April 10, 2005

Scoping The Process

One of my commenters, who obviously works for IBM, asked me to do some more IBM posts. Looking back at my 31.5 years at IBM, I can recall a lot of lunacy. I've written about quality programs at IBM before. This post was about sumpin' we had at IBM called Market Driven Quality. I couldn't identify the name then because I was still working at IBM and didn't want to mention the name.

Market Driven Quality occurred near the end of John Akers' disasterous reign as IBM's CEO. It went along with Six Sigma and sumpin' called the 5 Ups. I never could figger out 5 Ups. I just called them Stand up, Fuck Up, Throw Up, STFU, and Give Up.

Market Driven Quality was announced at town hall meetings throughout the country. We had one here in Atlanta. We spent a day in an auditoriom listening to speakers talk about Six Sigma and the Malcolm Baldridge Award. They scheduled the most boring speaker right after lunch so we could sleep through his presentation which we did.

Unfortunately, the people who put on this dog and pony show had no conception of adult learning principles. There was only one break before lunch and only one break in the afternoon. So, we had to listen to two hours of bullshit before we could have a break. The attention span of an adult is between 45 minutes and an hour. When I was an instructor, I never went more than an hour between breaks. The upshot of this is half of what they told us was missed by over 50% of the audience and was thus a waste of time.

I wrote a Speakup and said that if we were really gonna bet our company on this we should have done it right, i. e. a break every hour. If that made it last two days, so be it.

The answer was that they couldn't afford to do two days of it. In other words, they told me that they weren't really serious about this and it was just another FQP (Quality Program).

But we still had to waste time going to Green Hat School where we walked a carpet and tied knots in a rope while standing up blindfolded. I documented this bullshit in the post referenced above.

We also were gonna shoot for Six Sigma in everything we did. For those who don't know, Six Sigma is three defects per one million. Now, I was an instructor/programmer at this time. What did we do that had defects that we could correct? Never fear! IBM management may be incompetent but it can be creative. There were things we could fix.

To achieve Six Sigma we needed to perform a procedure called Scoping A Process. This was an end to end look at a process. You are supposed to be able to scope any process. We even had an instructor who worked overtime to put together a four hour class on Scoping A Process.

I am not making this up. The process we scoped was making sure there were enough pencils in the class opening package. The class opening package usually consisted of a tent card (for the student's name), a tablet of writing paper, emergency location form, an information packet, and a pencil for each student. We were gonna track the class opening package for every class we taught and make sure that the package had a pencil for each student. If not, we would provide feedback to the administrative people who put together the class opening package.

I don't know if we ever reached Six Sigma on the pencils in the packet. About two months later we stopped tracking pencils and they laid off the instructor who taught us how to scope the process. I guess they figgered if she had enough time to learn how to scope a process she wasn't doing her regular job.

It wasn't too long after that that Akers decided to break IBM up into little companies that Scott Adams would call Battling Business Units. My division became Skill Dynamics, but that's another story.

Like I said, in 31.5 years I witnessed a lot of incompetence and lunacy.

Posted by denny at April 10, 2005 08:39 PM  

Yesh, I know Quality Programs. We had Total Quality Management (TQM) in the Air Nasty Guard here in OR about '91 or so. I sat thru the classes, even stayed awake and kept a notebook with notes, not just on the handouts either.

For my zeal, I was sent to the follow-on "Train the Trainer" classes, and actually conducted a training session after that.

Then the County Gummint, for which I also worked, decided that THEY would institute TQM. They asked for volunteers to instruct, be Divisional reps, etc. I sent a letter volunteering to perform that duty, together with my Quality Resume. The County never replied. Never even farking replied.

TQM was short-lived at the County, lasted less than a year, and it's only residue is the infernal process of Goal Setting and Mission Statements, which outlived the program. It died in the Air Guard after two years.

The Air Farce was famous, of course, for one-upping Six Sigma with Zero Defects!

Yeah! Fond memories of THAT putz-pounding, sure!

Posted by: Rivrdog on April 11, 2005 03:22 AM

See? I knew you had stories. Over thirty years watching foils on the overhead projector had to have left some marks.

Now do the one about what you found under the raised floor in the machine room. Or was it above the false ceiling?

Oh, and, not works. Worked. I was laid off when my job was sent to IBM Bangalore.

Posted by: homebru on April 11, 2005 09:53 AM

I have sit sit here in wonder that an organisation such as IBM, supposedly staffed with professionals, would need to think about supplying pencils for everyone at a mandated training program.
It would be a helluva lot quicker and more effective way to improve quality to announce a mandatory training class and fire everyone who showed up without pen and paper. Anybody not bright enough to be prepared to take notes is a sumbitch so ate up with the dumbass as to be not qualified to sweep the effin' floors.

Posted by: Peter on April 11, 2005 01:35 PM

After having put in fifty years in three different agencies of the Federal Government, seems to me that IBM and the feds have the same idiotic decrepitude. Are we sure that IBM management aren't rejects of the Navy Department or the U.S. Treasury? Or visa-versa?

Texas AC

Posted by: AC O'Brein on April 11, 2005 01:55 PM

Oh, geez....TQM. I'd forgotten all about that - we went through that process at the County Office of Education I worked for.

Guess I blocked it out of my mind.

Posted by: Trish on April 12, 2005 02:16 PM

TQM brings back bad memories

In the active duty Air Force in 91 it became known to stand for "To Quote McPeak"

(As in Gen Tony McPeak, AF Chief Of Staff that focused on things like this rather than things like, I don't know, taking care of the troops and mission accomplisment?)

After this became wide spread, the acronym was changed to AQM, Air Force Quality Management, or, "A**holes Quoting McPeak"

Posted by: Randy on April 13, 2005 05:18 PM

Yep, seen a lot of this BS in a variety of roles ad DBA in many different companies. Yea us! TQM, Six Smegma, Green Belts, Blacks Belts, Belts O' Scotch, whaterver. All day indoctrination by trained North Korean brainwashers. It lets me bring home a paycheck, and it's free entertainment too.

BTW, Deming, the guy who proved a system that worked by showing the Japanese how to kick our ass in manufacturing said that any lowly peasant on the assembly line must be able to stop production to correct a quality problem. Just try it with the pencil pushers!

Posted by: Cappy on April 16, 2005 03:39 PM
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