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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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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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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2014 Masters: Temporary Elimination of Masters Security Protocols?

securitas augusta national golf club masters security

Augusta National Golf Club suspended some security protocols on Friday due to crowd backups. Does this mean that some security processes are unnecessary?

The typical Masters security process and protocol is standard but rigorous – no cell phones or weapons, no outside food or beverage, prepare to walk through a metal detector, and on and on. Augusta National prides itself on providing the best fan experience possible, even if that means security protocols at or above those at other sporting events. (They still aren’t as bad as the TSA, though.) There are many stations through which patrons can enter at the front gate to help dissipate the crowd but a significant spike in foot traffic (such as when the gates open or the last golf groups finish up their rounds on the course) this means major backups.

However, on Friday, the metal detector process step was voluntarily suspended in all lines because of the crowds. Because of the stated rules I have never brought anything onto the course or to the entrance gate that is disallowed, but had I done so yesterday I could have slid by without being checked. No emptying of pockets, no checking of carried-in golf chairs, nothing.

So why the temporary suspension of the security protocols? On my way in I asked one of the security personnel from Securitas, the subcontracted security firm used by Augusta National, why the metal detector and emptying-of-pockets step was not being enforced. The representative said they had orders from their superiors to let patrons bypass all the scanners in order to get ticket holders into the gates faster. For an event so focused on doing things right, I’m certainly surprised the club would change course and focus on speed and haste instead of maintaining high quality security (with quality equating to thoroughness).

But this now leads to another question: if security is apparently so critical at a high-exposure sporting event, is it reasonable to now think that those security protocols were over the top and unnecessary? And if they are unnecessary, should they even be included at all?

If they are extra and don’t provide value, then those steps should be eliminated. Otherwise we’re all just suffering from the events of the overprocessing and implementation of unneeded steps.

The club elected to push the quality of the security to the curb in order to expedite the get-patrons-in process, at the risk of weapons or cell phones hitting the course. Maybe they were also assuming lots of folks like me would have already been prudent about leaving those things in the car because we are, in general, decent planners when it comes to big rules like that or have been through the security process so many times at other locations that we’re pre-programmed to comply.

Perhaps there was an unusually large volume spike that caused patrons to be lined up to the street and direct fan safety due to car traffic on the road was the primary reason for violating the security protocol. (I don’t know – I was not in any line when the directive came down and I arrived at the course about 9:00 a.m. – patron spikes are about 7:45 a.m.)

So if Augusta National said “Fan Safety from Car Traffic” > “Security and Stealth Photography”, then high-five to ANGC. Safety should always come first. However, if ANGC said “Fans inside are fans buying concessions” > Security, then this was a bad move and those security protocols should go away.

That said, those metal scanners and empty-your-pockets protocols are back in force today at ANGC.

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2014 Masters: How Weather Affects Concessions and Masters Merchandise Inventories

augusta national golf club masters 2013 material handling warehousing

The cooler-than-normal weather conditions during The Masters will affect the inventory and production of concessions and merchandise in different ways.

Typically springtime weather in all parts of the country is crazy and hard to predict, but the last three years have seen upwards of 90-degree temperatures during The Masters Tournament in Augusta. Lots of sun, infrequent patches of rain here and there, and consistently warm temperatures have been the norm recently in early April. However, this season has already seen an ice storm strike down an iconic course landmark that will affect tournament play, a practice round cancellation, and cooler-than-normal forecasts. The weather will have impacts on two other revenue-generating outlets as well: concessions and Masters merchandise sales.


masters concessions

Most concessions offered by Augusta National during The Masters are easily reordered and restocked locally or are maintained in small inventories.

Very few concessions offerings by The Masters are prepackaged in special wrappers and ordered in mass quantities prior to the tournament. Examples of these would be candy, chips, Moon Pies, and peach ice cream sandwiches. The rest of the items are cooked or produced in small batches or quickly reordered locally and restocked.

- Sandwiches (ham or turkey, sausage biscuits, barbecue sandwiches, chicken wraps, pimento cheese sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches) are either prepared and packaged the evening before or during the day in a facility in close proximity to Augusta National (presumably across the street if my information is correct).
– Fresh fruit is purchased from grocery stores locally on an as-needed basis.
– Drinks such as beer, cola, tea, lemonade, coffee, and sports drinks are reordered from local vendors and restocked.

As a result, food and drink inventories are low. Cup inventories are ordered in mass quantities but ordered (I believe) from local vendors that can reprint the official concessions cupware as needed with a quick turnaround time.

When the weather forced the cancellation of Monday’s practice round after 10 a.m. the impact on already-prepared food was very minimal because the weather forecast was closely monitored by the concessions management and production was halted when the management knew that afternoon concessions demand would be zero (due to no one being around to make purchases). Prepackaged foods could be used again the next day, drinks could remain in the coolers and used the next day, and very little food would go to spoil (the heated sandwiches already cooked and placed on the shelves).

At the end of Masters week a lot of the prepackaged foods like candy and Moon Pies are stocked out but the made-on-demand foods are easily replenished to fulfill the food demands of the patrons.

Merchandise at the Golf Shop

masters merchandise

Most merchandise for sale at The Masters is not locally produced so stockouts are not replenished. (Golf Digest)

Merchandise at the golf shop, on the other hand, is handled less “locally” than concessions. While it’s true that a lot of The Masters merchandise will sell out by the time the green jacket is slipped onto the winner’s shoulders, sometimes a lot of potential sales opportunities are left on the table because of stockouts way too early.

Clothing items are designed to be exclusive to Augusta National and The Masters, but they are produced overseas. Last year I purchased polo shirts for friends that came in plastic wrappers labeled “Made in China”, and this year I have a snappy new Peter Millar pullover whose tag indicates production in Thailand. Pretty standard for any clothing offering.

Because of the overseas production and subsequent time and transfers resulting from transportation over multiple thousands of miles, Masters merchandise production has to start really early in the year. Orders must be placed weeks, if not months, in advance. Quantities needed for the tournament week must be predicted based on weather forecasts that struggle with accuracy more than seven days in advance, let alone seventy days. Merchandise coordinators place orders to Asia early and hope that the demand for the items are close to expectations.

Well I’m betting that, if the coordinators relied on past weather results to predict what might happen to demand this year, they weren’t predicting such a mild weather week in Augusta for The Masters. Heck, the weather (and its impact on the course itself) was hard enough to predict when it came to printing media guides.

Cooler weather will lead to increased consumption of coats, pullovers, and long-sleeved gear. When and if they stock out before players make the tournament cut, there won’t be any viable way to restock the now-gone-forever items. Those sales will be left on the table. Also, it’s possible that short-sleeved items won’t sell out like they have in years past. And of course we’ve already covered the reprinting of calendars due to the weather.

Look, Masters merchandise is already extremely pricey to begin with because of the high demand and exclusive sales window (merchandise is only for sale during the seven-day tournament week). The margins are through the roof for clothing sales because of the high price tag and low cost of manufacture (transportation notwithstanding). If Augusta National gave stronger consideration to using local suppliers for their merchandise production the margins might be lower but inventories could be kept smaller, transportation costs reduced, and reproduction and restocking of stocked-out items could lead to fewer sales being left on the table.

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Sliding Head First Into First Base Is A Bad Process With A Risky Result

nick punto first base slide

Many players think sliding into first base is a good strategy, but the risks outweigh the rewards (if there are any).

Why do players think it’s a good idea to slide head first into first base? The baseball season is barely nine games old and already there have been two injuries resulting from head first dives into first base.

Yasiel Puig has missed the past two Dodgers games after suffering a thumb injury while sliding head-first into first base. On Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton slid head-first into first base in the seventh inning and was removed in a crucial situation in the ninth inning because he had injured his thumb.

Players perceive there are two reasons for sliding into first base in an attempt to make it to first safely.

– Avoid the tag of a fielder with the ball
– Get to first base faster

Baseball, being a game of inches, has a lot riding on the line when it comes to bang-bang plays at any bag. Any advantage available to runners or fielders should be carefully considered.

This kind of thing happens in traditional business or manufacturing processes as well. Risks are taken to obtain perceived improvements in process outputs. Moldsetters remove safety glasses to see things better or closer up on their machines. Lab staffers need to react quickly to tests and neglect to put neoprene gloves on before opening the titrating valves. Hospitals keep extra varieties of medicine doses in close proximity to improve reaction time to emergencies, even if those doses are similar in color and can be confused.

Now, back to the subject of sliding into first base. Welp, according to ESPN.com:

Studies have shown runners do not get to first base faster by sliding head-first, so runners, please stop.

Where are these studies? First, let’s look at sliding as a means of reaching a base faster in the first place, let alone just first base.

– According to Mythbusters, sliding into base is faster than flat-out running through a bag (assuming the bag into which you are sliding is the one you intend to hold as the play ends – you aren’t looking to immediately move to the next base).

As you run to base, your body’s mass combined with your speed creates momentum, which changes into angular momentum as you slip into a slide, so the friction created with the ground doesn’t slow you down as much as you might think. You may lose a little speed, but keeping your body stretched out may enable you to touch base sooner than if you kept running the whole way.


If you stay on your feet, your momentum will try to keep powering you forward as you near the base, so you’ll slow your speed to stay upright when you stop on base — adding time to your sprint.

– According to a physicist at Washington University, head-first slides are faster than feet-first slides.

Headfirst slides are better than feet-first slides, says Washington University physicist and baseball fan David Peters. According to Peters, it’s simple physics: As a runner slides headfirst, the body’s center of gravity — and therefore its momentum – is thrust forwards. Slide feet first, and the body’s center of gravity falls backwards, away from the base.

So I’m not quite sure where David Shoenfield got his data – not disputing that he has it, but the Mythbusters and a physicist suggest otherwise. But here’s why sliding head-first into first base is not the best idea.

First, the Mythbusters quote ends with the runner slowing down to stay on base…but runners are allowed to run through first base. Stopping to stand on first base isn’t mandatory. Those lost milliseconds due to slowdown are irrelevant. Sliding to stop is applicable to other bases but on a batter hitting the ball and running to first it isn’t always going to work that way.

Second, sliding head-first presents a big safety risk.

Fielders can step on sliders’ hands, which are full of little tiny delicate bones. Breaking one of them not only affects a player’s ability to play but also their livelihood away from the field.
– On a slide the runner’s head is closer to the throwing line between the throwing fielder and the first baseman catching the throw. Helmet or not, getting hit in the head by a throw is a risk that maybe should be avoided.

Basically, the only good reason for sliding into a base, whether it’s first base or any other, is to avoid being tagged by a fielder. Sliding (apparently) gets you there a smidge faster but stops your momentum on that base.

head first slide

Shin Soo Choo was out on his slide into first base on this batted ball, AND he injured himself.

But why do players do it? Let’s ask Shin Soo Choo, a player for the Cincinnati Reds who hurt himself sliding head-first into first base last year, and not to avoid a tag (see the picture above).

“Stupid play,” Choo said. “I tell myself, and I tell a lot of players, the worst play is the headfirst slide into first base and home plate. But I did it. I don’t know why I did it. It’s a situation, big game, tie ballgame, we came about. I don’t know, my body just did it.”

Choo injured himself and put the Reds’ playoff chances at risk by taking a small risk for a small reward of being safe rather than out.

What does this mean from a Lean standpoint? Well, how many operators deviate from a best practice with a different process step because they perceive taking a shortcut or risk will result in improved performance?

Basically, don’t slide head-first into first base. The risks outweigh the rewards. Take the out and try again in your next plate appearance.

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