Content By Paul Naysmith

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By: Paul Naysmith

Cheese is by far one of the greatest foods. It is my only ambrosia, wrapping around my taste buds and sending fireworks of pleasure around my brain. In particular, I love the nutty flavor of Switzerland's holiest of cheeses: Emmental. When you meet me, I will happily bore you into a coma when I start talking about cheese.

Today it isn't Emmental or any other real cheese that has stimulated my quality receptors; it's a management theory that you may be familiar with: the Swiss cheese model (aka "Reason's dynamics of accident causation model").

If you've ever taken part in a failure investigation, you may have seen a diagram, or even produced the diagram yourself, that illustrates all the failure points in the system that produced the undesirable outcome. A perfect storm of a problem, the failure points were precisely aligned in layer upon layer of Swiss cheese slices, creating an aperture through which a bullet could pass without resistance, hitting the failure target.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Let me give you my definition of “PowerPointing”: To provide a presentation of slides so crammed with text that the background no longer shows, and that are read aloud, line by line, by someone staring at a screen rather than the audience. Many of you have experienced this; often the presenter will try to outdo his previous performance by adding yet more slides to read aloud.

If I was working with a dangerous piece of equipment, I’d like to think I would be taught the hazards associated with it. Why haven’t we shared with fellow business professionals the hazards associated with PowerPoint?

PowerPoint is an interesting product; it’s one of the few examples I can think of where an item’s brand name has become synonymous with the act of using it. For example, in Great Britain, the act of vacuuming is often called “hoovering,” although personally I prefer the term “vacuuming.” Why? Because it sounds like I’m undertaking an action-hero type activity, as in, “I am about to create a vacuum in the man cave!” Besides, as an action hero like Spiderman, I could give needlessly boring presenters the death-ray stare, turning them to dust for abusing the power of PowerPoint.

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By: Paul Naysmith

I’m back, writing about another Toyota dilemma of mine. In part one, interestingly titled “My Toyota Dilemma,” I wrote how I, as an avid fan and supporter of the Toyota Production System (TPS) have never owned a Toyota. I ended that column vowing I would use Toyota’s greatest gift—the 5 Whys—to help find my next car.

In the highly imaginatively titled “My Toyota Dilemma, Part 2,” I went on to explain how I bought a Toyota after moving to the United States (thus solving my first dilemma), and the fascinating things you learn when you pull the dash apart and replace it, although you have the mechanical skills of a newborn water vole. Part two ended with a new dilemma, about how I could attend a Toyota plant tour. This is the story of that Toyota visit, and it ends with—you guessed it—me walking away with another “Toyota dilemma.”

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By: Paul Naysmith

On Friday afternoon of March 11, 2011, an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude was detected about 45 miles off the coast of Japan. One of the most powerful ever recorded, it moved the 8,000 square-mile island of Honshu 8 feet to the east. It also set off a 130-ft tidal wave (the same height, ironically, as the world’s tallest water slide in Brazil).

Travelling at 70 miles an hour, the wave surged four miles inland, destroying or washing away everything in its path. To this day, substantial debris, like a Harley Davidson motorcycle, continues to wash up on the western shores of Canada and the United States.

The World Bank called it one of the most expensive natural disasters of all time. Certainly it was costly to the estimated 16,000 people who lost their lives.

Already some of these facts are slipping from our collective memory, but most people will continue to associate this earthquake with the subsequent disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

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By: Paul Naysmith

It’s two days before the quality audit, and as the Texans say, “This isn’t my first rodeo.” My team has done an outstanding job to help me and the production team prepare. I’m at my desk looking over the auditor’s schedule and audit scope, and finalizing in my head the conversations I’ll have to reassure each production manager across the different departments.

There are three light knocks at my open door, a signal that an uneasy soul is about to enter my office. Having an open-door policy means I rarely hear a knock, let alone three. I guess the audit schedule will have to come second for the next few minutes. I look up to see the door frame filled with the sizeable bulk of one of the production supervisors. He does cast a big shadow due to his massive height, and he is as broad as he is tall.

“Hey Iain, a very good evening to you,” I say. “Are you here to ask me what the colors of my socks are?” It’s a little joke between us; he gets a giggle from finding out which colorful and humorous punk socks I’m wearing that day.

He smiles. “I’m sure you’ll make me guess like you always do, Paul,” he replies. “But I’ve got a question for you.”

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By: Paul Naysmith

These days quality professionals have shifted away from actually writing procedures to helping others develop documentation to describe the businesses they are in. Although I live in hope, I still see many poor attempts at “procedures”—or at least failures in their facilitation.

I have a simple view of the world: A management system’s purpose is to describe how you do your business. Because customers and industry overseers will influence its design and content, you must be very strong to prevent an accreditation body from dictating what it should or should not contain.

Writing a quality management system (QMS) document truly is an art, an art in the medium of quality. As such, why do we allow nonartists to create such documents?

Perhaps my experiences will help you budding artists tasked with developing procedures, work instructions, or forms for your business. Traditionally, these documents live in something called a quality manual, which is part of a QMS.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Last year I wrote a column titled “My Toyota Dilemma,” what I considered a nice little story about how I, an avid fan of the Toyota quality principles, didn’t actually own a Toyota, and how ironic that was. However, Quality Digest fans, I can now declare that I am—well, really my wife is—a proud owner of a Toyota automobile.

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In the fall of 2011, I relocated, through my employer, from the United Kingdom to Louisiana. Moving to the United States meant we had to sell our European cars, but this wasn’t due to the fact that the steering wheel is on the right side of the car (and when I say “right,” I mean that it’s on the correct side). We sold them because moving our cars wasn’t part of the relocation package.

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By: Paul Naysmith

Sales professionals, according to some circles at least, aren’t all that different from us quality professionals. I once believed they were two-faced liars, because they’d sell their mother to get that precious sales commission. However, as a systems thinker, I like to get my facts straight before drawing conclusions. I’m sure you do, too.

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The following is an excerpt from the week of a typical sales professional. It’s built from my collection of conversations with a mystery sales professional—who shall remain anonymous—and as such is written in the first person.

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By: Paul Naysmith

During the the mid-1980s, two great schools of investigation were put up against each other. Each were immensely popular, and still are today, with fans firmly seated in one methodology or the other. One school was led by a disheveled, cigar-smoking character. The other had a lady more akin to your favorite, mild-mannered auntie at the helm. Both fought for the No. 1 spot.

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I can see them in my mind’s eye, duking it out. The scene is Madison Square Garden, complete with overexcited commentators:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Madison Square Garden. I’m Ken Bhan, your commentator tonight. With me ringside is Jed Okra.”

“Thanks, Ken. What a magnificent setting for this slightly different martial arts event.”

“That’s right, Jed. In just a moment we’ll be seeing two warriors, two mighty names in the business, duking it out.”

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By: Paul Naysmith

The pile of papers in front of me is sizable. I’m wondering what would be the correct term for the volume of these white sheets of paper. A group of lions is called a “pride”; is a group of résumés called a “wedge,” a “stack,” or a “flurry?” I’m distracting myself from the reality of having to work my way through each snowy page, now covering my desk like a blizzard.

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I have a fluorescent highlighter in my left hand and a red pen in my right. If a photograph were taken of me at this instant, I would appear to be taking an if-you-can-eat-this-Texas-sized-steak-you-eat-for-free challenge. However, my steak is bigger than Texas. It is so big, I fear it. And my challenge is to review all of these résumés in front of me.