Browsing the archives for the quality tool tag.

Quality Moment: Thanksgiving Logistics


Thanksgiving-2013Paul Borawski is urging us to think about “quality moments” throughout November. Of course, we know November is World Quality Month so it’s a fitting request.

November is also when Thanksgiving is observed here in the United States… This year, Thanksgiving will be served up at my house. Therein lies the quality moment.

The logistics of planning weekly meals is one thing, but Thanksgiving is no joke.  There are obvious benefits to hosting, but there are also obvious challenges as well. Raw materials (groceries), manufacturing (preparation), delivery (presentation), etc. are all factors to consider.

I did find some great resources online to help me out with this:

Epicurious – Thanksgiving Planning Checklist

Food Network – Thanksgiving Planning Calendar

Kids’ Activities – KRP Ultimate Holiday Guide

Lifehacker – Streamline Your Thanksgiving

PBS – Ten Essential Thanksgiving Planning Tips

Here’s my simple method that I hope works:

Brainstorm the menu options. I’m considering absolute advantage.

My mom makes the stuffing my grandmother used to make exactly how I remember it.  She has absolute advantage here.  She would love to make it, it will turn out awesome, and we’ll all remember my grannie with fond memories (my family can tell you about the last time I tried make this).

My mother-in-law uses her hands to manufacture perfectly stuffed and creased pierogies.  We are talking about quality pierogies here.  She only likes to make them on special occasions, and she always makes enough for frozen treats later.  Absolute advantage.

Outsourcing is a good thing.

Figure out what’s needed and make a list.

Avoid grocery store chaos and separate the list out into “buy now” and “buy two days before.” I’ve learned from past experiences that trying to get everything all at once generally fails and results in aggravation.  Also, I’ve observed that people at the grocery store around this time don’t seem that thankful.

I just posted an article on checklists that includes several great resources. 

Prep as much as possible the night before.

I can remember one year when I failed to check that the turkey had thawed.  A little planning this time around, and we’ll be all set! Corrective action and continuous improvement there… Good stuff.

Have fun.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I really enjoy.  When it comes to “quality of life,” there’s no better time.  Reconnecting with family and enjoying a meal you’ve all worked to make happen is incredibly rewarding.

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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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Catch more flies… Improve your “soft skills”


Even if you’re extraordinary at the technical aspects of your job, it is still without a doubt necessary to distinguish oneself… “Soft skills” count for quite a bit.

Both Sally Hogshead and James Melton recently spoke at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement about “making oneself likable, fascinating, and charming.” Julia McIntosh sums up the common themes discussed at the event and asks if it’s necessary to distinguish ourselves and how do we do it?

Think about the type of person you would rather work with…  Think about what’s common among the people that get things done.

Broaden the definition of “soft skills” and you can see why…

“Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.”

“Soft Skills are behavioral competencies. Also known as Interpersonal Skills, or people skills, they include proficiencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and selling skills, to name a few.”

How do you improve “soft skills”?

  1. Do a SWOT analysis on yourself.  Brainstorm your personal Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats and assess what you need to focus improvement efforts on.  Mind Tools tells you how and even has a template you can use.
  2. Create a S.M.A.R.T. goal for yourself to make sure you’re specific about what you’re wanting to improve.  Instead of trying to improve too much at one time, set it up in phases or smaller segments that are more manageable.  (Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely) 
  3. Create an Elevator Pitch that establishes a personal brand that you’re comfortable with.  Distinguish yourself and be able to effectively communicate this to others. Practice until you don’t sound rehearsed.  Friends and family should hear it several times before it gets tried elsewhere.
  4. Get out there and network.  Look for local events that provide an opportunity to practice specific skills.  Start small and gradually increase your exposure.
  5. Write it down for continuous improvement.  After each opportunity to network and/or otherwise practice “soft skills,” journal what worked, what didn’t and why.  In addition to continuous improvement, the journal is motivating in that you can track your progress.

At the end of the day, “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”


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Think Pareto when thinking same-sex marriage…


I try not to post politically charged stuff, but I simply must say something here.  Why are we dedicating resources to discuss who people should marry?  Let’s consider for a moment why anyone would want to cause hardship and unhappiness on someone just because of who they happen to love.  It’s illogical and cruel.

In trying to wrap my head around the other side of this issue, I can only think of two possible causes for such thinking:


It’s immoral to claim revenue for such legislation, especially when you’re living in a nation founded on freedom. There’s a larger cost here. 


Separation of church and state.  Separation of church and state.

Let’s think about Pareto here and really focus on the 20% of our issues that are going to have the most significant impact on our country.  Even better, let’s not even consider this an issue anymore.


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Make a decision already!


Paul Borawski is talking about finding quality in unusual places this month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how long it takes my husband to make decisions sometimes.  The two have come together in a most advantageous way.

In full disclosure, my husband’s critical decision process is a valued asset to what he does and it’s what makes him such a superstar in many ways.  Each detail is evaluated and re-evaluated, researched and analyzed.  This is what sometimes, just sometimes, can be frustrating.

Last week, I broke out pen and paper and saw a grid analysis save precious time…

Problem (identification of want/need): Our son has outgrown his bicycle.  We asked (told) him to pick a physical activity and he chose off-road biking to do with his dad.  A camping trip is approaching and a new bike becomes an immediate concern. 

Factors – Availability, Components (Quality), Aesthetics, Price & Dimensions

Options – Trek 3 Series 3500 or Giant Revel 1

**Note that the two options were decided based on previous knowledge and availability at the two local stores specializing in bicycles.

Grid Analysis without weights:


Grid Analysis with weights:


Trek wins! And, he loves it…

What happened here is common, in that we were focusing on one or two of the factors that often cloud a well-rounded decision.  In fact, we were leaning towards the Giant based primarily on the price difference.  This especially causes dissonance in a logical thinker like my husband.  The Giant just didn’t feel right in this case, so it wasn’t easy to make a solid decision.  Grid analysis to the rescue!  All parties agree the Trek was the best bet.

Grid Analysis is the simplest form of Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), also known as Multiple Criteria Decision Aid or Multiple Criteria Decision Management (MCDM). Grid Analysis helps you to decide between several options, where you need to take many different factors into account.

To use the tool, lay out your options as rows on a table. Set up the columns to show the factors you need to consider. Score each choice for each factor using numbers from 0 (poor) to 5 (very good), and then allocate weights to show the importance of each of these factors.

Multiply each score by the weight of the factor, to show its contribution to the overall selection. Finally add up the total scores for each option. The highest scoring option will be the best option.  (

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