Employees Want To Do Something Valuable

I really enjoyed Dianna Wuagneux's article "Quality From the Inside Out" (April 2002, p. 60) because it addresses the heart of the matter. People care; they want to improve, and they want to do something of value. How often do we see faces devoid of energy and empathy as our employees trudge off to another day of the "same old same old"?

Upward of 70 to 80% of employees are in jobs that do not align with their natural gifts. Discovering these gifts and finding ways to use them give lift and substance to our employees and organizations.

As a quality manager, I often go outside my organization and role to help others who have great needs but lack the knowledge, skills and talents I have. When I share with them, I feel more valuable as a person and as a member of my community. The outside organization is more than thankful because it realizes the value of my contribution.

Ultimately, giving back to the community and profession is what ASQ section involvement is all about. It would be better if we could use all our knowledge, skills and talents, together with great energy and teamwork, within our organizations, but even when we can't, it's important to find a deserving outlet in order to grow and thrive.

ASQ Section 1312 chair
Colorado Springs, CO


Author's Response: Folks like you who naturally sense the need for attention to this aspect of quality are invaluable to their organizations. The way you choose to share your energy will always serve as a catalyst for others. Good for you!

Castleton, VT

Business World Has Lost Its Ethics

I have worked in manufacturing for 34 years, and the sad thing regarding Debbie Phillips-Donaldson's column ("The Enron of Quality?" March 2002, p. 6) is that the business world in general has lost much of its ethics, morals and trustworthiness since the 1970s.

Many of us over 45 should have a T-shirt that says, "I survived quality circles, total quality management, statistical process control, the philosophies of W. Edwards Deming and J.M. Juran, and ISO 9002 and QS-9000. Bring on Six Sigma and ISO 9000:2000."

Good business ethics must be paramount in our dealings with one another, our suppliers and our customers, both internally and externally. Today's businesses get so hung up on numbers they live and die by them. It doesn't take being a rocket scientist to play with the numbers so they say what you want. The same goes for auditing.

As I see it, you should put down your cell phone, turn off your pager and not send scathing e-mail replies. Whenever possible, you should meet one on one, face to face. Americans are becoming hollow and are afraid to look each other in the eye.

During the Enron hearing, a congressional panelist asked an Enron executive where he got his degree. His answer was Harvard Business School. So what did the school teach him? What were the Arthur Andersen auditors thinking? Were they looking their customers in the eye?

If the editor of this magazine doesn't know the color of her associate editor's eyes, has she really been communicating? If she does, I don't need to say any more. Please keep up the great work.

Adrian, MI


ANSI-RAB NAP Is Doing It Right

In the articles "The Enron of Quality?" and "RAB, IAF Respond to Criticism of Assessment System" ("Keeping Current," March 2002, p. 18), I detected a great deal of concern and some offensiveness in the comments made by Lawrence D. Eicher at last year's meeting of the International Organization of Standardization, known as ISO, concerning the integrity of the conformity assessment system.

I think the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB) is doing a darn good job. All registrars accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-RAB National Accreditation Program (NAP) are audited frequently. They have to demonstrate conformance to internal procedures and ANSI-RAB NAP requirements.

The same goes for course providers, who are audited during the course to verify conformance to the approved curriculum. The auditors are required to submit a log of audits in which audited organizations are contacted and questions are asked concerning the auditor's conduct and skills during the assessment process.

With these types of checks, I don't think the ANSI-RAB NAP program should be too concerned about the recent comments from ISO. I do, however, see a big concern for countries where the accrediting body acts as the registrar and also provides consulting and training services.

I have had firsthand conversations with auditors/consultants who work for such organizations. I have been told of situations in which individuals work with organizations as consultants to prepare for registration, and then the same individuals perform the audits and justify the consulting work by labeling them "training experiences." The accrediting body, the registrar and the auditor/consultant are aware of what's going on, yet they all turn the other way.

Not all accrediting bodies have a system like the ANSI-RAB NAP program, but where can they say there are any checks if the same organization accredits, registers, audits and consults? I applaud the ANSI-RAB NAP program for its system and for its communication and implementation of that system. I think it is the best one out there.

Maybe ISO should take a look at the ANSI-RAB NAP program as a model of what all accreditation programs should be, and maybe ISO should take more of a role in approving the accreditors and reducing the conflicts of interest they may represent.

Q2 Consultants
Sunset, UT


How Can I Control External Documents?

External document control was glossed over in a two-sentence paragraph in the March 2002 article "Simplify Your Quality System" (Patricia Godwin, p. 43). Have any creative ways been identified to meet this requirement?

It seems difficult to meet because external documents come from many sources and are in many forms, such as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) maintenance manuals, American Society for Testing and Materials test methods, military specs and industry design specs. How have others addressed this issue?

Quality assurance systems
and customer service/order entry manager
Shell Chemicals (Resolution Performance Products)
Houston, TX


Author's Response: There is no one method that will cover everything. That's why it's so important to have a master list of your external documents. My master list is broken down into categories and includes the source of the documents, making them easier to track and locate. I set up an Excel workbook with tabs for each category.

For instance, all specifications related to welding are under one tab of my workbook. Paint specs and paint line documents are under another. I list them by number, title or subject, revision level, date, source and location.

The easiest way to keep external documents up-to-date is through a subscription service. Some provide automatic updating, and others maintain the documents online where they can be accessed as needed.

For me, the Internet has greatly simplified external document control. Many documents are either available electronically or can be ordered online. One tab of my master document list is labeled "Web" and lists Web sites that have electronic copies of documents. For example, www.iso.ch is a source for International Organization for Standardization documents. I can purchase specs off the site. If I have a copy and want to verify the date, I can go to this site and check the revision levels or dates.

Customers may maintain sites with external documents. For instance, General Motors has a number of supplier requirements, such as packaging and bar code labeling, prototype submissions and technology requirements. Many of these documents aren't required for our operation, but because they are listed as a requirement for the customer specific section of QS-9000, we must be able to access them.

Instead of keeping unnecessary copies of documents on site, I keep only what we need. To show we can quickly get what we need, I demonstrate ready access to the documents. To show I periodically review the lists of available documents, I print a list from the site, then sign and date it. About every six months, I go to the usual source sites and check their document dates against my master list. I keep the checked off list with my signature and date as a record of the review.

OEM manuals are included in the list if they contain work instructions. Manuals of schematics and technical information about the equipment are not included because they are seldom subject to updating. The responsible department keeps those manuals as reference documents.

Often the most difficult part of external document control is getting all receivers to route the documents to the responsible person. However, once everyone realizes you can get the documents they need quickly, they are usually more than willing to let you do the searching and purchasing. That lets you control what is coming in and how it is distributed. It also makes it easier to keep the master list up-to-date.

Hopkinsville, KY

Leave Investment Articles To Financial Magazines

I've been interested in the transfer of quality to share price for a long time. I hoped the article "Bull or Bear?" (Stephen George, April 2002, p. 32) would be helpful, especially because there is now a fund that invests in quality companies.

I investigated the fund on www.morningstar.com and was astonished to see how poorly the fund was rated. Does Stephen George have a vested interest? Figure 2 bears little resemblance to a similar chart on morningstar.com.

If this is the quality of the article you're going to have in Quality Progress to guide us when investing, let Money or another financial magazine write the article. It certainly doesn't reflect what ASQ stands for.

ASQ Fellow, certified quality manager,
Alpharetta, GA

Craig Robinson's Response: The difference in performance between the Q-100 index and General Securities (GSI), which was explained in the article and you found on morningstar.com, is that the Q-100 is a theoretical index (as is the S&P 500) and GSI is a 51-year-old mutual fund that started to use quality as its primary screen in 1988. The graph in the April issue is accurate for the Q-100 and should not be confused with the performance of GSI.

The Q-100 evolved out of our experience with investing in quality so we could answer the question, does quality provide any advantage in the market? After monitoring the Q-100 since Sept. 30, 1998, we believed it was in the best interest of our shareholders for GSI, as stated in its most recent prospectus, to start to reflect the Q-100. So the only fair comparison is to look at how GSI has done since the beginning of the year.

General Securities,
Robinson Capital Management  

Why Do Gaps Exist In Implementation?

Regarding "ISO 9000:2000 Experiences: First Results Are In" (Sandford Liebesman and James Mroz, April 2002, p. 52), could we have some actual root cause analysis (more than supposition) that explains why the gaps exist in implementing the revised standard? It might help prevent us from having similar disconnects.

Packaging Corporation of America
Trexlertown, PA


Authors' Response: Thank you for your comment. We understand some results might lead to a more in-depth analysis of the root causes; however, this was not feasible in the product support initiative (PSI) survey, which consisted of 36 questions.

We do have a second activity as part of PSI, in which case studies are being implemented to get more in-depth information on compliance. We welcome any organization interested in completing a case study.

Morristown, NJ

Montclair, VA

Vague Language In Transition Article

The language in Jay Stahan's article "Transition to ISO 9000:2000" (March 2002, p. 27) is as vague as this process based approach that is so often referred to in articles and seminars. I sat through the auditor upgrade training for ISO 9001:2000, not ISO 9000:2000 as the article's title claims, and concluded the instructor had no more of a clue than the people who wrote the training material.

For the most part this process based approach can be summed up concisely by saying elements and clauses of the quality management standard and related procedures are interconnected and should be approached in a like manner. A simple diagram like that in Figure 2 of the article says it all.

Two areas of the article appear to require some clarification. On p. 28, Stahan states, "Systems have a feedback loop, whereas processes may or may not have one." Then in the right column on the same page he states, "The feedback loop is a vital phase of a process because it is the source of data or information from which continuous improvements are evaluated and planned." It appears that if a feedback loop is vital, then all processes might need one.

Continuing the continuous improvement theme on p. 30, Stahan suggests renaming element 4.20, statistical techniques, "continuous improvement." I can see how one might be tempted to do that, but element 4.20 in ISO 9000:1994 referred only to identifying statistical techniques for controlling process capability and product characteristics. Moving to Pareto charts for customer complaints is more than a stretch.

Jackson, TN

Author's Response: I agree the feedback loop is vital to process improvement initiatives. Hence, any process without the feedback loop (I provided one example in the article) is prone to continuous suboptimization. Another example, one you may have experienced, is when you are questioned about why a process is conducted in a certain way, and the response is "because we've always done it this way. No one ever told me anything different." Do those words sound familiar?

Such a response is symptomatic of a process without a feedback loop. Such a process would be a good candidate for adding a feedback loop. The loop could take the form of an audit, a periodic report of performance metrics or internal survey information. Processes can exist without a feedback loop, but they are probably not optimized regarding performance. Feedback provides the basis for, and is vital to, improvement initiatives.

Renaming section 4.20 "continuous improvement" is a suggestion on how to address the requirement of ISO 9000:2000 expressly using the 9000:1994 element format. My proposal is to include and embellish on the traditional statistical techniques and section 4.20 by adding the plan-do-check-act cycle.

Generating data through statistical techniques is one thing; analyzing the data to improve is another. I believe ISO 9000:2000 promotes generating and analyzing the data for improvement. Thus, a logical extension of the traditional 4.20 is to add a continuous improvement effect to the element.

I have used the ISO 9000 standard to include MIS and finance activities by adding sections 4.21 and 4.22 to the element list. My intent is to involve all disciplines in the company because some structure and continuity are good for the entire business. Is that a stretch? Perhaps, but in the end, the standard is applied to the total business system. The objective is to make 4.20 a common thread through the entire business system.

I believe an implied intent of the 1994 standard was to promote improvement activities. The 2000 version of the standard makes improvement an expressed requirement. I think my treatment of 4.20 is in line with this updated approach. However, the ISO 9000 standard is versatile and adaptable to many situations, beliefs and approaches. I do support both traditional and stretched adaptations to the standard, although I am biased toward extending the standard as a quality system foundation for all business processes.

Leominster, MA

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