Miscues and Misplays

Could a dose of quality help baseball improve its drug-testing process?

Baseball fans will likely argue more than usual this season: How will Albert Pujols adjust to the American League? Is Bobby Valentine the answer in Boston? Does baseball need the new wild-card round?

There’s one discussion no one could have expected, but perhaps now it’s warranted following Ryan Braun’s successful appeal of his suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs: How could quality be used to avoid an apparent process breakdown and improve Major League Baseball’s (MLB) sample-collection system?

"This is a quality issue—bar none," said Linda Wawrzyniak, owner of Higher Standards Academy, which specializes in language, quality and skills training for athletes, business owners, medical professionals and management. She is also the founder of ASQ’s Quality in Athletics interest group. "The MLB, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL—anyone that does drug testing—they really need to learn from this and learn about quality procedures. It’s really important in what they do."

Just as teams gathered for spring training, news about Braun and his successful appeal got out. The Milwaukee Brewers outfielder received much attention, in large part, because he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player last season. But other drug cases are now starting to get press: Two NFL players suspended for violating the NFL’s drug policy tried to overturn rulings, contending the league-appointed drug test collector mishandled their urine samples.1

In Braun’s case, the urine sample taken in October tested positive for elevated testosterone. Braun’s camp said the ratio was the highest ever recorded in baseball’s testing program.

Braun faced a 50-game suspension for violating MLB policy, but he appealed, and the ruling was overturned in late February. Reports surfaced that an arbitrator had sided with Braun because of chain-of-custody issues surrounding the handling of Braun’s urine sample.

"I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed," said Braun, who also called the testing "fatally flawed."2

The sample, taken from Braun after a game in Milwaukee, was destined via FedEx for a lab in Montreal. Because a FedEx facility near the stadium had already closed for the day, the collector took Braun’s sample to his home, which some reports say is not unprecedented in drug testing. Braun questioned that decision and why the collector did not return to FedEx until 44 hours after the sample was submitted.3

There has been no official statement from the arbitrator explaining the decision. MLB officials defended the collector and the process, however, calling the system "the highest-quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world."4

However, "the arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs—including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency," according to an MLB statement.5

Some say Braun has escaped punishment through a loophole or technicality, while others contend these questions about the sample handling raise the possibility of tampering.

"This [ruling] is really for the protection of the rest of the players," said Wawrzyniak, who had just finished working with several teams during spring training. "What happened here was for the good of baseball."

"Everybody was doing what they felt was best," she added. "Based on the conditions, they’re doing it [collecting and delivering the samples] the best they can. From this [Braun’s case], hopefully it will give baseball some better practices. And that’s always a good thing for every player."

Will the collection and handling process be closely reviewed and analyzed? Will the laboratory that conducted the testing be scrutinized as well? Will sample collectors be audited to ensure they have been complying with requirements and following the process?

For now, MLB and the players union have said that the language in the drug policy regarding shipping of samples will be tightened.6

"As has happened several times before with other matters, this case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of our program that can be improved," said players’ union director Michael Weiner. "After discussions with the commissioner’s office, we are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties’ agreed-upon rules."7

––Mark Edmund, associate editor


  1. Ken Benson, "Suspended Broncos May File a Lawsuit," New York Times, March 10, 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/sports/football/suspended-broncos-mcbean-and-williams-might-file-lawsuit.html.
  2. Clark Spencer, "Miami Marlins’ Gaby Sanchez Backs Ryan Braun’s Denial," Miami Herald, Feb. 25, 2012, www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/24/2659560/miami-marlins-gaby-sanchez-backs.html.
  3. Adam McCalvy, "Braun Speaks Out, Proud of ‘Integrity,’" mlb.com, Feb. 24, 2012, http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120224&content_id=26834634.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Tom Haudricourt, "MLB Drug Process Designed to Prevent Tampering," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 27, 2012, www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/140591403.html?ua=iphone&dc=smart.
  7. Ibid.


Measurements Can Help Promote Quality Culture

An organization’s leadership simply cannot dictate or mandate the use of quality, and instead must use measurements to promote a true culture of quality within the organization.

That’s what a new research report from the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) reveals based on responses from four high-profile organizations—Altera Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Chemonics International and Textron Systems—that shared how they organize quality functions, measure their impact and ensure a quality culture is used to drive business value.

"What this study underscores is that quality is not just a set of tools, concepts or policies; it is the way work is performed every day, by everyone," said Travis Colton, an APQC project manager.

The report also identified eight imperatives for the enterprise quality function.

To download the 62-page report, which was produced with support from ASQ, visit ASQ's Knowledge Center.


More Customers Leaving Big Banks
Over Fees, Service

Fed up with new fees and poor service, more big-bank customers switched to smaller institutions last year than previous years, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates’ survey.

The defection rate for large, regional and mid-size banks averaged between 10% and 11.3% of customers last year, the survey showed. In 2010, the average defection rates ranged from 7.4% to 9.8%

"When banks announce the implementation of new fees, public reaction can be quite volatile and result in customers voting with their feet," said Michael Beird, director of the banking services practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

Customers do, however, weigh the price they pay against the value of their experience.

"It is apparent that new or increased fees are the proverbial straws that break the camel’s back," Beird said. "Service experiences that fall below customer expectations are a powerful influencer that primes customers for switching once a subsequent event gives them a final reason to defect. Regardless of bank size, more than one-half of all customers who said fees were the main reason to shop for another bank also indicated that their prior bank provided poor service."

Small banks and credit unions lost only 0.9% of their customers on average last year, a significant decline from the 8.8% defection rate in 2010.

More details from the survey can be found at www.jdpower.com/content/press-release/GAdX32O/2012-u-s-bank-customer-switching-and-acquisition-studysm.htm.


Something New

This month, listen to a webcast series with the authors of this month’s cover story, "Beyond the Basics," p. 18, telling more about the seven new quality tools and how to use them.

Ready to Go

One quality professional shares her kayaking and hiking gear lists in this supplement to Quality in the First Person
("Quality Assurance at Home," p. 48).

It’s Complicated

An additional figure that shows the results of the two one-sided t-tests used  to demonstrate comparability, described in One Good Idea ("Complicated Comparison," p. 71).

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 would you describe your email use?"

  • Keeping up, but it takes too much time. 46.2%
  • Totally in control. 36.2%
  • Can’t keep up with my overloaded inbox. 17.5%

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

"What’s the best way to build a successful baseball team?"

  • Count on development of drafted players.
  • Throw money at high-priced free agents.
  • Use analytics to find hidden gems.


Event Features 15 Award Recipients,
Team Competition

Thirteen quality thought leaders will be honored at this year’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement next month in Anaheim, CA. The recipients are:

  • Feigenbaum Medal: Paulo Sampaio, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.
  • Freund Marquardt Medal: Joseph J. Tsiakals, Baxa Corp., Englewood, CO.
  • Grant Medal: Thong Ngee Goh, National University of Singapore.
  • Hutchens Medal: Joel Makower, GreenBiz Group, Oakland, CA.
  • Ishikawa Medal: H. James Harrington, Harrington Institute Inc., Los Gatos, CA.
  • Lancaster Medal: Janak Meht, TQM International Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, India.
  • Shainin Medal: Jack B. ReVelle, ReVelle Solutions LLC, Santa Ana, CA.
  • Shewhart Medal: Jerald F. Lawless, University of Waterloo, Ontario.
  • Brumbaugh Award: Bradley Jones, SAS Institute, Cary, N.C., and guest professor at Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium; and Christopher J. Nachtsheim, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
  • Gryna Award: Michelle M. Deutsch, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Jim Bossert and Sister Mary Jean Ryan will be awarded ASQ’s Distinguished Service Medals at the conference. The award ceremony will take place Sunday, May 20, during the annual business meeting.

Advance audio

You may now preview what keynote speakers will say at the world conference. Audio interviews with many of the scheduled keynote speakers will be posted this month at http://wcqi.asq.org/speakers.html.

Scheduled speakers are:

  • James Albaugh, executive vice president of the Boeing Co., and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
  • Carletta Ooton, vice president and chief quality, safety and sustainable operations officer for the Coca-Cola Co.
  • Simon Sinek, leadership expert and author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
  • Majora Carter, president of MCG Consulting, a firm that advises organizations about climate adaptation, urban micro-agribusiness and leadership development strategies.
  • Joseph A. DeFeo, president and CEO of the Juran Institute and authority on transformational change systems and breakthrough management principles.

Team competition

Thirty-two teams have been selected as finalists for the 27th annual International Team Excellence Awards. The teams represent nine countries and will participate in live project presentations at the world conference.

The team’s project summaries and profiles, along with the presentation schedule, can be found at http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/index.html. Watch for further coverage of the 2012 award recipients in future editions of QP.

Visit http://wcqi.asq.org/index.html for more about the speakers, the 100-plus conference sessions and a complete schedule of events and details. You can also access a mobile site (http://team.asq.org/wcqi) while attending the conference to more easily browse sessions and other details about the event.


Hitting the Books Pays Off

Long hours studying to succeed and maintain high grades in science and math classes was the primary challenge most engineers said they faced while they pursued their degrees, according to a recent ASQ survey.

The biggest factor in their success as engineers was the amount of time they spent studying, according to 43% of the respondents. Twenty-seven percent of engineers surveyed said the instruction they received from high school teachers and college professors had the most influence in their success as engineers.

The latest ASQ-Harris Interactive Survey follows a previous study that reported 67% of sixth through 12th-graders said they were interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but they were worried about obstacles that might block their pursuit of professions in those areas. The results of both surveys were released during National Engineers Week.

One-quarter of those students said they felt pursuing a STEM career involves too much work and studying compared with other career paths. One-quarter also said they were concerned their grades in math and science weren’t good enough.

Most engineers polled in the latest survey said they are satisfied with their career: 49% said they are most satisfied with the challenging and interesting nature of engineering, and 35% are most satisfied with their contributions to projects and products.

For more about the surveys, visit www.asq.org/media-room/index.html.

ASQ News

NEW GM FOR ASQ CHINA Fred Zhang was recently appointed general manager of ASQ China. Zhang previously worked for Bureau Veritas (BV) China, serving as its director for the greater China region and leading a team providing management certification service in quality, environmental, health and safety, and social accountability fields. Zhang is based in ASQ China’s Shanghai office.

JOURNAL ADDED TO INDEX Quality Engineering, a journal co-published by ASQ and Taylor & Francis Group, has been added to Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index. The index provides citation data—impact factors—from science and technology journals throughout the world, measuring how often a journal article has been cited. The data help determine how journals are evaluated and viewed, and it can raise a publication’s prestige and reputation when more readers and authors see how often a publication is cited. Quality Engineering’s inclusion in the index will be effective back to volume 21 (or 2009) content.

TWO NEW BOARD MEMBERS Eric A. Hayler of BMW Manufacturing Co. in Boling Springs, SC, and G. Geoffrey Vining of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg have been named to the ASQ Board of Directors. They replace two directors who were appointed to serve additional six-month terms while ASQ transitioned its fiscal year from a July 1 to a Jan. 1 start.

DOUBLE BUCKS IN MAY ASQ’s member referral program will feature "double bucks" in May for ASQ members who refer new members. Instead of receiving five ASQ bucks for each member referred, you will get 10 to use toward ASQ Quality Press books, standards, certification, training, conferences and your own membership renewal. Visit http://asq.org/refer for more about the program.

TRANSITION PLANS The Baldrige Enterprise has unveiled details on its plans to transition its business model after federal funding was eliminated from the program’s budget this year. For more details, visit www.nist.gov/baldrige/transition/index.cfm.

NOMINATIONS SOUGHT ASQ is now accepting nominations for Six Sigma Forum Magazine’s editor position. Responsibilities include maintaining a qualified editorial review board, recruiting authors, overseeing the submission and peer review of suitable content, and building awareness of SSFM at conferences and through social media. The new editor’s term is 2013-2016. Send questions and nominations to William Tony, ASQ publisher, at wtony@asq.org. For more information about SSFM, visit http://asq.org/pub/sixsigma.

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