Is the Workplace a Zombie Breeding Ground? – ASQ

In this Journal for Quality and Participation article (open access), learn how creating an environment that fosters the development of spiritual intelligence can be a key leadership strategy for encouraging individuals to not choose to become zombies.

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Ask the Experts: Standard vs. Specification and Guidance Documents

Standards, specifications, guidance, and research

Q: What is the difference between a standard and a specification?

A: There is no single or simple answer to your question. The answer depends upon the context of the question. Relative to the ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9000 Series: Quality management standards, I direct you to ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9000:2005 Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary.

ISO 9000:2005 defines specification as a document that states requirements. A specification can be related to activities (e.g. procedure document, process specification and test specification), or products (e.g. product specification, performance specification and drawing).

ISO 9000:2005 does not define “standard”. The first part of the ISO 9000:2005 introduction reads:

“The ISO 9000 family of standards listed below has been developed to assist organizations, of all types and sizes, to implement and operate effective quality management systems.

ISO 9000 describes fundamentals of quality management systems and specifies the terminology for quality management systems.

ISO 9001 specifies requirements for a quality management system where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to provide products that fulfill customer and applicable regulatory requirements and aims to enhance customer satisfaction.

ISO 9004 provides guidelines that consider both the effectiveness and efficiency of the quality management system. The aim of this standard is improvement of the performance of the organization and satisfaction of customers and other interested parties.

ISO 19011 provides guidance on auditing quality and environmental management systems.

Together they form a coherent set of quality management system standards facilitating mutual understanding in national and international trade.”

In other words…

ISO 9000 is a standard that describes fundamentals and specifies the terminology.

ISO 9001 is a standard that specifies requirements.

ISO 9004 is a standard that provides guidelines.

ISO 19011 is a standard that provides guidance.

This implies that a standard is a formal document that establishes uniform criteria, methods, processes and practices — which may or may not be requirements.

ISO 9000:2005 also makes a distinction between quality management system requirements and requirements for products using the terms “specifications” and “standards.” It states:

“The ISO 9000 family distinguishes between requirements for quality management systems and requirements for products.

Requirements for quality management systems are specified in ISO 9001. Requirements for quality management systems are generic and applicable to organizations in any industry or economic sector regardless of the offered product category. ISO 9001 itself does not establish requirements for products.

Requirements for products can be specified by customers or by the organization in anticipation of customer requirements, or by regulation. The requirements for products and in some cases associated processes can be contained in, for example, technical specifications, product standards, process standards, contractual agreements and regulatory requirements.”

Joe Tsiakals
Voting member of the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 176 (ASQ)
Voting member of the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 210 (AAMI)

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The No. 1 Reason Employees Say They’ve Stopped Learning Is Because They Don’t Have Time

October 26, 2018

By Dan Pontefract

Busy, busy, busy, busy.

In todays organization, speed has become a weapon against thoughtfulness and an employees self-development plan.

Time to market, time to innovate, and time to exploit are now bullets in the gun. And that gun seems perpetually cocked. In a world governed by the need for growth, employees are under stress to complete things as quickly as possible. Indeed, we now scurry from task to task and action to action in a continuous rootless state.

A perpetual influx of meetings litters our calendars, at times from early morning to late afternoon. Emails flood our inbox. Instant messages, texts and other social streams haunt our to-do list, even if they may be deemed unimportant and non-urgent.

On the topic of to-do lists, the corporate mantra of do more with less is ironically adding more to the plates of employees than its intended proclamation. The result? Employees are stressed, overworked, and failing to take the time to think. Busyness is now king. Its the queen, too.

There is another negative consequence to report. Employees have become so busy they have given up on learning. I find this a frighteningly worrying trend.

According to LinkedIns 2018 Workplace Learning Report, there is further irony to report. Ninety-four percent of employees indicated they would stay at their company longer if it invested in their career development. The irony? From the report: The No. 1 reason employees say that they feel held back from learning is because they do not have time to learn the skills they need.

It turns out employees are so busy that theyre not even aware the organization most likely already offers a wide array of learning options. If they somehow stumble upon a learning optionbe it a class, eLearning, video, or job aidthe second hurdle now has to be overcome: Do they have the time in their overly busy calendar to consume the learning and then apply it to their role?

Its no secret that levels of employee engagement have remained stagnant for the better part of two decades. About a third of the organization is engagedwilling to go above and beyond the call of duty while motivated and feeling valued in their rolewhereas two-thirds of all employees are either checked out at work or worse, chronically disengaged to the point of sabotaging business processes like customer service.

Part of the reason for the stagnation in employee engagement is how frenetic and busy our schedules have become at work. Consequently, employees feel as though there is no time to learn. When there is no time to learn, the employee distrusts the organization. This company doesnt care about me or my career, so why should I put in any extra effort, some will charge.

Senior leaders see it differently. According to the LinkedIn report, 90% of executives suggested learning and development is a necessary benefit to the employees at the company. While they may view learning as a necessary benefit, executives also have to ensure time is appropriately allocated to an employees bandwidth for the benefit of turning it into a positive outcome. Otherwise, any available learning and development option is merely an idea rather than a tactical application.

What to do?

The first step is to analyze how employees are spending their time. I often recommend a time or calendar audit. If there are too many unnecessary meetings, its time to rethink how the organization meets. If there is too much email or point-to-point communication preventing people from learning (or doing their work), its a good time to rethink the organizations time management norms.

Second, ask employees their predilection for learning. Knowing how, when and where employees like to learn will provide the context for a new way of learning. In the LinkedIn report, employees reported their preferences as follows:

  • 68% of employees prefer to learn at work.
  • 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace.
  • 49% of employees prefer to learn at the point of need.

Third, redefine the term learning such that it incorporates three key types: formal, informal and social. Then spend the time re-educating the workforce on the definition (I coined it Pervasive Learning) and help both employees and managers with the change.

Not every type of learning occurs in a classroom or needs days off at a time. There are ample informal and social ways in which we can learn these days.

The key is to bridge the gap between how we are spending our time, and what the actual definition of learning looks like in the 21st century.

Stop being so busy, and start not only redefining what learning is but allocating some time in which to make it happen.

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3 Reasons Your Company Is Doomed to Repeat Mistakes

October 26, 2018

By Karlene Agard

If your organization seems to struggle with the same problems year after year, it could be because it has the memory of a senile goldfish, its targets miss the mark or the culture is devouring the strategy.

How many times have you felt the frustration of seeing your company continue to make mistakes that you feel were avoidable? Too often companies have the same struggles year after year and fail to address them. Albert Einstein reportedly said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The pace of change has accelerated, so things that companies could have gotten away with decades ago are eating into their competitive edge now. There are a multitude of reasons why companies suffer from inertia but some causes pop up time and time again for medium to large organizations.

  1. Your culture is devouring your strategy

  2. Culture is said to eat strategy for breakfast and this couldnt be truer. The best-laid plans made by the most sophisticated minds will be thwarted by a toxic culture. In fact, in order to prevent organizations from learning, the culture doesnt even need to be toxic: if theres a laissez-faire managerial approach and people arent encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, it wont be clear whos done what and how this has impacted the organization.

    The other extreme is that theres an authoritarian culture. A wide range of tangible factors will be tightly controlled and monitored (such as working hours, face time in the office and access to technology) but people will be loath to contribute to highlighting the intangible softer factors that make the difference. You wont want to point out that a colleague made a genuine mistake if it could result in them being penalized. In a fairer culture, this wouldnt be addressed in such a counter-productive manner.

    In safety-critical organizations, theres been a drive over recent years to recognize the intent that lies behind any misdeeds. A minor mistake driven by malice can be seen as worse than a well-intentioned mistake with more serious consequences. Its easier to educate and correct someone who is making a sincere effort than build in systems to prevent a malicious employee with privileged access from causing harm.

  3. Your targets miss the mark, actually

  4. This can show up in poorly thought through targets. Scotlands National Health Service targets were flouted, as it was reported that 3% of patients waited for longer than nine weeks but, in reality, this was 23% of patients. Some staff had lied and said patients were unavailable for treatment and kept hidden waiting lists. The intended aim of the target was to improve customer service for patients by reducing the time they spent waiting. In actuality, some staff chose to respond in a perverse manner that wasted their time and masked the constraints within the system that led to delays but still helped them to meet the target. When you are setting targets for your organization (particularly if there is a financial incentive to meet them) you really need to scrutinize its ramifications.

    Clearly define the goals that you wish to achieve before coming up with targets. When potential targets have been fleshed out, get a small working group (including the people whod be conducting the work to meet the target and their management) to play devils advocate and come up with as many possible shortcuts to achieving the target as they can imagine. Reward them for doing so. If they come up with anything that conflicts with what youre trying to achieve, consider if you can modify the target to make it better or you need to start from scratch.

    Virgin Atlantic saved $4.4 million in total from engaging their pilots in an initiative to save money on fuel. They tested four methods:

  • A baseline with no change requested.
  • Or asked to change behaviors to save fuel and get:
    • Feedback alone.
    • Feedback and targets.
    • Or feedback, targets and a donation to charity.

Good targets and smart incentivization meant the latter approach was the most effective.

  • Your company has the memory of a senile goldfish

  • Do you know who the most crucial staff are in your organization? Theyre not necessarily the most senior people with the longest leave periods. It could be a mid-level manager who has a strong relationship with a key supplier or someone at the coal face who is the only one still there that contributed to the development of a crucial system. What will you do if they hand in their notice? Its worth thinking about this before they go, so you can take the time to embed critical elements of their expertise in corporate knowledge through getting them to deliver or develop training, share their knowledge with a training expert or even just capture the things only they know and store them somewhere accessible as a start.

    You may conduct lessons learned at the end of project and after-action reviews when theres been a major incident. Oftentimes, the exercises themselves are helpful at really thrashing out the key issues but this doesnt necessarily mean that true change is being enacted as a result. Without meaningful change, your organization is just a goldfish, unwittingly swimming past the same spot every year and getting caught in the same weeds.

    Does your company seem to be stuck in a loop? Do you keep making the same mistakes? Are targets being met, but the desired outcomes not being achieved? Take heart! This doesnt have to continue. You can break out of the cycle! Organizational learning grinds to a halt if the culture stifles reflection or, even worse, if policy disincentivizes it. You can break the cycle by stress-testing your targets, making sure lessons learned sessions and reviews lead to tangible change and improving organizational culture.

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    Consumer Reports: Lexus the Best; Tesla, Cadillac, Volvo at the Bottom


    October 25, 2018

    By Ed Adamczyk

    Tesla, Cadillac and Volvo brand vehicles were at the bottom of a new reliability survey released Wednesday by Consumer Reports.

    The annual survey, based on over 500,000 owner reviews, ranked Tesla tied for 27th of 29 brands in reliability. Its relatively poor showing was due to the new Model S luxury sedan, as well as by Teslas constant upgrading of components.

    The Model S is not an aging model. Its constantly being redesigned under the skin, said Consumer Reports Jake Fisher. Teslas capability to make instant software updates indicates its cars experience these growing pains differently than traditional car companies.

    While Tesla hasnt changed the Model S in terms of how it looks, it keeps changing the vehicle underneath, so the reliability fluctuates.

    Model S suspensions have been a particular focus for improvement, and Tesla said suspension problems have been reduced by 65% since last year.

    The Consumer Reports list was led, in order, by Lexus, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru. Kia and Infiniti were tied for fifth place. Audi, BMW, Mini and Hyundai complete the top 10.

    Seven of the top 10 brands are made by Japanese or South Korean manufacturers, with Mazda improving by nine places over its 2017 position. The highest-ranking vehicle from a U.S.-based manufacturer was Ford, in 18th place.

    Cadillacs drive so well and can compete with luxury import cars, Fisher said, but have reliability issues. The company, a division of General Motors, recently moved its headquarters from New York City to Warren, Mich., to be closer to GMs tech center, in part to address quality issues.

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    The Next Level of Workplace Safety

    Targeted News Service

    October 25, 2018

    A new report from the Campbell Institute released during the 2018 National Safety Council Congress and Expo, the worlds largest annual gathering of safety professionals, takes an in-depth look at serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace and illustrates a new prevention model suggested by safety experts in recent years.

    Over the past two decades, the U.S. has seen enormous gains in workplace safety, according to the report, titled Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices. The gains in safety are illustrated by the total recordable incident rate, which dropped to 3.0 incidents per 200,000 working hours in 2016 from 8.5 incidents per 200,000 hours in 1993.

    However, this notable reduction in total workplace injuries is not paralleled by a similar reduction in life-altering injuries and fatal incidents. In fact, worker fatalities are at an eight-year high, with 5,190 people dying in 2016.

    The Campbell report recommends a redesign of the classic safety triangle, which consists of non-injury accidents, minor injuries and major injuries. This model treats all minor incidents and near misses as if they had the potential to result in a more serious injury or fatality and diverts attention away from the incidents that have the most potential to result in something serious.

    The updated structure is based on identifying the root causes and contextual factors that lead to serious injuries and fatalities on the job. Organizations cannot make their workplaces safer by fixing the worker, rather they should design work processes to eliminate human error. This makes safety less dependent on employee behavior and more dependent on the safety system.

    Companies in our report know that safety is a work-in-progress with the goal of continuous improvement, said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute, the center of excellence for environmental, health and safety at NSC. To be at the top of their game, these companies recognize that they have to do more to protect their workers. While such incidents may not occur with frequency, implementing a serious injuries and fatalities prevention program is how these organizations move to the next level of maturity.

    Strategies to prevent serious injuries and fatalities from occurring include identifying potential precursors to such events and educating employees about those precursors. In addition, companies can focus on eliminating the potential for such incidents to occur.

    Taking these steps can lead organizations to a higher level of safety management, as shown by the companies featured in the Campbell report.

    The organizations featured in our report consistently pointed out that going from the concept of a serious injury and fatality prevention program to actual implementation requires careful planningboth around the processes used and the responsibilities assigned, Dony said. In addition, buy-in is needed from the entire organization, from the top down. Having these factors in place will go a long way toward implementing a successful prevention program.

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