Markem OD Case Study LO14765

Barry Mallis (
27 Aug 97 10:21:47 +0000

Several years ago, in the days of "LO15xx," I contributed regularly to
this list, received many wonderful insights, and combined the practicality
of virtual mentors with necessities dictated by my organizational role as
the "deployer" of continuous improv ement concepts and practices.

Much time has gone by. For a long period I couldn't handle the list load,
so I dropped out of sight. Recently I began hovering again. A few old
voices in the crowd, along with new ones. Would it be interesting to share
my practical gains from the past 36 months in the area of organizational
development? I am brash enough to think so. I'll share my case study in
the making.

My manufacturing company produces specialized printing systems which mark,
code and decorate products. We sell our systems to other manufacturers,
who place these on their assembly lines. Our printers and inks create date
codes, serial numbers, logos, ins tructions, labels--on saw blades, gold
balls, computer chips, food packages, telephone key pads, to name a few of

700 people work at this site, 1,300 elsehwere around ther planet. After
completing the ISO certification process, we consciously launched
ourselves about 2.5 years ago onto the Continuous Improvement Path, guided
by total quality concepts and practices. O ur mentoring organizations was,
and continues to be, the Center for Quality of Management (CQM) in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. They are a consortium of
organizations--manufacturing, service, education--committed to mutual
learning and sharing of best practi ces.

Our first initiative was the training of top management, from CEO on down,
through a 6-day course in TQM. The training aligned that group; they have
a common understanding, vocabulary, set of tools. Hoshin planning became a
part of the strategic process. The inclusion piece was still missing at
this point. The rank and file knew little or nothing.

Next, we began to deploy--and continue to do so--a 3-day course for all
employees in high performance team work. Our culture was relatively "warm
and fuzzy" already, but we were missing the process piece. Over 300
individuals have attended this workshop i n groups of from 18 to 21 per
course. Results have been profound. Two years ago we knew nothing about
how problem-solving and process planning teams must concentrate on group
process while applying specific tools to their tasks.

With the learnings, we have teams who tackle long-standing problems, save
many hundreds of thousands of dollars, promote good practices, grow more
assured in their work and commitment to the company's goals.

Problems are as certain a fact of life as the sunrise. Providing new tools
to employees, speaking what has long been the unspeakable, thinking what
has long been echewed as the unthinkable, deflating the blame culture,
turning toward a weakness-based orie ntation in problem solving, have made
their mark on our almost 90 year old company.

We are learning. We're an organization. We provide root cause analysis
workshops, introductions to the 7 Quality Tools, opportunities for the
visual factory where Paretos are evident outside many work areas as
guideposts for improvement.

We continue to have problems everyone else experiences, but we now have
some ways to solve them. Not all problems get solved. But we stagger
forward with a better grasp of where we can start to address these.

And we share with other organizations--Teradyne, Analog Devices, Bose,
Lotus Development, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Babson College, American
Power Conversion, Mercury, The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and many
more, through the CQM.

This long, long entry by way of telling you that learning does occur; that
learning occurs in many ways, to state the obvious; that we do theorize on
this list, but behind the screen there are groups like yours and mine who
do practice in part what we preach, with very significant results.

Total Quality is an evolving system of practices, tools and training
methods being developed primarily by industry for creating higher quality
products and services to increase customer satisfaction in a rapidly
changing world. That's what we're all about in my particular learning
organization. We never refer to ourselves as such. No need, I guess, as
has been typed numerous times.

But partly through the ruminations of people like you we continually hone
our efforts. For that we are always grateful. I hope this has been
reasonably interesting. Personally, I'm not fond of long dissertations on
this list or any other, and for that I do apologize. Never again! (at
least not for a year or two!)

Best regards,

[Host's Note: Good to hear from you Barry. Some of you will remember
Barry's gracious and frequent contribution of Rumi's poems very relevant
to our topic of learning. ...Rick]


Barry Mallis Manager Quality and Development MARKEM Corporation Keene, New Hampshire or

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