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In the Back of Your Kia Cadillac

The article “Sunset for Detroit?” (“Quality Curmudgeon,” Scott M. Paton, January 2007) points out that U.S. manufacturing capabilities and quality mass production are without equal on this planet--currently, at least.

The issue is that U.S. auto manufacturers do not wish to be champions any longer. Let them close the doors, say their farewells, give out the final checks and allow competitors to compete.

A Toyota Mustang, Hyundai Corvette or Kia Cadillac will probably be just fine.

--P.D. Corcoran


Market share and high efficiency are a potent combination: If people strongly prefer your product it can reduce demand downturns, which allows for a more stable fixed-cost structure and more freedom to reinvest. Detroit has lost market share due to complacency, and after Ford, GM and Daimler Chrysler shrink they’ll say it was part of their plan anyway.

Big businesses in the United States should be demanding operational excellence throughout their supply chains, as QS-9000 theoretically does. Instead, original equipment manufacturers’ cowardice and stupidity actually cause mediocre suppliers--the infrastructure of our industry.

--David Gentile


Turtle Soup

Mike Micklewright chose to rant about turtle diagrams (“Auditors, Turtle Diagrams and Waste,” http://qualitydigest.com/qualityinsider/index.lasso) as if one questionable application of the tool demonstrates that the tool itself has absolutely no merit and, worse, that anyone who promotes the use of turtle diagrams, in any context at all, must be a shyster.

I am finding the turtle diagram to be a very helpful analytical tool as I help a broad range of professionals document and evaluate their core business processes, and to recognize the broader context in which they are performing their roles and responsibilities.

In my experience, building and reviewing a turtle diagram of selected business processes is every bit as useful and effective as any other tools I have used. Everything fits on one page, and it provides both a great point of departure and a safe-harbor anchor point as we help our specialists understand how and why the business is asking them to use and contribute to the quality management system.

As a byproduct of creating turtles, we are increasing mutual awareness between professional silos and establishing a set of baseline SIPOCs--and institutionalizing a common frame of reference--to support continuous improvement.

--Steve Jones


I took offense at Mr. Micklewright’s article. I too had a registrar auditor direct me toward turtle diagrams. I recently used them to perform internal audits and the feedback I got from employees was that they really helped them to examine their processes better. Sounds like turtle diagrams are another possible quality tool to use. Note that I said “tool” and not a “requirement” as Mr. Micklewright likes to drive home. Specific tools are used for specific jobs. One tool does not work for everything; the same with turtle diagrams.

I did notice that Mr. Micklewright took the opportunity to throw in his trendier lean tool references. Quality customers such as me get just as tired of hearing lean, value-added and 5S comments as they do hearing about older turtle diagrams.

How about equal air time and printing an article about auditors and how they can pigeonhole a company into one train of thought?

--Roger Wahl

Editor’s note: Roger, we’re glad you asked. Read Craig Cochran’s “The 10 Biggest Quality Mistakes,” Look at Mistake No. 9, “Doing anything just because an external auditor told you to.”


The value in turtle diagrams, process flow diagrams, procedure development and the like is that they challenge the developer/development team to first recognize the essential needs of a successful process, then measure the process to determine whether the inputs and activity of the process have integrity and perform appropriately. If the inputs or activity are lacking integrity, then the measures will be erratic or low performers, and the inputs become targets for improvement. If the inputs have high integrity and performance, then the process activity is suspect. True improvement occurs by challenging the foregone conclusion most companies have that they can heroically solve problems. The turtle diagram just asks the questions--it doesn’t provide the answers, which Mr. Micklewright apparently expects to happen.

--Arthur Michel


It’s good to see someone actually present the truth about turtle diagrams. Audit companies spend too much time trying to push this wasteful process on their clients. We have a good system, but one that needs leaning out. This is just the article I need to help me resist our audit company’s push for the “famed” turtle. It will stop us from adding more complexity, when what we really want is less.

--Graham Kettle