Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quality Tool/Technique - Data Fact Finding (3 Kinds of Problems)

Quality Tool/Technique
developed by qualityg
click pic to enlarge

One of the first things a process improvement specialist should realize is what kind of a problem are you dealing with when something goes wrong and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

The above diagram is an example of three kinds of problem and how it would be approached in medical terms and business. Hopefully the business example will help make it more clear.

For example one, if by accident I cut off my arm please don't call in a problem solving team or try to figure out the root cause, stop the hemorrhaging, get it under control and then go back ASAP to determine the problem and solutions. More than likely special cause is at fault here and you don't have to change your system or process. Remove the special cause and prevent it from happening again.

Example two comes with experience, you have seen this type of problem over and over within your process or system. This type of problem is common (as in common cause) and it is inherent in your process/system. You will need to conduct a cost/benefit analysis as well as form a problem solving team (cross-functional if required). Remove as much variation as you can by implementing preventive measures. Remember, sometimes it may be too costly to remove all of the common causes/noise.

Example three is a deal breaker. Your process/system is out of control and you are throwing dollars and resources at it constantly. Improvement efforts are short term because you have no idea where the problems begin, meet or end. Wide variation is prevalent and your result measures tell you what you already know. This requires a specialized cross-functional team with solid leadership and subject matter experts from all interdependent departments. First identify and remove the special causes and work your way to a control situation and then reduce your common cause problems. If the process/system is too far gone and fixing it will still not bring customer satisfaction then it is time to design a new system/process using the correct resources and tools.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Benihana - "Non-Smoking and Cell Phone Free Please"

I’m not a big fan of cell phones users anymore, especially when they intrude my space and I’m trapped. I’m simply tired of annoying rings, beeps and invasive one-sided conversations.

I went out to eat Friday night with my wife and daughter at one of their favorite restaurants. The Japanese Steakhouse Benihana’s. You know the one, where they sit eight people around a table while the chef cooks your meal at the table.

The last three times to this restaurant (including this time) I have become less tolerant of the cell phone use at the table. Sitting at the table next to us four people were using their cell phones having a conversation, some loud some quiet. The table behind ours someone had one of those walkie-talkies that do that irritable crackling noise before someone speaks. At another table a person had a hands free mike and talked in between chews. At my table three cell phones sat next to the person’s chopsticks constantly being checked for an incoming call.
Even though we're becoming a nation of cell phone fanatics -- more than 100-million people subscribe to wireless services in the United States – it is time to have cell phone free section in a restaurant. When dining in a restaurant it is really disturbing when different cell phones almost constantly keep ringing. Often the people receiving the calls have to speak up to drown out the background noise of the restaurant. That doesn't really help to create a calming, tranquil atmosphere.

I have also written about this type of intrusion on a Northwest Flight - Planes, Cell Phones & Stinky Feet

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Quality "Creativity" updated 1/16/06 "Detroit Auto Show - 2006"

qualityg says... One way to be creative leader is to:

''Attack Conventional Wisdom
with Profound Knowledge."

I know I know it is now called the "International North American Auto Show."

However, around my neck of the woods it is still called the "Detroit Auto Show."

You can see some of the "creative" new car concepts at

Perhaps what I should say is ...

"What was creative before is creative again"

The big hit this year is the Chevrolet Camaro Concept. Not to be out done by Ford, GM brought back the Mustang's big rival the Camaro.

It surely did cause a buzz on day one of the auto show.
While the Camaro is not new let us hope the performance and styling is creative enough to excite the thousands of previous Camaro owners to buy this new/old car.

Jeep did the big entrance. After breaking out of a cage (think King Kong) and appearing onstage, the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler drove offstage, through the auto show display area, into the Cobo Center lobby and smashed through the front window.

The all-new Wrangler driven by Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda (no not LA Dodger Tommy) climbed down a flight of Cobo Center stairs, proceeded up Washington Avenue and scaled the outdoor stairs at Detroit's Pontchartrain Hotel, before confidently climbing Jeep Mountain.

This spectacle, which lasted just under 15 minutes, cost Chrysler more than $500,000 to produce - not including a cost of up to $300,000 each for the pair of hand-built Jeep prototypes used during the presentation.

The event required a team of 80 people, including Chrysler's own designers and engineers, staff members at ClearBlue Communications, the event-planning company Chrysler uses for its presentations, and various lighting and pyrotechnic specialists.

But, I do remember a similar stunt back in the early 1990s when ...

Chrysler appeared to be getting more out of the show than the other domestic giants. The corporation hit page one in 1992 when its president, Bob Lutz, “crashed” a Jeep Grand Cherokee into Cobo Center and shattered through what looked exactly like plate glass. His passenger was the late Detroit mayor, Coleman Young. Actually the real pane was removed and substituted with special glass used by Hollywood for such stunts.


Somehow I get this feeling that the United States when it comes to being technical and being creative is trying to be more like the Asian countries. Plus the United States is on a one-road mission to show the world through "standardized" test scores in science and math that we can be the smartest and the most creative. These tests can only test what you have learned NOT what you know (big difference).

Standardization is key when it comes to methods and process control. However, it should come "after" a new product or service has been created and it should not be the driving force for creativity. If we continue this path to prove ourselves by tests scores we are all going to fail.

The behind the scenes extraordinary shows put on by the auto manufactures are not done by scientists and mathematicians. The majority of the creativity comes from thinkers and innovators in music, marketing, art, design, dance and drama. They learned their skills from the extra curricular courses that are labeled second class because they can't be measured by a "standardized" test.

I'm telling you we are altering the balance of education in this country and it is going to drive an eletist group of standardized thinkers that does not include the working class or people not smart enough in a few classes (math & science) to succeed in life.

If you do some global research on education, particularly in the Asian countries you will find less emphasis on trying to pass standardized tests and more focus on creativity and innovation. I don't believe we are as bad in education as we think, nor are we as good as we need to be to continue to lead the world in creativity and innovation.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Stupid in America" and "Is John Stossel Stupid"

Updated 9/1/06

If you get a chance tonight watch 20/20

John Stossel's 'Stupid in America': Why are U.S. students failing to make the grade? It isn't what you might think. Public vs. Charter Schools & Why is the Teacher Union mad at me?

The ( authors) from Freakonomics (Best selling book for 2 years) also got into the act @

I gave them the heads up too.

He had a similar show back in January that created a fuss. Here was my post.-

"Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids,"
aired Friday 1/13/06 on at 10 p.m.

American students fizzle in international comparisons, placing 18th in reading, 22nd in science and 28th in math — behind countries like Poland, Australia and Korea.

But why?

Are American kids less intelligent?

John Stossel looked at the ways the U.S. public education system cheats students out of a quality. qualityg says … did he really?

The segment started out showing some wild kid dancing, statements by teens that teachers are boring and their school is a hellhole.

Showed another high school playing games instead of learning geography. Told us that no high school that they contacted would let 20/20 in except for two high schools in Washington D.C. One being rated as above average.

Then they started rating USA schools with Belgium schools? Provided a number of Belgium students (speaking English of course) responses that USA students are “stupid” based on an International Test provided by ABC 20/20. Then 20/20 showed some USA Students doubting their schools with choice words.

qualityg says… Belgium? Is that were that dog from Flanders lives?

I thought I might compare Belgium to Michigan.

10.1 million people
250,941 km² - area
Unemployment – 6.6% - 7.0% - second highest in USA, looks good compared to Belgium (however, to compare this figure without all the facts is like… well comparing educational systems).

qg also says… Is comparing United Stated Education System to Belgium really valid? NO, It’s no more valid than comparing Michigan to Belgium. You can take your International Tests and bury them with the other so-called standard tests that are supposed to measure educational learning.

Those who read my posts know that I’m a critic of our educational system for a variety of reasons, but I can’t understand what this program accomplished. Maybe it was to create questions, controversy and thought. That would be OK. I just wish Stossel and crew would have supplied better facts and examples.

The next segment brought the age-old problem “Does more money cure the ills of education.” They showed the traditional buffoons trying to sell their side of the argument.

Then they had the usual debate on one my favorite subjects (education-cooperation-vs-competition.html about creating competition between schools, teachers, etc…

Poor South Carolina (ranked last in USA & 50% dropout rate) took a beating. Thanks for not showing Michigan we get enough poor reporting.

UNIONS vs. ADMINISTRATION round 4,058 of a never-ending fight. ABC & Stossel are clearly in the Administration’s corner.

Mediocrity – I can’t believe Stossel brought the old communist Republic of Russia as a comparison of our educational system. Thanks comrade.

My favorite segment showed the ever successful and greatest living leader in the United States (please bow head) jack welch
(leadership-forbes-ceo-forum). Jack spouts out how he would manage the public sector like GE and get rid of the bottom 10%. Give em a year to get out and they will saith jack.
The problem here is jack and those that follow him don’t stop. Next year it’s another 10%. Are these poor performers too, don’t you eventually hit good performers? Yes you do. This thinking is flawed and dangerous. It has created corporate greed and ethics problems. It is contributing to the continual demise of the American Management system.

The final segments brought up the familiar arguments about how much time American students spend in school compared to other countries, private schools and charter schools (do charter schools get to select who they want to attend their schools? Yes, end of comparison, compare charter schools against other charter schools). Big debate about how charter schools compete with public schools and why can’t there be schools of choice for everyone.

I love it when they get a spokesperson for shutting down poor performing schools, just like business. Look, think of education like a triangle (qualityg’s educational triangle, click to enlarge).

You must have equal representation from Parents, Students and the Administration. If one falls short or if one does all the work the triangle is broken and the student fails. To shut down schools without proper facts and measures is in qualityg’s terms, “stupid.” Most of all until schools start measuring and tracking each student (I don't mean report cards or standard tests) from year to year to develop trends for improvement you will never to be able to measure whether a school is good or bad. So stop all the "stupid" debates.

Stossel kept stating “Competition makes everything better.” Everything means all, c’mon Stossel big time TV guy, even you shouldn’t make such “stupid” comments.

qualityg says … “Stossel sit down and shut up stupid.”

Two Best Learnings of the Program
"The schools are not stupid, the system is stupid."
"Teaching & Learning should be fun."
qg loves to hear "Joy of Learning"

Perhaps as I stated earlier the programs was to get folks ware of the problems we have with education in the United States, that is good. However, to use the same arguments and then to compare Belgium (is that where waffles come from) with us is really – STUPID.

Showing jack welch, as the speaker for all that is good in leadership is, well “STUPID.” You see it was not welch that made GE succeed; it was the employees who did the service and those who had creativity and the products that were sold.

Small Side Note: qg also says... "Manage their own destinies." When I read this I thought of the Noel Tichy and Jack Welch book - "Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will." Anyone who "truly" knows the history of GE's early days. (In the early 1980s he was dubbed "Neutron Jack" (in reference to the neutron bomb). The chapter "the neutron years" in his book says that GE had 411,000 employees at the end of 1980, and 299,000 at the end of 1985. Of the 112,000 that left the payroll, 37,000 were in sold businesses, and 81,000 were reduced in continuing businesses).

When other companies were implementing TQM, GE was removing employees (how come GE didn't use Six Sigma). What Quality folks (especially fly by night consultants) won't admit is in the early 80s to mid 90s many of the leading Quality companies had already removed "low hanging fruit" and identified which processes needed to be fixed. Once you do that you are left with very complex fixes to correct and stabilize processes that were neglected for years.
When GE started the Six Sigma rush in the mid 90s they were removing "low hanging fruit," (read qg's
Low Hanging Fruit) which gave the perception that the other companies quality efforts were all wrong. Now in the mid 2000s go to any of the major Six Sigma related chat rooms and tell me if you are hearing anything different as to why it won't work (i.e., leadership won't support, not producing fast enough results, costs to much to train everyone, mid management feels threatened, and of course teams don't have time to meet because of their "regular" jobs, Blah, Blah Blah!

Why can’t these so-called news reporting shows provide us examples of what is good in our educational system and then try and convince us to learn from what works, instead of always telling us why we are so bad. It’s just like in business, too many concentrate and try to fix what is wrong. The cheaper, shorter and more efficient way is to replicate what is right and stop doing what is wrong.

Hey Stossel, give me a break, read your own book. STUPID

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Customer Service - DID YOU SAY??? - Yes I did!

OK, what are the odds of calling two different places for information on the same day and getting the same type of computer automated response.

You know, it's the one that gives you 4-5 prompts and then asks you to say what you want, and then it says "Did You Say" or if it can't understand you it says, I'm sorry I didn't get what you are asking."

First I called local information for a number in Rochester Hills, for some reason it could not understand my three requests and I finally transferred to a human being in the United States!

Second call went to my new medical carrier. When the computer voice could not understand my third request I had it, I did not wait for a live person. So after the last "Sorry, Did You Say? - I said the old army saying "Eat My Shorts."

Was it not just a few years ago that we complained constantly about information operators and customer reps? All I can say is efficiency may have improved but not effectiveness. In order to have complete customer satisfaction you must have both efficiency and effectiveness.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Governmnert Leadership "Michigan My Michigan" - Hear My Plea!

Michigan My Michigan

Written by: William Otto Miessner & Douglas M. Malloch
Verse One (
A song to thee, fair State of mine,
Michigan, my Michigan;
But greater song than this is thine,
Michigan, my Michigan;
The whisper of the forest tree,
The thunder of the inland sea;
Unite in one grand symphony
Of Michigan, my Michigan.

For the past five years the State of Michigan has been in an economic funk. While the rest of the nation continues to rebound we Michiganders are constantly bombarded by bad news involving (name a few) our auto and manufacturing industries, education system, Great Lakes, mass transit and the fleeing of our educated young people to other states for better job opportunities.

For those of you that follow my blogs I am constantly challenging and questioning our education system (I will continue). In 2006, I plan to branch out and start asking questions as to why we have no mass transit system that will connect our cities into an “interdependent” highway of a system versus the independent highway system that we have had since the invention of the automobile.
I also want to challenge and question why our state does not do more promoting, developing, advertising, consumption, and protecting our “Great Lakes?”

Here are some recent facts:
  • Federal officials (11/18/05) say they won't pay for the $20-billion plan President George W. Bush sought last year to improve the health of the Great Lakes by restoring coastal wetlands and keeping out sewage and invaders like zebra mussels. A bipartisan coalition of elected leaders says it was stunned when an Environmental Protection Agency report recommended that Bush focus on "improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs" instead of launching expensive new efforts.
  • 12/8/05) Great Lakes near ecological breakdown: Seventy-five scientists who study the world's largest collective body of fresh water released their report on countless problems.
  • Shoreline pollution that fouls Great Lakes beaches is extending into the middle of some of the five Great Lakes, sudden drops in oxygen levels in the water threaten native species, and native fish have been crowded out by invasive species that have changed the character of the lakes, the scientists added (12/08/05).
  • Why are we still concerned about "Mercury? Levels in fish? After all we have known about this problem for decades. Oh, I forgot the coal-fired power plants around the lakes still have not removed mercury from their emissions. I know let's give them another 5-10 years to do this, all the while politicians come and go and the monitoring effort is left up to the power plants themselves to police their own activities. yeah, that will work.
  • Scientists fear Great Lakes poised for disaster (1/05/05). So far Great Lakes conservation projects, mostly under Federal auspices, have been done piecemeal - find a problem and fix it.
There it is folks (piecemeal and fix it), the number one problem I am always referring to when it comes to improvement opportunities. – SUB-OPTIMIZATION, as long as political groups and committees are involved (Fed, State and Public) their will be sub-optimization. The irony is they don’t even realize the damage they do by not having one common money purse, one aim, one plan and one mission for all. Sub-Optimization is found in all our major problems – Find a Problem and Fix It (Low Hanging Fruit).

Systems Optimization: It’s about interdependencies, we must realize that change cannot occur in one part without affecting the performance and outcome in all other parts of the primary system (ie., transit, water, education, etc.) the system as a whole, and ultimately all other systems by which the primary system operates.

Mass Transit – a few questions/comments for now
  • (1/08/06) - Ann Arbor-to-Detroit mass transit report cites commuters' support Metro group to proceed with study of a rail or bus system to meet demands for quick, reliable service. AGAIN WITH THE PIECEMEAL – OK to start here, but whole state (system) must be involved and connect all major arteries (Grand Rapids, Lansing, Auburn Hills, Ann Arbor, and Bay City in one short-term and long-term plan. Geez will anybody in Lansing take notice?
  • (1/08/06) - Southeast Michigan Council of Governments plans to hold public hearings in Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor in late spring to gather opinions on the five chosen options for a transit route between Ann Arbor and Detroit, with a stop at Metro Airport. The meetings are expected to be held in late March or early April.
  • Compared to the costs of building and expanding highways, mass transit is an incredible bargain. For example, the Michigan Land Use Institute reports that establishing a rail line radiating out from Detroit to Pontiac, Ann Arbor and Mt. Clemens would cost $130 million, half the $260 million tab expected just for diverting traffic during the proposed $1.3 billion rebuilding of 11 miles of I-94. Wonder how much money went in to the fixing of I-94 from Metro Airport to Detroit for Super Bowl 2006?
  • The issue is particularly sensitive in Michigan, where sprawl has drained Detroit of economic resources while at the same time creating more pollution and putting more distance between jobs and the unemployed. How long will this go on?
  • Are not people spreading out (moving to outlining areas) in Michigan faster than the negative population growth (this is negative)?

Young People Leaving State – questions/facts

  • Studies suggest young people ages 25-34 are leaving Michigan for "cooler" places like Chicago, Boston and New York-indeed, the state lost more than 200,000 members of this age group, or 13.5%, in the last decade.
  • Has anyone Benchmarked Royal Oak? – Probably the state’s most vibrant city (some may say Ann Arbor but would they be if UofM was not there) that attracts crowds of people everyday of the week (no casinos). They have downtown lofts, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, outdoor dining, street entertainment, and unique shops, dance clubs, comedy clubs and martini bars all within walking distance.
  • What about Governor Granholm’s initiative in 2003 “Michigan’s Cool Cities Initiative? (Hot Jobs, Cool Cities)” It was supposed to be about creating HOT job in COOL Cities in Michigan. Can someone provide an update? How much money have we spent thus far?

    Should we be concentrating on keeping our own rather than attracting outsiders? qualityg says “Better start with our own first.”

    So you can see there are so many more questions to ask in the coming months. It's also interesting that each one of the three issues above (Great Lakes, Mass Transit and Young People Leaving all are 'Interdependent" upon one another for survival, yet there are so many private and public initiates to improve each, and each continues to tear each other apart - Sub-Optimization. Can anyone say Mississippi!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Education - Parents must rise up, "The Judge Saith So"

The Judge Speaks

I ran in to an old friend last night at a college basketball game. I have not talked with him for about 3-4 years. We occasionally cross paths at sporting events because our boys grew up together playing on local and traveling baseball and basketball teams.

My friend happens to be a judge and our topics of discussion usually start with the families and then on to a good subject. Yesterday it was high school and college test scores, grades and entrance requirements.

It seems our difficulty in trying to help our boys get into the same State University was difficult. The judge’s son went to a tough Catholic Academic High School and mine went to our local public high school. While my son’s grade point was higher by a few points his son’s school required much more work both inside and outside of school. I state this because GPA by itself is a poor means of measuring one’s academic knowledge. In fact, the way a student's GPA is calculated depends on the school he/she attends. Averaging the GPA in my opinion is worthless. Why don't schools assign points per Grade ( A = 4, B =3, C = 2, and D=1). If you want a 5 for Honors or AP classes that is fine. Simply total up the final score 6 As, + 1 B = 27). The more points you have the better. This would also encourage more students to take more classes instead of the minimum in order to graduate. Is a student who takes 5 classes and gets all As (GPA = 4.0) doing more than the student who took 7 classes in the example above who would have a GPA of 3.8 under the current way of calculating GPA (27/7).

What was interesting was the fact that we both had to call numerous times to make sure our sons were on the list and both were told it would take a few more months longer than normal to know if entrance was granted. The judge being more in tune to politics and other avenues realized the wait had to do with the fact that our big “State” University wanted to get as many out of state (BIG BUCKS) students as possible before letting in students from within our state with GPAs that range from 3.3 – 3.5. Eventually, his son went to a Private College because he could not wait because of a baseball scholarship offer and my son did get accepted after being told he was on the bubble for two months.

I also informed him that in California illegal immigrants can attend UCLA for around $7000, but it would cost us about $20,000 for out state fees.

We berated foreign speaking instructors who can’t communicate to students and the fact that most of the professors are doing research instead of teaching our kids. A Teaching Assistant/Grad Student usually does the teaching.

My son who is applying to different grad schools both in and outside of our State. He went and talked to an entrance advisor at the “Big Kahuna University” about his chances for acceptance next fall. While he was given a vote of confidence that his grades and entrance exam scores were good enough the program he wanted is “More geared toward International Students.” In other words, no room at the inn, even if it is in the state where I pay taxes, big taxes.

The Big Kahuna University would cost between $10,000 – 15,000 per year for in state. One of the east coast schools he is applying to will run between $60,00 – 80,000 for out state tuition grad school. Please remember this is for one year.

qualityg says … I’m not mentioning school names because I am not alone; this is a huge problem through out the United States. Why is it more people/parents do not rise up over this educational fiasco that has gone on for too long. Unless you are dirt poor, extremely rich, or a foreign student you have little chance at an equal education. Fairness is not a word in this case, it’s a debacle and a shame that our higher levels of learning are selling our talent pool out as fast as the corporate Wall Street mongrels that do everything for a profit and do not care what it does for our society as a whole.

I will no longer vote to increase taxes or funds for my state colleges. Their administrative and financial policies are as bad or worse than the scandals facing corporate America.

I have stated this before; education should be a given right for all Americans. It should not have to be competed for and paid for by the highest bidder. The systemic good of a well-educated society is known, yet we continue to fragment our schools through “selective” mass government and local funding.

Oh the naysayers will say private and public universities competing will raise standards. I say, how long do we wait for this to happen? After all has it not been at least a hundred years, perhaps the level of mediocrity in our educational system today from Pre-K – 16 is evidence enough we are going about this the wrong way. If you want to compete globally then we need to get on the same page and compete, individually competing against ourselves plays right into the hands of our Global Competitors in China, India, and the Far East (see for your self, research their educational systems).

You want to increase quality and raise everyone’s standards for education? Then provide everyone an avenue for receiving a quality education. “Life-Long Learning” and “Joy of Learning” are essential if we are to truly have globally learning.