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  • 1 Dec 2020 8:18 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Katie Freeman

    When creating a brand-new production or assembly process, many things are looked at and studied to create the best capacity possible. Organizations consider what and how much equipment they will need, design jigs and fixtures to help mistake proof the process, define the order of operations, and determine what competencies are needed to perform the work.

    Once the process is up and running and consistently producing quality product, it is generally not revisited unless there is a quality issue or a request for changes from the customer. Without an inciting event necessitating an examination of the performance level or capacity of the process, the process can, over time, become stagnant.

    But is that a bad thing? Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?

    There are many good reasons to occasionally revisit how a process is structured. One of those reasons is something manufacturers everywhere are currently dealing with, a reduction in work force due to COVID-19. Manufacturers find themselves in a position where they need to continue to meet the needs and demands of their customers while not operating with a full staff.

    So, what do you do if you no longer have what is considered the ideal number of people to make the production processes continue to run as they always have? You can always throw money at it, buy more machines, put in some robots, or try to ramp up hiring. But there is another possible solution, to re-evaluate the current order of operations to see if there is a way to maintain the same level of production with fewer people.

    An organization in Cedar Rapids found themselves facing this exact issue. They have an assembly line that is normally staffed with ten operators to meet the production needs of their customer. However, since the onset of COVID-19, they have been forced to staff the assembly line with only seven operators, which has delivered a huge hit to their part production numbers.

    At first, the operations manager thought the solution was to create a specialized fixture or perhaps even purchase some specialized equipment to increase the production level at the presumed bottleneck of the process. However, after spending just a half day observing the line, they noticed a few things:

    • There was a lot of movement involved just to bring parts to the line.
    • Some operators were constantly working, while others were idle waiting for the step prior to theirs to be completed.
    • The people at the start and end of the line had time to do their tasks as well as help bring components to the line for other operations.

    After the observation time, they made some simple changes in what tasks were assigned to which steps (also known as level loading), how parts were brought to and staggered at the line, and the roles of the people at the start and end of the line. These changes required absolutely no money. They implemented them within an hour and conducted some trial runs. The trial runs showed that these small and simple changes could increase productivity back to the level required by the customer, while maintaining fewer people on the line. An unexpected benefit was when they realized that they can grow capacity in the future by duplicating the new line set up while utilizing ten operators.

    This organization reviewed this process because it was necessary in order to meet the demands of the customer. However, the operations manager admitted that he wished they would have reviewed the process years ago because that would have helped them put staffing in other places that needed it more.

    The moral of the story is to take the time to review your processes regularly, even if there is no “need” to do so, because you never know what you will find!

  • 11 Nov 2020 11:19 AM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Scott Burgmeyer

    Daniel Pink wrote in Drive that what really motivates us is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. The idea of mastery creates thinking for each of us – WHAT am I good at? What do I WANT to be good at? Am I willing to do the WORK to be a master?

    To be the best you, Master Shi Heng Yi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-079YIasck&feature=youtu.be) says there are 5 hindrances you must remove to accomplish this –

    1) Sensual Desire – Following temptation of your senses that stops your forward movement

    2) Ill Will – Negative emotion toward an object, situation, or person

    3) Heaviness – mental or physical effort that holds you back

    4) Unsettled Mind – Not being in the moment or jumping from thing to thing

    5) Skeptical Doubt – Indecisive or clouded mind creating sensation of being stuck

    As I reflected on these hindrances, I can see (and have seen) how they create a cloud that prevents me from moving forward as effectively as I could. How do you get over these? Master Shi recommends getting caught in the RAIN:

    Recognize which hindrance you are stuck in

    Accept that you are there (and accept how people are – you can’t change THEM)

    Investigate what is keeping you there (ask questions)

    Non-identify – see that you are made up of the mind, body, and emotion and how you will move forward

    Stuck? Go out in the Rain!!

  • 21 Oct 2020 12:18 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Theresa Heitman, Consultant and Trainer for IQC

    The Fishbone Diagram or Cause and Effect Diagram is one of the most powerful tools you can use for identifying possible causes to a problem. It is called a Fishbone Diagram because it looks like the skeleton of a fish.

    The structure of this tool helps a problem-solving team systematically think through and organize all the elements that could be contributing to the problem or the effect.

    Although this tool can seem a little complex at first, once you have practiced using the Fishbone Diagram and discover how it uncovers possible causes and helps lead you to creating an action plan for eliminating or reducing the problem, it will become one of your favorite “go to” problem solving tools.

    To construct this diagram:

    1. Draw a horizontal straight line. This is the spine of the fish.

    2. Draw a box on the right end of the line. This is the head of the fish. Write the problem or the effect in this box.

    3. Draw five angled lines (bones) coming off the horizontal line. These are the bones of the fish. Your diagram should look similar to the drawing below.

    4. Label each bone of the fish with a category. Typically, causes of problems are found in the following categories: Environment, Methods, Machines, People, and Materials. These labels are only suggested. The team may name their own categories if desired.

    Now it is time to ask the questions. Pick one category and ask, “What about ‘Methods’ is causing the problem/effect?” Draw a line and label it for each cause in that category. As you work systematically through the main categories you will likely identify many causes contributing to the problem. You can further drill down on the causes by adding more “fish” bones. Sometimes the preferred method of identifying causes is brainstorming. When you record one cause per sticky note, you can easily stick the causes on to the category where it occurs.

    You may notice that one or two categories tend to have the majority of the causes, which may help you see where it might be best to concentrate your effort.

    Next, the team will need to select 5-7 of the most likely causes. Further root cause analysis is performed from here. A data collection plan may be needed to understand the variation and identify the root cause. An interrelationship Digraph is often helpful to identify the causes that are the main drivers.


    • Remember that this stage in the problem-solving process focuses on causes, NOT potential solutions.
    • The most important step is phrasing the problem/effect. Make sure you understand what the problem really is.

    IQC Members can download a template for a fishbone diagram here.

  • 12 Oct 2020 2:08 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Grace Davert

    I miss learning in a classroom. As a junior at UC Berkeley, I never imagined that over a quarter of my college career would occur not on a sprawling college campus, but at an IKEA desk in my bedroom. Learning in a classroom provides so many benefits, from networking and making new friends to a distraction-free environment. After six months of virtual school and two months as a remote intern at IQC, though, I have come to find that there are a number of benefits to online learning as well, three of which stand out.

    1. New opportunities

    As a college student, I am lucky to have access to a massive variety of classes and resources. For most people, this is not the case. Online courses open up educational opportunities to anyone with access to the internet and a desire to learn. Interested in taking a physics class from Harvard? Now you can. Want to learn how to become a better leader in your organization? Take an online class. The new virtual opportunities brought about during the pandemic even allowed me the opportunity to participate in a remote internship at IQC, where I am developing a new and exciting offering (coming your way October 15th)! Virtual learning lets us connect with and learn from people all around the globe like we never have before, giving us a unique chance to broaden our horizons.

    2. More Flexibility

    Have you ever sat in a room in the eighth hour of an all-day training and found your mind wandering? Maybe you need a snack, maybe you need to stretch your legs, or maybe your brain is simply fried after hours of taking in all that new information. One of the most beneficial aspects of an online class, in my opinion, is the freedom to take a break. In a virtual course, you can hit the pause button, take a five-minute break, and return without having missed anything. If you are an avid note-taker, you can slow playback speeds or pause a video to write down important information. Perhaps you have a dentist appointment on Wednesday, so instead you work on your training on Tuesday. Online learning allows you to learn on your own timeline and at your own pace, ensuring that you never miss out on even the smallest tidbit of information.

    3. New Skills

    Most of us attended school in a traditional face-to-face setting for some fifteen years. We know how to learn in a typical classroom, we know how to write a report, we know how to discuss what we learned with our colleagues, and we know how to lead an effective in-person meeting. Since the world went virtual in March, though, many of us have had to figure out how to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and a myriad of new programs. I spent hours teaching my mom, a kindergarten teacher suddenly faced with virtual instruction, how to use breakout rooms, document cameras, and dual monitors after spending hours figuring it out myself. My peers who had tried online learning before the pandemic were miles ahead of the curve. They already knew all the tricks to succeeding in an online environment, from time management in an unstructured environment to the ins and outs of videoconferencing. Aside from the actual content that online courses teach, the latent skills you pick up whilst enrolled in these electronic experiences will serve you well in your career, particularly as basic technical prowess becomes increasingly expected in the workplace.

    So yes, I miss the clamor of a lively lecture hall, and yes, I miss walking through the towering redwoods on my way to class here in Northern California. I even miss the collective anxiety of the final minutes of an exam, but I have also learned to appreciate the skills, opportunities, and flexibility that learning in a virtual setting provides, and I encourage you to seek out this growing format and this powerful opportunity to further your own skillset.

  • 2 Oct 2020 4:49 AM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    Are you unintentionally undermining your leadership? Get out of your own way and adapt to leading remotely with these tips.

    “What worked before we went remote doesn’t seem to be working as well now.”

    That sentiment and ones like it have been showing up frequently in leader feedback I am hearing these days.

    Leading direct reports working from their homes might seem like leading direct reports in the office. But there are important differences.

    Add in the disruption created by the Pandemic and the disruption flowing through every industry, and those differences get amplified.

    But those differences might be hard to notice at first. Or, in the rush to make many operational adjustments, leaders might not have had the time or energy to think through all that has changed.

    Let’s slow down, hit “pause”, and consider three ways you might be sabotaging your effectiveness with your remote colleagues.

    1. Being Too Controlling

    This is an easy trap to fall into when you can no longer see with your own eyes what your team is working on daily.

    Before you could just walk around the office and see your team hard at work. You could even feel the buzz of the office adding to that sense of productivity.

    Now, you have to simply trust that your team is hard at work. A “trust” that can feel fragile.

    This is when the “control monster” shows up. You stop believing your team is producing so you are tempted to start “micromanaging”!

    You want to know what each of your reports is working on Right Now!

    It’s ok that you’re feeling tempted to unleash your control monster. We are all feeling out of control with the disruption created by the Pandemic.

    To resist the temptation to be controlling:

    Recognize the “control monster” inside of you. Focus less on status updates and more on building trust between you and your team members.

    Focus on the ultimate outcomes. Don’t insist on the same processes and timetables you had before you went remote – you’ll only be disappointed.

    Continually look for ways to adjust how you get work done. Ask your team what’s working well and what needs improving to be more productive in their work.

    2. Not Being Empathetic

    Communication runs much deeper than words alone.

    When you were in the office surrounded by your colleagues daily you could observe their nonverbal cues as they reacted to you. These cues would engage your empathy.

    You could tell if they were overwhelmed, distracted, or stressed.

    When you moved to remote work those nonverbal cues moved out of your sight, and perhaps out of your mind.

    Rather than ignore or forget your team even has feelings, its time to create space for your team to share their emotions, clearing the way for productive problem-solving.

    To maintain empathy with your team:

    Be more available to your team. Let them know its ok to reach out to you with questions and concerns that extend beyond just “getting work done.”

    Insist on meeting with video whenever possible. Seeing your reports allows you to observe their nonverbal communication, providing important cues for you to engage your empathy.

    Model vulnerability. When you share the challenges you face at home, it opens the door for your reports to share theirs.

    3. Treating Everyone The Same

    “The conversations are varying more than ever since we are now 100% remote. I can’t treat all my employees the same because their homelife situations are so vastly different.”

    When you were in the office you didn’t have to worry about re-arranging meetings to fit “nap time” or schedule “productive time” when your significant other could watch the children.

    Every one of your team members has unique challenges in managing their home life while working remotely. With the line between work and life becoming blurry.

    One Sr. HR leader told me she isn’t focusing on “work/life balance” anymore but prefers instead “work/life integration” – how to create a healthy blending of the two.

    To treat each of your team members differently:

    View your role as leading each of your team members into the adjustments they need to make. Ask open-ended questions to learn about their unique situation and adjust your expectations accordingly.

    Keep track of each of your report’s unique schedules by taking notes. Ask about any changes you should be made aware of weekly.

    Don’t be judgmental. Frame your conversations around “how can I help you do your best work given your circumstances?”

    Don’t assume what you’ve done in the past will be enough when leading your remote team. Instead, see the challenge of leading a remote team as an opportunity to grow a new leadership muscle.

    The more you work at it, the stronger the remote leader you will become!

    Mike WagnerI'm the Founder and President of White Rabbit. As a Speaker, Trainer, and Facilitator I strive to release the creative wisdom and capacity of everyone I serve. Keep Creating!

  • 16 Sep 2020 2:06 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Sarah Blakelock

    There are many different factors that influence an organization’s success. While each of these factors is worthy of careful study and thought, the ones that I’m most driven to understand, and I think need to be prioritized in any organization, are centered around human psychology.  


    Because every human being seeks happiness and fulfillment. Of course, we often go about achieving these aims in a variety of ways, and with varying levels of success. However, through understanding human psychology, we can more effectively achieve our goals and help others to do the same.

    Through my Industrial-Organizational Psychology program, I’ve learned that:  

    • Job satisfaction is associated with less turnover, absenteeism, and job tension. Job satisfaction is also correlated with better job performance and greater job involvement.
    • Perceived fairness of an organization towards its employees builds trust and commitment, improves job performance, leads to greater kindness in the workplace, and even can influence customer satisfaction and loyalty.
    • When perceived support from the organization is high amongst employees, it leads to better job performance, and less employee strain, turnover, and withdrawal.
    • There is plenty of research support that setting goals in the right way can greatly increase employee motivation, which ultimately leads to an increase in both job performance and job satisfaction.

    Of course, organizational effectiveness can be increased through multiple pathways, and aiming to understand and improve the psychology of people within an organization is only one of them. However, it’s one that is often overlooked, and I hope that through this post I have been able to spark in you some interest in this topic.

    As a new intern at IQC, I am lucky to work for an organization that strives for excellence and understands the importance of getting the psychology right. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity through this internship to learn more about the psychology of organizational excellence.

  • 3 Sep 2020 8:24 AM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Scott Burgmeyer

    Having spent my career dedicated to helping organizations achieve excellence and implement process improvement, many people ask me about the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and want to learn more. The number one thing about Baldrige is you’re always learning. The goal is to bring Baldrige principles to life as you reflect on where you started and where you’re headed.

    This is how we do our process (e.g. strategy, hiring, operations, etc.).

    Here is the evidence that the process is being done as we believe it is being done.

    Our processes are performing at this level (compared to your competitors or best in class).

    We use the data about our process to make our process better.

    Understand the criteria. Ask yourself, “What are the requirements?” Whether a request from a customer, the Baldrige criteria, a regulatory mandate, employees, your CEO or other imperative, it’s important to understand what you are aiming for.

    Identify 4-6 key factors. Synthesize the criteria or information into what is most critical for you, the leadership team, the workforce, and the strategy to deliver results that are important to the customer.

    Analyze the application. Examine what is actually going on vs what you think is going on. This is where you begin to see where there might be misalignment between what is intended to the reality in your strategy, operations and/or the Baldrige criteria.

    Determine areas of strength and opportunity. Ideally, you should focus on the top 3-4 items that are going well AND where you can improve. The improvement opportunities are the most valuable and allow you to hold a mirror up and answer honestly – Can we do better? If we do better, will it move us forward toward excellence? This attention to being purposeful in your journey begins to separate the average from the excellent.

    Write comments and actions. Based on what you found in #4, summarize the strengths and opportunities and use this in your strategy, operations, etc. to propel you forward. These are the core elements that will really create an excellent organization.

    Determine the score. As you look back, if you submit a Baldrige application, you will get a score. If you don’t, you can assign points and determine a score on your own. How are you moving forward on your journey of excellence? How well are your processes performing? Are you comparing them to benchmarks?

    At a high level, Baldrige is about applying the following four steps to EVERY process in your organization:

    If we dive a little deeper, the following six key items detail how the Baldrige framework supports an organization’s journey to excellence. The beautiful part is, you can do this yourself or submit an application and have a group of trained examiners provide you 3rd-party feedback to support your journey.

    Whether you apply formally or are working independently to build a journey of excellence, these six steps can be integrated into your organization. Baldrige is about learning, growth and the pursuit of excellence – join the journey with us.

  • 20 Aug 2020 3:23 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Roger Wolkoff

    "All hands on deck" is the mantra for you and your team. Everyone is available and ready to help - front desk clerks, facilities, sales, marketing, even the hotel manager. Everyone is on hand to put chairs in place, set up end tables, stock bathrooms, and hang pictures. That's what you do when you're on the team to open a new property.

    You walk into the nearly completed grand ballroom. In one corner, you see a massive stack of yellow and orange pillows for the new guest rooms. Next to the pillows are the sleek glass and steel work desks you selected for the business center. You make your way over to the corner window opening where yet another forklift of furniture and carpeting makes its way into the building.

    Your role doesn't matter. Just ask Kathleen who recently helped open a property in Wisconsin. "We all pitched in. Everyone had a part in getting our hotel and restaurant ready for our guests and events." Kathleen is the Event Sales Executive, and she rolled up her sleeves like everyone else. "Opening a new property gave us the chance to make it ours," she says.

    While Kathleen didn't necessarily get to drive a forklift, she and her colleagues set the tone for how they operate as a team. Think about the fun and opportunities you can have while opening a new space or refurbishing an old one. You get to make it yours. You and your team have a chance to listen to customers and deliver precisely the experiences they desire.

    That's what makes teamwork exciting. Consider what you want to deliver with the outcome or endgame in mind. What do you want your customers to feel when they walk into your lobby? What's the first thing that should capture their eye when they walk into their hotel room? What aromas do you want emanating from your kitchen to entice them into your restaurant?

    The phrase "teamwork makes the dream work" gets thrown around a lot these days. However, stop and consider where you would be without a team around you, especially an engaged, collaborative group of people on whom you can rely. When you find yourself stuck or needing a fresh perspective, involve the people around you. You build relationships, and you build trust.

    You may be adept at figuring things out on your own; but together, you're stronger, smarter, and savvier. The excitement of working on something new gets the adrenaline flowing. It heightens your senses and awareness. That's what builds creativity and success.

    You've likely seen variations on the theme of breaking out "team" into an acronym and someone getting creative about what the letters stand for. Here are my thoughts. Let me know what you think.

    Trust - Trust is the foundation on which all else is built. Teams go through many stages of trust and gain it at differing speeds. Be open to forming new relationships and creating new bonds.

    Energy - Be aware of the energy that you and your teammates bring to a project or activity. Are you high energy or low energy? How do others on your team feel about your goals and outcome? Take the pulse early and often.

    Appreciation - We like gratitude for our ideas and efforts. We can never say or hear "thank you" enough.

    Mindset - Have a positive mindset when you embark on a new opening. Put yourself in the place of the customer and think about the experiences they want.

    Together you are stronger. What actions will you take on your next opening or grand re-opening to have fun and come together as a team? Who knows, if you ask nicely, they may even let you drive the forklift!

    © Roger Wolkoff, Wolkoff, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • 5 Aug 2020 7:38 AM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Scott Burgmeyer

    Learning is all around us formally and informally. The Baldrige framework defines learning as “new knowledge or skills acquired through evaluation, study, experience, and innovation.” Learning includes both individual and organizational learning. We will focus on individual learning.

    As an individual, learning and brain science is clear. 

    We need to build capacity in ourselves and others by:

    • Allowing the Cognitive Conflict process to take its course
    • Supporting ourselves and others to be comfortable moving through Cognitive Conflict by providing:
    o Autonomy
    o Connection
    o Mastery

    Building a philosophy of learning – one example is 10:20:70 – the amount of learning applied to a topic:

    • 10% Formal Learning
    • 20% Thinking and discussion
    • 70% Application

    For example, if you attend a two-hour class to learn a specific skill, to really build fluency in that topic, you should spend four hours thinking about and discussing the learning and fourteen hours practicing or applying the learning.

    How do you learn best to become a master of that skill?

  • 30 Jul 2020 4:24 PM | Sarah Kelly (Administrator)

    By Scott Burgmeyer

    DMAIC (pronounced duh-MAY-ick) is the five-step process of Six Sigma that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. There are many variations of the Six Sigma platform that include Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, and blends of other continuous improvement methodologies. While the traditional Six Sigma practitioners have emphasized reducing variation, some recent focus has been to improve processes and be a central foundation of an organization’s continuous improvement journey.

    As you peel back the layers of DMAIC, we focus on:

    • Define: What specifically is the problem?
    • Measure: How big is the problem?
    • Analyze: What is causing the problem?
    • Improve: What are we going to do to fix the problem?
    • Control: How do we ensure the problem doesn’t come back?

    IQC has multiple belt levels (Yellow, Green and Black) where individuals and teams can learn the five steps for improvement. Committing to the key elements of DMAIC is how you internalize the thinking process of improvement through the five steps.

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