Split-Plot Article Extremely Clear

The article "How To Recognize a Split-Plot Experiment" by Scott M. Kowalski and Kevin J. Potcner (November 2003, p. 60) is the clearest I have ever seen on the subject. It is so good I recommend a short follow-up article that includes the details of the analysis.

Deming Center for Quality Management
Columbia University
New York City, NY

No Need To Be Nervous Around Auditors

"Top 10 Tips for Shop Floor Audit Readiness" by Peter E. Pylipow was an excellent article (November 2003, p. 52). It was just what I have been looking for, and I am going to ask all our supervisors to read it because we are in the middle stages of the ISO 9000 certification process, and confusion abounds.

Everyone on the floor is nervous about what the auditor will ask and how to answer. This article is the answer to my prayers. It should help alleviate any anxiety.

Rockford, IL

Humor Helps Explain Emotional Subject

I enjoyed Davis Balestracci's article "Handling the Human Side of Change" (November 2003, p. 38). He was able to bring humor and insightful information to a very emotional subject. He also provided some practical tools to us "corporate piñatas" on how to maintain a proper mindset in handling change. I found his discussion on the pyramid of quality and how these tools fit into the pyramid especially helpful.

I have felt like a piñata lately and want to thank him for brightening my day.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, CA

Companies Struggle To Identify Characteristics

I read R. Dan Reid's "Standards Outlook" column, and he's right on target ("Characteristic Management," November 2003, p. 71). I've been working with companies on the ISO TS 16949 transition and many do an abysmal job of identifying their special characteristics.

Some companies identify only those considered significant by their customers and completely misunderstand the definition of a special characteristic when it talks about fit, function, performance or subsequent processing of product. They choose not to manage process variance and then wonder why their parts per million (PPM) is so high. Or they reduce PPM by containment, but still have high internal nonconforming products.

There seems to be a real hesitancy by companies to identify the significant characteristics associated with their processes for fear of the statistical process control or other requirements associated with these words. This is unfortunate, as it causes them to lose the value associated with reducing variance and waste. TS 16949 can go a long way toward addressing this resistance, and it's up to the registrar auditors and consultants to help organizations gain the maximum value from this management system.

TEAM Consulting
Dexter, MI

Only Ethical People Can Prevent Misconduct

No, I do not believe quality can prevent corporate misconduct. Only ethical people who are acting responsibly can do that. "Ethics, Auditing and Enron" by Dennis Arter and J.P. Russell (October 2003, p. 34) demonstrates there are more Enrons and Arthur Andersens lurking in a variety of industries and professions.

Why should the insurance industry push for "some sort of self-evaluation privilege" unless it expects to carry out self-evaluations that expose less than acceptable practices and procedures, even though it does not plan on correcting, improving or abandoning them? How in the world can it be demonstrated that, "The auditee failed to act on noncompliance areas identified in an audit report," when the self-evaluation findings are not routinely available?

There is only one way: The auditor must become a whistle-blower, with all the career jeopardy that entails. Four states have already erected data shields for the insurance industry.

I've taught managerial ethics at the undergraduate level. The majority of my students, once made aware of the implications of whistle-blowing on a person's career, were unable to commit to becoming whistle-blowers.

I cannot recall one instance prior to Enron and Arthur Andersen where ASQ or Quality Progress criticized the auditing firm for having a consulting firm serve the same company. Was it merely lack of foresight or blind faith in the responsible nature of CPA firms? Either way, I believe quality auditing will not solve the ills of some corporate managements.

Woodstown, NJ

Auditors Must Be Independent

In the second section of "Ethics, Auditing and Enron," the QP editor asks, "Must auditors be independent?" to which Dennis Arter responds, "No." He goes on to explain that, in the financial field, the auditor is a CPA and works for the auditing company. He says outside auditing firms are hired by the client company and are paid when the client accepts the audit report. At that point, the relationship should stop.

I do not believe the relationship stops when the audit report is accepted, and I think the evidence is contained in the author's own words when he says the company hires the auditing firm. In essence, the auditing firm is an employee of the firm it is auditing.

Do you think the employee is going to bite the hand that feeds it? If the auditing firm wants to continue to be employed by the client, it will tend to see things the same way the client does. For this reason I think auditors must be independent.

How can this be achieved? A simple and inexpensive approach would be to have the auditing firm selected at random and assigned to the client company. In the case of business audits, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or some other professional organization could perform this task. Then each year a company would probably be audited by a different firm. This approach breaks the employer-employee financial link.

Unfortunately the Sarbanes-Oxley bill does a poor job of addressing this issue. Its solution is to have the government's oversite auditors audit the auditors. This creates another layer of government bureaucracy (which we taxpayers fund) and still leaves the good old boy financial auditing program firmly in place.

Applied Technology
San Jose, CA

Greed, Selfishness Cause Corporate Misconduct

The question on the cover of the October 2003 issue, "Can Quality Prevent Corporate Misconduct?" was thought provoking and relevant. I have been a quality professional for nearly 25 years and am a zealous proponent of quality management principles and techniques. Here's the rub: I do not believe the lack of these philosophies or the failure to incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) into them is the root cause of the problem.

The first fundamental question to ask is, Why do events such as those at Enron and WorldCom happen? I don't think they are related to the lack of a quality philosophy or CSR intertwined with a quality standard. It's simpler than that. Could it be greed or selfishness? If the hearts of those at the top of Enron and WorldCom were selfish and greedy, a plan for CSR would have meant and done little for those companies.

The 10 Commandments (summarized by Jesus as "love God, and love others") preceded the top quality philosophies by thousands of years. If the top dogs at Enron and WorldCom could ignore time tested truths such as these, what evidence is there that a CSR policy would have made them see the light?

The second fundamental question is, Why would they think greediness and selfishness are OK? It's a matter of societal values. When truth becomes a feeling and life (old or young) is viewed as expendable, why should we be surprised when some people care little, if at all, for others?

Everyone has values of some kind. Everyone implicitly understands the concepts of good and bad, right and wrong. We can choose to embrace the good and fight the bad or travel the road of Enron and WorldCom. Therein lies the root cause, when that choice is made.

Can quality prevent corporate misconduct? No. There are values that transcend the philosophies of J.M. Juran, W. Edwards Deming and CSR standards. Only those values can begin to cure the woeful ethical and moral problems in today's corporate culture.

Organics/La Grange
Hickory Hills, IL

Taking Statistics To Another Level

Richard F. Gunst and Thomas E. Barry's October 2003 "Statistics Roundtable" column ("One Way To Moderate Ceiling Effects," p. 84) was interesting and well written. As a newcomer to statistics, I find the "Statistics Roundtable" columns, in general, to be very useful.

The authors go one step beyond what the typical introductory textbook offers, but not beyond the understanding of those of us who have moderate education on the subject.

Keep up the good work!

Oakland, CA


  • The article "Six Sigma Training Fraud Alleged in Indianapolis" in the December 2003 issue ("Keeping Current," p. 26) incorrectly stated Graham Richard was the mayor Indianapolis. Richard is actually the mayor of Fort Wayne, IN, and Bart Peterson is the mayor of Indianapolis.

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