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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

That’s a Wrap!

On to the next feature

Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 - 23:00

Those of us in the acting profession hear those words regularly at the end of a particularly grueling day from a director attempting to extract perfection from a group of actors. (I’ll discuss my own celluloid exploits later).It’s appropriate to utter similar words at the end of 2006—a grueling, sometimes cruel world of corporation downsizing and a year when many companies heard, “Lights out!”

Let’s take a few moments and examine a potpourri of events that shaped our year and examine some that may have changed the way we act.

The year 2006 saw the layoff, downsizing, outsourcing or just plain firing of thousands of employees. Ford Motor Co., Northwest Airlines, Delphi and Radio Shack were among the legions of companies that ushered employees into the parking lots with cardboard boxes filled with years of memories. Company loyalty is no longer a badge of conviction; it’s a badge of fear as one awaits the corporate ax.

I hope 2007 will see a return to profitability and to those management traits that recognize that employees are the lifeblood of a company and thus should be treated fairly and with sensitivity. I won’t hold my breath, however.

As we move into 2007, many of us have already settled on our goals and aspirations. How many of us, though, have goals that stretch our workforce to perform at higher levels, and how many have goals that can be attained while sleepwalking? Let me explain.

Bowlers understand that a perfect game is 300, and yet very few have ever reached this goal. Having said that, has there ever been a movement afoot to lower that goal? That would be sacrilegious! Yet how many of us, realizing that a particular goal may be out of reach, have lowered goals to less than we’re capable of doing?

Some of you will think that I have been in the holiday punch for too long, but I think company goals should emulate bowling goals and be set at their highest level—100 percent. Anything less is settling for mediocrity. Michelangelo, who, besides painting chapel ceilings, said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it”. Let’s take a few moments and reexamine our 2007 goals in light of those words.

Each year-end Lake Superior State University, located in northern Michigan, issues a list of misused, overused and useless words. Terms such as “untimely death” and “community of learners” were included in the past. This year, one of the leading contenders is the term “person of interest.” There are words in our profession that should be banned forever. Included in that list would be “think out of the box,” “downsizing,” “synergy” and “merger of equals.” Let’s just call it what it is—“being fired” and “We bought you. Now follow our lead.”

In 1987 Congress instituted the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this prestigious program, our the United States’ highest award and recognition for performance excellence.

The Baldrige Program is the gold standard for self-assessment and improvement. Baldrige winners are role models and constantly mentor other organizations that seek similar accomplishments.

Our society is now inundated with blogs. Seems everyone has a blog these days. I saw an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal just the other day stating that “blogs are written by fools to be read by imbeciles.” Wow, just when I was going to start my own!

Oh yes, my acting career? It has been offered that I have a striking resemblance to Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman. In fact, each time I frequent a particular hotel in our town I am mistaken for the “Rain Man.” The complimentary room upgrades and other courtesies make it difficult for me to correct that mistake, so in the meantime I just keep mumbling “Wapner, 3:00 o’clock.”

Earlier this year I vigorously campaigned against raising taxes in our community for a senior center. There’s a multitude of services for seniors here and I thought it was a duplication of existing facilities. The proposal went down in flames losing by more than 70 percent. The head of the proposal issued a statement saying, “Unlike Bill Kalmar who can afford to belong to a gym and who is healthy enough to run five miles every day, most seniors need the assistance of a senior center.” Well, I guess that means that I’m rich and healthy. And that’s my New Year wish for all of you—that you have a rich, rewarding and healthy 2007. I know I will.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.