Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Question: How do Somalian pirates differ from some Wall Street CEOs?

Answer: A Somalian pirate takes hostages and demands money. A Wall Street CEO takes money and demands hostages.

Without the need, drive, pursuit, and focus on reducing waste; and because we had $1 billion to spend, Saturn had already lost one of the key battles against our rival, Toyota. And spend we did…

Expensive band-aids

GM, like so many other companies back then (and, of course, many today), wasn’t very good at performing root cause analysis (RCA). When RCA isn’t properly done, the company has to do something to catch the problem or defect and prevent it from getting to the customer. The norm is to add multitudes of band-aids, including inspection, inventory, and extra processing. This is exactly why lean is so popular today—we have accumulated so many band-aids over the years because we didn’t do a good RCA. (For more on RCA, see my previous column, “Why Root Cause Analysis Sucks in the United States”)

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

M

ost of us, I suspect, have had a week that we would prefer relegating to our mental recycle bin. But every now and then we have a week that is truly remarkable. I recently had such a week that soundly confirmed my contention that customer service is rebounding and doing so in large leaps. (If our Detroit Pistons had rebounded better, perhaps we wouldn’t have been swept in the first round of the playoffs, but that’s a column for another time). Permit me to illustrate how a series of interactions with various companies in a one-week span left me ebullient, energized, and enthused.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

M

ost of us, I suspect, have had a week that we would prefer relegating to our mental recycle bin. But every now and then we have a week that is truly remarkable. I recently had such a week that soundly confirmed my contention that customer service is rebounding and doing so in large leaps. (If our Detroit Pistons had rebounded better, perhaps we wouldn’t have been swept in the first round of the playoffs, but that’s a column for another time). Permit me to illustrate how a series of interactions with various companies in a one-week span left me ebullient, energized, and enthused.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Since the year 2000, we have either been mesmerized, entertained, or in my case, irritated by a TV program called “Survivor.” Contestants on this show are isolated in the wilderness and compete against each other for cash and other prizes. The program utilizes a progressive elimination gimmick, allowing the contestants to vote off a member until only one contestant remains and is thus crowned the sole survivor.

Some of the places where brave contestants vie to be the survivor are Fiji, Borneo, and Guatemala. It becomes a war of wills and strength, as some contestants are granted immunity for winning an event while others are jettisoned from the island by a vote of their peers. If this sounds a bit like the current workplace in our nation, welcome to “Survivor: The American Workplace.”

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Question: How is the octuplets mom similar to an American CEO?

Answer: She outsourced the main process, she made more inventory than she can properly care for, and she expects bail-outs for her wasteful actions.

Saturn was my real first job and it pains me to learn that after just 24 years, Saturn could possibly be gone. My sadness isn’t so much with seeing the car itself bid farewell, rather it stems from what Saturn stood for at the very beginning, when I was there. The early leaders of Saturn, people I got to know pretty well as a summer student in 1985, mostly came out of the Pontiac Motor division and were heavily influenced by Dr. Deming. In fact, Dr. W. Edwards Deming celebrated his 83rd birthday in 1983 at the Pontiac Motor division, speaking and training with many of the people who would eventually become the top management at Saturn. William Hoglund, the first Saturn president, and Jay Wetzel, vice president of engineering and my first boss, were some of them.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

To be a quality professional means that you must have a trained eye and a sensitive ear for the delivery of exceptional service. We appear to be a group of people who have set the bar so high that at times it may be difficult or almost impossible for service personnel to meet our expectations. As such, when we single out a company or person for our admiration, I conclude that it’s a special moment, because all of us like to be associated with high levels of quality.

This is the time of year when many newspapers ask their readers to list their favorite restaurants, hair stylist, hotel, or pet groomer to name just a few. What follows is my list. I chose them based on the quality of the item or the excellent quality service provided by the employees. Naturally, many of the selections are located in Michigan, my home state, but several of you have probably experienced the hospitality of our state and might just agree. On the other hand, there is a fair sampling of items from across the nation. See how many you recognize.

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

In part 1 of this series, I blamed myself for the recession. Actually, I blamed all quality professionals but I was trying to be polite. I also explained what one of our challenges is, if we hope to have a hand in turning the economy around.

I asked, “Why don’t we have more quality-type people at the highest levels within a company? How can we promote quality ideals at the highest levels? How can we get more quality people to run organizations?”

In this article I pose the second challenge.

Challenge No. 2

We must ask ourselves, “How can we be more proficient in spreading the word of quality, the word of Dr. Deming, and the word of stability in the markets; the benefits of control charts at all levels of any organization, or state or federal government; and the evils of greed and short-term thinking?” And then we must do something about it.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Anyone who has ever purchased merchandise from L.L. Bean is no doubt aware of this rock solid guarantee:

“Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.... Of course, we want you to be the fair judge of quality. If you’re not satisfied with your purchase, we’ll replace it or give you your money back. It’s that simple”.

In my mind, this is the gold standard for how customers should be treated. I’m an L.L. Bean fan and have jackets, coats, fanny packs, and other outerwear that has never worn out. It should come as no surprise that L.L. Bean was just honored as being No. 1 in customer service by the National Retail Federation’s American Express Customers’ Choice survey. What is remarkable about L.L. Bean is that only rarely does one have to activate this guarantee, because merchandise from the company is first-class. If only other companies would adhere to this strong quality ethic. Let me give you an example of how some companies administer their own guarantees.

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Question: Name the modern-day politicians who best exemplify the Seven Deadly Sins of greed, envy, gluttony, sloth, lust, pride, and anger. The last one is a group of people, not a politician.
Answer: Please record your answers, put them in your purse or wallet and save them for Part 2 of this series. If you get at least four correct, let me know and you win.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Many of us will look back on 2008 as the year when gas prices soared to unbelievable highs and our 401ks dropped to unbelievable lows. A key measure of consumer confidence fell to an all-time low in December and a dismal job market and uncertain outlook for 2009 did little to settle our nerves. In November, the Consumer Confidence Index was at 44.7 percent according to the Conference Board and in December it sank to 38 percent. And of course the traditional Christmas shopping statistics sank to a new low. All in all, unlike the classic Sinatra song, it was not a “very good year.”

There was one bright spot in the economy though. A large portion of the population decided that avoiding high gas prices meant less dining out at restaurants and more dining in at home. As such, supermarket earnings were up. Those of us who participated in this, heretofore unknown phenomena of home meals discovered that the grocery stores not only provided a respite to high restaurant prices, but we quickly became enamored with the high level of service offered by these food emporiums.

I’m sure each of us would have an experience or two to share about our favorite supermarket. In my case, permit me to share some thoughts on three outlets that I think epitomize what performance excellence is all about.

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