1. David Bowie: Look back in Quality

    March 26, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on Minitab blog by Samantha Lee and Shana Lebowitz

    Unless you live under a black country rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the world recently lost one of the greatest artists of our time, David Bowie. My memories of the Thin White Duke go all the way back to my formative years. I recall his music echoing through the halls of our house as I crooned along whilst doing the chores. Then as now, Bowie’s creativity and energy inspired me and helped me do what I do.


    Since his death, I’ve been reflecting on the many prophetic works that this prolific and visionary artist contributed to the world. In the old days, songs were released in collections called “albums.” This was an artifact of an inefficient and technologically unsophisticated delivery system that relied on large, unwieldy disks that were prone to scratches, warping, and other defect modalities. But I digress. Like a true artist, Bowie often used the media at hand as a vehicle for his art.

    In addition, his albums often told stories, which many different audiences have interpreted in many different ways. When I listen to Bowie, I hear stories about life, love…and process quality control.

    You might be surprised to discover that David Bowie was a proponent of quality process improvement. For example, you may be familiar with one of David’s earlier classics, “The Man Who Sold the World.” But did you know that David’s original title for the album was The Man Who Sold the World on the Benefits of Continuous Quality Improvement? Of course, that’s never been publicly acknowledged. Unfortunately, cigar-chomping executives at the record company forced him to shorten the title because, in their words, “Kids don’t dig quality improvement.” Fools.

    Bowie’s subsequent album, Hunky Dory, was an ode to the happy state of affairs that can be achieved if one practices continuous quality improvement. Don’t believe me? Then I challenge you to explain why I hear these lines from the song “Changes”:

    I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the value stream of warm impermanence

    For decades I’ve struggled to understand these inscrutable lyrics, but now I realize that they are about control charts. Of course! You see, by ripples, David refers to the random fluctuations of varying sizes that occur naturally in any process. And he asserts that if the process is in control, then the ripples don’t wander outside of the control limits (a.k.a. the stream). Whilst acknowledging that such control makes us feel warm and fuzzy, David also reminds us that process stability is impermanent unless one is dedicated to continuous process improvement and control.

    If Hunky Dory is an homage to quality utopia, then Diamond Dogs surely represents the dysphoric chronicles of a harrowing dystopia in which the pursuit of quality has been abandoned. (Fun fact: some claim the original album title was Your Business Is a Diamond in the Rough; Don’t Let Quality Go to the Dogs.) Perhaps jarred by the panic in Detroit, David warned us to pay careful attention to issues of quality in our economic and social institutions. And he warned of an Orwellian future in which individuals are unable to pursue and maintain quality in their organizations because they are stifled by an authoritative ‘big brother’ who gives them neither the attention nor the resources to do so effectively.

    By the time his album Young Americans was released, David appeared to be feeling cautiously optimistic about improvements in the quality of quality improvements, as I am reminded every time I hear these lyrics from the song “Golden Years”:

    Some of these days, and it won’t be long
    Gonna’ drive back down where you once belonged
    In the back of a dream car twenty foot long
    Don’t cry my sweet, don’t break my heart
    Doing all right, but you gotta work smart
    Shift upon, shift upon, day upon day, I believe oh Lord
    I believe Six Sigma is the way

    Some might question Bowie’s insistence on Six Sigma methodology, but I believe none would question his assertion that we must “work smart,” and that dedication to quality is absolutely essential.

    As one final piece of evidence, I present the following quote from Bowie’s song, “Starman.” I personally believe this song is about a quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy. Gifted songwriter that he was, David realized that “quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy” was too many syllables to belt out on stage, so he used the “starman” as a metaphor. I’ve taken the liberty of making the substitution below; I think you’ll agree, the veracity of my interpretation is inescapable.

    There’s a [quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy] waiting in the sky
    He’d like to come and meet us
    But he thinks he’d blow our minds
    There’s a [quality analyst from an advanced civilization in another galaxy?] waiting in the sky
    He’s told us not to blow it
    ‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

    So, so obvious when you know what you’re looking for. Kind of gives you goosebumps.

    I took a few moments with fellow Minitab blogger and Bowie fan, Eston Martz, to brainstorm about what made Bowie such a monumental and influential artist. I collected our notes and created this fishbone diagram in Minitab Statistical Software. This is only a partial listing of Bowie’s albums, musical collaborators, personas, and topics that he covered in his music. It would take many more fish with many more bones to cover all of his artistic collaborations, movie roles, and other artistic endeavors. Thanks for the music, David, and thanks for the inspiration, past, present, and future.


  2. Webinar: 7 problems facing owners of management systems

    March 6, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited
    Watch the 60 minute webinar where Michael Voss cover the most common problems and what to do to solve them.

  3. South African Quality Institutes latest news

    February 5, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited

    South African Quality Institute (SAQI) http://www.saqi.co.za is the national body that co-ordinates the Quality effort in South Africa. Their monthly newsletter is an excellent source of information to keep up with the latest quality issues in South Africa.


    • Organizational Excellence Frameworks – How to fail, by Prashant Hoskote
    • SAQI 2016 Strategic focus, by Team SAQI
    • Strategic Planning is Critical to Business Sustainability, by Jane Palmer
    • Qaulity in Schools: An attitude of gratitude, by Richard Hayward

    Click here to download this newsletter.








  4. How has Executive responsibility changed according to ISO 9001:2015?

    December 25, 2015 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Paul Harding

    In the previous 2008 edition of the ISO 9001 Quality management systems requirements standard there was a mandatory requirement for top management of an organization to appoint a management representative to perform certain tasks in establishing and maintaining the Quality Management System. In practice this position varied, depending on the understanding of the requirement by senior executives, from that of an administrative position to one of complete control of the QMS. In other words the Management Representative was either a

    Scribe or a Champion.

    In my experience of interacting with “ISO 9001” certified organizations I have come across many scribes but rarely have I seen a true champion. The revised 2015 standard now calls for more leadership and commitment from top management who must also take accountability for the effectiveness of the QMS. A champion or a number of champions may still be appointed but if the auditors and Certification Bodies are true to the revised requirements in the standard, scribes will no longer be acceptable as a substitute for leadership.

    The new standard also requires that top management ensure that the quality policy and objectives for the QMS are compatible with the context and strategic direction of the organization and are integrated into the organization’s business processes. Furthermore the new standard also requires that top management engage, direct and support persons in order to contribute to the effectiveness of the QMS. In essence this now means top management need to link strategy and operations in their organizations.

    In one of my previous posts on this Pulse site I spoke about “Should executives be auditors?” and the article focused on how executives can effectively address this issue of taking accountability for the performance of the organization. The methodology described was based on the Focus, Alignment, Integration and Review (FAIR) approach. Focused activities in the form of new strategic goals and objectives need to be aligned across various business processes. Once this has taken place the new activities need to be integrated into the existing operations. Finally executive involvement is recommended in order to review the outcomes of the integration process at the various levels and stages of application. This is now what the 2015 new standard requires but will anything change or will it be “ISO 9001” business as usual?

    Change from management responsibility to leadership

    There have now been significant changes in the new ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems – Requirements standard where the requirement for management responsibility has been replaced for a requirement for leadership. How is this change going to affect the application of the requirements to satisfy conformance to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard?

    If we follow the definition of leadership found in ISO 9000:2015 Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary, we see that; “Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization’s quality objectives.” ISO 9000:2015 goes on to give a rationale for this statement. “Creation of unity of purpose and direction and engagement of people enable an organization to align its strategies, policies, processes and resources to achieve its objectives.” So what are the possible actions that top management of an organization could take to comply with the leadership requirement found in ISO 9001:2015?

    According to ISO 9000:2015 these actions could include:

    • Communicate the organization’s mission, vision, strategy, policies and processes throughout the organization;
    • Create and sustain shared values, fairness and ethical models for behavior at all levels in the organization;
    • Establish a culture of trust and integrity;
    • Encourage an organization-wide commitment to quality;
    • Ensure that leaders at all levels are positive examples to people in the organization;
    • Provide people with the required resources, training and authority to act with accountability;
    • Inspire, encourage and recognize the contribution of people.


    The new standard also requires the integration of the quality management system requirements into the organization’s business processes. The ISO 9000:2015 Quality management systems – fundamentals and vocabulary standard does not give a definition of a “business process” only that of a “process”. However, there is a note under leadership in ISO 9001:2015 that says “business” can be interpreted broadly to mean those activities that are core to the purpose of the organization’s existence. So we must now ask the question: Is ISO 9001:2015 talking about the Management of a Quality System or are we now finally talking about the Quality of a Management System?

  5. How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s “Universe”

    by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Eric Thomas

    Whether or not you believe the Miss Universe flub by Steve Harvey was hilarious or tragic (twitter certainly believes the former), one thing is for sure, a much better design could’ve saved a lot of heartache.

    View the Card below:


    Welcome to the silliest and most sloppily arranged piece of design to hit a multi-million dollar, overproduced, international beauty pageant to date. This is like showing up in flip-flops to the Oscars. And with months in the making, and thousands of hours worth of prep time, how did this part get overlooked?

    Let’s break it down.

    There isn’t any logical order to this. Sizing, placement, and organizing is all over the place. Why is “Miss Universe” all the way to the right, but “Philippines” is centered below it? The actual winner, compositionally speaking, was essentially just cast off to the side. It looks like a footnote. And even though this document was created so that the names could be added later, they could have at least made the letters bigger. Microsoft Word can certainly adjust font sizes.

    Redesigned Card

    I took 20 minutes of my time to try and get this right. First, I’ve updated the brand to match. Just because this is simple and utilitarian doesn’t mean it can’t match the rest of the show. After that, I tackled the hierarchy. Now our “2015 Miss Universe” is now way more obvious. I’ve even managed to leave places to add the winner labels. Also, everything is easier to read and follow. Our elimination card is legible, clean, and focused. By using size and color, we’ve made this document a lot more easy to understand.Maybe every elimination card couldn’t be this neat and pretty. But this is the main one. The Finale. This mistake isn’t Steve Harvey’s fault. The culprit here is, once again, bad design. Hey Steve, I got your back buddy.