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.


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.


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
augusta national masters rainout

(Chris Trotman/Augusta National Golf Club)

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.


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:

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.


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

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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Posted in Leadership, Respect For People, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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Tennessee Baseball – Nation’s Fastest Field Cleanup

tennessee baseball cleanup

The University of Tennessee baseball team claims to have the fastest pregame field cleanup. (GoVolsExtra.com)

The University of Tennessee baseball team claims to have the nation’s fastest pregame field cleanup. Before home games the players sprint out to handle cleanup tasks at the end of batting practice. Here is video of this little activity:

The team’s goal is to clean up the field faster and faster each time. It appears that the activities in the video include folding/rolling the orange tarps on the field and corralling the protective pitching/field shagging nets.

What’s cool is that the players have designated assignments on the field tarps and nets. When players with early/simple activities are done they head back to help out with larger endeavors like picking up the large rolled-up tarps that take more effort than the folding steps. The team is using standardized work to make sure players not only know their assigned tasks, are aware of the other tasks occurring around them, the timing of the series of tasks, and presumably that all task responsibilities are present and accounted for.

The tarps aren’t light and at least they don’t have very far to be carried. The net racks are also presumably heavy, but they have wheels and it’s simple for pitchers to roll the cages across the field with little effort.

It would be interesting to see how the team measures its progress and how it uses Kaizen thinking to identify and attempt new ways to complete the tasks faster. What’s also cool is that the team is clearly energized about trying to do things better and making it fun.

Here’s another quick changeover video for an event center that held three distinct events within 24 hours.

Side note: Lean Blitz Consulting is hosting an Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma workshop/luncheon on April 29th at the Greater Columbia (SC) Chamber of Commerce. It is open to the public – registration is here!

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Posted in Baseball, Kaizen, Lean Tools, Sports, Standardized Work, Teamwork, Time Savings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Be Lean” vs. “Do Lean”

arnold gold's gym lean Schwarzenegger

The epitome of “everything you need, nothing you don’t.”

It’s common for companies to hear about the great benefits Lean and Six Sigma can bring about in their organizations – they hear about the streamlining of processes and gained efficiency and productivity, as well as the cost reductions (rightly or wrongly), and want to look at how they can “do Lean”. However, the idea of “doing Lean” as if it is an activity to attach on existing operations is a wayward application of the ideologies and is reactive in nature. The key, instead, is to “be Lean” or “become more Lean”. Here is the argument and difference in “be Lean” vs. “do Lean”.

First, to refresh ourselves, what is Lean anyway? There are many permutations of the definition of Lean, but the commonalities of those definitions include meeting customer expectations, adding value, reducing waste/non-value-adding activities, “respect for people”, and utilizing input and expertise from all relevant parties and partners to achieve the optimal outcomes.

All processes follow the same very-simplified formula:

Process = [Value-Adding Activities] + [Non-Value-Adding Activities]

And the costs in each of those terms make the formula look like this:

Process Costs = [Value-Adding Activities Costs] + [Non-Value-Adding Activities Costs]

The costs incurred through adding value are like the “costs of doing business” – they are the costs associated with maximizing safety for all parties, building quality into the product or service, and delivering what the customer expects how they expect it. The value-adding elements of a process are the Lean elements.

The things that make our work un-Lean are those non-value-added activities – the failure to capitalize on the ideas of those experts actually using the processes in order to function better, our focus on cheap overseas manufacturing despite the long lead times and expensive transportation, our buildup of inventory because our inflexibility to react to customer expectations, and so forth.

Our processes are un-Lean because of the choices we have made, our focus on costs instead of revenues, and our inability to see how much our inefficiencies are costing us.

Those non-value-added activities that cost invested resources but don’t provide any value to us or the customers are like excess fat that can and should be trimmed.

This is why Arnold Schwarzenegger (from the 1970s/Mr. Universe days, not modern-day Arnold so much) is an excellent metaphor for being Lean. A perfectly Lean process contains everything you need and nothing you don’t. Arnold’s “process” is to demonstrate immense strength while having as little fat on his body as possible. He was as close to being perfectly Lean as possible, as shown by his Mr. Universe titles. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the essence of being Lean.

But is he also an example of “doing Lean”? He has to work every day on maintaining his lack of fat and his immense strength by cranking out the proper workouts at the gym. He has to monitor his food and caloric intake. It’s natural for his body to want to build up fat stores in his muscles and fibers, and he must work to “correct” those fat stores from existing.

So “doing Lean” is to correct what we are already doing ineffectively, to reduce the things we are doing improperly or unnecessarily, to reduce the non-value-adding activities.

However, “doing Lean” as a corrective measure is not as good as actually “being Lean” – “being as Lean as possible” is the end goal, while “doing Lean” implies the use of corrective actions to fix what we’re doing wrong. Doing it right the first time is the ideal approach.

Our aim is to “be as Lean as possible” instead of “doing Lean” – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

So as Art Byrne says at the Lean Enterprise Institute and in his book The Lean Turnaround:

Don’t just do lean; be lean.

Side note: Lean Blitz Consulting is hosting an Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma workshop/luncheon on April 29th at the Greater Columbia (SC) Chamber of Commerce. It is open to the public – registration is here!

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Posted in Employee Knowledge, Inventory, Lean Tools, Lean Wastes, New Ideas, Quality, Respect For People, Safety | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MLB Instant Replay Still Absorbing A Lot Of Time

mlb instant replay

One of the arguments against using instant replay is how much elapsed time it absorbs.

Because of many obviously-blown calls (well, obvious to everyone but the umpire) in baseball but no means by which to really review and retract judgments, Major League Baseball rightfully decided to institute a system to review plays using video footage from television production crews covering the games. The purpose was to prevent such blatant blown calls from deciding games. A couple arguments against using instant replay is that it disrupts the purity of simply using human judgment and because instant replay further slows down the pace of play.

There is a delicate balance that must be struck when reviewing plays – MLB wants the games to be called as accurately as possible, but with an already horrible pace of play without using instant replay, MLB further exacerbates the pace problem if they use a lot of time to check so many extremely-close plays.

A game on Monday night called into question the judgment of a catch as to what is considered “secured possession” or not and the transfer rule:

You think you know what a catch is? Here’s a play from Monday night, with Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia trying to turn a 1-2-3 double play. He appears to catch the ball and then drop it while making the transfer to his throwing hand. Home plate umpire Paul Schreiber initially called the baserunner out. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon appealed the play and after a lengthy four-minute instant replay delay, the call was overturned and Dustin Ackley ruled safe.

FOUR MINUTES to decide a play that probably took five seconds to complete. (Just watch the first minute of the video, lest you fall asleep like many fans likely did during this time.) Yes, it’s a big play at the plate, with the judgment affecting a run being scored. With the judgment being overturned, McClendon’s challenging of the call was justified.

But four minutes. If MLB is so concerned with the pace of play and instant replay is now a new contributor to the pace of play delay, shouldn’t MLB be measuring if not mandating that reviews be kept short? Shouldn’t this be a big metric to monitor?

MLB needs to decide what is most important to them – must the umpires and the instant replay system get every call right, or do they want to tighten up the pace of the game? It’s pretty obvious they can’t have both to their fullest extent. One must be prioritized over the other.

I’m not one to just throw out solutions, but if MLB wants to prevent the super obvious blown calls (a la Don Denkinger and Jim Joyce) while also trying to hold what fractured pace of game they still have, I suggest instant replays take no longer then sixty seconds. That is likely enough time (but not confirmed or measured by me) to tell if a play is obviously blown, and not so long that fans can’t be extremely bored moreso than they already are. If an umpire can’t make a satisfactory judgment after sixty seconds then the play stands because it’s not obvious at regular speed, let alone at super-slo-mo.

With this sixty-second mandate, five-second real-time plays wouldn’t take four minutes to replay and review and make the crowd restless.

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Posted in Baseball, Lean Wastes, Sports, Time Savings, Waiting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2014 Masters: Bubba Golf and Kaizen Thinking

bubba golf

When Bubba Watson won the Green Jacket in 2012, he used creative and unusual golf shots – “Bubba Golf” shots – few golfers would consider attempting.

Bubba Watson is in the last pairing for the final round of The Masters at Augusta National today. He is a past Masters champion, having won in 2012 in a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen after completing 72 holes. Perhaps his most famous shot is his second shot from the right rough on the second playoff hole (hole #10 at Augusta National) – sitting in pine straw deep in the trees, he hooked an iron shot around the trees blocking his view of the flag and landed his shot on the green. Putting in for a one-shot victory over Oosthuizen, Watson referred to this shot as an example of “Bubba Golf”, or considering all the possibilities of types of shots he can hit with his clubs and taking calculated risks by not allowing himself to be limited to conventional wisdom and tradition.

bubba watson masters shot augusta

Bubba Watson had to fight pine straw and tree obstructions to hit a historic shot.

Most golfers in his position probably would have punched back out to the front of the green because it was easy to see and there were fewer obstacles, and then taking a couple of shots to achieve par and avoid disaster. Watson thought differently – perhaps being at an advantage as a left-handed golfer he could draw his ball around the foliage with a lower risk of disaster. Watson indicates that with “Bubba golf” he pushes the limits on what his clubs allow him to do and the shots he is able to hit – anything is a possibility.

“Bubba golf”‘ is a prime example of Kaizen thinking – considering the optimal outcome and evaluating all possibilities for shots that will allow for that outcome or come as close to it as possible. With Kaizen, no ideas are out of consideration without genuine evaluation. Innovation and ingenuity come from such creativity. Genuine Kaizen application means putting all biases aside, asking “why not?” and “what do you think?“, and letting the results be what matters instead of the means by which those results are obtained (aside from taking unrealistic risks).

So often we are obsessed with the tools that can solve problems instead of properly looking at the results we want to achieve and considering how those results are problems solved.

Without Kaizen thinking with Bubba golf, Watson might have laid up and worked to par the second playoff hole two years ago and survived to play another playoff hole with Oosthuizen.

bubba watson green jacket

Bubba Watson is a Masters champion thanks to Kaizen thinking and Bubba golf.

Of course, without Kaizen thinking Watson might not be a Masters Tournament winner.

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Posted in 2014 Masters, Golf, Kaizen, New Ideas, Problem Solving, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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