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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
World Series Science: don’t dive into 1st base. Instant a runner leaves his feet, he slows down. May have cost Royals a run and the game.
— Bill Nye (@TheScienceGuy) October 30, 2014
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 184.108.40.206 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?
“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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Upon closer inspection…
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?”:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a link to the slide notes:
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
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.
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.
Mark Graban at LeanBlog.org shares this great video comparing Formula One pit stops from today and yesteryear:
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.
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.
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).
Finally, Seth Godin is an absolute must-read. He recently had some great posts that are relevant to continuous improvement.
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.”