September - October, 2011

Volume 1, Number 8

In This Issue

·    Pop Bottles & Quality

·    Leadership Lessons from Cowboys

·    Data Mystery – Can You Find the Problem?

·    Coping with Technology Change

·    Link of the Month

·    SCAMPERing for Good Ideas

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Pop Bottles & Quality

What if I told you that in the “good old days” there was literally money lying all over the streets and all you had to do was pick it up?  Such was the case for me and my pre-adolescent buddies in my suburban Ohio neighborhood circa the early 1970’s.   I’m talking pop bottles of course!

Today, everything is plastic and we are programmed to recycle.  Back then, believe it or not, people littered – a lot.  All the bottles were glass.  Find and return a bottle and you got a .05 reward!  Collect five bottles and that Archie comic book was yours my friend.  Finding the bottles was not an intense chore either. 

Are the old days gone forever?  Not at all – they’ve just changed.  There is money laying all over your office or factory just waiting for you to pick it up.  It comes in the form of simple cost savings and solving problems you may call “low hanging fruit” or “quick wins”.    It goes by names like Kaizen or continual improvement – making many small improvements over time can lead to big savings – directly to your bottom line.   Eliminate a little waste here, improve some quality there and the cash register starts ringing.   It’s the dual nature of work – everybody owns doing their “day job” plus picking up any metaphorical ‘pop bottles’ they can find in their organization.

Methods like Six Sigma and Process Redesign focus on bringing in Mack trucks full of “bottles”.  However, never underestimate the power of each individual making small improvements on a sustained basis.

Happy picking and have an excellent month!


Jeff Cole


JCG Management Consulting

Leadership Lessons from Cowboys

What can today’s managers and leaders learn from cowboys?

Plenty, according to author James P. Owen in his bestselling book Cowboy Ethics.  Here are Owen’s top 10 lessons from the Code of the West:

·         Live each day with courage

·         Always finish what you start

·         Do what has to be done

·         When you make a promise, keep it

·         Remember that some things aren’t for sale

·         Take pride in your work

·         Be tough, but fair

·         Talk less, say more

·         Ride for the brand

·         Know where to draw the line

Sound advice for us all in these ethically challenged times!

Data Mystery – Can You Find the Problem?

Operational Excellence methods often involve looking for patterns in data –- data that seems like chaos to a layperson can reveal useful information to someone who is trained.   This month we offer a challenge: solve the mystery using whatever graphical or statistical tools you want and you can be entered into a drawing for a Six Sigma Memory Jogger. 

Here’s the scenario:

Poodle Industries (PI) makes liver-flavored candy bars for dogs.  These bars should be 100 mm in length (just under 4 inches) -- give or take a little bit.  Upon inspecting this week’s production, some extra-long candy bars were found.  The owner, Mr. Logan Bellyrub, has asked you to find out where the problem occurred.  Were bad bars produced regularly throughout the week or was this an isolated problem? 

·         PI has provided 5 days of production data in a spreadsheet

·         PI runs 2 shifts per day and operates 3 machines

·         36 bars are randomly sampled per shift

Using appropriate graphical or statistical tools, try to track down when and where things went wrong. Good luck!  We’ll show you the answer in the next issue.

Click here and select [SAVE] to download the .xls spreadsheet. 


To be included in the drawing, Click Here to send your final answer (deadline is November 18th.).  

Coping with Technology Change

Ever feel like the tail that’s being wagged by the dog?  Technology is one big dog and if you don’t hold on you’ll get flung off hard and fast.  On a daily basis, technology upgrades storm through the corporate landscape sending out tsunamis of change in their wake.  It may even feel like the machines are winning - so how can you stay sane and productive?

This month we offer four tips on mentally preparing yourself to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of technological change.   Read the full article here.

Link of the Month

One popular Operational Excellence method is Lean.  This month’s featured website is the Lean Enterprise Institute.  Founded by James Womack in the late ‘90s, this non-profit organization promotes lean methods globally. 

On their website you will find a number of resources, including a Knowledge Center that features several dozen free webinars, downloadable templates and presentations.  Check out their website at

SCAMPERing for Good Ideas

Have you ever had a Monday morning where you had to be creative but really didn’t feel like it?  Coming to your rescue is author Michael Michalko.  In his book Thinkertoys, he describes numerous creative thinking tools you can quickly learn – even if you are low on caffeine!  Here is one useful method called SCAMPER:

SCAMPER is a collection of several techniques used to stimulate new ideas or transform a process, product or service into something new:

·         Substitute something (What procedure – or whatever it is – can I substitute for the current one?)

·         Combine it with something else (Create ideas by combining unrelated ideas)

·         Adapt something to it (What can I adapt or copy from someone else?)

·         Modify or Magnify it

·         Put it to some other use

·         Eliminate something (What can I remove from it or stop doing?)

·         Reverse or Rearrange it


“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one we have.”

                                                                   - Roger von Oech


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