Only 'QP' Audience Knows of Summit

The article "On Leadership" in the August 2002 issue (Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, p. 24) was excellent. The summit on quality leadership and the U.S. competitive position sounds like it was a marvelous exchange of information.

The only problem is that no one else knows about this other than QP's limited audience. The article states, "Despite this array of knowledge, the bulk of our companies are not rushing to make use of it." Phillips-Donaldson then lists a host of reasons. The main failing, however, is the lack of publicity surrounding the successes of quality.

Perhaps ASQ is already using all the public relations muscle it has. If that's the case, I don't see the rate of success increasing anytime soon. I think Paul O'Neill would be a great ambassador for quality under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, the only way he'll gain any media coverage is if someone can tie him to some corporate scandal.

Master Industries Inc.
Minster, OH


We Need To Re-examine The Education System

The article "On Leadership" was validating and not at all surprising. Quality is a state of mind, a psychological and social discipline that reflects our development as a society.

Our business leaders and their employees are all products of their environment and began their development long ago--usually in school. Therefore, our focus on the discovery of quality leadership should include the education system from top to bottom. Our school system should be examined for its ability to respond to its customers' needs and be critically assessed as to why those needs are not being met. We should also look at ways to apply quality methods to promote effective communication and interaction between the system's internal and external customers.

Our focus on education should include the needs and strengths of the communities and businesses the system serves and more effective training for the adult workers who have already exited the system. The business community should be encouraged to sponsor or support advances in literacy and technical skills, as well as personal skills, such as household finances.

Although I agree the leadership aspect is critical, we must be cautious not to overlook the masses. Our workforce is a direct result of the social and education system that influenced its growth. Our employees have a poorly defined or inadequate support web to address their changing and pressing needs. Thus, our focus should also include more effective support of the family logistics and funding needs that result from stressed or absent parents. This includes safe, affordable, accommodating and reliable child and elder care.

Finally, we must not overlook small business leadership. Small businesses drive the largest portion of our economy, and their owners emerge from public education. They must also become more aware of good practices in order to cut waste and thrive. They must learn effective leadership and organizational skills, which they can get through a well-organized and executed web of localized and affordable services.

Central Maine Solutions
Sumner, ME


CEOs Need To Believe In Quality's Principles

I am deeply sorry Quality Progress is still missing what's going on in the state of quality and management in this country. In the August 2002 issue, you published an article, "On Leadership," that is supposed to lead us to believe CEOs and upper management give a darn about quality. Where was QP when Enron fell or Worldcom dived? Did those companies have a bad quality system? No, just money hungry management that turned its back on all this country and the true principles of quality stand for.

I have respected Joseph Juran for many years, but I am afraid he has lost touch with some of quality's basic principles. Executives who do quality will not fail, but those who play quality will. Juran's call to action will never happen. Even if corporate America tried, it would not take too long for top management to drop it because it's not cost effective. Do not misunderstand me. I believe people such as Juran still have much to give, but not with the circle of false prophets surrounding them.

It is time for the CEOs, top executives and major stock owners to wake up and believe in their country and the principles of quality. We lose jobs to other countries every day because a company can make $1,000,001 instead of $1,000,000 in profit. Do not cut the quality department personnel because no one likes what they're being told. Get true quality people, those who have walked through the fire of training and certification, to lead the quality effort.

It's been said, "United we stand. Divided we fall." This is true in business, too. Only when the CEO and the janitor both work to the best of their abilities and stand united in the belief that there are no small positions, only small minds, will we make a difference and show true leadership.

Southern Metrology
Lancaster, SC


Quality Is More Than an Image

In the August 2002 "One Good Idea" (p. 120), Jamil Hassounah took an entire page to say, "Employees are too busy to attend quality meetings." And his answer to that problem is to buy them lunch and hold the meeting then. Wow.

In today's world, with companies downsizing and people wearing multiple hats and working more hours under more stressful conditions, what makes you think they will have time to create, implement and document quality functions if they can't find time to attend a simple training meeting? An ideal article would help us find the time or allocate time to train.

The short-lived motivation and appreciation of a free lunch will be wiped clean as soon as the employees get back to the grind. What we need is a real solution with long-term results. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. Budget constraints keep us from hiring people to assist in reducing our workloads, yet upper management seems to have the time (according to Hassounah's article) to struggle with the quandary of how to get people to attend an introductory ISO 9000 training meeting.

And how legitimate is Hassounah's quality system? He states, "These actions are effective in deploying the image that top management cares and is willing to dedicate time to the success of the organization." Isn't quality more than an image? It should be. If his quality system creates an image for upper management and lets middle management do all the grunt work, he missed the boat. Top management should dedicate resources so the appropriate personnel can be procured to do the job.

Lewis Plastics Co. Inc.
Hawthorne Woods, IL

Author's Response: Your reply illustrates how top management aspects may trigger passionate positions, such as yours. Unfortunately, you were not able to capture the core message of my article and chose to (mis)use it to vent on a different issue.

Top management commitment is important while deploying quality initiatives, and the real challenge is translating such commitment from words into actionable items. My article acknowledges that difficulty and provides some practical examples on how to overcome it at the executive level: visible sponsorship, personalized e-mails and effective participation along with sponsored employees. Lunch was merely a treat, the icing on the cake.

Our quality system considered boundary conditions (high-tech start-up, new products concurrently introduced, head count growth rate and manufacturing ramp-up), while pursuing value-added business processes. Thus, we enabled our sales, marketing and development peers to appreciate the importance of a process that properly captures customer requirements. We provided our operations folks with adequate means to support the shift from an engineering lab approach to a high volume manufacturing system. We helped our procurement function establish supplier management practices that minimize the risk of having line shutdowns due to quality issues. This way, you do not ask people to do quality functions on top of their workload, because what you call "quality functions" become an intrinsic part of their job.

Regarding the issue of economic downturns and the associated impact on budgeting, resources, time allocation and stress, the answer is beyond the scope of my article. But I can give you a hint: Organizations must be structured in line with target markets. If you resize your resources in response to a downturn, you also need to revisit your strategic priorities to establish a balance between goals and execution. True Business 101.

Warren, NJ


Quality Glossary Will Benefit Many

Congratulations on publishing the "Quality Glossary" (July 2002, p. 43). It is a masterpiece of research and clarity and should provide useful inputs to the quality manuals of many companies.

It took a lot of dedicated toil in the vineyards to produce such a compilation. The publication does name the compilers in fine print, and I would like to give three loud cheers to those quietly sung toilers.

ASQ Honorary Member
Rye, NY


Quality Should Be Taught At High School Level

While I understand educating our students about quality may be a new area, I was disappointed to hear John W. Sinn say, "We have not even begun to address this important area of quality education" ("Education and the Future of Quality," July 2002, p. 69).

Since some high schools have alternative courses of study, including industrial equipment operation and repair and general healthcare, what better place to introduce quality principles and standards?

While it would be nice for all students to attend college, the fact remains that some high school graduates will go right into the workforce after completing these programs.

Therefore, while the approach and efforts at the college level are commendable, we must work harder at working with high school shop classes. Imagine the buy-in at the shop level when a quality management system is implemented if the shop employee has already had training in quality principles and management. This person may even become a good candidate for an internal auditor position.

The article even stirred me enough to get me to approach my local high school as a volunteer to give a presentation on quality.

DNV Certification Inc.
Newnan, GA


Organizations Can't Always See the Truth

I just finished reading Duke Okes' article in the July 2002 issue ("Organize Your Quality Tool Belt," p. 25), and one statement resonated: "Sometimes the tool chosen is less about process analysis and more about getting members of the organization to see things differently."

I've found organizations not only have a hard time extricating themselves from ingrained views of themselves, but they also have a difficult time understanding the true nature of a problem and the ways to resolve it.

Several years ago, I worked with a HR group and a payroll department that were having difficulties reconciling personnel and payroll data. At the beginning of the project, the payroll manager said, "We just have a lot of differences between systems that we can't overcome, and the solution is to double the number of people we use in reconciling the data." The reaction from the other team members was a general nodding of heads.

I suggested that while that might be the case, we should first take a look at the cause of the errors. We constructed a simple Pareto chart of error causes, and it showed more than 80% of the errors occurred with employees' Social Security numbers. When the team looked further, we found the source of the errors to be simple data entry mistakes made in human resources.

After receiving this news, the same manager said, "You know, I'd been seeing this day in and day out, and the problem just became part of the background." The team then embarked on an effort to improve the quality of data entry that resulted in a 90% reduction in reconciliation problems.

I find it interesting that in this age of continuous improvement and invention, the seven analysis tools and seven management tools listed in Okes' article are the same ones I learned almost 10 years ago. Sometimes you can't improve on success.

Maximus Inc.
Greenbelt, MD


In "How To Estimate the Parameters of a Weibull Distribution" (Mitchell O. Locks, August 2002, p. 59), a sentence reading "These tables provide values of VR at 11 different confidence levels ranging from 0.02 to 0.98 for the same (n,m) pairs as in the BLI tables, providing m ¾ 3" should have read "m >= 3." On page 61, the formula

should not have had the "" at the end. On page 64, paragraph 2, V9 should have been V0.9.

The pilot exam for the new certified calibration technician (CCT) will be Dec. 6, 2003, not 2002 as stated in the August issue.

In a list of four ISO 9001:2000 clauses in September's "Standards Outlook" column ("Ask the Right Awareness Questions," p. 76), a space between the numbers denoting a list and the numbers of the actual clauses was omitted, creating confusion. Also, one number was inverted. The four correct clause numbers should have read 5.1a, 5.5.2c, 5.5.3 and 6.2.2d.

Contact 'QP'
We welcome your letters. Send them to EDITOR, ASQ/QUALITY PROGRESS, 600 N. PLANKINTON AVE., MILWAUKEE, WI 53203-3005; or e-mail them to editor@asq.org. Please include address, daytime phone number and e-mail address. All letters will be published on the QP Discussion Board, or you can post your comment on the QP Discussion Board directly at www.asqnet.org. We reserve the right to edit letters for space and clarity.

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