Saturday, September 29, 2007

How do I find a good Quality Consultant Group?

I received an interesting Email that I would like to share:

“I have been assigned to find a company that specializes in Continuous Process Improvement (Kaizen). There are thousands of hits off the Search Engines. I was intrigued by your blog because you don’t advertise all those silly ads and you seem to say (question) it straight and at the same time saying you are not an expert. Can you “please” recommend a company I can contact?
- Desperate in Atlanta

A) Before and after the Internet explosion I had the responsibility of traveling the United States attending many Quality Forums, Seminars, Baldrige Visits,Trainings, etc by Quality professionals (at least 20 or more) all promising one way or another that their product and services was the answer to my company’s needs and requirements.

I found some promising (we eventually settled on one now bought out by another vendor which I do not support) but most were nothing more than charlatans hiding behind some buzz words and articles that others had written in the American Society for Control (now ASQ) Magazine.

The Internet has increased the number of Charlatans advertising by 10 fold and now blogs have added another ten fold of Houdini quality wannabees. Personally as I stated before I don’t care if folks advertise on their sites but it is strange they would promote someone else selling the same stuff they are trying to sell (that should be your first warning) on their blogs. They get paid for folks hitting those sights by Google.

Don’t let any Internet site convince you they have the solutions or answers to your problems (second warning). Watch out for ones that criticize others with no basis or facts other than what they think they know (third warning). Remember, the Internet is information, not knowledge. I call it the “Global Billboard.”

Do your homework, create a list of questions, visit the company or request they visit you, agree to nothing over the phone or any form of E-mail or Web communicating other than getting information. Continue to ask questions and more questions that pertain to your situation, if you get wide variation of answers from Manufacturing to Service to … that they do it all hang up immediately (fourth warning). If you become more interested ask for a list of clients and contacts, DO NOT let them send you to one or to recommend whom to call. If they do not supply a complete list, say good bye (fifth warning). If the Quality improvement consultants does not have enough resources (they will say yes and hire people after they secure your contract) to handle a company of your size, sayonara (sixth warning). Ask for a history of the company you want to do business with, how many times have they changed their names to join on the quality band wagon (Q – Circles to Lean Sigma, seventh warning) Last warning, if the company you are dealing with does not have employees trained by one of the Quality Masters (i.e. Deming) or one of their “appointed” followers keep searching. Just make sure they are not self proclaiming themselves.

You would be amazed by the answers or no answers I get to questions from Blog sites that proclaim self-imposed expertise. I am no expert, just one person seeking Profound Knowledge by asking continual questions that has traveled the Q shaped road for many years... I hope the couple of leads I sent will help. Good Luck

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tom Watkins: VW's, state's talent is leaving

Tom Watkins knows the Michigan Educational system as well as anyone in the state of Michigan. He sent me an article today that must be shared because it really gets to the heart of the manner as to why our best and brightest are leaving the state.

Tom Watkins, is an education and business consultant. He served as Michigan's superintendent of schools from 2001-2005. He can be reached at

Please read Tom's article at

What follows is my response back to Tom that backs up his story with my immediate family as an example.


Super Article! You are so right about talent leaving. Let me give you an example in my immediate family. 2 nieces and 1 nephew (all graduated from MSU in the last 3 years) moved to Chicago after failing to find work in Michigan in their field and found good paying jobs within a month. They love the city and have no plans to return to Michigan.

My own son graduated from Michigan State in Economics. Applied to different colleges to study Economic Policy. The only college that refused him was University of Michigan (MSU did not have the program). Thus, I pay out state tuition and the U of M Dean told him their program was for International Students (more $$ for them).

The state does nothing to support our best and brightest, most of the money goes to those who never had a chance because of low income, and all the other stuff (I'm not saying don't give them money I'm just saying do what is right for all our children). Many drop out with wasted state dollars (GRANT) doing no good. Would it not be better to help our brightest and keep them in the state instead of telling them no and you don't qualify for GRANTS.

My son's 1 1/2 program costs over $45,000 dollars and that was one of the cheaper out state programs he could have attended (no help in $$). He has no plans to return to Michigan and I have encouraged him not to because of the economic and employment environment.

My daughter will graduate in 2008 from Michigan State (you still think I don't qualifyfor funds) in Marketing. She has yet to make up her mind where she wants to work. I have another nephew that graduates this year and has no plans to stay in Michigan.

5/6 say no to Michigan and 1 undecided.

One family Tom, and I know I'm not alone ( I don't get any financial help either)!

I almost forgot I am attending college too!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Hiring Process is the most important process in a Company

I was asked by an old business friend recently,

“What do you think is the most important process in a company?

Years ago I gave the standard quality response “ the most important process that any company has is the process (es) that adds value to the customer.” About ten years ago I changed my answer and still believe the “hiring” process is the most important process in the company. Many people have debated me on that answer and there is truth to there arguments. So if it’s not the most important I say it is the most important “undervalued” process in a company.

We all know most American Management spout employees are the most important assets to a company. Then why are they considered an expense that needs to be reduced to make up for debt or loss of revenue (because it’s easy)? Human Resources don’t carry much weight when it comes to being considered a critical department within an organization. However, when you stop looking through narrow eyes and open your self to systems thinking (end-to-end), the HR department is at the beginning and the end of an employees process. HR hires and HR conducts your exit review and papers.

Now, think in terms of process control and understand that most problems occur early on in a process and they intern cause multiple downstream problems and bottlenecks. Quality Experts and Process Improvement Teams will attack and try to correct all the “symptoms” downstream (often blaming a person and not the system). The process originated by placing employees in jobs they are not qualified for or can no longer do the job as technology increases and more skills are required (just a few examples). Maybe the HR representatives are not qualified or have the tools to do their jobs.

Management owns the hiring system. It is not a worker’s fault if placed in a job where failure is guaranteed. It is not the worker’s fault if a company slashes training and education that is required as new technology is implemented. It is Management’s job to replace the worker if they are not performing and place them in a job where they can take pride of their work (do we really think people want to fail).

Incentives to Keep High School Dropouts in school? I Think NOT!

At a school meeting this week the subject of dropouts came up and one teacher suggested providing incentives to keep the kids in school.

Now that I have been studying, researching, testing, observing and assessing “Early Childhood” behavior I am more convinced that teachers, parents, coaches and to some extent peers drive out the intrinsic motivation that each child has when starting school as early as the Pre-K level (not a new discovery by any means, but it helps me understand the end-to-end education system from an application view and not just theory).

We are taking from our children the chance to experience “Joy of Learning” (Deming). These types of suggestions are alarming to me because the education system is following the same pattern as big business. Incentives, rewards, etc... are extrinsic motivators that drive the wrong behavior.

If students come to view learning as a means to get a reward/incentive, they will not longer identify learning as something worth doing for the long-term (whole life). American Management still believes rewards and incentives are the way to motivate employees to do a better job. At best, rewards will get some temporary reaction, but it does not last, nor does it change behaviors for the long term and it does more harm than good. Same thing will happen in education. PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!!

People are not realizing that fear, incentives (you can have candy if your good or if you eat your vegetables you can have a big piece of cake) negativity, threats, rating students, ranking students are extrinsic in nature and it is these same motivators (negative) used at an early age that drove the inclination to learn out in the first place.

By most accounts studies have shown there is a 30 – 35% dropout rate at the high school level. The Alliance for Excellent Education research shows that between 80 –85% of Americans believe the number one priority in our country is high school education.

WRONG!!! Here we go again not looking at the systemic nature (end-to-end) of the problem. High School is the output. 95% percent of most problems can be found in the planning, design and the first few input steps of any process. Please start to understand the cost and tampering you are continually doing to this system.

By suggesting High School is where we should put the majority of money and effort is like bringing back quality control at the end of the production line.

Systems Optimization: It’s about interdependencies, we must realize that change cannot occur in one school level without affecting the performance and outcome in all other parts of the primary educational system, the system as a whole, and ultimately all other systems by which the school system operates.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's what Managers Do Best - "Tampering"

Tampering - What many Managers do becasue they do not understand Variation. Basically it is the unnecessary adjustments (decisions) made in an effort to compensate for common cause variation.

Common Cause Variation - Systemic Variation that is found in all processes (i.e., inputs, new conditions, etc...) that defines the amount of variation that is within every system. Very very difficult to identify one source to common cause variation (as opposed to special cause variation).

Special Cause Variation - Are specific factors that attack a system like a virus attacks a body, they can usually be tracked down to a single source and removed. The key is identifying data in a timely manner, removing and preventing this cause from happening again. Spacial Cause results in big spikes to a system or process and must be dealt with in a completely different manner than Common Cause Variation.


Additional Information (Post) on Worker Variation can be found at

Additional Information (Post) on Cost of Poor Quality can be found at

Sunday, September 09, 2007

How should we conduct CHANGE with Autistic Children in Mainstreaming?

There is a constant battle going on in many School Systems when it comes to Mainstreaming/Inclusion Autistic (ASD) students with a one-on-one-aide for an indefinite time period (i.e., 2-5 years) or rotate 2-3 aides every few months and replacing existing ones when new aides are hired.

It does not matter which solution is correct or a combination of solutions. What matters is the affect it will have on the child, teacher, and classmates, end of story. I have zero tolerance for any behavior or decision that is not in the best interest of the child/student.

With reference to my previous post on this subject I would like to explain when a change of this magnitude takes place.

When working as an aide you work within a system (Special Education) made up of sub-processes (i.e. Mainstreaming one-on-one support).

In order to understand this clearly it needs to be explained through Systems Thinking and Process Improvements.

System Thinking means:

“Employees work in a System. Management owns the System.”A system is a whole consisting of two or more parts, (1) each of which can affect the performance or properties of the whole, (2) none of which can have an independent affect on the whole, and (3) no subgroup of which can have independent affect on the whole. In short, then, a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts or subgroups of parts.

When changes are implemented without regards to trending data, accurate information, documented observations, and failure to understand end-to-end thinking chaos will run through your process.

Process means:

A series of steps or actions that lead to a desired result or output (what do we expect when we are done. If we don’t know the goal or outcome then anything will be right or wrong depending on the person in charge). Goals are to be created by Management not the other way around. Workers develop the means (plans, strategy, work plans, job aides & a way to measure to determine success) based on their subject matter expertise to meet the goals.

A set of common tasks (standard – if no standard you have no means for a stable process) that creates a product, service, process, or plan that will satisfy a customer or group of customers. If a permanent aide is ill or has to leave for a period of time, plans already should be in place for another existing aide who the child is comfortable with to fill in the gap. Prioritize your ASD children with you aides and it will work out fine (test & determine).

A sequential series of steps leading to a desired outcome (if you have no operational definition, purpose or goal established by management you WILL have failure).

Processes are largely affected by one or more of the following factors:

a) personnel who work in the processes (not including anyone or group that works in the process will result in failure, frustration and high turnover);

b) materials which are used as inputs (including behavioral logs, documented observations and subject matter expert information and data);

c) testing techniques being used in the process (in process execution or monitoring/measurement;

d) methods (including criteria and various documentations used along the process, how will we know if we are successful, if you don’t have methods success is determined through management who own the system);

e) work environment (if any of the above are not correct it will affect the environment big time).

Understanding how these factors interact and affect processes is a key consideration in process studies and quality improvement.

Standardization - for an explanation read my post at
Every process improvement starts and ends with standardization. Everyone (aides) doing the same process must be doing the same type of measuring, using the same methods, documenting the same log sheets (keeping them for improvement opportunities) with the same set of codes and understanding and object observations that are part of process (job). If none of these are set up or in place you have an out-of-control process with willing workers doing their best to create structured chaos. If this is the case the success or failure belongs to management because they own the process/system.

So with changing a permanent aide who has worked with an ASD child for years and has been successful based on those who have worked with the child including his personal therapist and psychiatrist can result in a traumatic result to the child.

This is especially true if the process is stopped abruptly and changed radically with little or no reliable data or information on what to improve and more importantly on how to improve the situation. Change for the sake of change is stupid!

When this type of change happens in business you can lose a customer, in education you take the chance of losing a child’s education, knowledge and involvement in society. You may get a customer back but in education the child becomes lost in the system.

If management (administrators) wishes to make changes such as these with so much at risk they should at least do the following;

Start off with documenting a standard method/procedures (with purpose & goals) by which all aides will work in the same manner.

Next begin to monitor the new method (process) with objective data, input and information from reliable sources (including parents, teachers & aides.

Most importantly conduct a test case with appropriate people, measures and child because of the risk factor (child’s learning). To not do this is instant failure.

Management will let you know when something is a failure or if something is right if you start out without knowing the AIM/Purpose of your system you are doing nothing more than tampering with the system.

When implementing changes management should listen to the Voice of the Process and People and not the other way around . – VERY DANGEROUS.

As I have often stated

“Data + Information + Application = Knowledge”
add Listening to the equation and you get Wisdom”

Monday, September 03, 2007

Quality versus Quantity - Toyota Has Both

This is what General Motors, Ford and Chrysler fail to learn.

"As we continue to elevate quality in our products, then I think quantity will follow as a result," - Katsuaki Watanabe - Toyota President

We = Toyota Employees, not Us versus Them

Continue = Continual – they have been on the same Quality track for many years. No starting and stopping of Quality Programs, just continual process improvement, it's a journey not a merry-go-round.

Elevate Quality in our Products = never stop, never satisfied; key is prevention, systems thinking at its best.

I think quantity will follow as a result = Humble, no demanding of Quality, but confident quality system will produce more quality products.