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November - December, 2013

Volume 3, Number 6

In This Issue

·    Make 2014 a Happy Year

·    Poka-Yoke Your New Year

·    2013 Baldrige Award Winners Announced

·    Is Six Sigma Training Good for Your Bottom Line?

·    Link of the Month

·    What the Circus Teaches Us About Change

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Make 2014 a Happy Year


I saw a cartoon recently in which two characters had an exchange similar to this:  “How can I be successful?”   “Work day and night until you have no personal life and it ruins your health.”   “Won’t that make me unhappy? “You didn’t ask for happiness advice…”

Scott Adams, author of that cartoon is a man to be admired on several levels.  Not only did he turn an office-doodle into a career, but he overcame some very unusual physical challenges along the way.  In his most recent book, Adams gives some advice on happiness which makes a lot of sense.   Want to be happy? Work on several controllable factors:  eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, and try to have a flexible schedule (among other things).  I believe he’s right on all counts, and I’d add one of my own – pursue some form of hobby not related to your work – even if it’s only for 10 min a week.  

So, as we all plot out our New Year’s resolutions, plans and goals, I’d invite you to add one – work on being happier in 2014.  You deserve it!


Have an excellent month!



Jeff Cole


JCG Management Consulting

Poka-Yoke Your New Year

Did you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time this holiday season “fixing stuff”?  Addressing issues that simply should have worked right the first time but didn’t?   It can certainly be frustrating.  One solution – take a hint from an op-ex methodology called Lean and explore a technique called Poka-Yoke (error –proofing).  Simply ask yourself – “how might this fail?”   Then explore ways in which you can mistake-proof the situation.

The best Poka-yokes are simple, quick, and based on common sense.  Ultimately, you’d like it set up so there’s only one way to do something and it’s the right way.    You are surrounded by poka-yokes every day – batteries that can only fit into a device one way, cars that automatically apply the brakes when they sense you’re about to hit something, spell-check, dishwashers that stop spraying water if you open them in mid-cycle, software that grays out options you shouldn’t use, etc.


Here’s a challenge for January:  How can you take one simple task or process where you work and error-proof it?  Even better - have a contest!  See how many quick-win error proofing ideas your team can implement in 30 days.  Have fun!

2013 Baldrige Award Winners Announced


The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program has undergone several administrative changes over the past years, but its mission remains the same:  improve the competitiveness of U.S. organizations.   2013 marks the 26th year for the awards.

Three recipients were announced in November and all were from the health care and education categories:


·         Pewaukee School District, Pewaukee, WI (education)

·         Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, Plano, TX (health care)

·         Sutter Davis Hospital, Davis, CA (health care)


Congratulations to all the recipients!   To learn more about these benchmark organizations, click here.


Is Six Sigma Training Good for Your Bottom Line?

One of the most popular OpEx methods is called Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma.  Created at Motorola in 1986, this method follows a 5-step approach to reducing variation in business processes allowing for faster, higher quality, and lower cost processes.  Motorola alone has driven over $16B to its bottom line using this method.  What can it do for you personally?


Six Sigma in general is good for any organization.  Firms often break even on their training investment in 3-6 months and can drive tremendous benefits to their customers and employees.  The training is also good for one’s career according to the 2013 Salary Survey published in December by the American Society for Quality.  Several interesting observations:


·         U.S. respondents having completed at least one Six Sigma training program earn $16,826 more on average than those without any Six Sigma training.

·         Respondents with Green Belt (entry level) training earned on average $9303 more than counterparts with no Six Sigma training.

·         It was even better for those in the U.S. with Black Belt (advanced) training, which showed $18,709 more in earnings than those with no training.


Click here to view the entire 2013 ASQ Salary Survey.    To learn more about when and where you can receive Six Sigma training, send us a note at:  info@jcolegroup.com 


Link of the Month

FlightAware is this issue’s featured link and is useful to all of those who travel for leisure or business.   Ever been in an airport and noticed that what the status board in the terminal says and what the airline website says don’t

match?   FlightAware is the tie breaker.  It lets you know real-time what is actually happening to your flight.  Founded in 2005, their site integrates 50 worldwide data sources to track both commercial and private flights and is available free.

What the Circus Teaches Us About Change

The circus is a novel environment and if one looks closely there is much to learn regarding business and managing change.  Sadly, I don’t have metaphors about clowns or walking tightropes.  What we do have is a lesson to be learned by observing the humble circus elephant. 

Elephants are quite large and could cause substantial property damage if they decided to wander away from the circus tent, go down Main St. and grab a Snickers bar out of your kitchen.   What contains them?  In some cases it’s a simple string attached to a post and tied to their leg.  They could easily break it and wander off but they don’t.  Why not?   When they were little, their handlers used a stout rope tied to their leg and secured to a sturdy beam.  They were going nowhere.  As the elephant grew, it learned the “rule” that you don’t try to wander past the length of the rope.  Later in life, a simple string is then enough to contain it!

Organizations are very similar in that many are operating under the “ghosts of processes past” – “rules” they learned or set in place long ago that no longer make sense.  Because something went wrong in 1996, an extra process step was added and we’ve done it ever since.  The conditions causing that error may no longer apply, but that “string around our leg” is still there – doing things a certain way because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

2014 is on our doorstep – it’s time to stop the madness, break the string and look for simple efficiencies.  Give yourself a new year’s gift by asking “Why?” you are doing things the way you are.  You may find some interesting results!


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© 2013 The Jeff Cole Group , Ltd.