Browsing the archives for the quality for life tag.

Personal strategic planning… What plan?


UntitledI have this book from HBR including their “must read” articles on strategy.  It’s got Porter and all kinds of good stuff…  But, this book is something my husband, a successful technical engineer and manager in his own right, finds humorous. Strategy, to him, is something more intuitive and a logical thought process that needs no defined approach.  While I disagree, it does work for him.

So, it’s serendipitous that Bill Troy discusses his approach to strategic planning in the latest View from the Q post. Yeah, I’ve been involved in the process many times over the years with both Pro QC and other consulting projects I’ve taken on. I’ve also been involved in the strategic planning process as Education Chair for our local ASQ Section, although that process could use some refinement. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say we’re missing the “bigger picture” and spend too much time on the tactical side of things.  We have good intentions, but I would not consider our strategic planning to be as productive as it could be.  But, that’s not what I want to discuss here… And, we are improving in this regard.

What I find interesting about all of this talk about strategy is that I’ve only recently been called out for lack of personal strategic planning.

Troy talks about the purpose:

“The purpose of strategy, after all, is to answer this question: How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?  What is your path?  How are you going to get there, what steps do you need to take, and in what order?”

And, this is exactly what I was recently asked when my mentor reached out over concerns that I wasn’t planning my career with a long-term vision in mind. In the face of a new opportunity, he asked me an interesting question.  On my 60th birthday, will I look back and be happy with the direction of my career based on the decisions I made? Did I follow my plan?

What plan?

The questions Troy incorporates into the post are relevant as I go through this process:

  1. What are your key facts and assumptions?
  2. What is your theory of victory?
  3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy?
  4. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy?

I’ll admit.  I like this approach.

My mentor expanded on personal strategy with a little more detail.  He gave me some homework last week as I consider this new opportunity and whether or not it’s in line with what my personal goals are.  He asked me to really go through the strategic planning process and apply it to myself. He urged me to spend some time asking the important questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What should I be doing?
  • How do I make that happen?

I’ll admit I’ve sat down with pen in hand a few times and tried to answer these questions. I’ve answered them as a marketer though and am not sure I’ve really honestly given it the thought it deserves. Asking yourself what your strategic mission and values are has proven to be much more challenging than any similar exercise I’ve been through with an organization. Organizations are logical, and I can reflect on case studies and other resources/insight to guide me.  I’m good at that.  Thank you trusty HBR “On Strategy.”

But, I still don’t have the answers about the direction of my own life.  Is my mentor right to say that fear and complacency guides us in a more powerful way than I had previously admitted.? How many organizations have we seen fail because of this very real threat to the planning process? At 60, how will I define success?

My favorite Strategic Planning Cycle… I continue to work on this process.



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GTE gets happy…


logoTeaching management classes, you do tend to get some insight into local employers.  There’s good and bad, but occasionally there’s that story that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

One of my students that I’ve also had the pleasure of having in other classes works for GTE Financial.  Since I’ve known her, she’s only had positive things to say about her employer and future with the company.  But, last night she told me about the Happy Conference and I swear I got chills.

GTE’s CEO knows what’s up… As a banking holiday, they had an opportunity to gather all of their employees and celebrate happiness, quality of life and all that stuff that creates an ideal work environment. The employees were compensated for the day and treated to a host of engaging, quality speakers (including Zappos that we had just talked about in class), various discussions and other events.  They were encouraged to create a Twitter account and share the love with others.  The entire day was about connecting the employee to the importance of happiness and reinforcing its importance in the corporate culture there.  This was the real deal.

From what I heard, one lady that’s been with the company 50 years was asked what her favorite moment in life was. When she had advised it was a company trip to Hawaii that she had taken with her family many years ago, the company decided to thank her by sending them back, first class. What did it for me here was that my student says this lady just honestly doesn’t want to retire because she enjoys what she does there so much.  Hmmmm…

This Happy Conference ended with everyone getting an envelope with two $5 bills (and 2 GTE cards).  They were told to go pay it forward and distribute it however they wanted.

My student was legitimately excited to talk about this event and shared it with the class.

I’m switching banks.

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Quality Tools for Quality of Life


Our local ASQ members have indicated an interest in speakers discussing quality of life, so I’m putting something together for next month.  New year, new resolutions…

I like using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to discuss quality of life, but the HBR assessment categories crossover well.

  • Health & Well-Being
  • Enjoyment & Satisfaction
  • Focus & Prioritization
  • Meaning & Significance

I took the HBR assessment some time ago and had posted separately.  There’s another from The Energy Project I haven’t taken yet.  The GROW assessment includes 135 questions that outline your well-being in multiple areas.  With an 18 page report and ongoing tracking capabilities, this one provides enough feedback for any quality geek to appreciate.  “GROW uses the scientific literature to suggest best practice ways for you to develop wellbeing.”

Digging into the material further, there seemed to be a connection with the quality tools we’re already using at work.  Starting with an assessment as noted above sure seemed familiar.

I’m attempting to collect as many uses of quality tools to improve quality of life as possible.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Brainstorm – What are your goals in 1yr, 5 yrs and your lifetime?  Consider: Career, Financial, Education, Family, Attitude, Physical, etc.
  • Audit yourself. Personal SWOT analysis is always a win.
  • Use an affinity diagram to group brainstormed ideas or SWOT  information… Focus on the 20%. Pareto always fits.
  • Set SMART goals – Create calendar reminders to assess and improve as necessary.
  • Use an app & or set calendar reminders to walk – Work up to 10,000 steps per day. This is more challenging than I thought.
  • Flowchart your day or specific activity to identify areas of improvement.
  • Use a Grid Analysis for important decision making.  I’ve posted examples for selecting suppliers and use a group vacation planning example in my management class.
  • Develop a personal mission statement – Hang it up.  A friend of mine wrote it on her bathroom mirror.
  • Use ISO 26000 as  a guideline for personal social responsibility – Audit yourself.  I did this recently and discussed it in Quality Progress. 
  • Use To-Do lists to manage time. Each day, identify activities that focus on both short and long-term action items.  I’ve got a whole post of checklist resources here.
  • Keep a food journal for a week.  Use a spreadsheet to analyze the results.  Have fun with bar charts and all kinds of fun tools.
  • Track health data with wearable technology, such as Fitbit.  Destroy the statistic from The Energy Project indicating “58% of people say there are significant gaps between what they say is important in their life and how they actually live.”
  • Use Lifehacker’s Daily Personal Inventory Form to identify root causes.
  • 3-to-1 ratio – Keep a daily list of 3 things your thankful for. “Research shows you’ll be more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things.”


  • Someone from the ASQ LinkedIn Group suggested 5 Why, which you could use anytime you need to consider all aspects of a situation and need to get to the root of a problem.  
  • Excellent TEDx on “The happy secret to better work.

Additional LinkedIn ASQ Group comments include:

  • “Root Cause Analysis of Quarrel between husband and wife by using Ishikawa diagram”
  • “Quality of Life could be achieved / improved by numerous Quality Tools: beginning with subscribing to a quality standard, then devising your process life map, applying rules to live by, integrating PDCA, many forms of CAPA, and internal auditing to measure and adjust your effectiveness.”

A lean kitchen – Quality for life


One of my 30 days of quality commitments was to de-clutter a closet. As I was rifling through an uneven tower of canned tomatoes in the pantry, I decided it was the kitchen that needed this most.

I’m ashamed to say that after further investigation of the tomato cans, some of them had expired in 2011.  The root cause of this issue is the lack of any type of inventory control and no accountability.  We shove stuff in and grab the first thing we see.  To my credit, we did have macro category organization in place.  You always knew where the pasta was going to be!

Anyway, here’s what I did to get things organized:

Reduced waste

I took all of the pantry items out and checked the expiration dates.  I also took this as an opportunity to get rid of the ridiculously unhealthy items, like the leftover Halloween candy.  There was more stuff wasted here in total than I care to say.

Organized stuff

I put some consideration into the Pareto 80/20 concept when restocking.  What are the 20% of foods that we eat the most?  These were the items I put at center level for easy accessibility, like cereal.  Snacks went on the bottom shelf so that the kids could reach them easily without having to perform unstable acrobatics involving chairs.

Implemented an inventory system (FIFO)

Now that everything looked great, I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.  First in, first out is the ideal; anything we put up goes in the back and anything used comes from the front.   The training for this with my kids was quite interesting.

I did consider creating a master list of items that included base quantity info, but I decided the value wasn’t there for the amount of effort that would be required. Maybe in the future though?

Continuous improvement

I did spend some time trying to setup the iPad to manage the inventory and somehow manage recipes without a lot of effort.  As someone that doesn’t enjoy cooking, I would love to have that handful of comfortable options all stored in one place where you could search by ingredient or plan a weekly schedule.  Currently, there are books everywhere that may have one or two recipes with nothing else we’d ever consider consuming, or they include those recipes that you just know but forget about when you’re trying to organize food for the week.  This whole process is incredibly inefficient and requires attention. I haven’t found the solution I’m looking for quite yet, but there are a lot of recipe apps.

More kitchen…

After the pantry was finished, I was so motivated that I decided to keep going with a few of the kitchen cabinets that you’d otherwise want to be careful opening.  The Tupperware cabinet was a balancing act, for sure.  Not now though… It’s all organized. Every bowl has a lid.

Is this sustainable? We’ll see.


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