Steve Mazzone, senior process architect at Shell
1. Where do you work?
I work at Shell in the trading and supply group in Houston. We are considered a “downstream” business.
2. What do you do – what’s your title?
I am a senior process architect in the continuous improvement (CI) projects office. Basically I work on process improvement project opportunities. Since I have been doing CI work since the 1980s, I have become pretty good at moving the dials. As a result, I often receive responsibility for leading large complicated projects outside my region. With any CI role, I help businesses and departments figure out how to do things better, faster and cheaper using data, math, statistics and other methods, to turn their data into information and have it become a compelling argument for change.
3. What’s your educational background?
I started out with General Electric as an international field engineer based on my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Years later, I realized that an MBA would be helpful, so GE put me through an executive MBA program. After receiving that first master’s degree it became apparent that finance was the language that we should all be proficient in speaking. So I cut a deal with my Suffolk University in Boston based on the young age of my core course credits. After completing a relatively short list of financial courses, I received a second master’s degree in corporate finance. Today I use all four degrees and my work/life experiences to lead complicated projects with an eye on moving the dials critical to my business.
4. How long have you been an ASQ member?
In 2013 when I began working with ASQ directly as a guest speaker at multiple statistics workshops during member dinners. Those events led to an invitation for me to teach some quality courses through ASQ and University of Houston, which I greatly enjoy.
5. Why do you think Six Sigma is important?
Mission critical metrics are everything and everyone should know what they are and are not. Moving the dials is why we come to work. We come to work to make money, to pay our bills and to raise our kids. Everyone inherently wants to do better but let’s face it, Six Sigma is a lot of work and it takes a lot of doing before it becomes how you work.
6. Why do you think quality is important?
A business with poor quality will never be No. 1 or 2 in their market, and the risk of not being in business at all is even higher if cost of poor quality is ignored. Driving in quality upfront is cheap, but fixing poor quality as we get further and further in the process drives up the cost of poor quality. An escape to the customer is a fatal example of poor quality and the most expensive to rectify.
7. What’s your favorite benefit of quality?
I really enjoy seeing the mission critical metrics improved as a result of a good project that moves the dials. One of my trademark closure slides always includes a boxplot and two sample T-tests which shows that we made a statistically significant difference in the before data versus the after data, taking the opportunity to explain the P-value is cool when you can make a statement and quantify the probability of being wrong about your conclusion. Also, by becoming a quality leader with a large toolbox of CI tools, it has enabled me to be very successful in everything I do because it is how I work.
8. Why did you choose to go into the quality field?
I started as an international field engineer at GE installing, fixing and starting up gas turbine power stations. Quite often we would have quality issues in the field that were fixed by me. Those issues were the result of poor manufacturing or poor design. Soon, I got a reputation of being the one who knows what to do, so I got invited to come to the factory and show everyone how their products impact the field engineer, the customer and our organization. The bottom line is I got involved in quality by being impacted from poor quality.
I spent 30 years with GE, most of it connected directly or indirectly to quality. In the mid 1980s, I was a field/product quality engineer for GE Aircraft Engines managing product and systems quality for about 50 organizations that supplied us with aircraft engine parts for our commercial, military, and U.S. presidential fleet of airplanes and helicopters. During that time, GE announced the purchase of a program called Six Sigma. We bought the rights from Motorola to teach and use it at GE. At that point, I became a Six Sigma ambassador at the 50 organizations I was responsible for. Quality was an underlying tenet of how I operated in the various roles I had at GE. I came to Shell four years ago.
9. What do you think is most important in implementing a Six Sigma project?
The most important thing in implementing a project is making sure that what your measuring is actually connected to the mission critical metrics of the business. Making big improvements on a project that does not move the business dials merely amounts to some temporary good feelings at closure and a hit to your credibility of doing CI work.
10. What’s your best advice to someone new to quality?
Become a certified Green Belt, Black Belt or Master Black Belt and always try to get the biggest, most impactful projects; Never be afraid to take on the big ones. After you have mastered the big projects and the required thought process, everything else will be a cakewalk.