a good facilitator, providing clear goals, making sure that middle management, supervisors, etc… are supportive of their employees being empowered and willing to turn over some of that decision making authority.

Team Roles: Another important early step is to make sure that the team members know their roles and responsibilities in participating on the team. This can and should be covered in the preparatory training. I personally find it very beneficial to have a strong facilitator on the team, especially in the early stages of the team development. In the early stages the team members are normally more dependent on a facilitator to help keep the team process going, encourage input from everyone, keep the momentum positive, etc…
You will also need to make sure responsibilities for taking notes, action items, etc… are assigned and understood. I have seen a number of meeting where the meeting is held and there are no notes/ minutes taken and typically nothing comes out of it. Avoid this with careful planning.

Here is to improvement.


Driving effective continual improvement

Effective Continual Improvement
As usual I will start with a fitting quote:
“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.”
Tom Peters
“Driving effective continual improvement”
We have all heard it before – if we are not getting better, we are falling behind. This could not be more true today in our global economy. The auction notices, plant closures, layoffs, etc… are a sign of the times for many in the manufacturing industry. Though there are headlines of “reshoring” that we see, if we do not find ways to do things better, faster and cheaper the manufacturing sector will likely continue to dwindle in total makeup of the economy.

Many companies have tried different C.I (continual improvement) strategies, efforts and tools, many soon fall by the wayside as ineffective or not worth the effort which is unfortunate. Though there are many great and effective ways and methodologies to achieve improvement (Six Sigma, Lean, etc…) the purpose of this blog article will be to discuss and present some BASIC strategies and observations that I have made myself over the past 20 plus years in the quality/ manufacturing world. By no means am I trying to put out that these are the end all, be all to implementing C.I but more just things that I have experienced.

Creating the perception or need to improve falls on the shoulders of management. This can be done through the company culture that is reinforced and put in place, communication to the employees as to how the survival of the firm is really at stake, (and it really is), creation of an environment where it is commonplace to want to improve and the rewards and recognition (W.I.I.F.M) systems. Just making the company more profit in itself is not motivation enough for employees to feel the “WHY”.

The “how” deals with the process through which improvement activities are done. Are you looking to use improvement teams, individual suggestions or a combination of both? A clear process needs to be developed, communicated to the employees and reinforced/ talked about constantly by management. Are there specific forms, meetings, etc… that need to be used?

What are the responsibilities for the different aspects of the C.I efforts? Who reviews ideas, facilitates team meetings, implements the ideas, provides feedback, etc… The responsibilities for all of those involved needs to be thought out and communicated clearly.

This is the responsibility of management. If an environment of C.I is not instilled in all employees as the norm, then it is likely that efforts and success will be minimal. Are there regularly scheduled team meetings, C.I communication boards, allocated resources and capital (when needed). Are the improvements talked about (actually raved about) by management? If management is not pushing this type of culture then it will not happen by itself. This culture even goes as far as the company hiring process. Is a new employee introduced to the C.I nature of the company and told about how the process works?

A well thought out process is extremely important from idea generation, idea capture, execution and feedback . Training is also critical. The employees need to understand how to use the process, how to gather & analyze data and knowledge of different quality tools that can make the C.I program effective. If the company is going to use C.I Teams, how will they function, how often should they meet, will they assign or be appointed a facilitator, etc… Another aspect is how the improvement ideas will be approved, implemented and communicated to management and the rest of the company.

Organizations can pursue different paths to improvement. Some refer to the ongoing, slower paced C.I as evolutionary improvement and the larger scale, (usually higher investment), earth shattering type of C.I as revolutionary improvement. I feel that both avenues need to be pursued. Work group teams (sometimes called kaizen teams) tend to result in the “evolutionary type improvements while the executive teams lean more towards the revolutionary improvement projects. This is definitely not to say that either type can come from either group but just my own observations.

– Lack of management involvement. Management cannot delegate all of the C.I duties, and definitely not the management and leadership of the effort.
– No organized approach (flying by the seat of your pants)
– Inadequate resources. Employees need time and coverage for their extra duties related to C.I activities, training, etc…
– Past failed initiatives (program of the month)

Chronic process issues (sometimes called common cause) exist all of the time (example: a known long term process quality level) where a sporadic (sometimes called special cause) process issue is a sudden change. Chronic issues are a good candidate for an improvement project. Sporadic issues fall under the area of corrective action though the same teams and employee efforts can be used to solve both realistically.

Here is to improvement.

Quality System Implementation 101:

    Quality System Implementation 101:

I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“Good order is the foundation of all things”.
(Edmund Burke)

How do I develop an ISO 9001 based QMS?

There are many different approaches and thoughts on setting up and implementing a quality management system (QMS) based on the requirements/ structure of ISO 9001. This blog post will be a brief summary of what I believe to be a very good approach to developing one.

Below is a summary of the approach I prefer:
1) Get a copy of the standard and know it inside and out.
2) Understand the “Process based Approach” as defined in the standard as well as how it will work most effectively in your organization/ industry. One personal belief is that you should NOT aim to just meet the bare minimum requirements. Make the process and QMS work for you and add value. The “Process Based Approach” is the key to adding this value if done correctly.
3) Involve as much of the management team and work force as possible in the development and implementation process. I believe that this involvement helps with resistance and educates the team at the same time on the requirements and how the system will work.
4) Provide (or have provided) training to the management team/ steering team on the “Process Based Approach”. This will help to reduce resistance, and will get the team involved with defining the QMS processes, the measureable objectives, and involve them with the corrective action and continual improvement process as it pertains to their QMS process.
5) Provide training on the requirements of ISO 9001 to the management team and workforce to the degree needed. Not everyone needs to become an expert on the requirements, but everyone needs to know the requirements that pertain to them.
6) Involve the management team and the process owners (if they are different people) in the selection of QMS Processes as well as your chosen tool to define/ describe the process. I am a huge fan of the S.I.P.O.C (supplier-input-process-output-customer) for helping the process owner know the important aspects of their QMS process. Involve them in defining the objective (measure of effectiveness) as well as how the data will be gathered, how often, by who as well as how and when it will be reviewed and action taken if the goal is not being achieved.
7) Involve as much of the management team and work force as is feasible for the internal audit team. This has numerous benefits such as the effect of looking at their own process with the eyes of an auditor, allows different view points from different levels of employees to be gathered and allows the auditors to see how the entire QMS fits together and interacts with the other QMS processes. This is the beauty of the Process Based Approach.
8) Get to know the existing processes and system as opposed to rewriting everything and expecting everyone to “change overnight”. People will naturally resist change that affects them and their work. By keeping the parts of the existing process that are working effectively and adding the missing “ingredients” to fully comply and add the most value you will lessen the resistance to change in my experience. Spend some time within the existing processes and system and get the feedback from those doing it. Determine what obstacles they are facing and what they fell could make things more effective.
9) Hold regular status updates with the management team and the work force to keep everyone apprised of what has been completed and what is coming soon that affects them. Knowing what is coming is always helpful.

This is just a summary of the starting steps and is not meant to define all of the “little pieces of the puzzle” that also take place. As I mentioned this is just one approach but one that I have found to be most effective.

The more time that you spend in the front end of the development process, making sure to add as much value as possible, the better off you and your organization will be in the end.

Here is to improvement.

What can Management learn from NASCAR?

What can Management learn from NASCAR?

I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“I have a lot to learn about NASCAR
but I’ve learned if you have the right people in the
right places doing the right things
you can be successful at whatever you do.”
(Roger Staubach)
“NASCAR Pit Teams and Quality Management”

I saw an interesting video in the past couple of days that really illustrated some important relationships to project planning, teamwork, management in general and 5S.

Any of us that have seen a NASCAR race probably watch in awe as the drivers pull their car in to the pit area for fuel, tire changes, and other necessary actions to allow their driver to get back into the race with the smallest of lost down time for these needed actions. The pit crew seems to move as if scripted from a play. Well, in fact they are. Pit crews, race teams and others analyze every action that needs to get done and ways to eliminate any wasted time doing them. Any errors or team members not completing their actions on-time can cause delay to the others on their team and can cause a loss to the driver.

Here are some things that I notice when watching these pit crews:
1) Everyone on the team knows exactly what it is they need to do.
2) The team also knows what order these need to be done in.
3) The team communicates amongst each other to let the others know how they are doing or if there are issues.
4) The team members know exactly what the target is for each task and the overall target to complete the project and get the driver back in the race.
5) The team members are specifically fit into the tasks that best fit their abilities.
6) They also practice and train on these tasks over and over until they are perfected.
7) They have all of the needed technology and tools to best do their tasks and to stay ahead of their competitors.
8) Only the specific tools that are needed to complete their tasks are in the work areas. This prevents looking for things. Remember, every split second is crucial.
9) Lastly, they know exactly how they did with regards to the task. Did they meet their time target or not? If not the review it to see what went wrong, so they don’t do it again.

It really is a thing of beauty if you watch exactly what is going on. Now you may ask- what does this have to do with quality management? Everything in my view.
How many times have we worked on projects or parts of a larger project and had no clue as to when our tasks were to be completed or when the overall project was to be completed? How many times have we had to wait when preceding tasks were not completed which caused delay to ours and the overall project?

What are some of the causes of these delays and failures?
1) Lack of communication
2) Lack of resources to actually complete the tasks
3) Lack of the needed tools or technology to perform the tasks most effectively and efficiently.
4) New technology that has not been formally introduced or trained on.
5) Inadequate preparation to identify all of the things that can go wrong and come up with a contingency plan in the event they do (or better yet a plan to prevent it from occurring at all).
These are all things that a NASCAR pit crew does so well that we can learn from. It seems simple in the NASCAR context and can be so simple in our world of quality management, project management and even other initiatives/ tools like 5S or setup reduction. It really comes down to knowing exactly what needs to be done, who is to do it, how, how long it will take and provision/ training on the best tools for the job and PRACTICE (training).

Obviously this is a simplified blog discussion and there are other specific tasks that need to be done as well. This is just a starting point to get you thinking, as is the intention of this blog article.

Here is to improvement.

Quality Leadership – Vision is crucial

Quality Leadership – Vision is crucial
I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“The fact is that all flights, short or long distance, are off course 99% of the time..”
(Brian Tracy)
“Complacency is the enemy”
If we do not have a crystal clear picture of what we want our quality system to be or do, there is a very high probability that we will merely coast along into complacency. This can be dangerous because when we become complacent we stop improving.
It is my belief that quality leadership begins with a “Quality Vision for the organization”. This is not to imply a placard hanging on the wall with a flashy statement that no one looks at, much less cares about.

Without a clear picture in our minds of where our quality system will be in the future, the employees (including management) will likely have no idea of what needs to be done or what improvements they should be working on. As a matter of fact, employees may actually be working on projects that are in conflict with what the organization is trying to achieve. Without this clear “vision” of where you plan (or need) to be in terms of your quality system and product/ service quality, you will end up in a place that you do not want to be. Like the plane (above in the quote) that is constantly off course and is constantly having its course adjusted to reach the desired destination (Vision), your organization needs to know what the end destination is. Without this, you may jump around on project after project, yet not be moving any closer to where you truly need to be moving towards. Some will refer to this as “busy work”. Confusing this “busy work” or movement for progress is a waste of resources and lost time.

“How do we do it?”
Here are some initial steps to what I consider crucial in becoming an effective quality organization:
1) Have a clear vision or picture in your mind as to where you want to be as an organization in “X” number of years or months. This will set the stages for the next steps thus it is important.
2) Next, develop a meaningful quality policy. Quality policies should be in terminology that all employees understand and can translate into clear direction for the daily activities. ISO 9001 requires one as well.
3) Develop and communicate actionable “Objectives”. These should be directly linked to your Quality Policy and your Vision. Each of these objectives should use the “S.M.A.R.T’ approach. (Specific, Measureable, Action Oriented, Realistic and time bound).
4) Define the critical business processes within your organization, the process owners, objectives & measures of success of each and monitor/ measure them.
5) Have clearly defined jobs for your employees with objectives and constant feedback.
6) Develop a robust hiring and employee development program.
7) Develop a rock solid contract review and product launch process. If you are not doing this correctly and effectively, you will likely fight problems during the entire product life cycle.
8) Implement a top notch internal audit process made up of all departments, units. There is no better method to engage and educate employees on the “big picture” of the business than to involve them.
9) Important one – management must walk the talk. Saying one thing and doing another is probably the worst thing for an organization. This can be as damaging as trying to implement new programs every month that go nowhere (start/ stops).

Obviously there are tasks that need to be done as well, but this is just a starting point as is intended by this post.

Here is to improvement.

Discussion 3 – Phases of Planned Change:

Discussion 3 – Phases of Planned Change:

One approach to implementing change in an organization was developed by a psychologist named Kurt Lewin. His approach consists of three simple steps:

1)      Unfreezing:

–          This is the first phase in implementing change. It consists of creating a strong enough desire for changing the old, unwanted culture or behaviors. If the “pain” of doing the same unwanted behaviors is not strong enough, there will be no desire felt within the organization to change. In my experience, organization behavior evolves as a result of what is felt to get the perceived job done, while expending the least amount of perceived effort to do it. Many times these methods are not optimal and actually work against other goals and objectives. The change agents need to make a strongly felt reason to change. Some examples might be the threat of closure due to more efficient competitors, or better products that serve a need better.    

2)      Changing:

–          This second phase is where the new culture, behaviors, way to do things is put in place. It is important that any infrastructure needed to support the new change be thought out and in place. If this does not happen, the organization will resist the new change and will either fall back to the old way or even a hybrid of the old and new ways that may be worse for the organization. Many organizations do not do a good job at implementing new initiatives and the employees become resistant to any and all new initiatives. This “start/ stop” can make employees feel that the latest change will come and go as well, thus will not be supported. This phase may require training in the new methods, new equipment, resources, etc… It is important that these be met. 

3)      Refreezing:

–          The third phase in the three step approach of Lewin is the Refreezing phase. This is the phase where the new changes, behaviors, etc…  are made to be the new daily norms of the organization. I have this referred to as “standardize” in the quality assurance field and this is where you make the new behaviors part of the “standard’ method of operating. Some effective methods of doing this are by linking rewards to the new behaviors. I have experienced companies that tie these types of things into regular reviews as well reinforcing it there as well. 

4)      Organization change:

–          Organizational change can be one of the toughest tasks that leadership can face. People are resistant to change by nature unless the need to change is strong enough. At times, company management may have to create a situation (real or perceived by the workforce) to start the process.

To  improvement!


Why the “process Based QMS model ” makes perfect sense

Why the “process Based QMS model ” makes perfect sense


I may as well start with a fitting quote:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

(Albert Einstein)


“Our system is not working”

   A recurring statement that many have heard at some point. The response in many instances is to tweak a procedure a little, add a new form, etc… Is there a more effective way? I believe so. The “process based approach” gives us a concrete method by which to determine if a process is effectively doing what it was intended to do. The reason is that the very basis of this approach drives a company to ask a very simple and important question about each QMS process. How do we monitor and/or measure whether or not the process is functioning as we want it to? This question leads to determining some objective way to measure the process instead of going off of a hunch or gut feeling.


   A “system” is formed by the interactions of each of the processes that make it up. If one or more of the “processes” that it is comprised of are not operating effectively, the “system” could possibly have the same problem. Our QMS should consist of metrics or objectives that measure each of the QMS processes. These metrics should drive the day to day operation of the process, by the process owner and should be reviewed by management. If there are suspicions that a systemic problem exists, instead of grasping at straws and not performing proper root cause analysis, look at the individual processes and the associated objectives or metrics. If there is a problem, the metrics should confirm it assuming that the correct QMS process metrics have been chosen. 


   In my opinion, one of the greatest improvements in the ISO 9000 based series was the shift to a “Process Based Approach”. The “silo” driven QMS that does not use effective metrics is (or any metrics) is not an effective or value-added manner to operate a business. The choice to define your QMS processes, choose effective metrics for them and act on the data is one of the best choices a company can make.


   Many or most of us may recall the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle (sometimes referred to as the Shewart cycle). It is used interchangeably at times by some with the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) or Deming cycle. The whole idea being that you plan how you will do something, check to see how it is performing against the plan, review the results or objectives/ metrics and then take action on the results. This is the “pulse” behind the process based QMS/ approach. Many companies will establish metrics (on-time delivery, customer rejects, etc…) but not tie them to specific QMS processes that drive action (corrective action). The day to day management of the process is crucial to make short term corrections. Equally important, but often forgotten, is the “big picture” review by management (Management review process) to determine if there are “systemic” issues that the “process view” may not reveal. There may be recurring issues being seen by the individual processes that are being corrected from a short term (fire fighting) point of view but not being addressed from a big picture point of view. Management should be reviewing the “system” by reviewing the “processes” as well as the overall performance of the relationship between them. 


   So, how does an organization start the “Process Based QMS” journey? Here is a brief list of the steps in the approach I have used:

1)      Define what it is your business does and the processes that exist (do not overanalyze here – keep the process simple)

2)      Decide who the logical “Process Owner” is. This person should have the responsibility and the authority to affect the results

3)      With the Process Owner and Management, define the objective (can be a monitored or a measured result) as well as the goal that tells you that the process is operating well and as planned

4)      Analyze the process in detail defining the inputs, outputs, information required, governing method (procedure, work instruction, etc…), the resources needed (computer software, dept. resources, equipment, etc…)

5)      Decide how the data on the process will be gathered, by who, how, how often

6)      Define how the results will be monitored by management (Formal management review, other meetings, etc…)

7)      Make sure that the process owner knows how to, and that they are responsible for the continual improvement, corrective action and preventive action of the process

8)      Continue using the P.D.C.A methodology         


   I think most will find this QMS approach to be very interesting and beneficial to the business as well as the quality system.  


Here is to improvement.


Developing an Effective Quality Management System (QMS)

Developing an Effective Quality Management System (QMS)

 Let’s start by breaking down and defining what a Quality Management System (QMS) is in its simplest form:

–          Quality (Q) – Effectively and efficiently giving the customer what they are expecting and paying you for.

–          Management (M) – is the most effective and efficient use of resources (people, equipment, processes, etc…)

–          System (S) – is a stable, repeatable way of meeting some goal/ objective by effectively managing the processes making up the system.

If we put this together we see that a QMS is the repeatable method of managing all of the processes that form the system by which you provide a customer (internal or external) for something that they find value in.


In the not so distant past developing a QMS meant nothing more than writing a quality manual, procedures and work instructions to meet the requirements of some standard (such as ISO 9001).


More recent approaches are looking at the entire system and the QMS (business) processes that make it up, the objectives and measures of success (goals) of these processes and then the documentation aspect of it. The “bottom line” is that you can have the most perfectly written procedures in the world that are followed to the letter of the law, but if they are not adding value by meeting the “real” goals of the processes they mean nothing.


QMS processes are meant to add value, be measured, require the use of resources and data and be managed to fulfill the stated objectives.


Developing a QMS can be difficult if it is done correctly. Now there are those that buy a pre-packaged documentation package or have a Consultant write the entire system for them.

Many companies and quality professionals find the biggest hurdle to be resistance to change. In developing a QMS, one has to try to minimize this resistance where possible. A few strategies that I personally find helpful to minimizing this resistance are to:

  • Involve and empower the workforce that will be working in the processes.
  • Find out which of the current practices, processes, procedures, etc… are working well and try to use them and only changing/ adding/ revising those aspects that need to be changed, initially.
  • Get Senior Management buy in and support right at the outset. If this is lacking you are almost always doomed to failure. This helps in obtaining the resources for the project, and getting the process owners to take ownership of the processes that they were tasked to manage.


Here is a brief path that I find useful in developing a QMS (note – this is not claimed to be the only path as there are many).


1)      Establish a steering committee/ team to guide the process and an overall champion

2)      Determine the overall project required completion and work backwards on the pieces that make up the project.

3)      Determine the QMS process and objectives. These may not formally exist yet, but you can sometimes determine them by talking to those involved in the processes of the QMS. These should also drive your quality policy and quality objectives.

4)      Perform a baseline audit to the required QMS standard or other requirements.

5)      Based on the audit, determine the “gaps” and put a priority on them based on those that impact the customer, effect the company bottom line or the order needed to build a basic quality management system if one does not exist. More on this later.

6)      Develop your Quality Policy Manual/ Documentation. (Sometimes called Level 1 documentation)

7)      Develop your QMS procedures (Who is responsible for what) in the determined format (process maps, text based, pictures, etc…). (Sometimes called Level 2 documentation)

8)      Where deemed necessary develop any needed work instructions (The How To) documentation of your system. (Sometimes called Level 3 documentation)

9)      Train your entire team on the required new or revised QMS documentation and verify the effectiveness. This is a chance to give the changes a “dry run”.

10)  Gather and analyze data on the QMS process metrics/ measures/ etc…

11)  Make sure that the QMS process measures have been given careful planning. Mainly what is being measured, who will produce the data, who will gather it, how, how often, who will analyze it and who will take action on it?

12)  Perform another QMS system audit and address any “gaps” with your corrective action process.


Developing a QMS can be intimidating but if you keep a cool head and focus on the important things first as discussed above you will be fine with some simple project management. Keep in mind that you still have a business to run and you need to keep the customer serviced and satisfied.


Good luck.


Getting to the Roots – Life Reinforces Basic Quality Concepts

Getting to the Roots – Life Reinforces Basic Quality Concepts


I will again start my blog with a fitting quote – (pardon the improper English)

“Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.”

(Author Unknown)



It never ceases to amaze me how basic quality concepts and teachings are reinforced again and again.


Getting to the roots

I take quality seriously and the things that I have learned from many good teachers over the years. I am always looking at the linkages and relationships between the different areas of my life. Some that are very important to me are my health & fitness, and sound quality principles.


This past weekend I was out doing some yard work and began pulling up some weeds that had started. Initially, my first instinct was to grasp the leafy portion and pull the wed up. Unfortunately some of them had taken root and were quite difficult to get out of the ground and the leafy part of the weed broke off leaving the root. This reminded me of a very important quality principle of “getting to the root” of problems. Some might be happy with merely pulling the leafy part of the weed off and continued to do the same with the others when the same issue came up. I can hear it now “Hey as long as I can’t see the weed I am happy”. Unfortunately this mentality goes on in our organizations as well.


For any of us that have experienced this weed pulling experience and went on to the next weed we always find that the pesky weed comes back. This same phenomenon occurs in our organizations as well. A problem not truly solved will be back to cause grief again and again. To make matters worse, other “weeds” (A.K.A problems) usually follow and before you know it, the number of them is out of control and we end up giving up in frustration or tearing our lawns up to start over.


This serves to illustrate the importance of taking proactive steps with our yards and our organizations. Many believe that you treat the problem once and it is taken care of and forget about the maintenance part of the equation. This principle applies to lawns and organizations. For example – do you shower and are “good for life”? If you have a really great workout – does that mean you do not have to do it again? Absolutely not! Our lawns, our Lives,  our health and yes our organizations (employees, quality systems, products, etc…) all require monitoring, measuring and maintenance.


What are some of these preventive activities as they relate to our organizations?:

a)      Solid FMEA processes.

b)      Effective training processes for employees.

c)      Developing and maintaining solid and effective processes.

d)      Measurement of our processes (Product and QMS processes) and acting on the data.

e)      Involvement of employees in the planning and implementation of the process and organizational operations.

f)        Implementing, enforcing and reinforcing quality at the source.

g)      Simplify, stabilize and standardize everything (more to follow on this in another blog article).

h)      Develop and monitor “S.M.A.R.T.” Goals for everyone and the organization as a whole.

i)        Hold people accountable and not their hands.

j)        Audit your processes.                    


The bottom line is to make sure that we actually gather the data on our problems and take the time to properly dig until we get to the root of the problems before they overtake the “garden”.


Here is to improvement.


Deming’s Point No. 8 – Drive Out Fear

Deming’s Point No. 8 – Drive Out Fear


W. Edwards Deming’s 8th point can also be defined as “Creating a Culture of Trust”.


I will again start my blog with a fitting quote –

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong”
Peter T. McIntyre


Maslow’s well known Hierarchy of Human Needs, states that unless humans have satisfied their basic “physiological” needs (air, food, shelter, job), those higher level – “self actualization” needs (personal growth, further education, promotion, etc…) will not be sought after.


Much of this information has been known for a very long time, yet we as organizations, Managers, Supervisors, etc… still have failed to address this. Many Managers and Supervisors have only a minimal understanding of the job that their employees do, the problems they encounter, and the employees input on to make things better.


In a time when many are fearful of job loss due to the sluggish economy this is even more prevalent. Employees are afraid to take their problems to their Managers for fear of job loss.


What are some of the effects (“symptoms”)?

  • Fear loss of job or negative impact on reviews
  • Fear of ridicule by Managers or peers
  • Fear of being blamed for the issue


What are some of the actual causes for this?

  • Lack of a stable process, system , QMS or environment
  • Lack of actual training or a training process
  • Lack of resources to perform the work (equipment, time, personnel, or materials)
  • Lack of authority or empowerment to “stop the process” by Management when there is a problem (“We have to make a shipment” syndrome) 
  • Conflicting objectives in the organization or department
  • Untrained, unqualified managers or others in leadership positions that fear empowering their workers.


How do we “fix” this?

  • Train employees properly. Do not just put them on the job. If they are not confident in the ability to do the job, we cannot expect them to perform properly.
  • Empower your employees. This means to give them the tools, information and support to do their assigned tasks.
  • Have an “open door policy” so issues do not get “trapped” in the hierarchy.
  • Practice “open book management” so that employees feel and are part of the team and have input into how the business is operated to some extent.
  • Be willing to “stop the process” when there is a problem and give workers the authority to do so. Nothing is more discouraging than not being able to do a good job and make quality products or services for your customer.
  • Train Management in and enforce, encourage empowerment of the employees. This can be very challenging for them but can stifle employee enthusiasm and creativity
  • Do not merely chastise employees when there is a problem. Solve the problem with them and fix the process. Take the “person” out of it. An environment of “yelling, screaming and condescending discussions” will only encourage the environment of “fear”.



Here is to improvement.