Going against type

Q: I work as a consultant for an aviation services company. I have 41 years of experience in a variety of areas and have been told by my up-line managers and vice presidents that I’m a wealth of knowledge.

My problem is this: I have no political agenda and work with some type-A personalities that can go to triple-A in a heartbeat. They take many of my suggestions and within minutes—sometimes seconds—make them theirs, resulting in them looking like the real experts in the eyes of the VPs. This caused me to suffer greatly in the annual bonus department last year, while some of the type-A individuals got more by utilizing my ideas.

How can I stop this from happening and still be the team player I have always been? It is getting to the point where I don’t want to talk to these people about anything, but that will categorize me as a nonconformist and jeopardize the success of the company. I know many people in this same situation. It seems the older we get, the more we are abused. What is a good strategy?

Sam Bass
Keller, TX

A: The problem you are describing can stem from many causes. You certainly provide one possible explanation (type-A people who are using your ideas to promote their own careers). If that is the case, the best actions for you are to:

  1. Talk to your own manager about your perceptions and ask for his or her feedback and input. He or she might have a different view that will help clarify your concerns.
  2. Talk to some of your co-workers who you feel have "borrowed" your ideas, get their perspective and explain your point of view to them. You might find out they had a very different perspective. For example, it sounds like you give the knowledge or guidance freely. They might feel it was given with the understanding they would use it, akin to what is now called "open source." You might simply ask them to give you credit in presentations or memos.

There is a book called Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher that explains in more detail how you can approach either of these conversations. I would strongly recommend reading it.

There are also other explanations for what you describe. You indicate you are a consultant. I assume you are a full-time employee who provides consulting services to aviation clients (if you are an independent contractor for this firm, my advice would be very different). As a consultant for the company, your role may be seen by the company as one of disseminating knowledge, whether it is to an external customer or an internal customer. Perhaps you haven’t made clear you think these ideas are your stock-in-trade, and that getting credit is important to you.

Finally, you should definitely talk to your manager about your bonus and get some direct feedback from him or her about the reasons for the amount. It could be that this is your strength, but there are some other unspecified challenges and opportunities that have caused you to receive less than you deserve.

Bill Berman and John Scott
APT Inc.
Steven Rogelberg
University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Chart a course

Q: I would like to maintain statistical process control (SPC) for geometric characteristics like hole positions, flatness and parallelism. What chart should I use? Is it OK to use an individual moving range (ImR) chart? My production rate is 30 pieces per hour. At what frequency should I draw samples?

Kothandaraman Narasimhan
Chengalpat, India

A: Technically, there is no reason you cannot use an ImR chart, as long as your individual data elements are normally distributed. If your data are not normally distributed, then you’ll have to transform the data.

Alternatively, you can use subgroups to restore normality and use, for example, X – R or X – s charts. The actual subgroup size would depend on the distribution of underlying data.

Keep in the mind that ImR charts are typically used when data are difficult or costly to collect, or are available infrequently. In your particular case, your production run rate is 30 pieces per hour, so you have a variety of charts available to you, including attribute charts.

Your question, however, suggests measurement data might be important, so I would recommend staying with X – R or X – s charts, or other measurement-based charts. Keep in mind who collects the data and who interpret the charts. Generally, simpler charts are better.

In addition to the frequency at which you draw samples, you should consider:

  • The cost of sampling.
  • The ease of sampling.
  • How quickly you need to determine process shifts.
  • The ability to form rational subgroups. Remember, you want to minimize the within-subgroup variation so that part-to-part variation is more detectable.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with an absolute answer, only considerations for designing your control charts given your specific process conditions. Good luck.

T.M. Kubiak
Author and consultant
Weddington, NC

Do your part

Q: We are implementing ISO/TS 16949:2002 four years after starting production. Our suppliers are well established. Is it necessary to get production part approval process (PPAP) from all of our suppliers? How do you get PPAP or evaluate suppliers who are supplying proprietary items?

Shankar Narayan Muni Krishna
Bangalore, India

A: ISO/TS 16949, clause, requires a customer-recognized production part and manufacturing approval process. For General Motors (GM), it is PPAP, per the GM Customer-Specific TS 16949 Requirements, clause 4.1.8. PPAP provides flexibility in how much documentation must be submitted to the customer as evidence the PPAP requirements were met.

For established suppliers, a level 1 Part Submission Warrant would probably be enough. But those suppliers must understand the warrant is an attestation that they have done all the required PPAP elements, and that the product conforms to all requirements except as might be noted on the warrant as exceptions.

For proprietary items, ISO/TS 16949, clause 7.4.2 requires the organization to describe the product to be purchased, including—where applicable—product, process and equipment requirements. This can serve as a performance specification with dimensional and packaging requirements you can use for PPAP.

If the supplier has a drawing, you could also use that, but you would likely need to assign an internal part number to it.

R. Dan Reid
Manager of supplier quality
General Motors
Waterford, MI

Additional Information

  1. R. Dan Reid, "ISO 16949—Where Did It Come From?," Quality Progress, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 27–31.

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