A Quality Way To Lose Weight

by Matthew V. Jochums, Nascote Industries, Nashville, IL

I have seen the light! Quality tools can be a way to improve personal lives.

I am a recently certified Six Sigma Black Belt and have been a quality engineer for four years. Prior to that, I was involved in quality circles in a supervisory role. Before that, I was a team leader and, before that, an operator.

You get the picture--I have worked my way up and have always been involved with quality. But I never applied quality tools to my personal life--never lived and breathed quality. It took a long time, but I finally had a tremendous experience that changed my perspective on quality forever. I lost 33 pounds!

It was not until I began Black Belt training that I was "whacked on the side of the head." I realized if quality is to be successful, it must become a personal obligation.

As a Black Belt, you must communicate effectively because you often lose a person or an entire team to boredom. Statistics are not a flamboyant topic. Team success rests on flexing Six Sigma theory and discussing improvements and tools from a first person point of view. It is imperative to use examples everyone can assimilate. Illustrating quality tools as they positively impact life is a way to demonstrate the success we all want. This is my story and why I started to live and breathe quality.


After the 2002 Christmas festivities, suppers and snacks, it was nice to get back to work. I was tired of eating and eating more. My story is not unlike that of other Americans. Many of us eat entirely too much during the holiday season.

In the Six Sigma world Y=f (X) or Y is a function of X. The formula translates this way: My weight (Y) is a function of too much food (X).

Once back at work, I noted everyone had picked up extra weight, but it is not something you blurt out. An elephant was in the room, and no one wanted to talk about it. We exchanged pleasantries, and as the first day wore on, conversation became less guarded. That is when we acknowledged the elephant--we all had gained weight.

Lunch rolled around, and our eyes simultaneously looked to our waistlines and bellies. A suggestion provoked camaraderie: "Let's have a weight loss competition." Before we knew it, a primary metric was developed. The rules emerged next, and a weigh in was scheduled weekly for the next five months.

The rules were simple. If you weighed more than you did the previous week, you would be required to pay a dollar per pound gained. The goal was to be the person with the largest percentage weight loss from the original weigh in.

Since this was a quality assurance (QA) competition, we felt bound to identify a measurable, track it and establish a financial impact. Of course, we used a certified scale with good gage repeatability and reproducibility.

Easy Money?

First place would receive the money collected through the competition and be crowned 2003 QA Weight Loss Champion. Competitive spirit and financial impact lured the participants to the competition. After all, it sounded like easy money.

After four weeks, the idea behind the competition became obscure. Weight loss translated to reducing input and processing existing calories differently--we had to eat less and exercise more.

We were hurting, and some decided to bow out. The competition narrowed to two people. One was a quality engineer surviving on less than 1,000 calories a day plus exercising and training for the Southern Illinois River-to-River Run. The other was a Six Sigma engineer who had been tracking Y=f (X) fanatically--me.

After a close final two weeks, I was crowned champion of the 2003 QA weight loss competition. I had lost 14.6% of my body weight--33 pounds.

Successful weight loss was the result of tracking input and reviewing output daily. The primary metric provided a visual graphic to observe improvements or failure.

A Working Example

Overall, the 2003 QA weight loss competition was fun, educational and created department camaraderie. The competition was a success due
to good sportsmanship, effective data tracking and an identifiable financial impact. It was a working example of Y= (f) X.

In five months, the quality department lost a total of 109 pounds. Getting skinny not only turned out to be a healthy improvement that could lower healthcare costs, but also became quality related fun. By applying quality tools to our personal lives, we realized how important standardization is and how quality tools and techniques can increase
personal self-discipline, thereby improving health.

The competition was unique because the primary metric demonstrated progress--or in some cases, large variation from the desired output. The competition paralleled many improvement projects and provided an avenue to view quality from the first person.

Contribute to "Quality in the First Person"

Is there a writer lurking inside that technician/engineer exterior? Send us your first person account related to quality--how or why you got into the field, how it helped your organization or your career or how it's enhanced your personal life. Limit your contribution to about 800 words and send it to editor@asq.org. Published contributions will be edited.

Please Comment
If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org

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