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Maset News

Volume 28  July 21, 2003

Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
Top Ten List
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
QBQ! QuickNote
Coming in the Next Few Issues


Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers




The feature article this month addresses the attempt to take shortcuts with Six Sigma implementation. It just does not work! There are still many organizations that think they can do it despite the failures that have occurred by those who have tried. If you are really interested in implementing Six Sigma and you realize that it has to be done correctly to avoid failure, give us a call.

The second article is the first of a three part article written by Ted Squires. Ted is an associate of Maset and has done extensive work with new product development. I hope you enjoy his article and can benefit from it.




  • "I continue to read your monthly newsletters with interest." - Illinois

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  • We have not added any new Products or Services this month. There are a number of new additions that are in the works and should be added during the next three months.
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  • Body language is key to professional facilitation. Practice how you use your hands, voice, movements before the session. There are many body language courses available for facilitators.
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    Key Learnings in - Sales

    Apply these five concepts to your sales strategies, and you'll close more sales and make lots more money.

    1. Stop wasting my time - and the customer's time - with these 'introductory' meetings.

    2. Ask some great questions to find out what the customer wants and needs prior to the meeting.

    3. Find out who the decision makers are.

    4. Find out how they go about making decisions, i.e., their decision making process.

    5. Get a commitment.

    "Reprinted with permission" from Jeffrey Mayer's Succeeding In Business Newsletter. (Copyright, 2001, Jeffrey J. Mayer, Succeeding In Business, Inc.)





    By Thomas Pyzdek

    I often receive e-mail and phone calls from people whose management has expressed an interest in Six Sigma but doesnít like the approach (i.e., hard work and dedication from the top down) used by pioneering companies such as Motorola, GE, Allied Signal, Texas Instruments and others. When I suggest that people not proceed until they can persuade their leadership to do it right. Iím often told that they must forge ahead anyway. This message is conveyed with a great deal of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. As you might imagine, this can get depressing after a while, so, in an attempt to preserve my sanity, Iím writing a column for those of my readers who want to hear that itís OK to take shortcuts: If implementation for its own sake is what youíre afterónot long-term resultsóyou can devote just as little effort to a Six Sigma program as you want. So please before contacting me, see if the shortcut you want to take is already on the following list.

    • Ignore the customer. Some companies spend a lot of time and money getting customer input only to find that customer requirements are maddeningly vague and difficult to translate into internal requirements, goals and Six Sigma projects. You can avoid this hassle by simply skipping this step. Besides, what the customer wants is obvious anyway.
    • Start Six Sigma at the bottom or the middle of the organization. CEOs such as Bob Galvin, Larry Bossidy and Jack Welch spent a lot of time on Six Sigma. But unlike these slackers, your executives are too busy to give it more than lip service. Thatís OK, as long as you write some really good lines for them to read in their speeches. Start Six Sigma wherever you want; just be sure to give top management credit for any successes.
    • Donít change the incentives for managers. Managers will always do whatís best for the organization, even if it has an adverse impact on them personally and professionally.
    • Do it on the cheap. Is it really necessary to provide 160-240 hours of Black Belt training? Of course not. Try the "compressed" training programs that offer four weeks of training in only two weeks, or an Internet course that only take a couple of weekends. Also, be sure to hire the consultant who submits the lowest bid. Better still, just go it alone: Just think of the savings!
    • Donít integrate Six Sigma with other initiatives. If youíre already working on lean and a half-dozen programs, just add Six Sigma to the mix. Your people are smart enough to figure out how these programs relate to one another.
    • Try it on a small scale to see if it works. Six Sigma is a proven success in organizations of all sizes in a wide variety of service and manufacturing industries. But your organization is unique, so who know if it will work for you? To prove it will work for you, try a small-scale pilot. Of course, a pilot will be too small to command attention from top management, none of the major management systems can be changed for the pilot, the supporting infrastructure wonít be there for the team, and so on. But donít sweat the small stuff; your people can make it succeed.
    • Donít worry about documenting the bottom-line impact of projects. When you do TQM projects, itís enough to show that you made quality better by reducing defects. Whatís wrong with that? Besides, it takes a lot of time to figure out real savings, and that time isnít value-added. Donít worry about skeptics challenging the value of Six Sigma in the future; what are the odds of that happening?
    • Let the quality department lead the effort. Six Sigma uses many quality improvement tools already known to quality specialists. Why waste time and money by teaching these tools to others?
    • Emphasize statistical skills when choosing Black Belt candidates. Those "soft" change-agent skills can be picked up by anyone with half a brain. But statistics are "hard" skills. Drag the analysts from their computers and put them to work on the front line!
    • Let the Black Belts report to local managers. Successful companies believe that Black Belts have a difficult time disengaging from their routine work when they report to their old bosses. But, as your people do whatís best for the company even if it isnít in their own best interest, that wonít be a problem for you.
    • Use part-time Black Belts. Full-time Black Belts are difficult to extricate from their real jobs. Busy managers donít need this confusion. Avoid it by letting the Black Belts work on Six Sigma projects in their spare time.
    • Donít set overly tight deadlines or ambitious goals for Black Belts. Six Sigma might be viewed as ruthless if people are held to high standards. Cut the Black Belts some slack. If theyíre trying hard and doing their best, what more can you ask?
    • Select projects based on local criteria. Some companies waste time studying the entire customer value stream and then use Six Sigma to identify projects that will improve the system as a whole. But your manufacturing manager is ready to go now, while the others are still dragging their feet. It would take a lot of time to change that, and who needs that kind of grief? Take the path of least resistance.

    About the author

    Thomas Pyzdek is a consultant in Six Sigma. He has written more than 50 books, software and training products, including The Six Sigma Handbook (McGraw-Hill). Learn more about Six Sigma at

    Reprinted by permission of Thomas Pyzdek. Article appeared in Quality Digest, July, 2001, p. 20.




    Identifying and Prioritizing New Product Opportunities

    Trends in Product Development and Process Improvement

    (Part One of a Three-Part Article)

    By Ted Squires


    Most firms are looking for new product opportunities, which will profitably increase their market share. When we look at those products, which are consistently successful, many seem to be line extensions or a different spin on an existing winning product. While these products are not usually as spectacular as Hewlett Packardís ink jet printers, or Chryslerís minivans, these successes can still provide insight into effective new product planning strategies. This article outlines a basic "blocking and tackling" strategy, which can help build a solid, enduring and profitable market presence.

    Robert Cooper in Winning at New Products observed that there were two success factors, which impacted the firmís new product performance. They were 1) in which opportunities arena had the firm chosen to compete and 2) how the firm had elected to compete. This three-part article focuses on the first success factor, selecting the opportunity arena in which to compete and also how to identify the appropriate products to launch into the chosen arena. Included is a four-step process (flowcharted in the right margin) that can help the firm choose the "right product(s)." The opportunities arena and step one in the four-step process are covered in the first part of the article.

    Opportunities Arena

    We started out by saying that we could learn from our line extensions and product derivatives. In essence, we want to start from our core competencies. Many product failures lie in the firm straying too far from its core competencies. Often the firm lacks the knowledge needed to crisply execute a new product or lacks the staying power needed to acquire this knowledge.

    On the other hand, if we launch products which never challenge us to move away from our core competencies, we end up with nothing but the "me too" products, the tired old line extensions which are marginally successful. The problem is then, "How far away from core competencies do you move and in what direction?" It makes sense to define viable new product opportunities using the concept proposed by D. F. Abell. Abell synthesizes three different perspectives to create an "opportunities arena" illustrated below.

    Our Four-Step Process

    Step #1 of our four-step processóPicking the right arena in which to play.

    Step #1 - Opportunity Identification

    Our first step in selecting the "right product" is to generate either product or market opportunities. We can use the arena coordinate space (figure below) to provide structure to a brainstorming session. For example, the product team can move out along the "Customer" axis, asking, "Who are customers (or groups of customers) who could benefit from our products, who are not yet using them?" or "Who are not our customers now, but should be?"

    Arena Coordinate Space

    Similarly, the team could ask questions relative to the other two axes. Probing along the "Application" axis, we could ask, "What new applications could we create from our existing technology which could serve our existing customer base?" The "Technologies" axis could also be addressed by asking, "What technologies could we create to serve our existing clients for their existing applications?"

    The answers to each question are, in actuality, product or market opportunities.

    So what?

    If the product-planning group then maps existing products (both the firmís and competitorsí) on top of their brainstorming ideas, they have created a snapshot of actual and potential markets and technologies. In fact this is a type of gap analysis that marketers have been using to uncover untapped opportunities (as Toyota did when it launched its Lexus product line in the 1980s). Some powerful questions can then come from this snapshot. Questions such as:

    • What kind of synergy exists among our products?
    • Are there products out there that are orphans?
    • Where there is a gap or hole in the map, "How come no one is serving that market niche?"
    • Do our products have a logical fit in terms of our technology, operations and market/distribution?

    The new product opportunities your team comes up with may be interesting and possibly even exciting, but if they are not all playing in concert with your existing portfolio, then the product may be difficult to develop, build, distribute and support.

    What the map does not address is:

    Which potential products have the greatest profit promise and make the most sense?

    Should we add or trim products from our portfolio?

    How should we allocate limited resources to develop them?

    These questions will be addressed in the next 2 parts of this article.


    Cooper, Robert G. Winning at New Products, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley

    Publishing Company, 1993. ISBN 0-201-56381-9

    McGrath, Michael E. Setting the Pace in Product Development, Newton, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1996. ISBN 0-7506-9789-X




    QBQ! (The Question Behind the Question) QuickNote #2

    John G. Miller
    Author of the QBQ! book.

    "When will the economy turn around?"

    Have you been hearing that question lately? Where does it take us? Probably not to where we're trying to go. Some organizations work toward these fine goals:  "Be the Best!" "Service With a Smile!" and "Commitment in All We Do!" Hilton hotel staff wear a button saying "Catch Me At My Best!" All worthy cultural themes, and they certainly top this mantra: "Firings will continue until morale improves!"

    But for the leader - at any level - who believes in personal accountability, to "Be the Best!" also means striving for EXCELLENCE by changing our thinking when there's no wildly growing economy to ride. When times are tough, complaining gets us nowhere. Achievers recognize it's time to get the job done with what we have - now. Sometimes, it seems against all odds.

    In 1967 my father, Jimmy Miller, was the USA wrestling team coach in the Pan American Games held in Winnipeg, Canada. One of his wrestlers was a young man from Oregon named Richie Sanders. Richie had a dry sense of humor and a quick wit. He was the proverbial class clown. And when it came to competing on the mat, he was one of the best. In these games he made it all the way to the finals. His opponent in the gold medal bout was one of Cuba's best wrestlers ever. Richie was losing to the Cuban 11-2 when, in the last minute, he caught an elbow in the nose and the bleeding began. The referee stepped in, broke the match and sent Richie to the mat's edge, where the trainer worked to clean him up.

    My dad, the Great Motivator, gave Richie some on-the-spot, high-energy coaching. "Richie, you're doin' great out there! I'm so proud of you! You're an inspiration to everybody on this team!" Richie, not feeling inspired, just looked at my Dad and tried to catch his breath. Dad continued, "I'm so glad you're part of this team. You're a great example for the rest of the guys." Richie glanced up and through the blood, sweat and tears read the scoreboard: Cuba 11, USA 2, with 58 seconds to go. He shook his head. Dad wasn't fazed. "Richie, you're terrific! I know you can beat this guy. In fact, he hasn't even laid a hand on you!" When he heard that, the team clown smiled a small smile and said, "Well, Coach, if that's the case, when I go back out on the mat, keep your eye on the referee, 'cause somebody's killing me out there!"

    Richie did go back out on the mat, and with less than a minute left, he pinned the Cuban wrestler, winning the match and the gold medal.

    Every day, each of us faces moments when we make a choice, choose a path. Choosing the path of complaining - some call it whining - will not cause us to be our best. It won't make us excellent. Like Richie, when the goal seems out of reach, let's not get bogged down whining and complaining about our situation, but simply ask:

    "What can I do right now to make a difference?"

    Richie Sanders died a short five years later in a car accident in Europe after winning a silver medal in the Munich Olympic Games. A tragic loss of a man and talent. Maybe we should each live our life like there's only 58 seconds left in the match. Let's invest our time, talent and energy into asking better questions and practicing personal accountability. Only then will we truly "Be the Best!" Only then will we achieve excellence.




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