Article Cites Good Textbook Series

I enjoyed the article “Prepare Students for Technical Careers” in the October 2005 issue (George Heinrich, et al., p. 33).

I was a bit surprised but very pleased to find a reference to the textbook series produced by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. I have followed their work for many years and find it to be astonishingly good.

Retired professor
South Dakota State University
Brookings, SD

Negative Words Can Yield Positive Results

Thanks for the insightful articles in Quality Progress. I have a comment about “The Write Stuff for Quality” (Jane Campanizzi, October 2005, p. 45).

I agree that the words in Table 1 (“Words That Convey a Negative Tone”) are important to consider in technical writing. However, they are the words that are critical to the success of every continuous improvement program because they represent organizational barriers that sabotage continuous improvement initiatives.

I’ve been in quality for 10 years and have been a consultant for six. I size up the culture of a potential client by how carefully they avoid using these words when describing their issues to me. If there is an obvious avoidance or fear of using these words openly to discuss process problems, it tells me a lot about the hidden barriers in that organization. These barriers must be acknowledged and removed to achieve continuous improvement.

I use the words in Table 1 to initiate a paradigm shift for my clients that enables them to include both organizational barriers and recurring process failures as opportunities for improvement. If the barriers are not addressed, management forever will be asking why the return on investment of their program fell short and why the culture did not change after learning how to use continuous improvement tools.

OptimiZ Consulting
Gilbert, AZ

Effective Writing Article A Good Refresher

Thank you for the great article on effective writing (“The Write Stuff for Quality”). This is very useful information that I have not been taught since high school (20 years ago). Thanks for the refresher!

The entire magazine has im-proved—I’ve been finding more and more articles of interest.

Corporate Expres
Broomfield, CO

October ‘Standards’ Is Same Old, Same Old

I’ve commented on this before, but it bears repeating: As long as we keep dumbing it down for the masses, our progress and advancement as quality professionals will always be slow. The October 2005 “Standards Outlook” column (John E. “Jack” West, p. 76) is another example of:

  • It’s been said before.
  • It’s too shallow to provide any real insight.

I am particularly tired of hearing the same old refrains about getting the attention of top management.

Here’s my list of what top management ought to do to earn the designation of “top leaders” and get (and keep) the attention of employees and customers:

  1. Learn and practice the principles, concepts and methods of effective leadership. It’s not about you; it’s about the employees and the customers. Read The Servant Leader (James Autry, Three Rivers Press, 2004) and think of the organization chart turned upside down, with customers at the top. Formulate an inspiring (but short) vision, with a meaningful mission and guiding principles, and check all important decisions against them. Then, free your high performance teams to operate within them.
  2. Learn how to form, train, lead, facilitate, enable and empower high performance teams. The creativity and determination of the many far exceeds that of the sum of the individuals.
  3. Learn and practice the principles, concepts and methods of systems. Stop wasting your employees’ time and talents suboptimizing your business. Understand the business ramifications of concepts such as interactions, feedback, nonlinear and multidimensional.

Kingwood, TX

Author’s Response: Your comments on the appropriate behaviors of top managers may have merit, but that was not the topic of the column.

The column was about the behaviors of quality professionals, and in that regard, it is not my observation that these things are well known around the world. In fact, I find people taking detailed notes when I talk about these ideas at quality conferences. Sure, it’s simple, but simple notions seem to help a lot of folks.

Silver Fox Advisors
The Woodlands, TX

Allen’s Good Idea A ‘Rare Gem’

Jay Allen’s article, “Inefficiency With the Best of Intentions,” in the October 2005 issue (“One Good Idea,” p. 96) is a rare gem. I would like to thank Allen for his thought provoking article and for introducing the organizational phenomenon of QWERTYing.

I would also like to submit a definition of the verb “to QWERTY”: Any action to make an upstream process step or feature worse to avoid overchallenging a downstream process step or feature.

Perhaps Allen will write a future article on examples of QWERTYing.

Windsor, CT

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