Include Process Owners When Making Changes

Edwin B. Smith III hit the nail on the head in his January 2005 “Back to Basics” column (“Make No Mistake,” p. 96). It’s unfortunate most companies fail to include shop personnel in the development of preventive actions. Preventive actions are most effective when the process is redesigned with input from the entire team. Experience shows most effective solutions are followed when the process owners have a say in the changes.

Thanks for the article. It’s a good reminder to us all.

Applied Materials
Austin, TX

Audit Results Don’t Prove QMS’s Effectiveness

Dale Gordon poses an interesting question on p. 84 of “Let’s Get Statistical” (“Standards Outlook,” January 2005): “Where’s the hard evidence of the effectiveness of [quality management] systems [QMS] or that the standard adequately describes what is required from a well-functioning QMS?” It isn’t audit findings.

I am the director of total quality management for a large claims processing organization that has been implementing ISO 9001 for the past four years. This is a challenge in the service industry because the tried and true tools used in quality improvement and ISO 9001 are foreign to most managers.

For example, clause 4.2 (documentation requirements) and clause 4.1.b (determine the sequence and interaction of the processes) were totally foreign to my company.

We began by showing sequence and interaction flows within the boundaries of a QMS. One document was created for the entire company. Not good. The audit observation said we needed more detail. OK, fine.

We created 17 sequence and interaction diagrams showing the sequence and interaction for each critical business process in the company. Not good. We didn’t define the inputs and outputs. OK, fine. We added those. Not good. We didn’t have any records that defined the flow. OK, fine. We added records. Not good.

The records weren’t on the record retention list (RRL), and only “quality records” should be on the RRL. We received a nonconformance. OK, fine. We added records to the flow, tried to define quality records and updated the RRL. Not good. We didn’t include enough detail for the auditors to use the flow in an audit. OK, fine.

Each department is now required to do a detailed flowchart on every critical business process in the company, and all inputs, outputs, decisions and interactions must be defined. Just shoot me.

We now are working on four levels of sequence and interaction flowcharts and will have hundreds of controlled flowcharts to maintain. Most are level two documents—not required by the 2000 version of the standard—that describe what is done. Assessors are nuts.

My point? Gordon asks, what hard evidence is there that any QMS is really effective? Well, it ain’t audit results. It’s the measure of how well you meet customer requirements. Period.

Columbia, SC

Systems, Programs And Tools Are Different

While I think the overall message of Debbie Phillips- Donaldson’s January 2005 “Up Front” column was on target, one comment was off the mark and indicative of a much larger problem within the quality field (“Getting Buy-in,” p. 6).

Phillips-Donaldson called Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and the Baldridge criteria “quality initiatives” and paired them with “elementary tools” such as statistical process control (SPC), which gave the impression they are somehow equivalent in their usage and deployment.

Quality concepts comprise a three-tier hierarchy: systems, programs and tools. Only ISO 9000 is a system. It provides the foundation for any of the other remaining tiers. Programs are collections of tools that have been formalized, including Six Sigma and the Baldridge criteria. All programs require a system, such as ISO 9000, on which to be built. SPC and quality function deployment (QFD) are tools that may or may not be used to support the other tiers. Every business needs a system, whether it’s based on ISO 9000 or not. Everything else is an option.

The problem facing the quality field is that consultants and authors have learned there are dollars to be made by shifting tools upward. This is what happened with Six Sigma, which used to be a tool, became a program and is now being repackaged as a full-blown system with a capitalized name. Lean is moving from program to system, and QFD is on the fast track from tool to program.

Everyone in the quality community should understand the differences between systems, programs and tools and resist the attempts by some to blur the layers merely to make a buck.

Oxebridge Quality Resources
Winter Haven, FL

Informal Leaders Determine Six Sigma’s Success

In “Getting Buy-in,” Debbie Phillips-Donaldson wrote, “Most quality professionals and experts would agree the top level buy-in is most important.” This is common wisdom, but it’s wrong. According to research in the science of complexity, top level buy-in invokes the Stalin effect, meaning the change will fail 50% of the time (1 σ).

It’s not the formal, hierarchical leadership that determines the success or failure of Six Sigma—it’s the informal leaders. This conclusion is based on research of networks and how changes take root and grow in cultures.

Within every company is a network of people. A few are hubs (informal leaders) and most are spokes. The hubs decide what passes and what fails. And since most hubs are mid or frontline people, they last a lot longer than CEOs, who are replaced every three years.

Quality loves linear cause/effect and hierarchy, but networks of people are nonlinear systems that require counterintuitive approaches to succeed. Want to make Six Sigma succeed? Woo the hubs.

KnowWare International


The heading of the third column in Table 1 in “How To Analyze a Split-Plot Experiment” (Kevin J. Potcner and Scott M. Kowalski, December 2004, p. 67) should be “WP,” not “WP error.”

Five Years Later and Going Strong

by Mike Crossen, creator of Mr. Pareto Head

A few years later I worked in a customer repair department with several real-life characters. On occasion, something funny or unusual happened. I’d make a sketch of the situation, exaggerating it for effect. The sketch would find its way around, and we’d all have a good chuckle. We worked for a fellow named Bud who was not always so amused, but he was tolerant. Perhaps he recognized keeping the group loose through humor was a good way to survive the demands of production.

I don’t remember exactly how the Mr. Pareto Head character came about, but those earlier characters and sketches were the basis.

A little more than five years ago, I was reading Quality Progress and noticed a letter from a reader, Jonathan Lore, requesting more humor in the magazine. I recalled I had a few Mr. Pareto Head strips stuffed away in a folder. I cleaned them up and mailed them to Miles Maguire, the editor then, who liked the primitive look of the stick figures and thought the name was catchy. The original strip, published in March 2000 in black and white, is shown below in living color.

Creating Mr. Pareto Head has allowed me to meet quite a few ASQ members. I have been fortunate to give presentations at several ASQ sections throughout Ohio. I particularly enjoy hearing from members all over the world asking to use a strip in a company newsletter or presentation.

My co-workers are the best. I can’t tell you how many times during a meeting someone has asked, “Is this going to end up in one of your comics?” Quite often, it does.

I want to thank the entire QP staff for their continued support. Thanks also to Neal Aspinall, the artist who brings life to my stick figures. Most importantly, thank you to the readers who can identify with the characters

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