Random responses to security threat leave air travelers grounded

The image of the worried frequent flyer has always been an individual checking the departures board every five minutes to see whether the airline has delayed his or her flight. But lately, sun-seekers and business travelers are directing their gaze toward the security checkpoints, as airports are taking just as much heat as airlines for throwing the travel schedule into disarray.

The time-consuming trips through metal detectors and phalanxes of security guards followed the attempted bombing of a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab on Christmas Day. In the weeks that followed, travelers found themselves in the midst of a system that seemed to make up rules as it went along. The lack of structure or consistent processes led to flight delays and cancellations, frustrating passengers before they could even board their planes.

One visitor to Denver International Airport reported that getting through the security gate was a two-hour endeavor as guards checked every bag multiple times. And, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, anyone heading to the United States was greeted with a pat-down and thorough luggage inspection—a process that in some cases lasted three hours and resulted in flight delays and cancellations.1

What puzzled passengers, however, wasn’t the tighter security. It was the varied nature of the response to the bombing attempt. While some travelers—particularly those on flights originating from outside the United States—found themselves in a holding pattern at security stations, others breezed through as if nothing had changed.

In Orlando, for example, those traveling between U.S.-based destinations didn’t notice any amped-up security measures. But, according to government officials, the discrepancy was all part of the plan. "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a prepared statement.2

And if travelers thought they escaped that policy of intentional confusion when they left security behind them, the airlines proved them wrong. On one flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Newark, NJ, everyone was frisked at the gate, including babies. Once they were in the air, passengers were forbidden from eating, drinking and using electronic devices at any time, the bathrooms were shut down during the last hour of the flight, and even reading was prohibited.3

The random responses at seemingly every stage of air travel left some experts pleading for common sense from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is responsible for screening passengers and baggages, and for creating policies dealing with the security of U.S. air traffic. In fact, the Government Accountability Office tried to bring attention to the TSA’s lack of a formal strategy months before the attempted bombing on Christmas Day, an event that exposed the gaps created by the agency’s scattershot approach.

"The first big issue we identified is we thought TSA could do a better job of assessing the vulnerabilities at each of the individual airports through undertaking a formal assessment, known as a vulnerability assessment," said Stephen M. Lord, director of homeland security and justice issues at the GAO. "This is not to say they have not done anything to assess the gaps and potential vulnerabilities. But we thought it should be more rigorous, should be more documented and conducted in conjunction with the FBI—so basically, formalize an existing process."4

—Brett Krzykowski, assistant editor


  1. Michael Tarm, "New flight rules: Confusion fills skies after attempted bombing," Associated Press, Dec. 29, 2009.
  2. Anika Myers Palm and Susan Jacobson, "Expect heightened security at airports after failed terror attack," Orlando Sentinel, Dec. 26, 2009.
  3. Tarm, "New flight rules: Confusion fills skies after attempted bombing," see reference 1.
  4. National Public Radio, All Things Considered, Jan. 4, 2010.


U.S. Job Satisfaction Rates Hit 20-Year Low

Even those Americans who have managed to remain employed in this down economy have expressed unhappiness and frustration with their jobs.

A recent survey found job satisfaction rates are at the lowest they have been in two decades, and the youngest group of employees has the highest level of dissatisfaction. Low satisfaction with jobs negatively affects employee behavior and retention.

The report, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for the Conference Board by TNS, a market research company, finds only 45% of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs. In 1987, the first year the survey was conducted, 61.1% of respondents were satisfied. Since then, job satisfaction numbers have been decreasing.

"The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and, ultimately, employee productivity," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center.

The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 points) to job security (down 17.5 points). Of the respondents, 22% said they didn’t expect to be in their current job in one year. 

The drop also crosses all four key drivers of employee engagement:

  • Job design.
  • Organizational health.
  • Managerial quality.
  • Extrinsic rewards.

According to the survey, all age and income groups reported job dissatisfaction. The youngest group of employees, those currently under 25, expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.

"The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly impact the quality of multigenerational knowledge transfer, which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning," said Linda Barrington, managing director of human capital at the Conference Board.


ASQ News

NEW NETWORK ESTABLISHED A new network called the ASQ Member Unit Education Chair Community of Practice was launched last month. All education chairs and those members performing the education chair function are invited to join the group. The social network enables the chairs or designees to share best practices, discuss issues, suggest improvements, and help one another be successful in their roles. To join, visit http://community.asq.org/networks/education_chair_community_of_practice.

Capitol Q

ASQ HAS FORMED a task force to provide information requested by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT related to efforts to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. Besides focusing on updating technology in the healthcare arena, the ONC wants to learn from the ASQ task force about the importance of quality improvement and organizationwide change management that covers process and culture issues. The task force will also address the use of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria for small physician practices for the ONC.

ASQ REPRESENTATIVES CONTINUE to make inroads with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). ASQ recently met with Shelley Metzenbaum, the associate director of performance and personnel management at the federal agency, to discuss ways ASQ might be able to contribute to projects OMB is targeting. Metzenbaum works with Jeffrey Zients, the agency’s chief performance officer, on the government’s performance management efforts.

THE AMERICAN NATIONAL Standards Institute-ASQ National Accreditation Board/ACLASS is organizing a meeting of member leaders and volunteers to discuss food safety and ways third-party accredited certification might advance food safety. From there, the groups will forward information and suggestions to the Food and Drug Administration and Congress, adding to the discussion on Capitol Hill about pending food-safety legislation.  

Capitol Q is a regular feature of Keeping Current that highlights ASQ’s advocacy efforts with government leaders. More information on these activities can be found at ASQ’s Advocacy Room at www.asq.org/advocacy/index.html.


ASQ Names New Fellows

Twenty-one ASQ members were awarded fellow status by ASQ’s board of directors in November 2009.

The 2009 fellows are: Mike Adams, Theodore Allen, Joseph T. Basala, Harriet Black Nembhard, Connie M. Borror, Elizabeth Burns, Ashok Kumar Jain, Scott A. Laman, Evandro G. Lorentz, John F. Mascaro, Alan Mendelssohn, James L. Odom, Mark Christopher Paulk, John J. Perigaut, Jack Peter Pompeo, David W. Renslow, Kurt D. Roudabush, William B. Stinchcomb, Lori A. Terpstra, Fugee Tsung and Daniel John Zrymiak.

According to ASQ bylaws, fellow status may be awarded to a member who has 15 years of quality-related experience, meets minimum score requirements across six professional categories, is sponsored by peers and endorsed by his or her ASQ section or division, and has been a senior member for five years or longer.

For more information on the new fellows, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2010/20100108-asq-grants-fellow-status.html.


Section Opens Hall of Fame

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration last year, ASQ’s Long Island Section has opened its own Quality Hall of Fame. The hall was established and dedicated at Farmingdale College in Farmingdale, NY.

Seven ASQ members and three corporations made up the first class to be inducted into the hall. The members are: Nicholas Pavacich, James White, Joseph McGrady, Stanley Rosenthal, Stanley Seifer and Jack Campanella, who each served as section chairs; and Thelma Seifer, who played an integral part with the Seifer Quality Institute of Long Island, the section’s education branch. 

Northrop Grumman, Forest Laboratories and JetBlue were the corporations honored at the induction ceremony.


New Standard Released for Crop Producers

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has released a new standard—ISO 22006:2009—to help crop producers adopt ISO 9001:2008 and allow them to establish and manage a quality management system for their own growing operations.

The need for the ISO 9001:2008-based system containing agricultural terminology became apparent because of difficulties in interpreting the language of ISO 9001:2008 for crop production applications, according to ISO.

The guidelines are intended for assist those who produce seasonal crops (such as grains, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruits and vegetables), row-planted crops, perennial crops and wild crops.

For more information, visit www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=39833.


THE THIRD EDITION of ISO 9004—Managing for the Sustained Success of an Organization—A Quality Management Approach has been released. ISO 9004:2009 replaces ISO 9004:2000 and makes changes to its structure and content to improve consistency with ISO 9001 and other management system standards. For more information, visit www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=41014.

THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT draft papers for next year’s Canadian Quality Congress is March 15. The event, to be held Aug. 23-25 at the University of Toronto, follows last year’s inaugural congress, which was co-sponsored by ASQ, the Total Quality Research Foundation Canada, the World Congress for Total Quality Management and the University of British Columbia’s Laboratory Program for Quality Management. Keynote speakers at the 2009 event included A.V. Feigenbaum, H. James Harrington and Peter Merrill. For more information about this year’s congress, visit www.canadianqualitycongress.com.


Replacing Toxic Drywall Could Cost $25 Billion

Replacing toxic drywall imported to the United States from China could cost $15 billion to $25 billion, according to National Underwriter, an insurance industry publication.

Between 2004 and 2007, an estimated 100,000 homes in more than 20 states were built with the substandard drywall. Tests have found the drywall emits sulfide gases, which corrodes plumbing and electrical systems. Some people who have lived in homes that contain the drywall have experienced headaches and respiratory problems.

The estimate builds in the cost of replacing drywall, legal fees, the toll on health and other costs.


Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take an informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"How have you been using social media tools?"

  • Connect with friends and family. 37.5%
  • Find news and information. 9.3%
  • Network and advance my career. 26.5%
  • Never use social media. 26.5%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:

"Which group would benefit most from applying quality to customer service?"

  • Airlines
  • Food service
  • Government services
  • Auto repair

Word To The Wise

To educate newcomers and refresh practitioners and professionals, QP features a quality term and definition each month.


A Japanese term for a manufacturing technique used to prevent mistakes by designing the manufacturing process, equipment and tools so an operation literally cannot be performed incorrectly. In addition to preventing incorrect operation, the technique usually provides a warning signal of some sort for incorrect performance. Also see "poka-yoke."



QP looks back on an event or person that made a difference in the history of quality.

Feb. 15, 1897

Eugene L. Grant, a pioneer in the fields of statistical quality control, engineering economics and industrial engineering, was born on this date in Chicago.

Joseph M. Juran called Grant "a quiet worker" who didn’t receive enough credit for what he accomplished. "His contribution to statistical methodology was much greater than [W. Edwards] Deming’s," Juran said. "Even though his impact on quality was profound and he was much more instrumental in advancing quality than Deming, the media—which overstated Deming’s contribution—didn’t publicize Grant’s contributions."

Grant’s published works include Principles of Engineering Economy and Statistical Quality Control.

Along with Ralph Wareham and others, Grant founded the first local quality society, which was to become part of the American Society of Quality Control, later known as ASQ. He became an honorary member of ASQ and was the inspiration for ASQ’s Eugene L. Grant Award for educational program development in quality control.


  • Laura Stuebing, "Eugene L. Grant," Quality Progress, Vol. 29, No. 11, November 1996, pp. 81-83.

Who’s Who in Q

Name: Russell "Russ" T. Westcott.

Residence: Old Saybrook, CT.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Boston University and financial training program at General Electric (GE) Co.

Current Job: Writer, instructor and consultant in the field of quality management and quality systems. Work-life planning and career coach, president, R.T. Westcott & Associates and the Offerjost-Westcott Group.

Previous Experience: Westcott held management positions at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., GE, CIT Financial, TRW Systems and Con Edison.

ASQ Activities: Westcott is an ASQ fellow, a certified manager of quality/organizational excellence (CMQ/OE) and a certified quality auditor. He instructs CMQ/OE refresher courses for ASQ, ASQ’s quality management and quality audit divisions, and ASQ sections. Westcott also mentors individuals in the United States and Ghana. He serves on the Quality Management Division (QMD) advisory committee and the Thames Valley (CT) Section 0308 executive board.

Honors: Westcott received the ASQ Testimonial Award, as well as other awards from ASQ, the QMD and Section 0308.

Published: Westcott edited The CMQ/OE Handbook, third edition, and co-edited The Quality Improvement Handbook, second edition. He authored Simplified Project Management for Quality Professionals and Stepping Up To ISO 9004:2000, and he has contributed to 14 other books. Westcott also writes several publications, including QP, QMD Forum, Journal for Quality & Participation and The Auditor.

Quality Quote: People are the most critical factors in the equation for continual improvement.

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