Content By Paul Naysmith

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By: Paul Naysmith

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… well, 10 years ago in The Midlands of England, I was introduced to the “Hawthorne Effect.” I remember sitting in the Black Belt class being taught about improvement projects. The course tutor, a wise old man with absolutely no physical resemblance to Obi-Wan Kenobi but with the same voice as Alec Guinness, provided a stern warning that “your presence in the process may create the Hawthorne Effect during your project.”

Wow! My being there, right in the middle of the process, will create improvement. Excellent. I’ll just move into the workshop area and improvements will spontaneously happen. Heck, this Six Sigma stuff is easy. And then he went into a little more detail on the effect.

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By: Paul Naysmith

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs,” Rudyard Kipling begins in “If,” his beautifully written poem for his son. It’s a poem of advice and guidance for becoming a well-rounded adult, and dealing with the crises that life will throw at you. Kipling’s son John went on to proudly serve his country and gave his life to save the men around him in the extremes of battle.

The recent anniversary of the fateful day of September 11, 2001, introduced me to a new tale of incredible human achievement, although I had to wait 12 years to learn about it. Given that history presents itself as a continuous cycle of repeated heroic actions, Rick Rescorla’s story is quite simply, well, awesome.

The terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers still resonates with many, and on this very somber anniversary, media outlets continue to show documentaries about the event. During the last eight years, I’ve always shied away from TV at this time because I found I had a personal limit to seeing the devastation, repeatedly from differing angles, and knowing how many lives have been lost.

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By: Paul Naysmith

It is the end of summer. The golden sun filters through clouds and reflects on a pond, a glimmering silver. Above me, Spanish moss hangs like a wizard’s beard from a giant oak stooping over me, centuries old. The green cathedral canopy against the blue sky has been an unfamiliar sight of late. I lean back comfortably in this deep wrought-iron chair, and realize that this is the first moment where I was not consumed in an investigation and writing a report.

I imagine this is an experience akin to a prisoner completing a sentence and drinking in the outside world for the first time after captivity. I close my eyes and smile. The tension in my shoulders eases. Jefferson Island, where I’m relaxing, has somehow made it seem I’m a million miles away from everything, isolated in this little piece of serenity. It’s a welcome reward after the many hours of hard labor that I poured into addressing a customer’s issue.

Out of all the customer issues I have addressed, this one had the most significance. A team of talented people worked with me to understand and correct the situation, and I’m very grateful for all their efforts. Being around capable individuals is always stimulating, and sometimes the worst situations bring out the brilliance and generosity in people.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Arecent call with an old colleague from Europe got me wondering about a question that few are conscious of: Who is the customer of your quality document? Oh boy, did we have an interesting discussion about quality systems.

My friend was developing and reinvigorating his employer’s quality system, and working with someone who clearly didn’t fully understand quality. Actually, I should qualify that last statement: This person isn’t someone who is unfamiliar with our discipline; he’s a consultant with a global background in implementing quality systems. However, during the course of our discussion, it started to dawn on both my friend and me that the consultant simply couldn’t see what was important: the customer.

So there I was, 5,000 miles from him in a little pop-up window in the corner of my iPad, attempting to help him out. He told me he’s frustrated with the sharply dressed consultant, an apparent expert in quality. My friend’s pixilated brow furrowed as he explained that the consultant was speaking before a room full of senior executives, letting his mouth dig a big hole for himself, and making a mockery of quality professionals around the world.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Story update 4/3/2013: The author replaced his earlier chart example with an explanation of how to set up an Xbar chart.

Unlike the difficult "third album," the one that is supposed to be a real challenge following the first two musical productions, my third album in the Seven Quality Tools suite is quite easy to compose. Why? Because I'm fortunate in having access to the vast swathes of research that many statisticians have contributed about the control chart, which is the subject of this column.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Seven Quality Tools of an Improvement Ninja, Part 1
The cause and effect diagram

Seven Quality Tools of an Improvement Ninja, Part 2
The check sheet

Seven Quality Tools of an Improvement Ninja, Part 3
The control chart

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By: Paul Naysmith

If you haven't read part one of my Improvement Ninja series, don't worry. Unlike The Godfather Part II, you don't need to see the preceding installment to make sense of this article. I continue my journey to enlighten newly initiated quality colleagues by discussing the check sheet, which is the second quality tool of the seven recognized by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

For those not in the know about the seven quality tools, they are:
1. Cause and effect diagram
2. Check sheet
3. Control charts
4. Histogram
5. Pareto chart
6. Scatter diagram
7. Stratification

Granted, I will probably struggle as I talk about check sheets, partly because they may seem so simple and obvious. They are, but sometimes we need to discuss the obvious because to some, it might not be.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Writing articles for Quality Digest Daily has created some positive if unpredicted consequences for me. I’m fortunate that people read what I write and even reach out with feedback. Recently one such reader, just beginning her quality career in Chicago, emailed me, and we started a conversation about the “seven basic quality tools.” Initially she was unaware of these tools, but she was resourceful enough to do her own research and learn more.

This got me thinking about the quality of quality teaching, if you’ll excuse the pun, as well as the general awareness of the principles in our field. Are our quality colleagues across the world fully conversant with the history or the basics of our discipline?

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By: Paul Naysmith

This is a true exposé from Santa’s mega-factory at the North Pole. The information, apparently smuggled out in a series of notes rolled into scrolls and tucked deep inside elf shoes, was found floating in the open stretches of water known as the North Pole Passage. You may not be aware that elf shoes, with their curled-up toes and red bell on the tip, make very good buoyancy devices, a fact that could prove useful in situations where you cannot access a life vest and you are only wearing novelty footwear.

The notes, all written by hand in a delicate script, were never signed; however, experts involved in their analysis nicknamed the anonymous author the “Grumpy Quality Elf” (GQE). This mysterious journalist captivated the attention of many academics of prestigious universities across the land, all seeking to understand the secrets behind the production processes found in the most remote and desolate factory on earth.

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By: Paul Naysmith

My Tuesday evenings have recently been filled thanks to the entertainment provided by the very nice people at the History channel. I’ve been thoroughly entranced by the show, The Men Who Built America. Production quality aside, it’s really an incredible feat, on reflection, how a TV channel could founder so spectacularly in presenting a “reality show” purporting to be a documentary.

As the History channel describes the program on its website: “John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and J. P. Morgan rose from obscurity and in the process built modern America.... These men created the American Dream and were the engine of capitalism as they transformed everything they touched.... Their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies, and influenced major events.... Using state-of-the-art, computer-generated imagery that incorporates 12 million historical negatives, many made available for the first time by the Library of Congress, this series will bring back to life the world they knew and the one they created.”