Replaced by robots? A relevant approach to workplace change

To some, increasing uses of robots represent a threat to jobs, families, and life as we know it. To others, they are the salvation of our civilization and the only hope for the future. Between these two polarized extremes, the late Peter Drucker, known as the father of modern management, offers a perspective from the past that may be even more relevant today.

A Harvard Business Review article by Rick Wartzman notes the comments that Drucker made as the debate about the effects of technology raged: “The full picture, as in all technological revolutions, emerges only if both—the better life for those who can adjust themselves and the suffering of those who are pushed out—are seen together and at the same time.”

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A reason to celebrate: November as World Quality Month

From sharing quality stories and anticipating the nature of quality efforts in the future, to ordering celebration kits with magnets and bumper stickers, the annual celebration of World Quality Month in November offers a variety of ways to recognize important quality contributors and advancements throughout the world.

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) sponsors the event as a way of recognizing the Global Quality Community and acknowledging the worldwide application of quality principles. ASQ calls it “… a time to celebrate — a time to showcase the advancements and valuable quality contributions in businesses, communities, and institutions.”

PQ Systems offers its own focus on quality, through its blogs and website with quality quotes from all over and articles that support an understanding of quality efforts throughout the world. Tools for data analysis and improvement are available, as well as special webinars and other events that support quality improvement efforts. Quality eline, a monthly subscription newsletter, frequently advances the management principles of W. Edwards Deming, who, along with Joseph Juran, is credited with initiating a professional approach to quality improvement. Watch for special prizes when you sign up for Quality eLine.

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Improving quality in the supply chain—by talking about it

Barb ClearyWord of mouth may have the greatest influence when it comes to sharing information—both positive and negative– about products and services, most will agree. We think of a neighbor raving about his new lawn mower, or a co-worker sharing a positive experience with a plumbing service. While consumer products come to mind when we talk about word of mouth, the same process applies when it comes to the supply chain that produces these products.

Large automotive manufacturers such as Ford or GM depend on countless purveyors of parts and services that go into the final product, and count on these suppliers to provide quality products to support the final product quality. Certification to standards such as the ISO 9001 requirements are created to assure that this will happen.

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Better than an insurance policy: Maintenance agreements give peace of mind

Barb ClearyIn every organization, one can find someone who continues to use old versions of major software programs long after everyone else has upgraded several times, not wanting to move outside a comfort zone that’s worked well, perhaps for years. It may be that he or she is not even aware that newer versions of the software—with features that may make life easier—are available and offer painless transition. Or oblivious to his or her status as a butt of MIS jokes about old fogeys using 10-year-old software.

Why upgrade, after all, if you have software that works? And why purchase a maintenance agreement if you’ve never had any problems that you couldn’t work out by calling your tech-savvy nephew in Chicago? After all, upgrade and maintenance agreements involve expense and paperwork, and force you to keep track of the multiple software programs that you use. And you may never have a question for a technical support analyst (especially if your nephew continues to help). Why bother?

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Take your pick: Available options for learning are expanded with technology

Barb ClearyDifferences in learning styles can be no more apparent than in responses to the challenge of assembling something ordered from a catalog that comes with “some assembly required” notice.

Some of us read the enclosed instructions, perhaps laboring over not-so-clear directions related to Part A and Slot B. Others dig right in, trying our own hand at putting the thing together. And others just give up and ask someone else to assemble that wet-dry vac that we ordered.

The same differences are true when it comes to learning about process control—both the system of process improvement itself and the tools that advance that system, including software programs. When it came to the theory, process, and tools of improvement, the traditional way of learning often involved travel, hotel stays, and full days of seminar training. Companies sent learners to conferences, where they participated in sessions selected for special interest or need.

All that has changed. While conferences and seminars continue to offer value in the learning process, technology has made it possible to expedite that learning, saving money and time. Webinars, for example, where participants in distant sites share their interactions with each other and with trained facilitators, allow a more highly customized approach to individual needs.

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An affinity for organized thinking: A diagram with many uses

Barb ClearyEvery statistician knows that basing a decision on limited data is certain to generate problems. Non-statisticians, however, may find making a decision without any data a bad habit to break. “Point mentality” – responding immediately to data that seems to indicate a change but may just be a reflection of natural variation – is even more endemic to daily decision making. The recurring question is: How can outcomes be evaluated when there are multiple options involved, including ones that no one has anticipated?

Enter the humble affinity diagram.

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