When the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) began its study of the ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS) conformity assessment process in late 1999, many in the ISO community expressed concern that negative findings might unduly and unnecessarily hinder industry's move toward greater reliance on voluntary environmental management systems and third-party registrations of those systems. The fact that this study was being funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was itself of no great comfort since that agency had previously released its own Code of Environmental Management Principles (CEMP), which stood in contrast to and, to some, in competition with ISO 14001. It was, therefore, both satisfying and reassuring that the study found the American National Standards Institute–Registrar Accreditation Board (ANSI-RAB) conformity assessment program broadly valid, on target, and effective in achieving its stated goals. That's not to say that all was found to be perfect in the eyes of the researchers. In fact, the report lists a rather extensive set of recommendations directed variously at the accreditation body, the registrars, the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO/TC 207, EMS auditors, consultants, private businesses, federal and state regulators, legislators, and other interested parties.
On the whole, the general consensus in the ISO community appears to be that many of these recommendations are, with some notable exceptions, well worth considering. For example, no one would argue that ANSI-RAB should continue to serve as the principal guardian against devaluation of the credibility of EMS auditing and registration and that to achieve that end must act fairly but vigorously to correct, sanction, or suspend poorly performing registrars and auditors. Further, there is agreement that ANSI-RAB should not develop a formal audit-day guidance document. Attempts to standardize time requirements for audits have inherent deficiencies and raise anti-competitive implications. This is particularly true for the extraordinarily wide range of scopes and complexity of operations to be found among EMS users.It is agreed that other recommendations such as those on the need for guidance on preassessment audits and on adding value during registration and surveillance audits are all worthy of additional consideration.
The recommendations that have not been so well received include one that asks ANSI-RAB to develop at least a voluntary program for training and certifying EMS consultants and another that asks ANSI-RAB and the U.S. TAG to call attention to the need for ISO 14001 to define more explicitly and interpret more clearly what constitutes continual EMS improvement and prevention of pollution. Consultant qualifications are generally considered immaterial in the third-party audit process. An organization is either in conformance with ISO 14001 and, therefore, certifiable, or it is not in conformance and, therefore, noncertifiable. The third-party auditor is not and should not be the least bit interested in whether the organization was assisted by a consultant in its preparation for the audit. In fact, many large organizations have chosen to develop and implement EMSs without the assistance of consultants. Also, consultants occupy a very broad spectrum of experience and expertise that would certainly pose significant difficulties in any scheme established to certify their competence.
While the authors believe that the concepts of continual improvement and prevention of pollution need greater clarity and definition, the fact is that there is no widespread confusion among users, consultants, and auditors. These concepts are understood and are being successfully applied within a comfortable and acceptable range of understanding and flexibility. Granted, there may be individual instances of ignorance of the standard or incompetence in its application. But this standard was not intended for those who have no knowledge at all of environmental protection. That would have been similar to developing a new surgical procedure to be used by nonsurgeons or those without medical training. ISO 14001 standardizes the application of procedures and programs in a structured manner by people that already have an understanding of environmental issues, challenges, techniques, and opportunities. The standard does not go into these areas because it is a management standard that prescribes programmatic requirements, not protection technologies or analytical techniques. In short, it is neither a textbook on environmental science 101 nor a do-it-yourself cookbook for the uninitiated.
Another recommendation is that the U.S. TAG consider how public reporting of environmental and social performance can be addressed more explicitly as part of the ISO 14001 documentation and certification process. This is, of course, an item that has been discussed continuously since at least mid-1993. Some of us actually remember initial discussions from as early as 1992. It makes one think that there are at least two types of people on this planet: those who believe that a requirement for external communications would improve the ISO 14001 standard and those who believe it would chase prospective users away and stunt its application irrevocably. There are intelligent advocates on both sides of this argument (it's not true that one side has a few more than the other), so one might conclude that it is simply a matter of nurturing as to where one stands on this issue. I believe it is a question of upbringing (the professional type) that makes all the difference in this case. Let us leave it at that since ISO 14001 is currently being modified, and we would not want to prejudice any of the experts in that discussion.
Generally, with the few exceptions noted here, the NAPA study is balanced, useful, and welcome. ANSI-RAB would do well to consider the many recommendations that have potential value to all users of ISO 14001 and to all that depend on a conformity assessment process that is sound and trustworthy. EPA should be commended for its leadership in conceiving and funding this work. Finally, I want to congratulate NAPA leaders and authors for a very professional and valuable contribution.
As the electric utility industry enters a competitive environment, owners and management of nuclear generating plants need to focus on performance excellence and continuous improvement. This need has created a new opportunity for EED's Nuclear Power Production Committee (NPPC) to support quality management initiatives. There is further opportunity to provide support from our greater EED community. Before I illustrate this idea, I'd first like to point out some recent events that are helping shape the future of nuclear power.
Our long-term energy supply is not getting the attention it deserves. The electrical shortages in California pointed out that we can not assume that we will always have a plentiful supply of low-cost energy to fuel the economy. As the world continues to "electrify" (e.g., e-mail and faxes instead of regular mail), our society needs to make some choices about how to have reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally sound sources of electrical generation. We must address the issue of how to meet increasing demand, which has resulted in a resurgence of interest in using more nuclear power. Where we go from here is still under public discussion and debate. My perspective is that including nuclear generation in our future energy portfolio is a good thing. Regardless of how you feel, you should make your voice heard to your legislators on this issue.
One of the major barriers to keeping existing U.S. plants going and building new plants is the failure of the federal government to meet its obligation to build a spent nuclear fuel repository. Each nuclear plant will act as a temporary storage site until a central facility is built. While some plants have been able to accommodate and even supplement on-site storage, there is the real potential that some will be shut down due to lack of space, in spite of their significance to our energy supply. The Department of Energy typically provides an update at EED conferences on the progress of building the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, spent fuel storage facility. The current target date for facility operation is 2010. More information on the Yucca Mountain Project can be found at www.ymp.gov.
The events of September 11, 2001, have further brought nuclear power into the spotlight, relative to the potential terrorist attack on a power plant. However, my observation is that those who are most vocal about the danger of an attack are groups or individuals that didn't like nuclear power in the first place. The fact is that nuclear plants have undergone detailed review for many catastrophe scenarios, including exercises with mock assault forces, composed in part of former military assault specialists. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would not allow continued operation of plants unless the testing and analysis of plant-protective measures under credible scenarios showed them to be safe, and it is also doing a thorough review of nuclear plant security adequacy. Considering an attack like the one on the World Trade Center is a new facet that must be reviewed. But let's remember that all potential targets need such a review, not just nuclear plants. In a November 28, 2001, letter to U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Richard Meserve, Chairman of the NRC, writes:
"We believe Congress should consider allocation of society's defensive resources in accordance with relative risk, and, as a result, the separation of nuclear facilities from all other types of facilities (e.g., chemical plants, refineries, dams) will fragment the analysis inappropriately. Resources are not infinite, and disproportionate protection at one kind of facility may increase the risks at other kinds of facilities."
Chairman Meserve's letter was written in opposition to proposed legislation by Senator Reid and a group of other democratic senators.
My bottom line is this: if I felt at all unsafe about nuclear power generation, I wouldn't be living with my family where I do, five miles away from a plant.
More information about this and other public issues surrounding nuclear power, including pending legislative debate and decisions, can be found at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Web site (www.nei.org).
Now, on to developments in quality management.
The NRC is tasked with verifying that the operation of nuclear plants does not represent a risk to the health and safety of the public. Its approach is evolving towards the greater use of probabilistic risk analysis in making such determinations. A set of performance measures is used to help assess a utility's safety performance. More information on the NRC's performance monitoring system, and the actual performance results for all U.S. nuclear plants, can found on the NRC Web site (www.nrc.gov, go to "Reactor Oversight").
For plant operators, safety of operations continues to be an absolute in order to stay in business. However, safety in and of itself does not mean the business is being run successfully. In a regulated, cost-plus business, setting electrical rates had far less reliance on effective business management practices than it does now. Today, management must provide safety of operations in the overall context of competitiveness.
A significant nuclear management initiative related to this issue is the evolution of an integrated process model for the safe, reliable, and cost-effective operation of a nuclear plant. The development of this model, known as the Standard Nuclear Performance Model, is being coordinated by NEI.
ASQ EED's NPPC is deeply involved in this model on several fronts. First, we have been asked to help guide the development of consistent practices in measuring performance and setting goals in all process areas. At a recent NEI meeting, material from the ASQ Statistics Division was presented to help illustrate concepts and practices that should be used (see "Statistical Thinking" material at the division's Web page).
Second, NPPC is helping develop further process guidance and performance measures in the "loss prevention" area of the model. This effort includes auditing, corrective action, and trending processes.
There are two other areas closely related to ASQ EED's core business that may present an opportunity where other EED committees or members could participate and add their expertise. The first is in environmental management. While nuclear plants do manage activities associated maintaining environmental programs and monitoring the environment, processes and performance results are typically not well linked in an overall, integrated model. The second area is industrial safety. The lead group in this area of the model is the Nuclear Industrial Safety and Health Association.
Members who think they can contribute to this and are interested in participating may contact Vince Gilbert at NEI (firstname.lastname@example.org). Membership in NEI task forces is typically limited to utilities and companies owning or operating nuclear power plants, and NEI members can find much more detailed information at http://member.nei.org. If you think you or one of your ASQ committees can help in this effort, even in an advisory capacity, please step forward and make the offer. Likewise, if there is interest in the approach the nuclear industry uses for environmental and personnel safety program management, this could be a topic at an upcoming EED conference.
Nine-eleven. September 11, 2001. This date has forever changed the United States and the world in which we live. Our parents could tell us where they were and what they were doing when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was announced. Many of us are old enough to remember where we were and what we were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot. Now, today's generation will always remember where they were and what they were doing when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. Thousands of lives were lost, including those in the airplanes used in the attacks and another plane that may have been intended for use in an attack. As a result of these actions, the American way of life has been changed, perhaps forever. In addition, the way in which Americans look at themselves and at institutions has also changed, perhaps for the better.
Before September 11, many segments of American society were quick to criticize institutions of government as being outdated and unresponsive to needs. "Government quality" was called an oxymoron, like military intelligence. Government couldn't do much right. The biggest issue seeming to affect the United States was what role Congressman Gary Condit had in Chandra Levy's disappearance. In only a few hours on a warm, sunny Tuesday morning in New York and Washington, everything changed. The destruction of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon seared new images into our memories. These were followed by the anthrax-containing letters transiting the U.S. Postal Service, causing more people to die.
On Monday, September 10, representing EED, I had made a presentation at the Environmental Innovations Summit at the Sheraton National Hotel in a session with Joe Dunbeck of the Registrar Accreditation Board. The Sheraton is about one-half mile from the area hit at the Pentagon. I would have been there on Tuesday, except that I had a meeting scheduled at the Environmental Protection Agency to meet with others from the U.S. Liaison Group and review U.S. comments on the ISO 19011 DIS. I was just preparing to leave the hotel when Good Morning America announced that there had been an "explosion" at the World Trade Center. As I watched the live coverage, speculation arose about the cause, and there were some early rumors that a plane had crashed into the building. I thought about the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building in the 1950s, but that had been in bad weather. Then, at 9:03 a.m., I watched in shock as the United 767 flew deliberately into the North Tower. The rest of day unfolded with stark images of the towers collapsing and the human carnage.
"Americans are proud of their heroes and, it would seem, confidence in government is rising. As quality professionals, we need to recognize and nurture this confidence."
The attack on the Pentagon hit closer to home than I wanted to think about. I was on my way to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center from my hotel in Crystal City; Virginia just after the plane hit the southwest face. The cab driver and I first thought there was a fire in Crystal City, but, as we approached the 14th Street Bridge on Jefferson Davis Highway, it became clear that the fire was at the Pentagon. I noticed that the fire was too intense, with lots of black smoke, to be just a structural fire, and it occurred to me at that moment that this incident might be linked to what I had seen earlier. By the time the cab entered the District and reached the Reagan Building, the federal government was beginning to shut down, and people had started to pour out of the buildings. The cab driver was scared, so I bailed out of the cab and started to figure out how to get back to Virginia. I walked to the Mall and tried to hail a southbound cab without success. A young woman in a Ford Explorer asked me if I was trying to get out of town. I said yes, and she offered me a ride. Vickie (I never got her last name) was a construction worker and didn't know how to get out of D.C., so I took her back across the bridge to Crystal City, where we got another look at the Pentagon fire. She dropped me near the Holiday Inn, and I told her how to get to the Beltway so that she could get home to Front Royal, Virginia. I was able to contact my family to let them know that I was okay and holed up in the Holiday Inn until I could get back home, by Amtrak on Friday.
In those four days at the Holiday Inn, I watched a transformation occur in America. The policemen and firemen and rescue workers suddenly became heroes as their sacrifices unfolded. Of course, they were always heroes, but we had somehow forgotten it. How many of us as children dreamed of becoming a fireman? Over years, the dream melted away, and we became cynical about government and public service. The scenes of firemen and policemen rushing to the aid of their comrades filled our television screens. The picture that most stands out for me is the one of the firemen raising our flag over the ruins at ground zero. The parallels to Iwo Jima were striking.
As the days went by, our government turned once again to its men and women in uniform to retaliate against the terrorists. Over the past weeks, we have seen a new group of heroes strike back at those who would make war against us. As I write this, our armed forces are driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan and, with our allies, we are closing in on the terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, in Europe, and elsewhere. Another picture circulating the Internet shows a soldier reaching back to take the flag from a fireman and saying, "I'll take it from here."
The anthrax incidents, which may have been domestic terrorism, threatened our mail service and the workers who process our mail. The Postal Service has been the target of criticism and jokes, but that, too, has changed. No one expects those workers to have to put their lives on the line, but they are continuing to do so as even more incidents of anthrax spores occur.
We are seeing American flags unfurled everywhere, and "God Bless America" has become everyone's song. Americans are proud of their heroes and, it would seem, confidence in government is rising. As quality professionals, we need to recognize and nurture this confidence. Increased public interest and participation in government processes will undoubtedly lead to quality improvements that ultimately will benefit all of us.
Government still has much work to do, and there is much opportunity in front of us. As horrible as the events of September 11 were, Americans can say that we are stronger and more united because those events happened. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese admiral who planned the attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, learned that the attack occurred before Japan's declaration of war had been delivered. Yamamoto had studied in the United States and knew that this surprise would enrage America tremendously. In a prophetic statement to his staff, he said, "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
Again, we have awakened. We must grab the opportunities that lie before us and move forward. Let's roll.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout may soon become the first
Baldrige winner in the education category. Under the leadership
of Chancellor Charles Sorensen, UW-Stout has a unique form of
project management for academic programs that focuses attention
on educational results. I will be facilitating a strategic
planning retreat for UW-Stout's largest academic department in
January 2002 and have had the opportunity to meet with the team
that wrote its Baldrige application.
[Editor's note: On December 4, 2001, UW-Stout became the one of the first three Baldrige winners in the education category, receiving the nation's highest honor in quality and performance excellence.]
Meanwhile, the University of Alabama (UA) has become the first research university to be recognized as a finalist in a state-level quality award program. UA will be recognized through the Alabama Quality Award Program for its progress in establishing a comprehensive quality management system. This is a significant milestone for UA in the early years of its quality journey.
The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) is launching a three-day training workshop for quality champions in higher education in January 2002. The workshop is being developed by Plexus Corporation, with input from quality directors from several universities. The goal is to help all campuses gear up for the NCA's alternative form of accreditation based on continuous quality improvement.
The National Consortium for Continuous Improvement (NCCI) in Higher Education will conduct a workshop on quality and creative thinking at the University of Miami on January 31 and February 1, 2002. Miami President Donna Shalala will be a luncheon speaker.
NCCI is also organizing a national conference on quality in
higher education for July 20-21 2002 in Vancouver, British