by Dirk Dusharme and Alexander Karolyi

Support for International Occupational Health and Safety?
The Road to Quality
Be Big, Look Small
ISO 14000 Resource Directory
Your Tax Dollars at Work For You
New Certification Program
Furniture Dealer Shifts to Sales Teams
Art and the Voice of the Customer
Caring Attitude Revitalizes Employees
Get Focused
Don't Stress

Support for International Occupational Health and Safety?

Is there anybody out there who wants an international occupational health and safety management standard? In the last two issues, we reported that neither ANSI, OSHA nor U.S. organized labor were enamored of the idea for an ISO occupational health and safety standard. Lacking strong worldwide health and safety standards, an ISO standard could sink to the lowest common denominator, they argued.

Concerns were also voiced regarding enforcement, a lack of experience with ISO 14000 (upon which a health and safety standard would probably be based) and about whether the International Organization for Standardization could deal with human resource-related occupational health and safety issues.

Into the fray steps the American Industrial Hygiene Association, perhaps the lone U.S. proponent of a standard that they argue would promote good health-and-safety practice worldwide.

"One of the problems with health and safety in many organizations is that it is a separate entity and not part of the everyday management of the organization," explains Zack Mansdorf, president of AIHA. "Because of that it has suffered."

Mansdorf, who says his organization has received plenty of flak because of their support of the proposed standard, scoffs at the lowest-common-denominator argument. "Does the ISO 9000 quality standard result in the lowest level of quality worldwide?" he asks. "That's absurd. We're not talking about a specification-based standard here. If a company says they are going to follow national standards, then they already have a legal requirement to do that."

Others agree. "Why didn't that argument stop ISO 14000?" asks Steven Levine, professor of occupational and environmental health, and director of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Occupational Health at the University of Michigan, and once co-chair of AIHA's task force for OHS management systems.

"We are told that too few health and safety standards exist worldwide [to harmonize into an ISO standard]," says Levine. But existing or draft health and safety management standards already exist in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, he argues. "When is enough enough?"

Levine points out that an international health and safety standard would not only improve working conditions for workers worldwide but also improve product quality-a fact already attested to by the inclusion of environmental health and safety in QS-9000.

"If you provide rivets to the Chrysler plant in Brazil, you've got to be QS-9000 registered," explains Levine. "Part of that registration includes the three sections in the standard where environmental health and safety are called out. Why? Because Chrysler is worried that if you don't have a system that deals with these issues, the workers might be working under very bad conditions that prevent them from providing a quality product."

Trade issues must be considered as well, he adds. Due to strict regulatory measures, most companies in first-world countries spend a good deal of money on health and safety programs. "It costs Goodyear about 5 percent of its gross each year to run its environmental health and safety program," he claims. This puts those companies at a trade disadvantage compared with companies operating in countries with weak or unenforced programs.

Russian safety and health regulations are quite strong, notes Levine. "But, if you visit the aluminum smelter in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, you will find that it is a terrible place for occupational health because there is no compliance with their national regulations."

If an international occupational health and safety standard existed and companies required the smelter to meet the standard, it would force the plant to internalize some of its health and safety costs, says Levine. "It might actually raise their prices and thus level the playing field for U.S.-based plants that already internalize those costs."

The Road to Quality

This time, we really, really mean it," says Michael R. Bonsignore, Honeywell's chairman and CEO, describing how the company finally integrated total quality management into its corporate culture. "To lead a quality process, you have to be committed to quality as a fundamental value. The business world has always been subject to passing management fads that promise new cures. This creates tremendous cynicism and resistance to change because people believe that this, too, shall pass."

"At Honeywell, we hoisted the quality banner several times before we really got under way. Only when we linked the quality process to customer delight were we finally able to integrate TQM into our culture."

Source: "Leading Voices in Quality," 1996, The Conference Board.

Be Big, Look Small

Many corporations are seeking to emulate the organizational characteristics of smaller business, says a study released by consultants A.T. Kearney. Companies are reorganizing into smaller business units, according to in-depth analysis at 10 major corporations and a survey of executives at 700 corporations. The study identifies six principles to improve organizational structure:
Disaggregate businesses. Breaking into smaller business units can improve responsiveness and employee motivation.
Build teamwork. Team-based organizations reduce costs, raise performance levels and improve market responsiveness.
Impose autonomy. Reducing organizational interdependencies and giving business units greater control over key resources provides greater flexibility.
Create meaningful incentives. Innovative incentive and compensation plans are powerful tools to drive the success of highly decentralized organizations.
Outsource nonoperating activities. To reduce duplication when decentralizing, outsource or form shared-services units for nonoperating activities.
Leverage capabilities. Companies must learn to transfer and share their capabilities across multiple business units.

ISO 14000 Resource Directory

If your company is involved in implementing ISO 14000, keep your eyes open for the ISO 14000 Resource Directory, scheduled for release by the Environmental Protection Agency at the end of the year.

The directory will include descriptions of pilot projects, studies or other programs that explore or promote the role of ISO 14000 and other EMS programs. Entries will be divided into sections for EPA, other federal agencies, trade associations, state programs, U.S.-funded international organizations, multilateral agencies and nonprofit groups. There will also be a resource section for databases, periodicals, directories and other useful information relating to ISO 14000.

The guide will be available in print and on a World Wide Web site.

For more information, contact Donald Fried-Tanzer of Eastern Research Group Inc. at (617) 674-7334, fax (617) 674-2851 or e-mail

Your Tax Dollars at Work For You

How would you like more than $60 billion of federal research at your beck and call? By law, because our tax dollars buy it, technology or data that results from federally funded research must be made available for commercial purposes. However, with the vast amount of research available, locating what you need can be a daunting task.

To aid companies in locating that technology, Congress established the National Technology Transfer Center. Anyone can call NTTC's toll-free number and talk to a technology access agent who will research a topic and put clients in touch with a relevant research facility. NTTC's service is free. However, according to the NTTC, if a company enters into a partnership with a lab, there may be legal fees or administration costs associated with sharing the technology.

NTTC's staff of biology, physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering specialists have responded to more than 10,000 requests in the past 13 months, according to the center. It also has a World Wide Web site that gets about 15,000 visits per week and has a searchable database that allows users to do their own research.

Telephone the NTTC at (800) 678-6882 or visit their web site.

New Certification Program

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers has started a new certification program geared toward experienced project managers and team leaders. Candidates for the Certified Enterprise Integrator credential must have a minimum of eight years' combined education and manufacturing-enterprise-related experience and demonstrate a proficiency in leading the implementation of complex business changes using information technology.

The program covers customer focus; people and teamwork in the organization; shared knowledge and systems; processes, resources and responsibilities; and manufacturing environment infrastructure.

The enterprise integrator exam can be taken at any time. Review courses and workbooks are available from SME.

For more information, contact SME's customer service department at (800) 733-4763.

Furniture Dealer Shifts to Sales Teams

In a sales office, following business processes rather than meeting customer needs can lead to frustrated customers, low employee morale and lost sales. To meet increased customer expectations, Goodman's, a top Herman Miller office furniture dealer, did away with the traditional stovepipe business structure and reorganized the sales staff into cross-functional, market segment-oriented teams.

Goodman's is responding, in part, to customer-expectation changes resulting from nationwide downsizing. Those who normally make the long-term facilities layout and purchase decisions are gone, says Murray E. Goodman, CEO of the 170-employee company. As a result, facilities planning is done on the fly.

"Our customers have shortened their cycle because they aren't looking two years or even two months into the future," says Goodman, adding that customers now expect one-week rather than 6- to 10-week delivery times.

With the help of business-process consulting firm Consultlink, Goodman's has reorganized the sales function at its Phoenix headquarters into cross-functional teams culled from design, customer service, sales and project management, with each team focused on a particular market segment. If teams encounter problems, they may draw from core departments for more expertise.

The effort has paid off. The teams reduced the number of order-processing steps from a maximum of 76 to about 30. Order-to-installation cycle time has dropped from six-to-10 weeks to one week, in some cases. Employee morale and customer satisfaction have increased as well.

Goodman stresses that the success of any program does not lie solely within the program. "The CEO must own it and must identify with the change," he says. "If you don't do that, it is very difficult to mandate changes. You must have credibility that you will stick with it."

Art and the Voice of the Customer

What do the works of Picasso, Monet and Rodin have in common? They're all being seen by more and more people, with a little help from a team of professional brainiacs.

Planet Eureka!, the nonprofit branch of Richard Saunders International, is a team of professional, strategic inventors who help organizations invent new products and services. They have helped the Cincinnati Art Museum-which encapsulates about 4,000 years of art history-attract art enthusiasts of all kinds.

"The goal was to remove the barriers in people's minds about attending the art museum," says Pat Murdock, the museum's development director.

Planet Eureka! staff determined that the museum should first develop a user-friendly guide to meet the needs of the uninitiated museum customer. Who best to help determine the museum's crème de la crème than their front-line art experts-the curators. Planet Eureka! sought input from the museum's nine curators about which pieces of art they felt were most important and why. Based on that information, they selected the top-20 masterpieces, rewrote curators' descriptions in layman's terms, added a map and designed a visitor's brochure to guide newcomers to each masterpiece.

"Now, visitors can zip around the museum, find the most important pieces of work, have lunch and have a good time," says Murdock.

Caring Attitude Revitalizes Employees

According to a 1994 Roper poll, employee morale and job satisfaction are at the lowest rate since the poll was started decades ago. For organizations to survive, they must regenerate in their workplaces a spirit of commitment, self-worth and a new sense of meaning, says Barbara Glanz in her new book, Care Packages for the Workplace: Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work (McGraw-Hill).

Glanz suggests a few ways employers can show they care:

Creative communication: Be creative in giving directions. Find ways to jazz up your meetings.

tmosphere: Invest in a joke-take your job seriously and yourself lightly. Lighten up on dress codes.

Respect: Empower employees. Offer family-oriented employee benefits. Have a special day honoring all employees.

Enthusiasm: Have departmental or team skits. Work on a community project. Create an attitude support team.

Get Focused

Most managers agree that focusing on customers' needs is critical for establishing a healthy bottom line. However, many companies aren't as focused as they could be.

Seven out of 10 U.S. manufacturing firms say they know who their customers are, have a clear understanding of customer expectations, know how satisfied their customers are and receive frequent information on customer satisfaction, according to a recent ASQC/Gallup survey.

However, beyond the basics of customer satisfaction, within firms there appears to be some fall-off in emphasis.

Less than 70 percent of the 758 employees surveyed report receiving information on customer retention or loyalty, and less than half (48%) said they receive information about customer needs beyond what they are told about customer satisfaction. In addition, upper white-collar employees (58%) are much more likely to be involved in product-design teams than blue-collar workers (30%) who make the product. And, although nearly half of the employees surveyed (49%) said they have handled customer complaints in the past, only 38 percent said they have been involved in product or service design.

Don't Stress

Stress takes an all-too-familiar place in many people's work environment. But, with a little effort, you can learn how to control it before it controls you.

If your stress level seems to be a little high, you can take some simple, concrete steps to cope with job-related stress. The following tips from Paul Allie, research engineer at Steelcase Inc., can help make it easier to get through those rough days at work.
If you find that your workload is too heavy, ask your supervisor for more flexibility in the scheduling and pace of work.
If certain work-related situations are especially stressful, seek training or advice to build confidence in handling these encounters.
When working on large projects, try to define milestones and completion dates to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment.
Work in alternate settings whenever possible (e.g., the library, cafeteria, home, conference rooms).
Group administrative tasks together, and tackle them at periodic intervals during the day or week.
Establish a confidante outside of your "work circle" of friends with whom you can discuss stressful events.
Periodic special staff events-such as lunches, picnics, etc.-can help reduce stress and improve teamwork.
Be aware of and respect co-workers' work styles and patterns.
Organize your work so that you don't sit for extended periods.
Personalize your workstation or office with things that give you pleasant memories or feelings.