2015 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement – in Nashville!

asq badge wcqi

Always excited to make it to the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement – this year we’re in Nashville!

Greetings from Nashville! I am in town for the 2015 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement (#wcqi15 for hashtag lovers)! This will be my third time attending the WCQI (see reports on 2013 and 2014), and again I will be spending the majority of my time in session judging presentations for the ASQ International Team Excellence Awards (ITEA). The conference “begins” Monday morning, but I have prior obligations with ASQ leadership and training events starting today and carrying over through Sunday all day.

As a semi-preview to the 2015 conference, Julia McIntosh of ASQ Communications asks the ASQ Influential Voices:

How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?

When it comes to selecting what conferences to attend, I’m pretty particular and I gauge the value I will gain from attendance by how I answer these questions.

Are there problems I am looking to solve by attending?

Conference attendance is generally expensive – flight, hotel, meals, materials, time, and your reservation for the conference. However, when I am a general attendee, I come equipped with some problems I’ve encountered that are best solved with face-to-face meetings with subject matter experts. For example, I have worked with a couple of clients recently who lack robust quality management systems and are/were looking at vendor options. It’s somewhat time consuming to pore through Google searches, Thomas Register, and vendor websites when those kinds of vendors are generally part of the conference trade show and have experts ready and able to provide guidance. By coming prepared with problems for which you seek solutions, you will be making the most of your time.

Otherwise, if I’m attending just to watch presentations or catch up with old friends, I can probably spend my time and money more wisely.

Is there a special event or obligation tied to attending?

The ASQ WCQI is the only time I am able to judge the ITEA Finals. I make it a high priority to support this initiative with ASQ, and I am happy to dedicate a lot of my conference time to judging presentations and providing valuable feedback to participants.

ASQ international team excellence award 2013 indianapolis winner

One of the winning ITEA teams receiving a trophy for their efforts

Also, one day I hope to present at the WCQI. Try as I might, I have not yet been successful in the ASQ search for presenters. I certainly give higher priority to events that allow me to present new ideas and information.

Other reasons for attending due to special occurrences might be for receiving recognition or an award. ASQ provides a special recognition dinner for its member leaders and participants for special initiatives, so I will be participating in that this week. I’m still pretty young in my quality career, so no awards up for grabs quite yet.

What will be my level of participation or engagement?

Again, if I’m just there to see sessions and catch up, my participation is pretty low. I am self-employed and I don’t have a corporate sponsor or employer to subsidize my trip, so my time on the road is very valuable. I am extremely engaged in any conference I attend and my schedule is always full.

ITEA judging takes up a lot of my time during WCQI, but even during down times I am poring through the presentation schedule to see if there is something I really want to see or I am heading to the trade show to meet with new companies and solve those previously identified problems…as well as snag some swag.

bulldozer squeeze toy stress ball

My fleet of squishy bulldozers

Even during the evening hours there are generally great events to attend and new people to meet.

ASQ Influential Voices Jennifer Stepniowski Daniel Zrymiak Chad Walters

ASQ Influential Voices Jennifer Stepniowski, Dan Zrymiak, and me (don’t worry – the long hair is gone) in Dallas last year

Will that level of participation and engagement be sustained throughout the event or peak for a very short time relative to the full duration?

When I attend a conference, I keep my schedule full in order to maximize value. If I am there just to see one speaker or visit one booth before departing, there is not much value to be gained. If I am a speaker, but then I have no other obligations or experiences tying me to the rest of the event, the value there is limited as well. This year, as in past years, I am fully booked for the ASQ WCQI and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is the cost of attendance (dollars, time, and opportunity costs)?

This is always an important detail. I’m fortunate that part of my conference attendance is subsidized by ASQ for being an ITEA judge, but that doesn’t cover all the other costs of attendance (hotel, transportation, food, other incidentals). This year I drove to Nashville, but last year I flew to Dallas. Next year’s ASQ WCQI will be in Milwaukee and I will likely drive for that (a long drive, but I will make a mini-vacation out of it through stops in Indiana to visit family and my old stomping grounds).

ASQ conferences are spread throughout the country, but there are many other nearby conferences and events outside of ASQ that provide value but have costs as well. I am a member of two ASQ sections (Savannah River Section in Augusta and Columbia SC Section) that both have monthly meetings, and I’ve previously written about TEDxColumbiaSC and attended again this year.

The ASQ Charlotte Section recently held their annual Quality Conference of the Carolinas and I wish I could have attended but I had prior obligations. I would have happily made the trip north.

The Shingo Conference is held in Utah the same week as the ASQ WCQI, which creates conflicts for some of the Lean superstars I would presume. One day I would like to attend the Shingo Conference.

What can I accomplish only through in-person attendance that I can’t do otherwise (meetings online/over the phone, training online/books, etc.)?

As previously indicated, I can’t judge the ITEA presentations from my home office and it’s just not the same if I can’t meet with so many vendors in such a small amount of time. That being said, conference presentations can be viewed online and there are many outlets for training outside of conferences.

However, many attendees to the ASQ WCQI do so for collecting professional development credits or recertification units. I concede that is a nice indirect benefit for me, but it’s certainly not my primary purpose for attending (I collect enough RU’s through many other methods).

Is this event new for me and an opportunity to branch out to a whole new group of people, or is this a repeat event?

While I have made repeat appearances at the ASQ WCQI and TEDxColumbiaSC, the content is always different. Other conferences or events I’d like to consider attending down the road include the Shingo Conference, regional conferences for ASQ divisions and sections, and even events through AME.

When evaluating whether or not to attend an event, these are questions I ask and they don’t all have to be affirmative. For example, the TEDxColumbiaSC events are not heavily engaging and not all of the presented content is ideal for me, but it’s nearby and inexpensive to attend plus it’s a one day obligation. The material presented is informative and creative, which is the value I receive from attending.

For attending conferences, I’ve put together a quick rundown of suggestions on what folks can do to get the most of their time and money. If you’re coming to the ASQ WCQI in Nashville, drop me a line or find me on Twitter!

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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Presentation on the Designated Hitter and Root Cause Analysis

Ron Blomberg Topps Card

Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees was the very first designated hitter to come to the plate in Major League Baseball.

On Tuesday, February 17th, I will be presenting an analysis of the implementation and impact of the designated hitter in Major League Baseball to the Central Savannah River Section (Augusta, GA) of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

It is a follow-up to my post from April 2013 about the same subject, but with additional data and information sources. In 2013 I used the term “Poor Root Cause Analysis” in reference to Major League Baseball to permit such a stark rule discrepancy between two seemingly-similar halves of a league. What I probably should have said was “Questionable Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Action Implementation” because it is head-scratching what problem was actually being solved by having a DH for only half of the teams. Many readers and commenters on the original post identified areas of research that needed more attention and consideration, which I have collected and analyzed together for this event.

We’ll look at:

– the original idea of the DH and the “problem it looked to solve”
– the 1973 implementation and the different “problem it looked to solve”
– if the problem was solved and if the DH was what solved it
– what other factors MLB could have analyzed to solve the problem had it appropriately used root cause analysis and proper corrective actions
– how a quality practitioner might have approached the problem.

It’s open to the public – ASQ section members are free to attend the dinner meeting at Red Lobster, and non-members pay a $10 fee.

So, if you’re in or near Augusta and want to learn a little more about baseball history and quality application, plus you’re a fan of seafood, come join us!

Here is a link to the press release.

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ASQ Influential Voices: My Own Influential Voices of Quality

ASQ influential voices blog

The ASQ Influential Voices is a global network of bloggers reinforcing the importance of quality from multiple perspectives.

In his January post in his blog A View From The Q, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks, “Have you met someone whose teachings on quality influenced you or inspired you? What were these lessons?”

While I certainly have many individuals whose contributions to the field of quality in my eyes have given me new ways of looking at the world, there are but just a few I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting in person. I haven’t been in the quality profession for 20, 30, or 40 years nor did I start my quality journey in the green fields of any quality movement. I also have not had many great opportunities to be in the presence of those who are early pioneers, as I have been to just two ASQ World Conferences (so far).

That all being said, two individuals really stand out as being quality inspirations I’ve gotten to meet.

First, I have been a fan of Mark Graban’s work on Lean Blog for years, even before we had gotten to cross paths. Prior to meeting him, he featured Lean blog posts that further reinforced how quality applications can work in more industries than just traditional manufacturing, including healthcare AND sports. That gave me the confidence to continue to dig more into how sports can better utilize quality, because a) I’m not the first person to see those linkages because Mark was writing about it before I had gotten the figurative ball rolling myself, and b) it showed that I wasn’t all that crazy to imagine that linkage.

Second, and speaking of Mark Graban…I shared a guest post with him about a quality influence that taught me a different question to ask that helps foster inclusion and ownership of improvement ideas. Mark Fougerousse was an outside consultant at a company that employed me a few years back and his collaborative, even-mannered, but strategically-focused attitude is one I try my best to emulate in my work. He taught me about the power of asking “What do you think?” with colleagues and team members to gain insights, share reasoning, and generate confidence in trying experiments out instead of simply asking for someone else’s answer.

Both Mark Graban and Mark Fougerousse I count as the most inspirational and motivational quality influences I’ve met. However, besides them I have gotten to meet other “rock stars” of the quality profession.

six sigma green belt handbook

ASQ Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook – available from ASQ Quality Press

Two authors of the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook (from ASQ Quality Press) – Govind Ramu and Dan Zrymiak – I met at last year’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas. Both are significant to me because Dan (also an ASQ Influential Voice) has become a bit of a mentor to me and has provided great career advice, while I had a previous interaction with Govind as I had provided a series of corrections to the authors for the CSSGB Handbook’s 1st edition and defended him on the interwebs when purchasers of the Handbook were venting about the errors on message boards. (We’re all human, folks.)

I also have had the pleasure of meeting other ASQ Influential Voices such as Dan, Jennifer Stepniowski, Scott Rutherford, and Anshuman Tiwari. Karen Martin is another rock star in the Lean world, as a consultant and speaker and author of two Shingo Award-winning books. All of them help reinforce the value of quality in new and exciting ways every day.

ASQ Influential Voices Jennifer Stepniowski Daniel Zrymiak Chad Walters

It was great to meet Jennifer Stepniowski and Daniel Zrymiak, two fellow participants in the ASQ Influential Voices, at the 2014 ASQ WCQI

chad walters karen martin asq wcqi indianapolis the outstanding organization

Karen Martin, two-time Shingo Award-winning author, after her keynote speech at the 2013 ASQ WCQI in Indianapolis

I’m not one to get star struck, but it’s really great to meet the people whose work inspires you and learn how down-to-earth and collaborative they really are. We all face the same challenges in driving improvements in quality, and it’s not difficult to see what common ground we share.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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Should the Buffalo Bills Play Sunday Despite The Driving Ban?

bills jets snow stadium ralph wilson

The cities surrounding Ralph Wilson Stadium are under a driving ban – with the weather worsening, should the Bills play the Jets on Sunday?

Significantly cold and snowy weather conditions all across the country have made mid-November feel more like January, and nowhere else in the US is it more pronounced than upstate New York. While Buffalo residents are used to driving in the snow, the conditions are so treacherous that many areas around Buffalo have been under a driving ban and major roads and highways are closed to travel.

new york travel bans snow

At the current moment, Orchard Park NY is under a travel ban. Ralph Wilson Stadium is in Orchard Park.

That brings us to the Buffalo Bills, who are scheduled to play the New York Jets on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. Ralph Wilson Stadium is blanketed with a significant amount of snow, and the team has called upon volunteers to help clear the snow out of the stadium before the game on Sunday. Despite the efforts to prepare the stadium for the game, the outlying areas are still unsafe to navigate and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t see the game being played this Sunday:

Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first.


At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said — staying off the roads — would make a Bills game impractical.


So if you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it would be impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety.

He’s right. On the great pantheon of priorities and the basis for operational strategy, safety for all stakeholders needs to come out on top. Safety of the fans, players, and anyone traveling for the game is paramount, and if the conditions don’t allow folks to make it to work (travel ban or not) then why should it be any different for a football game? Heck, the Bills have canceled practices the last couple of days (including today) because players are either snowed in or it’s unsafe for them to travel. Buffalo itself is not under a travel ban as of Thursday afternoon but the city has a lot of available resources to keep the streets clean. Outlying areas might not have that luxury or aren’t as well guarded against blowing snow.

Decision-makers and Stakeholders

However, the decision to postpone the game lies with the NFL and not the state of New York. The Bills have tried their darndest to get emergency personnel in place to manage logistics for Sunday’s game with the authorities. From Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz:

Erie County officials have been in touch with the Bills. We’ve been asked: ‘Can we commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff’s office — the lead police agency — at the game?’ I can tell you right now, at this moment, we cannot commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff’s office. At this moment, I cannot commit to that on Sunday.

new york freeway snow

If conditions on roads and freeways remain like this in upstate New York for much longer, it would be extremely risky to hold a football game where 100,000 people would be forced to navigate this.

Will “respect for people” – players, fans, officials – get top billing?

There is a lot more at stake in New York than just a football game between AFC East rivals. Safety officials and authorities need to do what is best for the greater good and the public, and if that means that an NFL game cannot go on as scheduled so be it.

Safety needs to come first, and facilitating a football game puts the safety of a lot of individuals at risk. The NFL can postpone the game and/or play it elsewhere. The NFL has options, but magically improving the weather is not one of them. The NFL needs to show “respect for people” and do the right thing.

**UPDATE** The NFL has moved the Bills-Jets game out of Orchard Park this weekend and will instead be played Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

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Did Eric Hosmer’s First Base Slide Cost The Royals?

Eric Hosmer sliding

Eric Hosmer was out after sliding into first during World Series Game 7. Did sliding cost the Royals an out?

We’re two days removed from the dramatic Game 7 of the World Series, but we still aren’t removed from the critical Game 7 decisions that had an impact on the San Francisco Giants winning by one run over the Kansas City Royals to take the crown.

One very critical in-the-heat-of-the-moment decision during Game 7 was Eric Hosmer’s decision to slide head first into first base on a ground ball in the third inning. What happened on Eric Hosmer’s first base slide?

eric hosmer sliding

Hosmer was out by 0.02 seconds – did losing velocity due to sliding cost him that 0.02 seconds?

Hosmer was originally called safe by the umpire, but for the first time in World Series history a call was overturned through use of instant replay and Hosmer was declared out.

Bear in mind this is the very last game of the season, where 27 outs are the last bits of currency for two teams to decide the championship – every single out matters and every out expended by your hitters leaves you less room for error. Just like in Lean, we must be mindful of resources invested and maximize the return on those investments and minimize waste. We talk a lot of the value of resources like money and people in continuous improvement, but in baseball the constraining resource is outs available.

We’ve already covered why sliding head first into first base is a poor decision (except when trying to avoid a tag) because of loss of thrust from running (legs leaving the ground), friction between runner and ground slowing the runner down, and the safety risks of a runner’s hand getting cleated.

Many experts have weighed in with their own findings about head-first-vs-feet-first slides and whether sliding into first base is advantageous – in rare occasions and with extreme precision does the benefit outweigh the risks.

But Hosmer’s slide…should he have done it? Let’s look at some of the data.

MLB.com Statcast video is pretty awesome. According to the narrator, Hosmer was out by 0.02 seconds at first base where his speed toward the bag dropped from 18.1 mph to 15.8 mph when he went into his slide and the ground friction resisted his momentum.

As the narrator and the game announcers noted, had Hosmer kept running he likely would have been safe at first if the play was evaluated by instant replay. Just because one CAN be faster sliding into first, the likelihood is that they won’t be. From Deadspin:

It doesn’t actually matter if sliding is theoretically faster than running through if the sliding proposition requires precise timing and mechanics that no major leaguer employs—Hosmer certainly didn’t.


In a setting where players haven’t been trained for the physics-approved sliding method and, more crucially, don’t have mental clocks calibrated finely enough to fire the dive at the exact hundredth of a second necessary, the blackboard ideal of a slide being faster than running is exactly as relevant as saying something like, “If you play the lottery, you can absolutely win more money than you’d get at a 9-to-5.”

And who else should weigh in but Bill Nye the Science Guy:


At the time of Hosmer’s slide and out, the Royals still had 19 outs to work with (his double play started with 0 outs in the 3rd inning). His slide may have cost the Royals an out, but how did it directly impact the results of the game?

Hosmer was batting fourth in the Royal’s lineup, right behind Lorenzo Cain and in front of slugger Billy Butler. If Hosmer had been safe, Billy Butler would have come up to hit with one out and a runner on first base.

Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt would have been pitching from the stretch position on the mound with runners on base instead of the full windup. While the speed of a pitch from the windup vs. from the stretch position is minimal, the way a hitter sees the pitcher’s mechanics is different because their mechanics are different.

And with Jeremy Affeldt, those differences are pronounced. With the bases empty, hitters had a .158 batting average against him with a .449 OPS. With runners on base, though? Batting average of .329 and OPS of .798.

With two outs, Billy Butler grounded out to end the inning. Even if he saw the pitches the same as he would have if Hosmer was on base, that ground ball Butler hit could very easily have been a double play ball too as Butler is not fleet of foot (and grounded into 21 double plays in the regular season).

So, in the end, there very well could have been a double play that inning anyway and nothing would have changed but with the split stats on Affeldt, Butler really could have done some damage and brought Hosmer home with a double. In fact, he almost did it in the 9th inning to tie the game up (Hosmer stopped at 3rd base – another in-game decision that might have made a difference).

And if Butler couldn’t hit him in? The hitter right behind Butler, Alex Gordon, is a bit of a masher too.

So should Hosmer have slid? The conclusion is no. Would his out have mattered? Very possibly – Billy Butler was a solid candidate to cause some offensive damage. The Royals lost by one run, and creating an extra out when you have players on base is not a recipe for success.

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LinkedIn Post: Business Strategy and Clothes Dryers

clothes dryer business strategy

Business strategies and clothes dryers both set priorities between quality and delivery.

As a follow-up to my recent post on the importance of business strategy, I published my first LinkedIn post on Sunday equating the settings of a clothes dryer to the priorities built into a sound business strategy.

An excerpt:

Quality is more important to me than delivery – I’d much rather have dry clothes whenever the dryer gets them to that level than to be stuck in an inadequate timeframe where I might be pulling on damp blue jeans.

I don’t know how long it takes to dry my clothes properly – that time is going to vary significantly based on how many items need to be dried – but honestly I don’t care. Just get them dry and I’ll deal with however long it takes.

Check it out – I will likely share a number of non-sports Lean/CI/business posts on LinkedIn going forward.

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ASQ Influential Voices: Why is Strategy Important?

ASQ influential voices blog

The ASQ Influential Voices is a global network of bloggers reinforcing the importance of quality from multiple perspectives.

This month’s entry from ASQ’s A View From The Q blog, written by ASQ CEO Bill Troy, centers around strategy – specifically, what is the purpose of strategy and how can it be properly developed and deployed? Why is strategy important?

He has five questions leaders need to ask themselves and properly answer in order to utilize strategic thinking in the best way possible:

What are your key facts and assumptions? What information is driving your current state of operations? Is that information objective and measurable or subjective and inconsistently understood?
What is your theory of victory? What does success look like?
Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy? It’s like the old management joke “High quality, low cost, or fast delivery – you can only pick two.” Is achieving all three a genuine possibility? If not, you need to establish what you CAN accomplish.
Is your organization doing things that sit outside your strategy? If there are things absorbing your time, money, and attention that don’t support your strategy, you should really question how important those things are.
Have you left enough time to test your strategy? Developing your strategy is the first step in progress, but chances are high that the strategy will not be perfect – test the strategy, see what works and what doesn’t, and tweak it to fit for the direction you genuinely want to go.

According to Bill, the purpose of strategy is to define how to get from where you are to where you want to be. You must first define both ends of that journey, which means having a solid and honest understanding of your current state and who you are as an organization. You don’t just hand someone driving directions without knowing where they’re starting and where they’re going, do you?

Another way I like to define the value of strategy is how the actual journey of improvement will help you prioritize what is and is not important (see Bill’s fourth point about things outside the strategy).

sqdc board

Manufacturing companies have made “SQDC Boards” very popular – SQDC stands for Safety, Quality, Delivery, and Cost. On paper, this is the way we should always prioritize our activities – always function in the safest manner possible, provide the most ideal level of quality possible, and provide that quality in a complete and timely manner, all in a cost-effective way.

This is a very basic framework of how to prioritize a strategy – we should never sacrifice safety to achieve quality or deliver, and we should never sacrifice ideal quality in order to give products or services to a customer faster. It’s better to provide ideal quality slowly than to ship bad quality fast.

But how often in our organizations do we throw those priorities out of order? How often do we push for sending something – ANYTHING – out the door if it isn’t what the customer really wants?

When we do precisely that, we aren’t thinking strategically and we aren’t acting strategically. We are focused on short-term quick “wins” instead of a long-term culture of doing things right and in the right way.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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Hawaii Football May Fold Due To Insufficient Revenue

hawaii football

The University of Hawaii may shut down its football program due to insufficient revenues.

The University of Hawaii football program has had a strong, competitive history – BCS bowl games, record-setting Heisman candidates, hosting bowl games, participating in the highest levels of college competition in the WAC and Mountain West Conference, and the like.

However, the costs of running a competitive college football program are escalating and the Hawaii football program is at risk of dissolving due to revenues that aren’t able to keep up with the changing landscape.

Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay painted a grim picture for the future of his football program while speaking to the university’s board of regents on Monday afternoon.

“There’s a very real possibility of football going away,” (Hawaii athletics director) Ben Jay reportedly told the Board. “But even if football goes away, all the revenues that football drives goes away and then it becomes a costlier venture for the university.”

First and foremost, colleges and universities exist to provide higher education to students and grant levels of degrees to those who complete their academic curriculum. Missions of colleges are not to serve as for-profit institutions or as minor leagues to professional athletics. An athletics program best serves its university when it operates as a revenue driver for the university as a whole and not as a financial vacuum.

What do we know about the plight of the University of Hawaii football program? This significant budget deficit in athletics:

Jay is hoping the board will ask the state for the direct funding. Hawaii is currently facing a $1.5 to $3-million budget deficit this year and has worked under a budget deficit during 11 of the past 13 years.

And this significant increase in expenses:

Since 2005, Hawaii’s athletic operating expenses have increased 75 percent according to the last figures available in 2012. That compares favorably with the FBS median of a 71 percent increase since ’05.

So Hawaii football is a financial black hole because of the continuous deficits and significant boosts in expenses. How does that compare to other football programs?

– From a Inside Higher Ed report in 2006:

In the 2006 fiscal year, the latest of three examined in the study, only 19 of the 119 Football Bowl Subdivision institutions had positive net revenue, while for the rest, expenses exceeded generated revenues.

– From another NCAA report in 2011:

Twenty-two elite athletics departments made money in 2010, up from 14 the previous year, according to an annual spending report released … by the NCAA. The median surplus at those programs was $7.4-million last year, up from $4.4-million in 2009.

The numbers weren’t nearly as rosy for everyone else. At the 98 other programs in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A), the median deficit in 2010 was $11.6-million, barely changing from the previous year.

– And overall spending? Take it away, NCAA:

The 2012 edition of the NCAA’s Revenues and Expenses Report for Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs shows an increase of 10.8 percent from the previous year in athletics spending from schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The increase was 6.8 percent for programs in the Football Championship Subdivision and 8.8 percent for Division I schools without football.

Meanwhile, generated revenues (dollars generated directly by the athletics department, such as ticket sales, media contracts, royalties and alumni contributions), rose only at a 4.6 percent rate in the FBS and fell by 1.7 percent for non-football schools.

Okay, most other college football programs run in the red. Not only do they lose money for their schools, but the gap between the top 20 or so institutions and the remainder of the schools is getting wider.

But at Hawaii, are you aware that they and an opponent are permitted to play a 13th regular season game to help both schools generate more money and offset the significant Hawaii travel costs? No other team has this special “Hawaii Exemption”. From the NCAA Division 1 Manual:

17.27.2 Alaska/Hawaii, Additional Football Contest
Member institutions located in Alaska and Hawaii shall be permitted to exceed, by one, the maximum number of football contests permitted under Bylaw but otherwise shall conform to the same maximum number of contests and dates of competition permitted other members of the Association.

Even with the Hawaii Exemption, a significant majority of athletics programs are running negative.

So why do schools keep running out football programs that are financial drains on their institutions? Ego? Pride? “That’s the way we’ve always done it”?

Why would you continue to finance something that not only is draining your own financial portfolio but also shows no sign of improving financial performance and turning the net revenue figure around?

Not only should Hawaii give serious consideration to this option, but I would suggest that other schools do the same UNLESS there were known ways to turn the net revenue figure around. After all, what is school for?

As Dr. Deming said,

“Survival is optional. No one has to change.”

Just because a school has a football program with a history and tradition, it doesn’t mean it will last forever. Maybe other schools should evaluate the direct and indirect financial impacts their football programs provide.

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Quality Systems and Notre Dame Football Suspensions

ishaq williams

Ishaq Williams is one of the four Notre Dame football players who could be suspended for academic misconduct. (Brian Spurlock – USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Notre Dame football program has taken a significant hit this past week, as four players – three slated as starters – are under investigation for academic misconduct. None of the players have been officially suspended but they have been held out of practice and team activities while the investigation goes on.

While the timing of the players’ alleged academic misbehavior really couldn’t be worse, as the college football season is less than two weeks away, it comes on the heels of the summer class session but could have roots as far back as the 2012 season when the team went to the BCS National Championship game.

What can this situation with Notre Dame football suspensions teach us about quality systems?

Quality systems based on standards such as ISO 9001 are intended to be rigorous in validating that the proper processes in place are being performed as expected. In short, a solid quality system verifies that “we do what we say we do”.

A quality system performing properly to a standard is built to produce a quality output and prevent a poor quality output from being made or distributed.

It’s easy for the media and the talking heads at ESPN (and the fans of the SEC) to point fingers and say Notre Dame is doing bad things and they are not as angelic as their reputation suggests they are. That is factually correct, to a point.

However, this situation also demonstrates that whatever system Notre Dame is using to prevent academic misconduct – a defined quality system or series of inspections or who knows what – it is working to identify any academic improprieties. If there was no skeleton of a quality system present, then the alleged misconduct would be wrongly permitted by the system and not identified and quarantined.

A perfectly-operating quality system will keep the academic misdeeds from occurring in the first place, but at least Notre Dame’s processes did not let academic misdeeds from going unnoticed…this time.

Notre Dame has recently taken its lumps with regard to star athletes being suspended for academic issues – 2012’s starting quarterback Everett Golson was suspended from school due to academic misconduct as was basketball star Jerian Grant. This past spring top wide receiver DaVaris Daniels was suspended from school for poor grades.

The academic system for athletes at Notre Dame permits specialized help in the form of tutors, academic advisors, and training sessions among other things. The school takes their academic rigor very seriously and will provide necessary academic assistance where necessary, but participants who violate the available resources through inappropriate means suffer significant consequences. This has been proven with Golson, Grant, and Daniels.

Mike Coffey at NDNation.com summed up the situation and how the school administration is handling it very objectively:

If anything, the way the last couple weeks have progressed screams “institutional control” rather than the lack of it.  The academic side of the house noticed something was wrong, started to investigate, brought in the athletic side when appropriate, and things proceed from there.  That’s exactly how it should be: No undue pressure from one side on the other, both sides cooperating fully.

A quality system properly implemented helps an organization keep doing things properly and effectively, and helps identify anomalies.

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A Surge in Major League Baseball Giveaway Defects

troy tulowitzki

A Colorado Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki jersey t-shirt giveaway promotion went wrong.

Over the last 30 days, there have been at least three significantly notable Major League Baseball giveaway snafus with roots in poor quality.

First, the Colorado Rockies celebrated their superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki with a t-shirt jersey giveaway with his name misspelled late last month (see above photo). 15,000 shirts, all with just one T on the back. The team’s response?

“Acknowledging that many fans came to the game for the jersey, rather than disappoint them, we decided to go ahead and hand them out.

We have made plans to reproduce the jersey and fans wishing to exchange will be able to do so at a future date (TBD) in September at Coors Field or the Rockies Dugout Stores. In addition, fans exchanging the jersey will receive a complimentary ticket to a future game in 2014 or 2015.”

That was followed up with a W.B. Mason truck with team logos given away as a promotional item at a Mets game:

wb mason truck mets phillies

This W.B. Mason truck given away at a Mets game features a cab with the Phillies logo. Oops again.

Never mind that the Phillies and Mets play in the same division (the NL East) and are rivals. The trucks were produced by an external vendor named Hit Promotional Products. How did the vendor respond to that defect?

Unfortunately, this turned out to be a case of human error during the packaging stage of production, and we apologize that a few manufactured units of the incorrectly branded truck were placed in the wrong team packaging. We believe this is a very isolated issue that hadn’t occurred in the past but will address to make sure mistakes like this don’t occur in the future.

And lastly, the Detroit Tigers gave away bobbleheads commemorating Miguel Cabrera’s two MVP awards:

miguel cabrera bobblehead

Miguel Cabrera has won two MVP awards… (photo by team)

Upon closer inspection…

cabrera mvp bobblehead

…unfortunately he actually won them in the American League. (photo from Twitter)

The Detroit Tigers play in the American League, where Miggy won his MVP awards – not the National League.

Major League teams and minor league teams as well rely on outside vendors for promotional products – and that makes sense, seeing how short-run novelty item manufacturing is not part of any team’s key processes. However, poor quality in promotional items is everyone’s fault – the manufacturers should not have produced bad quality, and the teams should have done a better job of planning for and inspecting the merchandise upon its arrival.

Why was poor quality produced in the first place?

With the Tulowitzki jerseys, it isn’t clear if there was a final team approval of a proof/design before production. Most individuals in Rockies team marketing are probably well-versed in spelling Tulowitzki seeing how he’s one of their players and it’s such an uncommon name the reps probably had to take a spelling test specifically on it before receiving job offers. (Kidding.)

But now, the 15,000 shirts are eligible to be swapped out for replacement jerseys (and old jerseys are scrapped), the team and the sponsor (King Soopers) are associated with bad quality, and the team incurs the additional cost of giving away ticket vouchers for future games. The production company loses out on up to 15,000 extra jerseys given away free while bearing production costs, and the team bears the expense of lost ticket revenue and the handling costs of swapping jerseys and tickets out.

Hit Promotional Products blames “human error” for the Phillies trucks getting into the Mets packaging, and also calls this an isolated incident. Well, was it? How do you know? If the company had proper systems in place for preventing human error to cause defects like this, wouldn’t this have been done properly? How did Phillies trucks get connected to Mets packaging during production in the first place? Were these trucks produced in China where very little quality distinction is made between logos when hand-packing these giveaways?

The same thing goes with the Miguel Cabrera bobbleheads. Most bobbleheads are made in China. These came from another promotional products company, Forever Collectibles.Granted, it is very hard to tell the difference between American and National on the MVP award stickers without super-close inspection, but it still happened and the Tigers still got undesirable attention for the messed-up giveaways.

Promotional items from giveaways are intended to be created on the cheap. That being said:

poor quality low price

(from LinkedIn)

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Posted in Baseball, Defects, Error-Proofing, Lean Oops, Lean Wastes, Manufacturing, Poka Yoke, Quality, Scrap, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ASQ TV Features Quality in Athletics

monarcas morelia

ISO 9001-certified Mexican professional soccer team Monarcas Morelia won the Liga MX in 2013.

Last month ASQ TV featured many elements and applications of quality in sports organizations in addition to bringing attention to the ASQ Quality in Athletics special interest group. Here are some of the applications examined:

– A Mexican professional soccer team known as Monarcas Morelia realized in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s that in order for the soccer team (okay, futbol) to best serve all stakeholders (players, fans, and owners) a quality management system needed to be implemented. By focusing on properly recruiting/scouting players, improving the fan experience, addressing safety concerns in the stadium, the team maximized revenues, achieved ISO 9001 certification, and finally won the Liga MX title in 2013 through long-term quality improvement efforts.

More information can be found here in this Quality Progress article (subscription required – sorry).

– Leaders of the ASQ Quality in Athletics special interest group created a special chart for use in evaluating team effectiveness or player development. It is known as the TISCC chart. A link to the chart is here:


More information on how to apply it can be found here.

– Finally, ASQ TV produced a video for the applications of quality in athletics.

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ASQ Quality in Athletics: A Call to Action

ASQ influential voices blog

The American Society for Quality features a relatively-new special interest group called Quality in Athletics.

For the last few months, I’ve been in a mood. An angry mood, the kind of mood where you feel like you’ve been misled for years.

I absolutely love sports for the strategy, competition, top-talented individuals, and the behind-the scenes planning for winning games. I also appreciate sports as a business – bringing the game to fans and providing an entertainment outlet that builds on the quality of life.

But then I see this:

And hear about this:

(link to more info here)

And that’s just about matters related to the FIFA World Cup. That doesn’t include the NCAA’s handling of amateurism relative to the huge revenues brought in by colleges from athletics, the Donald Sterling fiasco, Richie Incognito’s treatment of teammates, CTE of NFL retirees, and the overall priority of revenue dollars over safety of those who do all the heavy lifting to build those dollars.

It’s very disheartening to defend and help improve the sports industry for all stakeholders (teams, players, owners, administrators, fans) when a blind eye is turned toward “respect for people“. Sports does such a great job of separating “the love of the game” from the actual costs (the lives of players, builders, and animals being the biggest) of putting such revenue-driving events on.

My writing has slowed significantly for a couple reasons. The biggest one is that it’s so frustrating to have affection and celebration for an industry that is so far behind the times in treatment of individuals. We might think that traditional industry does a lot of things wrong, but the sports industry is decades away from simply catching up to the traditional levels of competency. There’s so much to cover, and I don’t know where to begin. Nothing is simple when the great wealth of the highest-ranking few in the industry is under fire.

qatar world cup

The World Cup in Qatar is killing construction workers at an alarming rate…yet FIFA is giving it little attention.

To say that I am sickened by the industry because of this would be an understatement. I want to help, but sometimes you can’t help those who don’t want it and simply don’t care. It’s so infuriating, it’s so sad, it’s so corrupt. And we as a sports-viewing public do not hold leaders accountable enough. We get bent out of shape when the media gets its teeth sunk in (Sterling, steroids, Incognito) but when the mass population is largely unaware of the travesty that is the Qatar World Cup no one stands up for what’s right.

But today I make an announcement that I hope gets the boulder rolling up the mountain we have to climb to improve aspects of quality in sports organizations…and a call to action for you.

I have been appointed to ASQ’s Quality in Athletics special interest group. The key activities of QIA as of today are:

1. Improve athletic programs through the use of quality tools

2. Give teams a forum to share best practices

3. Provide new opportunities for former athletes

QIA also has a LinkedIn group: Quality in Athletics. QIA has been in existence for a couple of years but needs help in getting feedback, suggestions, and attention. We will be further establishing a committee of knowledgeable quality practitioners who have experience or understanding of quality applications in the sports industry.

So here are my calls to action for you.

Join the LinkedIn group for Quality in Athletics. It’s free to join and will feature athletics-related content. (I’m not yet an administrator but will have that capability soon.)

Subscribe to the Lean Blitz blog if you haven’t already. I’ve made some format changes to subscriptions (going with MailChimp instead of the not-so-snappy WordPress subscriber interface for those not going through FeedBurner) and posts would only hit your mailbox once per day at most. I will begin to merge Lean Blitz blog activities with initiatives of QIA.

Share key content you read about quality in athletics with athletics administrators you think need it most. I have a lot here, but the LinkedIn group has experts sharing content and Mark Graban continues to write great Lean content about healthcare and sports.

There will be more later, such as surveys and ASQ group membership, but this is a start.

If QIA can stop even one death as a result of a league executive saying “I read somewhere that we can do this safer. Let’s do this right instead of letting someone get hurt” then we will have been successful.

Join us and support us. We need your help. Sports needs your knowledge and expertise.

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Posted in ASQ Influential Voices, Quality, Respect For People, Safety, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Your Father Can Teach You About Lean

fathers day augusta national golf club

Kevin (father to Callen), Jim (father to Kevin and Chad), and Chad (dog-father to Rooster)

Happy Fathers Day to all of the dads, grandpas, great-grandpas, uncles, and dads soon-to-be out there. Fathers Day has evolved a little bit into a day of phone calls, golf, yard work, grilling out, and giving of ties and Brut cologne and other silly gifts for the man who pretty much has everything he needs and for whom it’s hard to buy presents of appreciation.

So what can our fathers teach us about Lean and continuous improvement?

Sharing of best practices

Whenever we have issues installing cabinets or changing tires or performing handyman tasks in an unhandy way, who is generally the first person we call for guidance? Yep, our fathers. As a guy, it’s highly likely that the things we’re trying to accomplish in our homes and our lives are strikingly similar to the same activities our fathers encountered at the same time in their lives. He can help us to learn from his mistakes and discuss what works and doesn’t work.

His successes and failures can provide us with a better roadmap for us to determine how we can do it right the first time – we can learn from his results.

Source of training and education

He was the one who taught us how to shoot a free throw or properly throw a changeup. We worked on cars in the garage with him, changing tires or oil or spark plugs and wires. We not only were a semi-sorta source of assistance for him (or, if nothing else, a gopher for things on shelves while he was under the car) but he also showed us at least one way we could accomplish these necessary tasks.

Not everyone’s swing will look the same, we may end up having a different free throw procedure than he did, and our spark plugs might require a slightly different technique, but starting with the end result and working backwards is something he taught us to do.

Use (and ask for) directions where necessary

And sometimes he gave us a great demonstration of what NOT to do. Men are notorious (perhaps unfairly stereotyped) for not asking for directions and assuming they already know what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re right but it might take a few permutations and attempts to get there, and sometimes costing more time and money than anticipated due to turning around and starting over or rework.

The fact remains that we’re all learning all the time, and no matter how much we think we know there’s so much more we don’t. So thanks to all the dads out there who are doing their best to show us how to (and how not to) do things right.

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ASQ Influential Voices: Quality and Education Part 2 – Seth Godin on School

As a continuation on the discussion about the link between quality and education for the ASQ Influential Voices, the following is perhaps one of the most influential TED Talks I have ever encountered. Seth Godin, whose impact on my life and career is well documented, asks the very important question in his eBook Stop Stealing Dreams and in this TED talk: “What is school for?”:

(video link is here as well)

Seth further reinforces what school is currently designed to do versus what education really should be.

Is school really supposed to be about compliance – normal, fit in, follow instructions, textbooks, punitive vs. passion, heavy structure, standardized tests – or should it be about genuine education and curiosity?

The current structure of school really creates complicit employees with the curiosity removed instead of individuals trying to do things that are interesting.

How does that create genuine partnerships between workers and companies where both are trying to realize the best quality results possible? It doesn’t. Students become employees who simply do as they are told, or suffer the repercussions of being replaced by another cog that will.

It’s the curious ones, the imaginative ones, the dreamers, the ones who build interesting things or follow interesting paths that ask “why not?” or “how can we do better?” that find new ways to create better quality.

Seth Godin

If you bookmark or subscribe to just one blog, Seth Godin’s blog had better be it.

College used to be about developing the scholars of tomorrow. Now, in many cases, it’s a continuation of the standardization of grade school. In many cases we are taught that we cannot get good jobs without the proper education from college, or that we have to continue to follow the rules and fit in or else we will be ostracized from the job hunt circuit before graduating (and even after graduating)…yet here we are with markets flooded with MBA grads who struggle to find jobs and engineering grads who see many engineering jobs being filled overseas.

College used to be about scholarly pursuits, growing and being different, learning about one’s self beyond the standardized tests of high school. Now college is all about the post-graduation job, we have technical colleges popping up everywhere, for-profit schools all over the place where students are taught to “do it this way” and not to “think about different ways to accomplish an end result”.

Young professionals and graduates have been sold the idea that education guarantees success and happiness, and that is clearly far off from the truth.

Every person is different – so why is every person treated in the same way by a standardized school? Quality is different for every customer and every output – why are we training our students and graduates and employees to treat them the same?

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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ASQ Influential Voices: Link Between Quality and Education – Part I

ASQ influential voices blog

The ASQ Influential Voices is a global network of bloggers reinforcing the importance of quality from multiple perspectives.

The final keynote speaker for the ASQ World Conference in Dallas, education reformer Michelle Rhee, stated that a low-quality education results in a low-quality workforce. I’m certainly inclined to believe that, but maybe for different reasons than she suggested. A good education imparts knowledge from the teacher to the student, but what I think is most critical about a good education is that it teaches students how to learn on their own.

What is education in this case? Education does not necessarily mean the traditional K-12 schooling. Any opportunity for an individual to learn, stay curious, and properly learn how to learn is an education. Asking questions, satisfying their curiosity, testing assumptions…so much education occurs outside of the classroom.

So what is the link between quality and education?

Generating quality results in the workforce requires the ability to comprehend what good quality is and to properly analyze the gap between good and bad quality, even in the face of ambiguity. If quality is defined by the customer, it is important for suppliers and employees to properly define what the customer wants and doesn’t want and provide offerings that not only meet customer expectations but also delight customers.

This means understanding that “light gray” is unacceptable when the customer asks for “regular gray” even though they are close in hue.

augusta greenjackets concessions

This means recognizing that long lines at the concession stand necessitate opening up another window and deploying another concessionaire to help out with the queue.

This means bringing too many parts to the manufacturing cell will build up unnecessary inventory that could take up needed space even if it saves you an extra trip.

This isn’t limited to just employees – education is important from the customer side as well. Customers need to make it as easy as possible for the suppliers to give them what they want, which means properly explaining their expectations and defining what elements of quality are most critical.

How obnoxious is it when a customer tells a Starbucks barista a venti-decaf-double-flavor-shot-soy-latte, then receives their drink and complains that they wanted soy instead of milk. If that was such a critical need, why didn’t the customer say so?

Properly educated employees can think through problems and comprehend customer expectations. Properly educated customers can define what they want and properly communicate that to their supplier. (Yes, mistakes will be made from time to time, but less frequently than with those who are not properly educated.)

“Do As I Say” vs. “What Do You Think?”

When people are not properly educated and are not able to successfully think for themselves, they become disengaged and they become reliant on others telling them what to do. It’s as if they can’t think “in multiple dimensions” and ask “why” without it sounding either condescending or disruptive.

classroom teacher toyota way principle 14 learning organization lean blitz consulting continuous improvement relentless reflection

Those that are uneducated and can’t think for themselves only know two results – obey or disobey (and suffer the consequences).

Those who are uneducated and can’t think for themselves validate their activities with the old adage “This is how it’s always been done.” (We Lean thinkers obviously loathe that phrase.)

Those who are uneducated and can’t think for themselves take what the book says for them to do and responds “This is the only way we can do it because the book is always right and we must never question its teachings.”

I recently had a meeting with a manager who said “I just want employees to listen, to do what I tell them, and not argue.” Essentially, he wants an uneducated workforce. He wants a “Do as I say” workforce.

Conversely, think about the power of putting the power of decision in the hands of the user. What if a manager responded to an employee’s question with “What do you think?” 

What do you think the employee would do? I’m betting that, more often than not, that employee is going to feel a little more empowered to go find out for themselves.

In the end, a properly educated individual is a challenged individual, knows how to learn on their own, can dig through ambiguity, and help bridge the gap between good and bad quality.

An improperly educated individual does just what they’re told, nothing more but sometimes less.

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Posted in ASQ Influential Voices, Concession Stand, Employee Knowledge, Lean Wastes, Problem Solving, Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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