Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

This column normally originates from the hammock in the woods behind our home. With almost a foot of snow on the ground, though, this month’s contribution would better be titled “Thoughts From a Lounge Chair in My Den.”

So, while sitting in my favorite chair and listening to the popping of well-aged logs, I mused about issues in quality and performance excellence and management techniques.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

This column normally originates from the hammock in the woods behind our home. With almost a foot of snow on the ground, though, this month’s contribution would better be titled “Thoughts From a Lounge Chair in My Den.”

So, while sitting in my favorite chair and listening to the popping of well-aged logs, I mused about issues in quality and performance excellence and management techniques.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Have you noticed that the airwaves no longer carry informative, unadulterated news anymore? “Breaking News” has become the standard, thus all news is presented in an excited, almost breathless, tone. We at home now question the urgency of any segment, particularly when we discover that a cat previously reported as being lodged in a sewer drain has now been rescued. How would we sleep at night not knowing if this miracle had taken place?In a recent 10-minute span on our local TV stations there were three “breaking news” stories. One actually had to do with a cat that had become lodged in a sewer drain and then rescued through the diligence of firefighters. Oh, the joy when Tabby was pulled to safety!

Another breaking news segment informed us that British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plane had just overshot the runway, but there were no injuries, nor did the 300 unnamed passengers on board realize what had transpired. Had Blair not been on board, we’d never have known that a plane had slipped a few feet off the tarmac.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

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.

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

If you read my previous two columns, you’re well educated on the top 10 mistakes that manufacturers make when implementing statistical process control (SPC). Several of these mistakes are indicative of what I call the “check-box mentality.” This mentality is typically the result of an inadequate application of today’s quality systems registrations such as ISO-9000, TS 16949, ISO/TS 16949 and the like.

In general, quality registrations provide an extremely helpful means of guiding companies in the creation and implementation of important quality systems. Regardless of their good intentions, quality certifications can sometimes inspire this check-box mentality. The list of certification items is lengthy, so once an item such as SPC is completed, it sometimes receives little sustaining support. Let me be clear: This lack of support is not the failure of the quality system certification itself. Rather, it is the failure of the company to properly support SPC. When SPC is treated as just another item on the to-do list, the result is a lack of emphasis on statistical methods, their benefits and cost savings.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

As the holiday season approaches, several inevitable occurrences will try our patience. Along with people jostling in lines, the NASCAR-like jockeying in the parking lots, out-of-stock merchandise and interminably long lines for Santa, we also have to endure the banes of holiday shoppers—temporary help in stores and holiday-decorated “tip jars.”Let’s start with temporary help. Most temps receive only perfunctory training year-round, not only during the holiday rush. Why spend time thoroughly training people who will only be employed for a short time?

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

As the cool, crisp air of autumn begins to make its annual appearance here in the Midwest, and the trees on country roads are aflame with color, it’s time to make some wardrobe decisions. Should I select the fur-lined parka over the Gore-Tex windbreaker? Are the Eddie Bauer boots warmer than the L.L. Bean mukluks? And which hat provides the best cover for my receding hairline? Although the goal is to keep warm, how will I look to my friends?Similar questions and choices surface when organizations begin their journey to quality and performance excellence. Which process will insulate us from error? Which process will reduce red tape? Which process will have a good effect on the bottom line? Which process will help us exceed the expectations of our customers?

Depending on the industry and organizational intent, quality practitioners must choose from myriad processes such as, AS9100, BS7799, EN46000, EN9100, FS9100, ISO 14000, ISO 9001, ISO/TS16949, JIS Q 9100, Baldrige criteria, Six Sigma, the joint commission on accreditation of health care organizations (JCAHO), Q9000, QS-9000, kaizen, lean manufacturing, Q9858A, MIL STD 45662A, the U.S.A. Quality Cup, MIL STD 105E, TL9000, Juran’s, Deming’s, and the various state quality awards.

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

Last month’s column, “The Top 10 SPC Mistakes,” outlined five mistakes to avoid when building a successful statistical process control (SPC) system. Here they are:

10. Training everyone
  9. Charting everything
  8. Segregating control charts from manufacturing
  7. “Pinching” the SPC coordinator
  6. Using SPC because it’s a “good thing to do.”

Now, here are the remaining five SPC mistakes:

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Conversation at a business luncheon tends to be focused on work. The meal and service are secondary concerns. Still, clumsy service or a poorly prepared meal can ruin a productive business meeting, and a delightful meal and impeccable service can make such an experience enjoyable.
Recently, I had a luncheon meeting with a friend at a nationwide restaurant chain that prides itself on exemplary service.

I ordered first—a cup of soup and a small Greek salad. The waiter asked me if I wanted the soup and salad combo—a bowl of soup and a salad. I passed on the combo. My friend ordered the combo with a Caesar salad.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Rather than travel to Pamplona, Spain, for the annual Running of the Bulls, one need go no further than the parking lots of many U.S. companies. Here people described in many company brochures as “our most important asset" are being herded and unceremoniously told to go home after years of service. The psychic goring of these employees often has already been done by an inept management team, and for some the wounds will last forever. There’s a remarkable, and bizarre, parallel between Pamplona and corporate America: long ago potential buyers of the bulls always ran ahead in order to be well placed for the purchase that followed the event. In corporate settings, management stays behind in the shadows, not wanting to confront the victims as they’re led to their "psychological slaughter."

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