Christine Schaefer’s picture

By: Christine Schaefer

Robert Rouzer is retired, but he may be busier than ever as a Baldrige volunteer. In recent years, Rouzer has served not only as a Baldrige examiner for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, but also as a state-level examiner for two Baldrige-based award programs that are part of the nonprofit Alliance for Performance Excellence. (The Alliance is a network of programs that partner with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program to help organizations of any size, sector, and state to adopt the Baldrige Excellence Framework to improve their performance.)

Before his retirement in 2015, Rouzer was University of Illinois-Chicago executive associate director of Campus Auxiliary Services and assistant to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs. In the following interview, he describes some of the gratifying experiences that have kept him involved in Baldrige volunteer work year after year.

Robert Rouzer

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

‘It’s the shoes!” Spike Lee yelled into the camera on the Air Jordan ads.

But it was never the shoes. Michael, Magic, and LeBron would have outplayed their leagues in golf cleats.

It was never the shoes.

But it was us, the salespeople. In our case, the intelligencia that “trains” people to be lean, agile, or whatever.

In companies all over the world, we are convincing people that success lies in the shoes. In huddles or iterations or A3s or DMAIC or story points. All these tools are not even hard tools, like hammers; they are conceptual tools, like voting. We don’t seem to get this.

When someone who has experience looks at these tools, we don’t see the tools; we see the results we’ve enjoyed in the past. We are strangely blind to the failures of deploying them or the near misses (which our brains will inevitably turn into wins). So, when we describe these tools in classes, we describe them with a high degree of certainty that whoever touches them will be successful.

Our classes are so convincing that we, strangely, even convince ourselves.

Even though we always struggle with clients to get them to “just do it.”

Annalise Suzuki’s picture

By: Annalise Suzuki

The argument for moving toward enterprisewide model-based definition is simple: The way we describe products is increasingly digital, not paper-based. The way we optimize and validate products seems almost entirely digital, except for a few remaining destructive tests. The way our production machines accept design instructions

Transferring our modeling data through simulation and related design iterations to final format and straight to machine production is the logical goal of all software and hardware development. It’s where everything we do as manufacturers and software developers has been heading for decades. I believe that both the hardest and easiest parts of the all-digital effort lie just ahead.

Michael Baxter’s picture

By: Michael Baxter

You would expect a building where vinegar is made to have a sour smell, highly pungent, perhaps with a whiff of apple. World Technology Ingredients (WTI) smells nothing like this. Their manufacturing facility, off a county two-lane in Jefferson, Georgia, has a vaguely mineral aroma. More dry than dank, and not altogether unpleasant.

Maybe that’s because the vinegar made here isn’t destined for grocery store shelves, but for food preservation. It’s called buffered vinegar, an all-natural additive that protects meats and other products from microbes. WTI makes a lot of this vinegar, more than it used to, in fact, and that’s partly because of Damon Nix.

On this Friday afternoon, Nix is taking a visitor through WTI’s plant, pointing out its sectors and stations. Here’s the wet vinegar, seven titanic tanks and even more smaller ones, emitting a hiss-and-motor chorus of mechanized blending. Over here’s the powdered version, mixed in towering contraptions on chalky floors (that will later be cleaned), then heated, blended, and bagged.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Government bureaucracies are inefficient. They waste taxpayer dollars, and they have no incentive to improve. We’ve all heard and probably repeated these axioms about wasteful government spending.

And it’s often true; you don’t have to look far to find examples of government overpaying for products or services, contracts going to companies ill-equipped to handle the job, or just outright wasted money. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), we waste tens of billions of dollars each year because of what amounts to process inefficiencies. Take a quick look at the GAO’s “2019 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Billions in Financial Benefits” to get an idea. But, conventional wisdom aside, at its roots, the issues pointed out by the GAO are really no different than those found in the private sector. Just more visible.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Lean: an employee-championed method of waste reduction. Six Sigma: a robust method of defect reduction. Embracing both methods provides organizations with multiple tools for continuous improvement. Developed for manufacturing, lean Six Sigma has now been recognized by government agencies as a practical way to realize their outcome goals.

Improving response time for client services

Expediency is always crucial to the well-being of government services clients. California’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and Washington state’s King County Treasury Operations are two organizations that were motivated to explore more efficient processes to reduce response times for client services.

The improvements these teams sought to bring about would require changes in the way things were done, but change is not always easy, and the way forward can be elusive. New ways of doing things require new methods. For organizations as large and complex as these government agencies to effect positive change, robust tools are needed.

Taran March @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Taran March @ Quality Digest

At the University of California at San Diego, lean concepts have taken hold. Along with its process improvement curriculum, the university applies what it teaches through initiatives around campus. Projects both complex and simple tackle the snags, waste, and bottlenecks of academic life. Students, as both customers and process output, learn about lean Six Sigma (LSS) tools and use them to improve their college experience. UC San Diego has become, in effect, its own moonshine shop.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for most public schools and colleges elsewhere in the country.

Ryan E. Day’s picture

By: Ryan E. Day

Lean looks at ways to reduce waste and improve flow. The principles are relevant to virtually every organizational sector and vertical. It’s no surprise, then, that so many organizations tout lean and devote resources to lean initiatives. But, too often, there is a tendency for a company to promote lean initiatives before it has really developed a lean culture. How about yours? Is it truly striving for a lean culture, or just paying lip service?

A lean culture is born when progress is made within four separate dimensions: cultural enablers, enterprise alignment, customer-focused results, and continuous improvement. If you’re not sure where your company stands on the lean continuum, walk through the following exercise and see what you discover.

Read the statements below each category and assess how frequently your organization exhibits these characteristics and behaviors. Respond to the statements with something along the lines of: almost always; sometimes; rarely; and almost never.

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Orit Peleg’s picture

By: Orit Peleg

Gathered inside a small shed in the midst of a peaceful meadow, my colleagues and I are about to flip the switch to start a seemingly mundane procedure: using a motor to shake a wooden board. But underneath this board, we have a swarm of roughly 10,000 honeybees, clinging to each other in a single magnificent pulsing cone.

As we share one last look of excited concern, the swarm, literally a chunk of living material, starts to move right and left, jiggling like jelly.

Who in their right minds would shake a honeybee swarm? My colleagues and I are studying swarms to deepen our understanding of these essential pollinators, and also to see how we can leverage that understanding in the world of robotics materials.


Honeybee swarms adapt to different branch shapes. Credit: Orit Peleg and Jacob Peters

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Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

Have you heard of a media company called T-Series? Chances are, you probably haven’t. Gulshan Kumar, whose résumé up to 1983 read, “Fruit juice seller, streets of New Delhi,” founded it that year. Since its inception, T-Series has become an unlikely media powerhouse—its YouTube channel has 119 million subscribers. To put that in perspective, The New York Times, which was founded in 1851, has a total subscription base of 4.7 million across print and digital. The T-Series channel also has 90 billion views. That’s the equivalent of every human on the planet, including babies and people with no access to the internet, having watched 13 videos each on this channel.

According to the Nov. 14, 2019, issue of The Economist, media giants in the past five years have been battling for viewers’ attention and have spent $650 billion for acquisitions and content. As The Economist puts it, with wry understatement, “There will be blood.” In this shifting media landscape, how are brands going to win at getting their customers’ attention and emotional engagement? In this opinion piece, we will explore five modern principles for winning brands.

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