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Quality Processes in Unexpected Places

This month Paul Borawski asked ASQ’s Influential Voices to explore the use of quality tools in unexpected places.

The most surprising example of this practice that I recall is the Madison, Wisconsin police department surveying those they arrested to get customer feedback. It is obvious that such “customers” are going to be biased. Still the police department was able to get actionable information by seeking the voice of the customer.

photo of a red berry and leaves

Unrelated photo from Singapore Botanical Garden by John Hunter.

Certain of the police department’s aims are not going to match well with those they arrest (most obviously those arrested wish the police department didn’t arrest them). The police department sought the voice of the customer from all those they interacted with (which included those they arrested, but also included those reporting crimes, victims, relatives of those they arrested etc.).

The aim of the police department is not to arrest people. Doing so is necessary but doing so is most similar in the management context to catching an error to remove that bad result. It is better to improve processes so bad results are avoided. How the police interact with the public can improve the process to help steer people’s actions away from those that will require arrests.

The interaction police officers have with the public is a critical gemba for meeting the police department’s aim. Reducing crime and encouraging a peaceful society is aided by knowing the conditions of that gemba and knowing how attempts to improve are being felt at the gemba.

All customer feedback includes bias and personal preferences and potentially desires that are contrary to the aims for the organization (wanting services for free, for example). Understanding this and how important understanding customer/user feedback on the gemba is, it really shouldn’t be surprising that the police would want that data. But I think it may well be that process thinking, evidence based management and such ideas are still not widely practiced as so the Madison police department’s actions are still surprising to many.

Quality Leadership: The First Step Towards Quality Policing by David Couper and Sabine Lobitz

Our business is policing, our customers are the citizens within our jurisdictions, and our product is police service (everything from crime fighting and conflict management to safety and prevention programs.)

If we are to cure this we must start to pay attention to the new ideas and trends in the workplace mentioned earlier that are helping America’s businesses; a commitment to people, how people are treated — employees as well as citizens, the development of a people-oriented workplace, and leadership can and does make a difference.

If we change the way in which we lead the men and women in our police organizations, we can achieve quality in policing. However, wanting to change and changing are worlds apart. The road to change is littered by good intentions and short-term efforts.

This article, from 1987, illustrates the respect for people principle was alive and being practiced 25 years ago; most organizations need to do a great deal more work on applying practices that show respect for people.

Related: Quality Improvement and Government: Ten Hard Lessons From the Madison Experience by David C. Couper, Chief of Police, City of Madison, Wisconsin – SWAT Raids, Failure to Apply System Thinking in Law EnforcementMeasuring What Matters: Developing Measures of What the Police DoThe Public Sector and W. Edwards DemingDoing More with Less in the Public Sector – A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin

Using Incentives to Guide Social System Improvements

When confronted with the challenge of managing a social system (or market) I like to find ways to use a few simple rules that will guide the system to find improvements. I favor allowing participants in complex social system to determine how to adapt. So I support, for example, a carbon taxes where the market can decide where it is most effective to invest to reduce carbon use (both to reduce our depletion of the resource and to reduce pollution leading to climate change).

I like to try and keep prescription rules as limited as possible and instead set simple rules that will allow people to make choices. These rules will often allow for people to judge when they need to temper the extremes (in management examples) and in economic situations they often can have costs that escalate as the system is strained (so low pricing if the road is currently not heavily used and increasing the cost to users as congestion increases). The more prescriptive the rules the less ability people have to find creative solutions.

Traffic congestion is a perennial problem with high very costs to society. I very much like congestion pricing. You set a rule that puts increasing costs on those creating an overload on the system (which has costly negative externalities). Then allow people to figure out how to adapt.

The video also provides a very good example of why leadership is important. In Stockholm people were against congestion pricing (70% to 30%). This isn’t surprising they see a new tax that only is a cost. They don’t understand that the system performance is going to improve – the cost will provide a benefit. Leadership is required to push forward when the benefits are not obvious to everyone. Once people saw that congestion was greatly decreased 70% supported congestion pricing.

Jonas Eliasson: “Don’t tell people how to adapt. Nudge them. If you do it correctly – they’ll embrace the change”

Related: The Case for Physically Separated Bike LanesUrban Planning in Northern VirginiaDisregard for People by FedEX and UPS – Systems thinking allowed the engineers to design a solution that wasn’t about enforcing the existing rules more but changing the system so that the causes of the most serious problems are eliminated. – Using Outcome Measures for Prison Management

Better Management in Government

This month Paul Borawski (CEO of ASQ) has asked the ASQ Influential Voices to share their thoughts on quality management in the public sector.

photo of John Hunter with the US Capital in the Background

John Hunter with the US Capital in the background, Washington DC

I have been involved in quality improvement in government at the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office and the White House Military Office and elsewhere. Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications Agency by March Laree Jacques provides a nice look at some good efforts. I also was on the board of the Public Sector Network which became the ASQ Government Division. There is lots of great work that has been done.

There are many issues involved, but the biggest is that the leaders in government are normally not interested in having the government perform better. They have political agendas that they are more concerned with, performance just doesn’t matter (or in some cases they even want bad results because their political view is government is bad and therefore anything that makes it look good should be avoided). So they turn the focus of the government to achieving the political aims they have and starve government organizations of talent and money that are not focused exclusively on their agenda.

This doesn’t have to be the case. If politicians cared about the results of their policies, not just the political points related to their agenda it would make sense to support better management strategies. By and large their actions indicate they are not really interested in the results.

Some in government are able to overcome bad leadership. And occasionally political leaders that actual care about results do emerge. In Dr. Deming’s Out of the Crisis he includes (on pages 245-247) an overview, by my father – William Hunter, of the efforts at the City of Madison (which was the first application of Deming’s ideas by government). My father talked to the Mayor (Joe Sensenbrenner) about a project to use management improvement ideas to improve city government performance and the Mayor went along and then became a great advocate.

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Web Seminar with Gerald Suarez: Better Thinking About Leadership

In2In offers some great opportunities for those interested in management improvement. Their conference is excellent. They also offer various conference calls with speakers knowledgeable about Deming and Ackoff’s ideas. These normally take the form of conference call presentations (similar to a podcast) followed by some question and answers. The consistently get remarkable people like, Gerald Suarez, and earlier: Peter Scholtes and Brian Joiner.

Gerald Suarez is kicking off the new InThinking Network monthly webinar series. I worked for Gerald at the White House Military Office. He is one of the best presenters and most knowledgeable experts on Deming and Ackoff’s ideas working today.

Gerald Suarez will present on February 9th on the topic of “Better Thinking About Leadership.” This is a great opportunity and there is no cost to participate. If you participate from outside the USA you can connect via Skype (from the USA you will be given a toll-free number to connect with – or Skpye, if you wish). If you can’t join the call, audio downloads will be available at some later date. Register here. If you can’t make the live event, I strongly recommend listening to the audio download once it is made available.

The format of these sessions is a 90-minute session, each month – from February through November. They are held the second Thursday of the month, from 11:30 AM to 1 PM Pacific Time.

Future sessions that we have to look forward to include:

  • Paul Hollingworth will present in March: An Introduction to Systems Thinking
  • Graham Rawlinson, in May to explore “Thinking About Thinking”
  • Gipsie Ranney, in September: “Cause(s) of Concern,” a session designed to present and advance the understanding of common causes and special causes of variation.

Gerald is currently a professor on the faculty of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith business school and works as a consultant and keynote speaker. Look for him to share his expertise in leadership, which includes 8 years of service in the White House under Presidents Clinton and Bush, as the Director of Presidential Quality — the first such post in the institution’s history.

Related: Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications AgencyManaging FearThe aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men

Dr. Deming in 1980 on Product Quality in Japan and the USA

I posted an interesting document to the Curious Cat Management Library: it includes Dr. Deming’s comments as part of a discussion organized by the Government Accounting Office in 1980 on Quality in Japan and the United States.

The document provides some interesting thoughts from Dr. Deming and others; Dr. Deming’s statements start on page 52 of the document. For those really interested in management improvement ideas it is a great read. I imagine most managers wouldn’t enjoy it though (it isn’t giving direct advice for today, but I found it very interesting).

Some selected quotes from the document follow. On his work with Japan in 1950:

This movement, I told them, will fail and nothing will happen unless management does their part. Management must know something about statistical techniques and know that if they are good one place, they will work in another. Management must see that they are used throughout the company.
Quality control must take root with simple statistical techniques that management and everyone in the company must learn. By these techniques, people begin to understand the different kinds of variation. Then quality control just grow with statistical theory and further experience. All this learning must be guided by a master. Remarkable results may come quick, but one has no right to expect results in a hurry. The learning period never ends.

The statistical control of quality is not for the timid and the halfhearted. There is no way to learn except to learn it and do it. You can read about swimming, but you might drown if you had to learn it that way!

One of the common themes at that time was Deming’s methods worked because Japanese people and culture were different. That wasn’t why the ideas worked, but it was an idea many people that wanted to keep doing things the old way liked to believe.

There may be a lot of difference, I made the statement on my first visit there that a Japanese man was never too old nor too successful to learn, and to wish to learn; to study and to learn. I know that people here also study and learn. I’ll be eighty next month in October. I study every day and learn every day. So you find studious people everywhere, but I think that you find in Japan the desire to learn, the willingness to learn.

You didn’t come to hear me on this; there are other people here much better qualified than I am to talk. But in Japan, a man works for the company; he doesn’t work to please somebody. He works for the company, he can argue for the company and stick with it when he has an idea because his position is secure. He doesn’t have to please somebody. It is so here in some companies, but only in a few. I think this is an important difference.

At the time the way QC circles worked in Japan was basically employee led kaizen. So companies that tried to copy Japan told workers: now go make things better like the workers we saw in Japan were doing. Well with management not changing (and understanding Deming’s ideas, lean thinking, variation, systems thinking…) and staff not given training to understand how to improve processes it didn’t work very well. We (those reading this blog) may all now understand the advantages one piece flow. I can’t imagine too many people would jump to that idea sitting in their QC circle without having been told about one piece flow (I know I wouldn’t have), and all the supporting knowledge needed to make that concept work.

QC circles can make tremendous contributions. But let me tell you this, Elmer. If it isn’t obvious to the workers that the managers are doing their part, which only they can do, I think that the workers just get fed up with trying in vain to improve their part of the work. Management must do their part: they must learn something about management.

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Lean Thinking in Minnesota Government

The Office of Governor Pawlenty issued a press release on Minnesota’s Drive to Excellence effort:

Increased Quality via Lean Continuous Improvement Reform – The State has adopted
“Lean Thinking” as its preferred process improvement tool. So far, 18 agencies are actively
involved, with 302 staff members participating in 38 Kaizen improvement events. These
events have yielded significant improvements in the delivery of state government services,
from issuing duplicate birth certificates to processing State Soldiers Assistance requests.

The Drive to Excellence includes 15 specific projects for reforming state government, ranging
from strategic procurement to a Lean continuous improvement effort and the reform of state grants
management. The projects focus on improving quality and customer service and reducing costs in
the delivery of government services to citizens.

Read about more public sector management improvement efforts on my Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site.

Related: Six Sigma In New York Local GovernmentTransformation and Redesign at the White HouseThe Georgetown Kentucky WayPublic Sector Management

Federal Government Chief Performance Officer

A Quality Manager for Obama

President-Elect Obama has hired a quality manager, and her name is Nancy Killefer. She is the newly appointed “Chief Performance Officer” whose mandate is to manage budget reforms while eliminating waste in government processes, ultimately making it more effective. An MIT & McKinsey alum, Time calls her the “first official waste watchdog.”

Previous administrations have had exactly the same thing (regardless what Time magazine says), so I don’t think we should get carried away. Eliminating wasteful government spending is a refrain from every new administration. She will be running the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and have this new title “Chief Performance Officer.” OMB has been the official waste watchdog, for at least decades. They are far from understanding muda. Time will tell if there is any change on that score going forward, I am skeptical.

Here is very typical OMB language from a 1995 memo by Alice M. Rivlin, Director of OMB:

Management controls are the organization, policies, and procedures used to reasonably ensure that (i) programs achieve their intended results; (ii) resources are used consistent with agency mission; (iii) programs and resources are protected from waste, fraud, and mismanagement; (iv) laws and regulations are followed; and (v) reliable and timely information is obtained, maintained, reported and used for decision making.

I worked with improving management in the federal government at the Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Quality Management Office and the White House Military Office. I was one of the founders of the ASQ Public Sector Network (now Government Division) and have managed the Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site since 1995. There have been plenty of great efforts to improve management in government that have made real progress. But there is much more that needs to be done.

There are complications in applying management improvement in government but they are fairly minor comparatively. In general, the difficulty is not the necessary adjustments for a different environment than the private sector, but similar challenges to improving private sector management.

In 1982, The Grace Commission provided a report to the Regan Administration. Radio Address to the Nation on the Management of the Federal Government by Ronald Reagan, October 29, 1988

“We also set up the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control led by Peter Grace — almost 200 top business executives. This Commission spent months looking at every part of the Government, finding out where modern business practices could eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the Government. When they were through, they’d come up with 2,478 suggestions. And almost every recommendation we could put into effect without congressional action has been implemented. And we’ve saved close to $80 billion. We’re hoping that the next Congress will pitch in and do its part.”

The Clinton administration had the National Performance Review which was the closest thing to an attempt to move toward my concept of management improvement.

The current administration had their own President’s Management Agenda. Government Accountability: Efforts to Identify and Eliminate Waste and Mismanagement Hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, September 4, 2003.
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Lean Management in Policing

photo of Jacksonville Sheriff Office Lean Team

Justice served up Jacksonville–style is all lean by Joe Jancsurak:

The Jacksonville Sheriff Office’s (JSO) Crime Reducing Initiatives Management and Enforcement Strategies (CRIMES) measures, tracks and analyzes crime-fighting statistics, such as the number of arrests and value of stolen and recovered property. Such findings are instrumental in determining the overall effectiveness of the JSO and where improvements need to be made.

Investigations stress uniformity. Lean “changed how we approach investigations,” says Sheriff Rutherford. “We found that three officers investigating three different burglaries might ask three different sets of questions. So we developed a standard form showing the questions that should be asked to ensure consistency.”

Hiring of school crossing guards made more expedient. “This one’s amazing,” Sheriff Rutherford chuckles. “It was taking us 68 days to hire someone from our eligibility list because we were sending candidates all over for different parts of the interview process. Now it takes us just three days to make a decision because we’re practicing ‘one-stop hiring.’”

This reminds me of the first efforts I know of for such efforts in policing (from the 1980s): Quality Improvement and Government: Ten Hard Lessons From the Madison Experience by David C. Couper, Chief of Police, City of Madison, Wisconsin.

Via: Upcoming Podcast: Lean Law Enforcement

Related: Failure to Address Systemic SWAT Raid FailuresLA Jail Saves Time Processing CrimeThe Public Sector and DemingCurious Cat Management Improvement Search Engine

Mississippi Plans Manufacturing Management Center

Ole Miss plans manufacturing center

Ole Miss plans to build a center to teach manufacturing management skills. Gov. Haley Barbour, Ole Miss officials and Toyota executives announced the $22 million Center for Manufacturing Excellence on Monday in Jackson. Construction of the 47,000- square-foot center could start this fall.

“We in Mississippi continue to have a larger percentage of our population employed in manufacturing than the country as a whole,” Barbour said. “One way to help our businesses innovate and stay successful is to give them world-class people to employ, whether it’s engineers or business majors or people who work on the line.”

By teaching principles of lean manufacturing, total quality management and just-in-time inventory delivery, the center will produce workers for many sectors including aerospace, electronics, technology and polymer sciences.

The center’s funding comes from the state’s $323.9 million incentive package for Toyota. The automaker is building a $1.3 billion plant in Blue Springs, about 50 miles from Oxford. Toyota reset the opening of the plant from early 2010 to May 2010 for economic and model-changeover reasons.

The center will offer four bachelor’s degree programs, two business-related and two engineering-related, all with a manufacturing emphasis. Barbour and Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat will appoint a board to create a curriculum and oversee the center.

“We have completed the building drawings and expect to be receiving bids shortly. I would hope that construction would begin this fall,” Khayat said.

He said he expects 20 to 40 students the first year, with enrollment increasing dramatically in the following years. Most of the initial students likely will switch their majors from engineering or business. The interdisciplinary program will include cooperatives and externships.

“We’re going to see an interesting marriage between engineering and business. We think it will be a model for the future of manufacturing,” Khayat said.

Related: Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the EconomyManufacturing Employee Shortage in UtahGlobal Manufacturing Data by Country (Feb 2006 post)Trends in Manufacturing Jobs

Department of Defense Lean Six Sigma

Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, signed a directive establishing policy and assigning responsibilities to institutionalize the effort throughout DoD. See a webcast of his speech on lean six sigma to a DoD conference on continuous process improvement.

Leading Business Transformation the “Lean” Way

Since it began employing LSS, the Department of the Navy (DON) has completed 1,700 Black Belt/Green Belt projects and over 2,000 Kaizen events (i.e., action-oriented events designed to improve existing processes). Initial projects were designed to build confidence and gain momentum for success in high-impact core business value streams. The DON’s total of 3,399 trained LSS Green Belts exceeds the Secretary’s goal of 2,000 by the end of 2006, and of the 935 trained LSS Black Belts in the DON, 93 have attained American Society for Quality (ASQ) Black Belt certification.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) joined with Raytheon to complete an LSS project, which ultimately saved $133.5M across the 2006 FYDP and $421M over the life of the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) Block II program. The integrated product team developed a three-tier approach to reducing weapon unit cost over a two-year period. Success of the JSOW program has led to development of a follow-on Block III weapon system.

The Marine Corps is applying LSS concepts, analytic techniques, and tools to improve the process for identifying, evaluating and acquiring critically needed warfighting equipment. Initial analysis focused on the evaluation stage, where improvements reduced the time required for this step by 35% – from 131 days to 85 days – and identified savings valued at $135K per year.

The first LSS initiative for Army aviation scheduled maintenance was deemed a success and signals a more efficient future for maintaining the Fort Rucker helicopter fleet. More than 32 days of scheduled maintenance were saved during the first LSS effort for Aviation Unit Maintenance involving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter scheduled maintenance. The first helicopter inducted into the newly developed process was returned to flying status in just 18 days, which included a four-day break for the Fourth of July weekend. That is a 67% improvement in phase flow efficiency from the previous average time of more than 50 days of phase cycle maintenance for the UH-60.

See: online six sigma resources and lean manufacturing resources from the Curious Cat management improvement web site.

Related: Government Lean Six SigmaPublic Sector Continuous Improvement SiteTransformation Through Lean Six SigmaArmy Business TransformationHistory Of Quality Management OnlineMore Lean GovernmentArmy Lean Six Sigma
Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin by William G. Hunter, Jan O’Neill, and Carol Wallen, June 1986.

2007 Baldrige National Quality Award

2007 Baldige awardee representatives in the Oval Office

The Baldrige National Quality Award winners for 2007 are:

President Bush met with winners for the first time since 2000, I believe (photo from Coral Springs web site). He did in private this year in the Oval Office. The Baldridge award had more prestige in the management community 10 years ago. In my opinion the award has failed to attract the best managed companies to apply.

When you purport to recognize the highest level of management excellence you should understand that leaving out those companies that are widely seen as excellent calls into question the credibility of the award. I can understand the challenge in convincing many potential applicants to apply. I would say that is the same challenge companies have that want to convince potential customers their solution is what the customer should purchase.

ARDEC provides a public version of their application (some details removed) that is interesting. ARDEC received the President’s Award Quality in 2000. From 1998 to 2002 the President’s Quality Award recognized management excellence in the federal government based on a Baldrige-style system (it was then switched from Baldrige-style to generic “excellence”).

Related: 2005 Baldrige AwardVice President Presents Baldrige Awards (2004)Problems with Lean Manufacturing Awards2007 Shingo Prize for Excellence in ManufacturingManagement excellence in governmentDeming Prize 2007

Confusing Customer Focus

Misuse of the “Customer” Concept

“We are told that the airlines are our customers,” FAA inspector Charlambe “Bobby” Boutris said. “But we have a more important customer, the taxpayers” who want government to ensure a safe aviation system.

That’s crazy. The FAA is supposed to be serving and protecting the passengers, not the airlines. This is like a supervisor in a workplace treating their employee as a customer… even in a “servant leadership” environment, that’s not right.

“Customer focus” is good, but only if you properly define customer relationships. I’d prefer the FAA think of me and my fellow travelers as the “customer,” not the airlines.

I agree there are several different customers. This is actually not uncommon outside of government but for government agencies multiple “customers” that might have divergent desires are more frequent. But the “customer” frame of reference I still think has value.

I actually think the problem is the way people choose to interpret the idea. If I buy a car from a dealer they don’t sell it to me for $100. They don’t agree to not tell the government so I can avoid sales tax. They don’t agree to sell me a car that is not legal in the state. Customer service does not mean do what is in the interest of the customer irregardless of laws, regulations, good business practices, etc..

I would say doctors don’t give patients anti-biotics for viral infections (but actually they do). They shouldn’t. When doctors behave irresponsibly and give antibiotics in ways that harm the heath of society, some might try to claim it is because they are giving the patient/customer what they want. That is not a reasonable excuse.
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Manufacturing Employee Shortage in Utah

Utah scrambling to meet need for technical workers

The state faces challenges in generating necessary interest to fill available manufacturing jobs for what Utah’s governor has called the state’s “Aerospace Hub,” both immediately and in the future, the report said.

The situation continues to worsen, with jobs being created and unemployment remaining low in the state. And as the current work force ages, the supply of skilled workers is diminishing, forcing employers to recruit outside of Utah and sometimes leave Utah altogether, the report said.

The college’s Lean Manufacturing Center was built from an old warehouse with state funds and $30 million from rocket-booster manufacturer Williams International. Williams provides the college with equipment and mentors to train students with practical, real-world applications, said Lloyd McCaffrey, the Lean Center’s director.

Related: Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the EconomyApplied Quality Engineering EducationWisconsin ManufacturingTop 10 Manufacturing CountriesHelp Wanted: Lean Manufacturing ExpertsThe Lean MBACurious Cat Management Improvement Job Board

Stupid Bureaucratic Requirement

Quaker teacher fired for changing loyalty oath

California State University East Bay has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she inserted the word “nonviolently” in her state-required Oath of Allegiance form.

“I don’t think it was fair at all,” said Kearney-Brown. “All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don’t care if I meant it, and it didn’t seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn’t matter. Nothing.”

Modifying the oath “is very clearly not permissible,” the university’s attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. “It’s an unfortunate situation. If she’d just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment.”

Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that “as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values.”

“I honor the Constitution, and I support the Constitution,” she said. “But I want it on record that I defend it nonviolently.”

My take: stupid unthinking government action. First I can’t see what value the signing does at all. But even if you think there is some aim that having everyone sign supports does a Quaker inserting non-violently harm that aim in some way? Is it really unquestioningly doing whatever you are told that is the value that is what is being aimed for? Seems pretty clear to me from even this short article this teacher understands the constitution much better than most people and cares enough to take the values that constitution endorses seriously. While the government looks like they only care about getting their form on file and don’t care at all what the purpose of that form is (the purpose can’t really be just to coerce everyone to sign it, can it?).

To me she is doing a great service to defend that constitution with her actions. Hopefully she can do so and have her job. But standing up for what is right often can leave you worse off personally.

I understand that it is easier to ignore the purpose and just focus on compliance with the rules. But what does it say if your actions show that actually loyalty doesn’t matter and signing something you don’t believe is ok? It just bothers me that this loyalty oath situation puts an emphasis on empty promises above the true intent of the constitution. Devaluing it harms us all in the long term.

Related: The First AmendmentPublic ManagementCustomer Un-focus

Six Sigma In New York Local Government

New Erie County Government Executive, Chris Collins, discusses the director of six sigma position that will drive their new six sigma efforts.

Related: Six Sigma for Erie County GovernmentPublic Sector Management Improvement SitePosts on improving management in the Public Sectormanagement webcasts

Six Sigma for Erie County Government

Chris Collins proposed bringing six sigma to Erie County government in his campaign for county executive. He won the election. From his web site:

In business, you satisfy your customers or you fail. But in Erie County government, if you fail taxpayers who are your customer, nothing happens. Under Chris Collins, that will change.

As County Executive, Chris Collins will reform county government to make sure it serves its customers: the taxpayers. He will implement new management techniques – Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, ISO, Six Sigma and more – to focus on making every government agency and worker more efficient and accountable. These are the same techniques he’s used to turn around failing companies.
Chris Collins will also choose a business management expert as Deputy County Executive – and then make their only duty to fight everyday to make sure taxpayers get the value we deserve for our tax dollar

Where did he pick up this interest in six sigma? He is the founder, owner, Chairman and CEO of Audubon Machinery:

Audubon is a Six Sigma quality company focused on Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, and Lean Manufacturing. The operations manager at Audubon is a Six Sigma Black Belt driving continuous improvement with a focus on customer service.

Audubon Machinery is one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and will be recognized on the INC 500 list this year as well as the new Business First list of the fastest growing companies in Western New York.

I wish him luck in bringing management improvement practices to Erie County.

Related: Bringing Deming to the Public SectorPublic Sector Continuous Improvement SiteSix Sigma City Government

Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the Economy

Editorial: Engineering Innovation, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

They are the invisible heroes in business, the men and women who make innovation possible. They are people like Mary Ann Wright at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, the former chief engineer for the Ford Escape hybrid who is leading a team bent on establishing world leadership in hybrid battery systems.

Or Werner Zobel, a Modine Manufacturing engineer working in Germany who hatched the idea for a new cooling system that the Racine-based company believes could be revolutionary. The system uses ultra-thin layers of aluminum to dissipate heat, a breakthrough that has potential for car and truck radiators and air conditioning condensers.

Intellectual candlepower will fire the regional economy, the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group believes. Its strategic plan relies on innovation-driven manufacturers that are heavy with engineers. But across the region, those companies say they can’t recruit enough engineers, and they worry that shortages will worsen as baby boomers retire. Complicating the picture is a shortage of visas for foreign-born engineers and increased competition from rapidly developing economies in China and India for those students even when they complete their studies in the United States.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering are racing to fill the pipeline. Marquette and UWM are promising expansive new buildings and increased enrollment of both undergraduate and graduate students.

The USA continues to be by far the largest manufacturing in the world. And one important reason is the contributions provided by science and engineering (fed by strong science and engineering schools). In addition to other smart economic policies (The World Bank’s annual report on the easiest countries to do business in ranks the USA 3rd – after Singapore and New Zealand). Wisconsin manufacturing continues to get good discussion on various lean blogs for good reason(More Wisconsin Lean, Wisconsin Continues to Lead in Lean Government, History repeats itself). The success Wisconsin is enjoying is not due to one single factor but the efforts of many actors including companies, universities, government, the press… and groups like the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Madison Quality Improvement Network (I have managed MAQIN’s web site since it was created – John Hunter).

Related: Best Research University Rankings – 2007S&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates LeadInvest in New Management Methods by William G. Hunter, Commentary to the Milwaukee Journal, 1986

Design of Experiments in Operational Testing

Edwards looks toward future of testing

We are fielding a Design of Experiments concept to ensure we conduct the right amount of testing — not too much or too little, but just right. We will field this approach in phases as we must train our people and put the right tools in place. However, it is already showing great promise.

In a recent Benefield Anechoic Facility test, the 412th Electronic Warfare Group used Design of Experiments methodology to cut a two-month program to three weeks. This schedule reduction translated directly into savings and helped reduce the concept-to-fielding cycle time while still ensuring the system was thoroughly tested. While building these capabilities is critical, the most critical piece of the puzzle is our people. We must continue to develop engineers, pilots, navigators, program managers and maintainers to test these systems and “find stuff so the warfighter doesn’t.”

It is hard to tell if they really are using Design of Experiments or just using the term but it seem possible they are really using it. As I have said a number of times it is a powerful and under-utilized tool for improvement. Related: Using Design of Experimentsdesign of experiments articlesposts on public sector managementWhy Use Designed Factorial Experiments?

Early History Of Quality Management Online

I started looking at quality management resources online in 1995 (maybe 1994). At the time I was on the board of the Public Sector Network – what would become the American Society of Quality (ASQ) government division. When we started working with ASQ it took something like 2 months from the time I wrote an article until people received it. Now in 1995, the internet (outside of universities) was in its infancy. I was writing a column on the resources online for quality management – these consisted of bulletin boards (that you used your modem to call directly) and “gopher” and “ftp” sites and email lists a very few web sites. Ftp and gopher are internet protocols (as is the hypertext transfer protocol – http – we all use for the web now). Well things changed frequently back then and by the time my article would be published phone numbers wouldn’t work, addresses would be out of date, etc..

So I figured I should post my article online so people could just go there and see the updated phone numbers, addresses, etc.. That wasn’t so easy to do back then. But several of us at a W. Edwards Deming Institute conference decided to create a Deming Electronic Network (DEN). And one of those people was Del Kimbler who worked at Clemson and had access to a web site where he agreed to host the DEN. So I asked about posting the Online Quality Resource Guide there and he agreed.

Del is retiring from Clemson and so we are moving some of the material off Clemson to curiouscat.com. As part of that I ran across this November 1995 edition of the Online Quality Resource Guide. There really was a small number of good online resources for managers back then. We forget how lucky we are today. The first article I can find (right now anyway) is from the Spring of 1995. It listed a total of 2 web sites in addition to a BBS and several email lists. Clemson was listed as a gopher site and web site.

We have recently moved the Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site and Community Quality Electronic Network to curiouscat.com. Some history on PSCI and CQEN.

Related: John Hunter historyUsing Quality to Develop an Internet Resource by John Hunter (1999)Management Improvement History

More Bad Customer Service Examples :-(

It is sad to see so many examples of bad customer service. I wish enough companies would adopt management improvement principles so that at least I could avoid dealing with the others altogether. Here are 2 more bad examples from the Washington post today. Cellphone Contracts – Hard to Get off the Hook

Fed up with dropped calls and a string of defective cellphones, Corey Taylor said he became irate when he learned he’d have to pay $175 to get out of his long-term contract with Verizon Wireless. So he resorted to a rather extreme measure. He faked his own death.

Consumers filed more complaints about cellphones than any other industry for the past three years, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus; contract issues consistently rank among the top three gripes, along with billing and service problems.

Another in the long list of bad service from Verizon examples. And the Post also has a story on the continuing Passport saga, which just feeds the perception that government can’t manage:

“This is a clear admission of failure and a decision not to solve the problem, leaving thousands of travelers in the lurch,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “What color is the sky in their world?” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said to the Associated Press. “I can’t believe they’re proposing a rule where they want to charge you the same amount, and in return, you’re virtually guaranteed to get worse service.” Demand for passports soared at the beginning of the year as travelers sought to comply with a new border security law requiring passports for all U.S. citizens flying within the Western Hemisphere.

Wouldn’t you love to see what lean thinking passport operations could accomplish (which is really just part of the system that passed the law – one of the numerous failing of the State Department was not adequately explaining the consequences/requirement of the new law? I know I would.

Related: Customer Hostility from Discover CardStandard Prepaid Cell Phone PolicyAsk Your Customer What They Would Like ImprovedWhat Job Does Your Product Do?Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site

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