ASQ Quality in Athletics: A Call to Action

asq logo

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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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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What is Value?

fist full of cash value

Value is not always measured in dollars.

As continuous improvement practitioners we are always discussing value-added versus non-value-added activities. We are also tasked with identifying cheaper or cost-cutting alternatives. Employees are considered valuable if they do the job that is asked of them. Lost in all of this is the genuine meaning of value – what is value?

Well, let’s start with some definitions for the word “value” found online (as a noun):

the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something
the amount of money that something is worth : the price or cost of something
something that can be bought for a low or fair price
usefulness or importance

All of these definitions hit on a piece of what we can really consider value.

To me, the genuine definition of value is

“receiving more benefit out of something relative to the cost to acquire it”.

I specifically make no reference to money in that definition because value goes above and beyond money. I also make no reference to lowest price. Value is in the eye of the beholder and the customer. It all depends on what resource the customer finds most important – money, time, space, prestige, and so on.

Bentley

A Bentley provides a different set of value than a Kia.

For example, a Kia and a Bentley perform roughly the same function – provide a means of transportation. A Bentley is far more expensive vehicle, though. With the higher price tag, the Bentley provides a value of scarcity and prestige – an attitude and a feeling of luxury and wealth.

Does that mean the Bentley is more valuable than the Kia? Financially, yes. A Bentley’s replacement cost is far higher than Kia. From a utility standpoint (the ability to transport oneself to and fro) though? No. But a person can’t get the Bentley prestige from a Kia experience.

cow

A cow is a cow, and its steak is a steak whether you get it at a local diner or a fancy high-dollar chop house.

I have a coupon entitling me to $5 off of a steak dinner. Let’s assume the coupon is for the local family dinner joint where the steak normally runs $15. How valuable is that coupon? If I’m eating at this establishment, I’m probably not going for luxury or prestige nor do I expect the cow from which this steak originated to be a special perfect luxurious cow- I just want a steak cooked well. My expectations are a properly-cooked steak that relieves my hunger. A $5 off coupon would provide me a good enough value to entice me to order a steak at this joint.

Now what if this coupon was for a high-dollar chop house steak that runs me over $50? Dollar-wise, that’s not much of a cost savings. However, eating at the chop house brings about a higher level of elegance and prestige. The steak I eat at the chop house could be very close in quality to the steak I got at the dinner joint. After all, a cow is a cow (essentially). There are no guarantees that the steak from the chop house is from a better cow than the cow providing my steak at the dinner joint.

What you pay for is the prestige, the ambiance, the luxury. And besides, a place like that would probably frown upon anyone using a coupon anyway. It takes away from the luxury if someone uses a discount to get it.

augusta greenjackets concessions

What is value at a baseball game?

So what is value to someone attending a baseball game? Here is a general idea of your typical game attendee’s expectations:

- Watch a good game, perhaps with their favorite team or players
- Entertainment for the attendee and those with him/her (such as family)
- Safety provisions in place (minimize being put in harm’s way from flying objects or poorly cooked food)
- Being able to watch the game or experience entertainment without significant distraction or deterrents

Now what is the typical game attendee investing in these expectations?

- Money for tickets and concessions
- Time from arriving to the parking lot until getting home
- Opportunity costs of possibly doing something else more productive

Value is the difference between the benefits reaped (relative to expectations) and the cost investment to do so. What do teams do to take away from your value?

- High ticket prices relative to other options
- High concessions prices relative to food quality
- Poor location to get in/out for parking due to poor logistics and infrastructure
- Long waits at concession stands due to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in concessions management
- Dirty stadiums with safety hazards
- Poorly maintained entertainment options
- Poorly constructed and maintained safety provisions

Does your team provide you positive value? Do you feel you get more benefit from going to a game than it costs to attend? If not, then something needs to change – either you should find something else to do or the team needs to clean up its act.

Value does not mean cheap. Yes, sometimes lowest cost is the most valuable option. Tell that to the chophouse owner or the Bentley driver, though.

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Posted in Baseball, Concession Stand, Lean Wastes, Maintenance, Quality, Safety, Sports, Waiting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
asq logo

ASQ Central Savannah River section out of Augusta, Georgia

On Tuesday I presented to the ASQ Central Savannah River section (Augusta, Georgia) on quality applications demonstrated during The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

ASQ Savannah River Section Mtg – ANGC (PPT)

Here is a link to the slide notes:

ASQ Savannah River Section Mtg – ANGC (PDF)

The content of the presentation includes:

- Attention to maximizing safety for patrons
- Identification of quality expectations and how Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC) meets those quality expectations
- How ANGC  makes sure anything needed in concession stands and merchandise stands is available to patrons (or isn’t made available)
- On-site concessions logistics and supply chain management
- Lean tool demonstration out on the course and in patron expectation processes

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Around The Bases: NFL Draft Jerseys Edition

nfl draft jerseys rack

Each NFL team has a few blank jerseys on a rack backstage at the NFL Draft ready to be customized with a draft pick’s name.

The NFL Draft and Nike came up with a neat concept in 2012 – a way to present each first round draft pick at the Draft in New York with their own customized team jersey when they come up to the stage to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell. The process incorporates a rack of blank NFL Draft jerseys, pre-generated press-on name plaques of each player invited to New York, and a heat press for pressing names to jerseys.

While originally reported on in 2012, the New York Times has shared a video of the process that occurs backstage in the two-minute time frame it takes for the NFL draftee to get to the stage once they have been announced.

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Speaking of Nike, there was a recent article about Nike founder Phil Knight and in an interview he opened up with some thoughts about his son’s passing:

Knight’s oldest son, Matthew, was scuba diving in El Salvador, visiting the country on a mission for the charity he worked for, when his equipment malfunctioned. The 34-year-old died in the waters of Lake Ilopango, leaving behind a wife and two sons. Knight and his wife, Penny, were devastated. In a note to his staff, Knight told them that instead of sending him condolences, they should make a point of spending more time with their own families.

Bill Waddell at Manufacturing Leadership Center respectfully calls Mr. Knight out for the “dichotomy between such compassion and Nike’s institutional commitment to systemic exploitation of folks working in factories” and he’s right.

As Knight said, “Nike is a marketing-oriented company…” and “We understand the most important thing we do is market the product.”  Manufacturing is just the dirty work best done by people willing to do such dirty work on the cheap. 

The ‘manufacturing’ people at Nike are merely the internal champions of seeking out and making maximum use – abuse – of cheap labor.  If they were actually manufacturing people they would be ashamed of and outraged over factories such as the one they championed in Bangladesh – the one in which they “slogged up a dirty staircase to the top floors of an eight-story building” and had “rolls of fabric were strewn across the production floor and some windows were bolted shut.”

Nike should practice better “respect for people“, and not just domestically – the Nike business case weighs heavily on the backs and shoulders of underpaid commoditized workers in Asian factories.

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Mark Graban at LeanBlog.org shares this great video comparing Formula One pit stops from today and yesteryear:

Yeah, you’ve got a lot more pit crew workers today and considerable rule changes, but you also have improved (and proper) technology and a lot less excess motion and movement due to standardized work and assigned tasks.

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Mark also shared a link to the Toyota website featuring the 13 Pillars of the Toyota Production System. Definitely check it out. The post and the pillars will certainly be a part of future content here.

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bryce harper

Washington Nationals fans won’t get to see much of Bryce Harper until July.

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is one of my favorite players because he hustles – sometimes too much. His hustle has also certainly cost him a big piece of this season as he required thumb surgery after injuring himself sliding face first into third base.

We’ve already detailed why sliding head first into first base is dangerous and has a poor cost-benefit of doing so (you hardly gain any speed or save time getting to the bag). Maybe players should just stop sliding head first all together.

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martin maldonado

Martin Maldonado ripped the cover off of the ball – literally.

Last month Martin Maldonado of the Milwaukee Brewers hit a ball and ripped the cover off of the ball, managing an infield single. Not quite Roy Hobbs, but still pretty cool.

So why did the ball fall apart? Was it a defective cut in the leather from manufacturing? What about seams sewn with weak thread? Was the ball overused or the seams worn down by a pitcher doctoring the ball? Did Maldonado hit the ball just right?

Sometimes it’s hard to do adequate root cause analysis and identify the real reasons why defects happen, but by using root cause analysis properly and considering all possibilities it becomes easier to figure out how to improve processes (such as inspecting baseballs for doctoring or asking questions about production techniques).

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Finally, Seth Godin is an absolute must-read. He recently had some great posts that are relevant to continuous improvement.

Speedometer confusion
It’s important to measure the right and meaningful things – the best metrics tie directly back to what really matters and there’s no way to game the system.

What’s your job?
Great tie-in to knowing how you add value.

Cognitive load
When you are forced to handle many individual projects at one time, you burn up your available cognition “cache” and spend a lot of time in switching between priorities. Having a personal kanban concept in place helps you focus on the vital few and gets them done faster.

Power, policy, and public persuasion
“Just because an organization has the power to do something doesn’t mean it should.”

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Posted in Baseball, Football, Lean Wastes, Motion, Quality, Respect For People, SMED/Setup Reduction, Sports, Standardized Work, Time Savings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement Recap – ASQ WCQI in Dallas

ASQ WCQI Michelle Rhee

Michelle Rhee delivered the final keynote speech at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas.

The 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement is now over. While some of the ASQ Influential Voices have shared their experiences meeting folks and poring through presentations and keynotes via posts (see here, here, and here) and Twitter (and did a very good job of it, I might add), I actually got to see very few of them because I was a judge for the International Team Excellence Awards finals that took place during the conference.

What I did get to see, however, definitely made the trip and the work I put in for ITEA worthwhile. Let me start with comparing how I spent my conference time to what recommendations I make for conference-goers.

Plan in advance for who and what you want to see

I arrived in Dallas on Saturday with the intent of training for the ITEA judging process early Sunday. Based on my judging panel’s schedule of team presentations for us to judge over Monday and Tuesday, I worked time into my schedule to see the trade show in the exhibit hall, attend special events in the evenings, and cross paths with individuals I had networked with via social media prior to arrival.

ASQ provided conference attendees with a great app that showed who all was attending (with the option of requesting contact information), a full schedule of events, and a map of the entire hotel with locations pinned for booths at the exhibit hall and presentation rooms. This app allowed attendees to create their schedule and use push notifications to alert them when their next event was scheduled to occur. Great, great tool.

So what did I do with my time? Well, I got to meet three of the ASQ Influential Voices – Anshuman Tiwari, Daniel Zrymiak, and Jennifer Stepniowski.

ASQ Influential Voices Jennifer Stepniowski Daniel Zrymiak Chad Walters

It was great to meet Jennifer and Daniel, two fellow participants in the ASQ Influential Voices. (Photo by Jennifer Stepniowski)

This was my first opportunity to tell Daniel about how I had assisted with data, example, and grammar edit identification for the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook he had co-written with four other authors many moons ago, and how that had led me to some other great leadership opportunities with ASQ.

I was able to catch Jennifer and Daniel at a leadership recognition reception Monday evening, even though I came in super late after having a late ITEA presentation to judge and feedback to generate for the team. My schedule was definitely full all week.

Have an open mind about learning

The trade show in the exhibit hall was mostly comprised of software offerings (for quality systems management), new technologies for inventory management, schools recruiting for training and certification, book publishers (ASQ, CRC Press, and McGraw-Hill are all booths I visited), and the division/special interest groups recruiting for attendees to visit/subscribe to their sections.

It was really cool to talk with Michael Sinocchi of CRC Press. His company did the publishing of Mark Graban‘s books and we talked about how their authors are able to leverage social media not just to sell more books but to spread the teachings around to a wider audience. We also discussed the kinds of subjects and titles that might be part of the next iteration of quality improvement (*ahem*sports*ahem*).

Bring (or acquire) a swag bag

ASQ Design Construction Division

In my opinion, the ASQ Design & Construction Division had the coolest swag. Again.

In line with visiting all of those booths, I definitely acquired a significant amount of swag. Some I found intriguing or useful (the ASQ Design & Construction Division gave away squishy construction equipment – again), while other booths had filler giveaways (like pens and pamphlets and software samples/trials that I will never install) that were not particularly interesting.

Full disclosure: in addition to being a Lean guy, I am also a marketing guy. I concede that most folks participating in/attending/working at a conference about quality are going to be more technically savvy and not big on great ideas for marketing or advertising.

So I came away with a squishy backhoe, a weekly pill dispenser box from the ASQ Healthcare Division, a collection of tote bags…but outside of that there was nothing notable.

ATTENTION BOOTH OPERATORS AND MARKETING TEAMS: think about the problem you are trying to solve by having a booth there. You want people to notice your offerings, yes? You want people to look up your information, yes? Excellent. So who is attending? Quality folks – auditors, Lean or Six Sigma folks, consultants, educators, engineers, managers, leaders.

So what things would they notice? What would make you stand out? Think Purple Cow by Seth Godin. What makes you remarkable AND trustworthy?

Some software booths like Gemba Academy had experts walking potential buyers through the software or training modules on computers in their booths. Excellent.

Software booths with just flyers and marketing guys, but no opportunities for experts to show off the software? I’m going to pass.

The ASQ Lean Enterprise Division had a BINGO game – get signatures from certain types of people at the exhibit hall to fill out the card and win prizes. Forces networking, interaction, and competition. Also excellent.

Pen giveaways? Flyer giveaways? Software trials I have to install and they expire in 30 days? Boring. They hit the trash bin. Sorry, kids. I am very particular about my pen choices.

Quality Council of Indiana hiring Dallas Mavericks cheerleaders to sign posters and get pictures? Actually pretty offensive and sketchy. Not only would a large contingent of conference attendees be women (not a majority) that have now shut you out as a training offering, but there are also a lot of male attendees who see that marketing ploy as slimy. I’m not the only one who lost respect for QCI. There was no attachment to QCI and the cheerleaders – how did this help QCI sell anything?

Games and book giveaways that force me to interact and answer questions? I’m in.

Lots of “put your business card in the fishbowl to try to win an iPad” deals. Low interaction, I likely won’t win, I’m not coming back to your booth unless I win, and I just wasted a dime on business card printing that doesn’t help me with networking.

You want to do something cool? Make it fun for attendees to acquire or use your giveaways. Don’t give away things that just get pitched. Give things away that can be shown off on a desk (squishy construction equipment) or used/seen a lot that aren’t commodities (like pens). Do something novel.

It’s a conference full of introverts and quality geeks (is it stereotyping if I’m also stereotyping myself AND it’s true?) so play on that. I cannot WAIT until someone has a branded pocket protector giveaway.

(You know what? That’s my gift to you, marketing teams. That idea is free. I better see it next year in Nashville.)

Look out for networking opportunities

Here’s a great example of how networking has really paid off for me.

Last year I met Dave Celata at the ASQ World Conference in Indianapolis as part of the Young Quality Professionals social event. He is the ASQ Social Responsibility Program Manager in Milwaukee now and I stopped by his Social Responsibility special interest group booth in Dallas. At his booth he introduced me to Michelle Mason, ASQ’s Managing Director. Michelle and I have now started talking about leadership opportunities for the Quality in Athletics special interest group and hope to capitalize on opportunities very soon. Michelle has also introduced me to individuals representing the member leader programs and other ASQ leaders.

I’m very excited to see how Quality in Athletics works out and how it will progress in years to come – to be a part of it would be phenomenal, and to think that had I not met Dave last year or stopped by his booth this year nothing might have gotten off the ground.

I’m in the process of reaching back out to everyone I met and whose business cards I received. If you’re at a conference, there’s a high likelihood you are a mover-and-shaker and I want to keep in touch with you.

Keep your schedule full

My schedule was definitely full. In the middle of preparing for an ITEA presentation, we had a hotel fire drill!

asq world conference fire drill dallas hilton anatole

It’s a fire drill! Everyone out!

asq world conference fire drill dallas hilton anatole

File out of the front doors in an orderly fashion, please.

asq world conference fire drill dallas hilton anatole

I don’t care if it was a false alarm, it’s still going off and let’s be safe rather than sorry.

asq world conference fire drill dallas hilton anatole

Our fearless ITEA leaders helping to keep order in the fire evacuation chaos.

And yes, it was just a false alarm – maybe someone accidentally pulled the switch. Leave it to quality folks to look at a fire drill and look at how to improve the process.

In our evening hours, besides going to receptions we also had the privilege of being invited to some hospitality suite events for ASQ divisions.

asq hospitality suite invitation

They both sound so enticing – which do we choose?

I attended one of the Lean Enterprise Division hospitality suites one night and met some great leaders there – Don Smith, LED’s education chairman, Chris Hayes, LED’s webinar chair, and Dave Harry, LED’s marketing chair. I talked with them about leadership opportunities with LED going forward.

Besides being open to listening, share your wins and troubles as well

I really bonded well with a few of my new quality friends at the conference, which definitely included discussions about wins and troubles. I spent a lot of time with my ITEA judging panel away from the projects and presentations and turned initial networking opportunities into genuine let’s-go-find-fun-stuff-to-do-together activities. The entire conference was great and exciting, and I cannot wait to do it all over again in Nashville in 2015.

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Around The Bases: Tough Mudder Cow Patties Edition

tough mudder

Do NOT drink the water at Tough Mudder. For your own safety.

The Tough Mudder is obviously a very popular endurance race series among the athletic and adventurous young adult population – obstacle courses through rough and dangerous terrain, the thrill of signing a waiver not holding race organizers liable over your potential death in-race, mud stains never to be completely washed out of your clothes, and the thrill of merely completing the course as opposed to a competitive race.

For a mere $119 (and up, depending on how early you register) you and a thousand or so other folks can run the course and get a t-shirt and some other swag, then listen to bands after the run…while at the same time ingesting Campylobacter coli:

They may be the toughest racers out there, but more than 20 people who got sick after a “Tough Mudder” run in rural Nevada were felled by the very tiniest of obstacles: a germ called Campylobacter.

Cow or pig manure was the likely source of the bug, which thrives in the mud puddles that make the obstacle course runs so much good dirty fun.

Great that the health experts nailed down the root cause to the competitors’ illness, but doesn’t it seem kinda silly to have folks run through animal poop and still take their money?

“These military-style adventure races attract high numbers of active-duty military personnel, along with young, active, extremely fit civilians. Persons typically are advised of the risks of participating and required to sign a liability waiver. Races are commonly held on farmlands where animal feces increase the risk for zoonotic disease transmission.”

The races often lead to sickness or injury. Last year, state health officials in Michigan said 200 or so people got sick at a mudder race there, likely from norovirus.

“Often lead to sickness” and “animal feces” are enough to keep me from shelling out that kind of cash just to deal with completely unnecessary illness. How irresponsible that the Tough Mudder organizers are making a killing off of entrance fees and sponsors but don’t care enough to make their course free of stupid health hazards.

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Speaking of health and safety hazards, Deadspin relays a story about a trapeze act that collapsed. Here’s a video.

I concede that trapeze artists have to be strong skilled athletes and their work takes lots of practice. However, what is the root cause of the scary-as-hell fall? Commenters are reporting cables failing and snapping. Based on the animal cruelty surrounding circuses (and you know my stance on animal cruelty) I have high skepticism that there are strong safety precautions and protocols in place for trapeze acts.

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masters mowers

As a follow-up to an article about the lawnmowers used at Augusta National Golf Club, here is another article that covers how drivers use tennis balls to alert other drivers when there is an emergency.

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donald sterling danny manning

Donald Sterling, in happier times as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

In what comes as no surprise, the Donald Sterling fallout has caused a bunch of Clippers sponsors to pull funding and association with the team until the scandal mess has been cleaned up. As if we needed more evidence that “respect for people” is a poor and a “race to the bottom” management tactic, now it hits an NBA team owner and his organization right in the wallet.

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jack ramsay

Dr. Jack Ramsay flashing a sartorial style Craig Sager could only follow.

Mixed into the Sterling scandal coverage, one of the NBA’s coaching icons passed away. Dr. Jack Ramsay, who I only got to know as a basketball analyst for ESPN, died last week. In this ESPN article about his life, a great Dr. Jack quote was shared:

“I also learned that my connection with my team members was best handled by being in there with them.”

True statement. Be with your team in the trenches, fight the battles with them and feel what they feel.

Thanks, Dr. Jack. Your legacy will live on.

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Norman Dale and Listening to Your Team

Norman Dale hoosiers

Hickory High basketball coach Norman Dale learned the value of listening to your partners.

To continue our deep dive into the Lean principle of “Respect for People” we now take a closer look at a fictional basketball coach in a famous sports movie. In Hoosiers famous basketball coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) takes over the basketball program at Hickory High School in super-rural Indiana. There are certainly many lessons about continuous improvement that can be pulled from the movie – focusing on fundamentals, finding a way to succeed on the court with limited resources, trusting in your players and partners, fostering a genuine team atmosphere. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve observed all of these things.

One of the key plot threads is the dictatorial attitude exhibited by coach Norman Dale. He’s a know-it-all, he’s won bigger games than Hickory has even played in their history, and it’s his program. However, with the most critical game possession in the state championship game, we see a major attitude change:

(link to video)

Throughout the season Coach Dale and the team knew that Jimmy Chitwood was “money in the bank” but Dale tried to scheme too much on the last possession instead of letting the team (who all knew better) do what they knew they could do all along. Perhaps in earlier games Dale would have stood firm on the play he calls but he relented and trusted Jimmy Chitwood with the last shot with the game on the line.

The result? A Jimmy Chitwood final shot pure through the rim and a Hickory state championship against the big bad team from South Bend.

As for a real-life example of a coach fully trusting his players, look no further than Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. As has been written here before, he has been coaching his core group of players for years and they know each others’ strengths and weaknesses as well as talents and schemes. He trusts his players to do what they know has to be done and there’s very little in the huddle he can tell them that they don’t already know.

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More Exposed Mistreatment of NFL Cheerleaders

buffalo bills cheerleaders jills

More accusations of mistreatment of NFL cheerleader squads are surfacing.

After the first in-depth analysis of the unfair treatment of the Raiderettes, the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders, more and more squads of NFL cheerleaders are coming forward sharing similar stories of poor pay and being overworked. The Jills, the cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills, have brought a lawsuit against their management group and the team itself.

Some of the accusations include significant underpayment and lack of reimbursement for work-related appointments and gear, heavy control of actions and appearances, and inconsistent adherence to federal employment laws.

Reading the scrutiny and expectations to which the Jills are subjected according to the squad handbook ranges from reasonable to downright gross.

A Fine Line Between Adding Value and Respect For People

Respect for people is a concept taken from the Toyota Production System and it involves facilitating a culture of learning, sharing, and growth. A culture of stress, overwork, excessive control, degradation, and potential for sexual mistreatment is not one that facilitates respect.

Now I concede that part of the added value of a cheerleading squad is physical appearance and public-facing demeanor. We might not like the judgment of such subject matter, but the fact remains it exists. It’s subjective and our society has been coached to see such judgment as unfair, but physical appearance and pleasant demeanor are things that fans expect from cheerleaders. At the same time I don’t have a 90 MPH heater so my value as a MLB pitcher is quite low. I’m not going to get into the analysis of the fairness of the “jiggle test” or physical appearance standards for cheerleading squads here, but the salary issue raises eyebrows.

Paying Employees Better Shows More Respect

I will rail all day on the poor pay given by major sports organizations to low-level employees like interns or high-demand high-profile positions like cheerleaders. It’s ridiculous and disgusting how teams can utilize high-drive energetic employees through long hours and unusual expectations while sweeping it under the rug as an “internship”.

Minor league teams would skewer me for saying it, but it’s true. If your business model involves heavy hours from severely underpaid employees, you have a bad business model.

How can you expect your employees to perform at their best physically, mentally, and emotionally when outside stresses caused by you could be wearing them down?

The Value Of Better Compensation For Employees

Look, the Jills were already being paid poorly – relative to the other costs of running the franchise and the overall revenues driven by the team, giving a salary bump to the cheerleaders and taking care of their expenses not only won’t be a major cost but the team members may perform better since they will be less stressed AND the reduced turnover (and associated costs of hiring and retraining new employees) will add value.

But the management team for the Jills say that the lawsuit and increased operational costs will force the squad to cease operations. Well, if you can’t pay your employees enough for them to live healthy lives, maybe your operations should cease to exist.

Just because you have the power to give poor salaries to grunt employees doesn’t mean you should. Taking care of your partners and associates is respect for people. More sports organizations need to practice it.

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2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas

asq badge wcqi

I will be attending the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement for the second time, this year in Dallas.

Next month I will be attending the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas, Texas. I had a great time attending last year in Indianapolis. While most folks attending the conference will be there for the speakers and learning opportunities, I will be spending most of my time judging the International Team Excellence Awards (ITEA). I’ve been fortunate to get the opportunity to judge the final round at the WCQI for the second year in a row – it affords me the chance to give back to ASQ as well as meet lots of other quality practitioners.

Attending conferences can be expensive though! Between the attendance fees, travel arrangements, and meals, it is quite the investment to attend such important events so it’s even more important to make that investment work for you and your company. I don’t get to conferences as often as I’d like, so when I do I make the most of it.

Here are some tips on how to make the most of any major conference you attend, whether it’s in quality or baseball or TED or any other subject and topic.

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Plan in advance for who and what you want to see

You generally have limited time to visit every single person and exhibit at a conference, but you typically are provided a schedule of events and a map in advance of the conference. Figure out what events are most important to you, identify interesting exhibits or companies in a trade show, and put together a schedule. Fitting other things in and around that schedule will be a lot easier to do and you’ll make sure you don’t miss out on something you felt was important.

Have an open mind about learning

The fact remains that most of the people attending a conference are going to share a lot of similarities with you. Lean and Six Sigma conferences bring out Lean and Six Sigma guys. Baseball Winter Meetings are filled with baseball guys and gals with similar backgrounds. They are going to share a lot of the same viewpoints and ideas and biases, and very little learning and growth occurs when everyone knows just as much as everyone else.

That’s why it’s important to have an open mind to folks with new ideas. Go to the trade show and see what is being sold. Try out the new gadgets. Talk with sales guys. Get free samples. Listen to presentations about topics in which you have no knowledge.

trade show

The Lean Blitz booth at the 2011 Baseball Trade Show…coincidentally, also at the Dallas Hilton Anatole.

Sure, some of the things you hear won’t end up clicking or working for you. However, those booths and sales guys and presentations are at the conference because they have some degree of relevance or have the capability of adding value – you just might be getting in on the ground floor for something that makes a huge difference for you once you get back to your office.

Bring (or acquire) a swag bag

bulldozer squeeze toy stress ball

My fleet of squishy bulldozers from the 2013 ASQ WCQI trade show

The trade show will always have some snappy giveaways. Last year I had almost two bags full of swag I received from the WCQI conference, and I had a lot of swag from the 2011 Baseball Trade Show as well. Most of those items became giveaways for my blog contest but some of those items were really unique items that either became mementos of my attendance or were actually value-adding tools I used in my work.

Look out for networking opportunities

If there are individuals with whom you are connected on social media (be it Twitter or LinkedIn or blogs you follow) that you have not met, try to arrange opportunities to meet them at the conferences.

Keep your schedule full

Everyone has finite time from when they land to when it’s wheels up again. You don’t want to waste that time and money on activities that aren’t helping you get the most from your participation. You never know what you might miss by taking a significant break.

Besides being open to listening, share your wins and troubles as well

Many individuals come to conferences with issues and troubles in their own operations and are seeking answers or brainstorming ideas. Besides listening to learning opportunities don’t be afraid to do some cooperative brainstorming and share some of your best practices with new people.

You yourself should also bring some operational problems with you, with the intent of seeking out answers or strategies for solutions. Share share share! You never know where you might run into the answer you seek.

For more tips, check out outgoing ASQ CEO Paul Borawski’s guest post (written by Julia McIntosh) at A View From The Q.

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ASQ influential voices blog

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

I am excited to be attending the ASQ WCQI for the first time as an ASQ Influential Voice – many of the program’s authors are individuals I have followed online for years and I certainly look forward to the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.

And, of course, if you are attending the WCQI in Dallas drop me a line and we’ll try to cross paths! We’ll see you in Dallas!

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Donald Sterling & “Respect For People” In Sports

donald sterling danny manning

Donald Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981, and this is not his first incident of racism or discrimination. (New Yorker)

This past week we have seen a pretty notable violation of “respect for people” by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. This incident with the recording of him saying offensive things about his girlfriend hanging out with African-Americans is certainly striking because of the primary race of the players he employs on his team and the demographics of his team’s fan base. However, it’s getting a lot more attention because this isn’t the first time Sterling has been reprimanded for discrimination – it’s become a habit of his in his business dealings with the Clippers and in his real estate business.

More violations of “respect for people”

But, really, the larger issue isn’t just that Sterling said offensive things. No, sports as a culture is running rampant with violations of “respect for people” in the locker room and in the business offices. Here are just a few examples, some far more serious than others.

- The Richie Incognito controversy with Jonathan Martin

- Mike Rice berating his players at Rutgers University

- The concussion problem plaguing the NFL, plus the NFL’s improper handling of retired players suffering ailments

- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly not listening to his player during a practice

- Australian Open tournament directors not handling players properly in the extreme heat

- The Dave Bliss controversy with the Baylor basketball program

- Bobby Knight and his handling of players

- MLB toying with the pensions of non-uniformed employees

- The Miami Marlins doing practically everything to destroy their fan base

- MLB failing to provide their minor league players sufficient salaries, adequate per diems, or nutritional training

Players being mistreated or ignored, a culture of gaming the concussion system, underpaid grunt interns and low-level account executives in offices, coaches making promises they can’t keep, schools using amateur players to grow cash coffers while players go hungry, allowance of crime cover-ups like with Jameis Winston and Brendan Gibbons

And on and on.

Somehow, the sports industry needs more change for the betterment of all parties

Individuals in sports really need to take a stand and decide if they are going to be a purely market-driven enterprise (complete focus on the bottom line, prioritizing revenues and costs) or if they are going to be an honest, people-centric enterprise and caring for its partners all throughout the value stream.

Masquerading as a fair, charitable, philanthropic industry of amateurs and fairly-paid professionals while treating their own partners poorly is not a good way to do business and this dichotomy between what we say and what we do is what makes the news.

- How much more does it cost a minor league team to provide a nutritional consultant and a higher road per diem for their players, and what kind of on-field success return would that bring?

- How hard is it to treat players like people and listen to their ideas? What’s more important, coach – your ego or winning with strategies you didn’t come up with?

- Why is it so difficult to see that the crime cover-up turns out to be worse than the crime itself? (Well, Dave Bliss somewhat excepted.)

- If you have to yell at and put down a player because he’s messing up, is that possibly because you haven’t properly taught him what he needs to do?

Respect for people isn’t hard to accomplish. The hardest part is checking your ego at the door and putting the priorities in the right place.

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What Is Respect For People?

Rodney Dangerfield No Respect

No respect.

What we know as Lean and the Toyota Production System is built upon two pillars – one is continuous improvement through process optimization and waste reduction, and the other is respect for people. The waste reduction piece is relatively easy to grasp because it’s objective and measurable and directly tied to the bottom line. The other piece about respect for people? It’s just as important but far more subjective and not as easy to comprehend.

lean pillars respect for people

The objectives of Lean are built upon two pillars. (Lean Mentor International)

When one hears “respect for people” it’s easy to picture Gandhi or Mother Teresa or a prayer circle singing kumbaya. None of those examples are incorrect but they are extreme examples that are somewhat celebrated to the point of cliche.

But in Lean parlance, respect for people has multiple applications and purposes with similar qualities.

Institution of Lean principles in operations means finding ways to provide customers the greatest value possible while also being as effective and productive with resources as possible.

Respect for people comes into play through trust and communication with partners up and down the supply/service chain in order to define and create that customer value. It’s not just about “being nice” or philanthropy. It actually has hard and fast applications to optimizing operations.

What does respect for people look like in an organization?

Respect for people shows up in multiple forms.

- Treating customers, suppliers, employees, colleagues and all other partners with trust and dignity

- Treating people as equals, no matter their level of influence or profile

- Listening and considering ideas no matter the source, instead of dictating unsubstantiated action

- Asking “What do you think?” instead of stating “This is what I think.”

- Prioritizing the safety, health, and well-being of all partners over everything else

- Asking “is this the right way to do this?” instead of writing new ideas off with a “This is how we’ve always done it.”

- Asking “how can we meet this objective?” instead of saying “find a way to meet this objective even though your resources are minimal”

- Challenging partners to think about how to do things better in order to meet the objectives of customer value

- Managers checking egos at the door and acknowledging that process users are more knowledgeable about their processes than they do themselves

- Holding one another accountable, driving out fear of speaking up and trying to do things better

- Coaching users to solve their own problems and to not be so reliant on supervisors to tell them what to do

- Working together up and down the supply and operations chain to solve problems and develop people and partners

- Combining hard facts and objective data with soft skills such as compassion, empathy, understanding, and listening

- Providing to partners the requisite investments in knowledge, training, tools, and services that will help them perform their jobs to the best of their abilities

- Treating people as human beings and not just as tools, resources to consume, or means to financial gain

- Doing whatever is necessary to maximize partner engagement in work in a positive and uplifting manner

Respect for people and religious connotations

I actually think of respect for people in the way of Buddhism:

- Doing personal research and experimentation to see what is true and what is not (combining Kaizen and best practices)

- Maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering of humans AND animals

- Continuous learning and training from books and wise people

- Self-reliance to take charge of one’s own situation and not leave the responsibility in the hands of others

- Advocating doing good deeds instead of following strict rules (again, best practices)

- Compassion and balance

- It’s never too late for improvement!

buddha statue buddhist

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