Google Analystics

Thursday, 12 July 2018

How to Reduce Costs

In the words of the master, W. E. Deming:
Image credit:
You cannot decrease costs by focusing on the costs: decreased costs are a by-product of quality and productivity. "Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs." - W. E. Deming

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Perfect System Design

If you don't like the results, don't blame the people - change the system. As Deming supposedly says (probably quoting Arthur Jones,) "Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets."

Monday, 26 February 2018


"We're working proactively to address this as quickly as possible." 

Canadian navy ship spills 30,000 litres of fuel in Strait of Georgia

No, Sir. You cannot address an event proactively after it has happened. That is working REactively and is technically called a CORRECTION.

You can, and should, work proactively to prevent that exact same event recurring on that or any other vessel of the Canadian Navy. Technically, this is known as CORRECTIVE ACTION. If you decide that it was human error (as opposed to sabotage or bloody-mindedness which is deliberate,) then you have to ask, "What was missing in our procedures that allowed this human error to occur?" ...and then change the operational procedures accordingly. That would be the corrective action.

The fault is not with the seaman who screwed up, but with naval command who let that screw-up happen.

If this has never happened in a foreign navy but they, hearing about the Canadian debacle review their operational procedures and make changes to prevent such a thing happening in their navy, that is working proactively and is technically known as PREVENTIVE ACTION.



Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A common weakness in ISO 9001 training

Disclaimer: I call it a 'common' weakness but, in all honesty, I have no evidence other than anecdotal from my own experience over the years and from talking to other people who have had ISO 9001 training.

The Common Weakness in Training.

So, what is 'the weakness' of which I speak? It is to focus inordinately on the letter of the requirements of the Standard to the detriment of the spirit behind the Standard and its requirements.

Road sign: Blind Spot Ahead (Germany)
Right up front, let me hasten to say that this is not just a fault of trainers. Many, if not most people doing a training course in a standard such as ISO 9001:2015 have a blind spot for anything other than learning the minimum requirements for conformity or compliance. This 'defective vision' usually afflicts senior management who convey to their employees the sense that there will be some kind of new burden of documentation that we will all now need to add to our workload

On the part of trainers there is the temptation to have a quick introduction looking at the "Process Approach", maybe even looking at the 'benefits' of certification, but begin the 'real' training with the first "shall" clause of ISO 9001:2015, 4.1 Understanding the organisation and its context. Even if there is good coverage of what I call 'the spirit' of the Standard in the training's introduction, it usually gets lost thereafter in the weeds of the requirement from clause 4 onwards.

The Spirit of the Standard.

The spirit of the ISO 9001:2015 International Standard is articulated right at the very beginning in Clause 0.1 General
The adoption of a quality management system is a strategic decision for an organization that can help to improve its overall performance and provide a sound basis for sustainable development initiatives.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Note that it says nothing about marketing and sales. If marketing and sales are the driving motivation for ISO 9001 certification, and not organizational excellence through improving performance, then the organization is in for a rough ride culturally. That certificate on the wall will not be worth the paper it is printed on; the web site claim to ISO 9001:2015 certification will be another road sign to customer disappointment and employee frustration. Remember the famous saying questionably attributed to Peter Drucker? Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

I was fortunate to have to work with an engineering manager who frustrated me no end by asking me, "What is the value add…?" of this or that new process or document or quality initiative that I would come to him with. Over time I learnt to appreciate his challenges to me. He forced me to make my quality initiatives as minimally bureaucratic as possible while ensuring that there was, indeed, value added for the company. He would ask, "Who are we doing this for? Are we doing this for the business or for the auditors?" Frustrating at the time, but he inadvertently helped me get past the letter to the spirit of the requirement. Interestingly, if you meet the spirit of the requirement as your priority, it becomes easier to find ways through cooperation to meet the letter of the requirement that are practical and feasible.

Who is Your Quality Manual Written For?

continually improving performance
In short, as you write your quality manual and SOP's to implement the "shall" clauses of the ISO 9001:2015 Standard, ask yourselves as a team, How can we implement this in such a way as to achieve organizational excellence through continually improving performance? Remember, your QMS as documented in your Quality Manual is there primarily for the members of the organization, not the auditors. It should be easy to use as a training document. If it is not, then who was it written for?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Have you "made it to the top"?

The following is a post in LinkedIn by Ahmed Hafez, Business Development Manager for Interface HCP, reproduced here with permission of the author.

I called a candidate about a new opportunity.  It was a promotion from his current role, and he had the right skills and qualifications.

"Sorry but I'm not interested," he politely said.

I pressed him on it until he said something that really confused me.  He told me that he "already made it to the top".

I was familiar with his current company and looked at his CV again.

He wasn't anywhere near the top.  He would have needed binoculars to see the top.  He wasn't even a manager yet.

He explained to me that "making it to the top" for him meant he loved the exact work he did each day, he loved his company, he was treated fairly and with respect, he made enough money to be comfortable, he had excellent benefits, he had flexibility, and most importantly to him, he's never missed a single football game, school play, parent-teacher conference, anniversary, birthday, or any family event.

He knew what taking the next step in his career meant.  More time, travel, and sacrifice.  "Not worth it," he said.

Your definition of "making it to the top" doesn't have to be society's or anyone else's definition.  You Do You.

From the post in LinkdIn by Ahmed Hafez, reproduced here with permission.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Corrective Action: Deduction can never substitute for Gemba

A friend of mine posted this picture on social media with the caption, "Hooray! A Keurig machine in our hotel room! Anyone else see the problem here?"

One person responded: Aw, no pods! That's just a tease 😉

Always the clever quality management expert I responded:
They need me to help them with their quality management system (QMS). No pods is just the symptom. The root cause problem is that the bright sparks who decided to change the coffee machines did not ensure that the Work Instructions (WI) for room service were changed and then followed up with appropriate training to ensure Keurig pods were provided instead of Gourmet Roast filters.

Well, if they had taken my 'helpful' advice, even at no charge, they would have made an expensive mistake. The problem looked obvious and the root causes looked obvious but, Boy, was I wrong! I deduced the root causes without going to gemba.

Wikipedia defines 'gemba' as 
a Japanese term meaning "the real place." Japanese detectives call the crime scene gemba, and Japanese TV reporters may refer to themselves as reporting from gemba. In business, gemba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the gemba is the factory floor.

Being a practical schoolteacher, my friend went to gemba with her problem, to the hotel front desk:
Long story somewhat short... when I inquired at the front desk in the morning, I was told that the owner said that they were having issues with the "pods" so he was gradually replacing the machines with the other "normal" type. I pointed out the obvious and the front desk employee completely agreed that it was "silly" to have these in the room. I asked if anyone pointed out that fact to the owner, her response... "No. May I tell him you said it was ridiculous?" My response... "of course. Tell him it makes him look "silly", for such a non-thought out decision."

My assumption, without going to gemba, was that the hotel was replacing the old, 'normal' coffee machines with Keurig. Feasible, reasonable, even probably correct in a generalised scenario but, nevertheless, WRONG. The direction of my deductive root cause analysis was out by 180 degrees. Embarrassing, to say the least.

The moral of the story: ALWAYS GO TO GEMBA when doing a root cause analysis, especially when the deductions seem obvious.