Donald Meador shares about the Lean Six Sigma and why it is key to systematically remove errors and waste while reducing variation from any service or product.
NOTABLE QUOTABLE “Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.” ― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Donald Meador: Donald has survived mergers, promotions, re-organizations, and downsizing. Throughout his career, he has led multiple technical teams of varying sizes consisting of both on and offshore resources. He has successfully led multi-million dollar projects and was selected to complete a two-year program to become a lean six sigma certified black belt. Donald is the author of the book “Surrounded by Insanity: How to Execute Bad Decisions.”
See on today’s show, we’re talking about bringing the soul to quality control. You love to rhyme, don’t you? It’s so fun. I do too. I do like dry them all the time. And we’re talking about lead six Sigma, how to become a black belt master of non-disaster. Let’s do it. I’m ready with an American treasure by the name of Dawn Metta. And I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready. You’re ready. Andrew, are you ready? I’m so ready. We’re all ready. And now with any further ado, let’s get this shindig started.
Cause the thrive time show. Yes, yes. Ladies and gentlemen, on today’s show, we are interviewing Tom of what? Come on Stripe type show. How are you? I’m doing excellent. Happy to be here. Hey, you know a lot of our listeners go on
Spotify and they look at the titles of the show and they have little debates about is it meter, is it meter? Clarify how you want your last name to be pronounced. For our listeners out there,
It is matter, I think it’s easiest to think meter is
Better, her is better. And met her also rhymes with cheddar. This Justin. Now Donald, you have survived mergers, promotions, reorganizations, downsizing, countless changes in corporate America. Could you share with us, I mean, you’re a guy who’s led multimillion dollar projects and was selected actually to complete eight a two year program to become a lean six Sigma certified black belt. Can you explain to us what is a lean six Sigma black belt?
Well, the title is a lot cooler than it actually actually is in reality. But basically what it is and for most people familiar with, you know, GE and Jack Welch and the lean six Sigma approach, you know, really originated in manufacturing. But then all the great business minds decided we can apply this to every single thing in the world. And so what they did is any process that exist in any organization, you look at it with a fine tooth comb, you look at every single step in every process you have. Whether it’s software development, whether it’s real estate leasing, and you look at time, you throw some statistics at it and you try to see is there any way we can shorten this process, what are the metrics we need to be measuring to actually gauge our success? And so what we did is we spent two years basically not only learning the methodology but actually applying that onto prod projects and to actually become certified, you have to successfully complete and show success into projects before you can officially quote unquote graduate.
Well, what I’m going to do is I’m going to tee up real scenarios that our listeners would, would, would run into on a daily basis. But I’m going to use my businesses so you can pick on them and then we’re going to get into your new book. So one of my businesses is called elephant in the room and we cut hair for men. All right. So it’s kind of like a country club for men’s hair, if you can picture it. Yeah, very high end. And we, the average hair cut has to be cut within 27 minutes. And currently with the fourth thousand members, we make a mistake 3% of the time. Okay. Or now the other business, I don’t own it anymore, was a bakery, a beautiful bakery. We won a lot of awards. It was the number one bakery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And we made wedding cakes. And so I want to TF each one of these is kind of a lean six Sigma battlefield. So let’s say you went into a haircut, you know, facility where you have 4,000 members and we’re open from 11 to six everyday. You got to get all 4,000 guys in. We have, you know, six days a week. And you know, the average haircut has to be 27 minutes and you know that we’re making a mistake 3% of the time. How on a practical level, would you go in and help maybe somebody’s business make that more efficient?
Absolutely. Well, the biggest question is what are you actually trying to optimize? That’s the real question. And one that is fraught with complications because whatever you measure is what you improve. And there’s a whole lot of moral hazards if you choose to measure the wrong metric, right? So what if you decide, I think hair’s cuts should be done in 25 minutes. What’s that going to do at a human level, right? You’re going to rush, you’re going to try and get faster. You’re trying to get more, more customers in the door. Yes, your revenue will go up, but also that mistake percentage will go down, right? So you can’t hold everything perfectly. Still the same token, if you want to decrease your error rate, what you’re going to have to do is what if it’s now 27 and a half minutes while your error rate went down, but your revenue also went down. And so that’s why it’s so important on the onset to really sit and think through this and say, okay, what is the metric we’re actually trying to influence?
So let’s say in this case, because we’re open 53 hours a week and we can do two haircuts an hour, you know, and we’re open for a 4.3 weeks a month. We’ve got about 455 hours, you know, to get in all 4,000 haircuts. You know, as we got to do about, you know, 11, 12 haircuts a month. And we really with the three locations, I’m very confident that we don’t ever have more than that number of members for the quality. You know, we want to keep that experience tight. Let’s say that you’re dealing with the bathroom not cleaned regularly. You know, we have a, an interval kind of a alarms system there every half hour we cleaned the bathrooms essentially, but let’s say you go into a small business and the bathroom is perpetually dirty, you know, it just, they’d have a hair salon, it’s beautiful, but the bathroom is always dirty. The towels can be folded on time and there’s, everything’s always behind. You know, the average small business owners are always behind. They’re always a little bit under budget. They’re always on the verge of not being able to make payroll. They’re always a little behind on the taxes. Help somebody use lean Sigma to get a lean six Sigma to become more proactive.
Yeah, absolutely. And the only way to do that is in one of the things that lean six Sigma might not potentially be quite as good at is the human element, right? So the challenge is that the reason those tasks are behind is because they’re not incentivized, right? So there’s not really that big of a reason to go clean the bathroom, right? Because you don’t get paid for that, right? You’re going to get paid for serving customers or haircuts or, or whatever it is you’re doing in a bakery. And so there’s no proper incentive to actually keep the bathroom clean. So the only way to do that is to change the way that process is actually done from an incentive perspective so that employees actually want to keep that. And now there’s lots of ways to keep that bathroom clean. There’s lots of ways to do that.
You know, you can go into it, whether it’s, it’s part of the pay structure, it’s part of whatever. But that’s really more of the challenge in those types of scenarios is not necessarily a process problem. It’s a people problem because there’s, there’s really no purpose to that. What happened. I mean, what really happens if I don’t clean the bathroom? Yeah, my boss is mad, but you know, I kinda got more haircuts or I got paid the same. And so that’s one of the challenges is the processes don’t necessarily technically have to be done to get their job done. And so that’s where you run a foul of some of these kind of side tasks. I think about it, you know, when I used to wait tables, you know, they wanted you to, you know, roll so much silverware and do all these things. You didn’t make any money doing that. Right? That’s not really part of your day to day job and part of your income. And so that’s the biggest thing is making sure as part of their daily process, they have to be incentivized to do that and understand that part of their pay is commiserate with that.
Okay. So let’s talk about Jack Welch for a second. You referenced a Jack Welch, arguably the number one CEO of all time who grew GE by 4000% during his tenure at GE. He did okay. He talks about the kick and the hug as it relates to incentivizing. Do you believe in the kicking the hug? Do you believe in, in, in exclusively the, the, the Ninja kick. Do you live in the black belt kit? Could you believe in the black belt? Black belt hug? Tell us about what your thoughts are on the incentivizing with the kick and the hug.
Yeah, absolutely. I think you do have to use that for the challenges. And to be really a great leader in a business is you have to individualize, right? That’s the most important thing. You have to understand whether the kick or the hug is actually what’s going to make them do their job. Because it’s not the same for everybody. You know, I’ve managed some pretty huge teams and certain individuals, they needed a kick almost every day and they weren’t going to do their job without it. Right? But there’s other people that if you did that, they’re just going to open, quit, right? They’re just, they’re not going to respond to that. And so that’s why you as a leader, man, you’ve got to sit down and you’ve got to talk to these people. You have to understand why they’re at work every day. You have to understand what actually intrinsically motivates them.
And do they need the kicker, the hug, they both work, but they don’t work on the same people. Can you share about how many people you’ve managed at one time or how large of an organization you’ve, you’ve led at one time just to give our listeners who’ve [inaudible]? I think at one time the most people I had directly in my command was 19 direct reports. And then I also had two offshore divisions as well at the same time. And so when you look at that, it’s probably upwards of 30 people. And they were all mostly remote. They were in six different time zones all across the country. So as bad as spread out as you possibly can go all across the world really cause India and you know, California and just all over the place. Now for the listeners out there who aren’t aware of this elite Cockerel who’s been on the show multiple times, who wants managed Walt Disney world resorts and 40,000 employees, 40,000 he said, you should really, you know, I mean, if you have more than 12 direct reports, you’re kind of a Ninja.
I mean you, that’s, that’s a tough thing to do. So managing 19 direct reports can be a quite challenging. Now, now your new book is called surrounded by insanity, how to execute bad decisions. This is a questionnaire that’s tell us about your new book surrounded by insanity, how to manage or how to execute bad decisions. Yeah, absolutely. And, and, and that really gets to what I like to call corporate reality. Because the truth is, if you’re on a large team and you’re not the guy, if you’re not the CEO of your company, more often than not, you may be executing somebody else’s idea. You’re executing someone else’s decision and it gets handed to you to go lead a team or to even do yourself. And there’s so many times that you don’t even agree with the direction. You don’t agree with the decision and much more so you might actually think it’s going to fail.
What do you do about that? Nope. Nobody trains you for that. How are you going to go talk people in to do something and you don’t even yourself believe in? And so that’s really what it’s about is how to survive in that type of culture and how do you, how do you do that? Right. Understanding how you know the results aren’t what makes you successful. It’s the perception of your results is where you actually get success and understanding how to build that and understand what it’s going to take to survive when yeah, maybe you don’t quite agree with everything that’s going on. And for out there who’s hasn’t been married before? Mr Kanye West recently explained during an interview that he said, you’ve heard about dog years. He talks about how you know a dog, a one one year for a dog, it’s like seven human years as it relates to their life expectancy. And he said, one year of marriage is like a hundred years, you know? And so Kanye, I said he’s been married for 500 years. I think a lot of times the challenge with, with marriage or, or business marriage or a partnership, it’s impossible for everybody to
Agree on everything all the time. So we’re working for it right now. We’re moving forward with the premise that maybe your boss is asking you to do something. It’s not an unethical maybe or or illegal, but you just don’t necessarily agree with it. So chapter one of your book is called, you’ve already lost a, what is this chapter all about?
Absolutely. It almost follows the stages of grief. But basically what I have seen over and over again is when you hear these terrible ideas or you’re asked to implement them, the first thing you want to do is scream. You want to fight. You look around, you’re like, does no one else realize this is a terrible idea. And so you fight back, you say, Oh, we can’t do that. We need to do it this way. We need to do it this way. But, but here’s the truth. The decision’s already made. It’s over. It’s gone. It’s done. By the time it gets to you. There’s no changing anyone’s mind. And so that’s the first thing you have to do is just accept the fact that, okay, this is the direction we’re taking. Now what? And, and most people can’t do that. They continue to fight it. They, they do all these rebuttals. They try to change people’s minds. But here’s the truth. You cannot change people’s mind once it’s already made up. That is a psychological, scientific fact. And we have to understand that,
You know there’s a movie mr deeds that was scoring Adam Sandler and perhaps one of the deepest American philosophers of our generation, Adam Sandler. And he in the movie, he becomes, he ends up becoming the head of a company. His grandfather, I believe dies. And so now he’s in charge of a major, major corporation. The problem is he has the mind of, of a third grader and a, I’m going to cue up just a, a brief little audio of from, from the movie. So you guys could get an example of what it’s like to work for somebody who maybe doesn’t have it all figured out here. Let me keep the audio here. This is the scene where mr deeds is explaining to his Butler that his foot is black because he had bad frostbite and he’s extra instructing one of his employees to hit his foot.
Yeah, I didn’t feel that. What else? You got eight. Get that fireplace poker right there and just whack my foot. Do I absolutely have to? It’s gonna be fun. Just just grab it.
All my friends do this, so he’s instructed one of his employees to take out a fire poker and hit his foot with it. So go ahead and give it a whack.
Nothing really isn’t that sick. Didn’t feel that in that awesome. Go ahead. Nothing. Oh, I know what you’re starting to like it. Aren’t you chopped up wood? Yeah, that’s it. Why would you do that to me? I’m just kidding you.
And that’s the kind of stuff. Sometimes it work, right? Your boss is just doing dumb stop. Your boss wants to take you to lunch. Your boss wants you to go to some corporate event, your boss wants you to go talk to some account to that. You don’t need to talk to your boss. I know a lot of bosses are obsessed with corporate travel. I’m sure you’ve seen this before where the boss loves to send you on a plane somewhere. They just love it.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s great when you have multiple bosses, right? And one boss says, man, we’ve got to travel a bunch. And then a new boss comes in three months later and says, Whoa, why don’t you travel so much? I don’t know about these expenses.
Right. I just know, I used to have, I won’t mention the name of the company, but I had a major consulting gig with a huge fortune 500 company and they felt like boots on the ground was the key to success. So they would fly me into Denver, should fly me in to California, fly me into Florida, fly me into kale, they’d fly me in and I would get there and I wasn’t needed for the meeting. I, they didn’t really ask me anything. And then we would have like a lunch, they would send me off and I’m like, what was that? So talk to me about this, what chapter seven of your book is called, what if you are wrong? What, what does this chapter all about?
Well, you know, I spend most of the most of the book talking about how to handle when you’re surrounded by craziness and everyone else is nuts. However, I think it is important to take a step back and realize you might actually be the one that’s wrong. You know, what happens if you’re the guy that thought everything was a bad idea or even came up with a bad idea and everyone’s looking at you, what do you, what are you going to do then? Right. And so that’s, that’s the biggest thing is understanding how to communicate the fact that you’re the guy that screwed up instead of everybody else.
That can be. Talk to me about how you, how you gain that self awareness. I mean, you worked in corporate America for a long time. How do you go about gaining that self awareness that maybe you’re wrong?
Well, I think the biggest thing is his blinds of communication, right? You can’t do this in this bubble, right? You should be constantly talking to your peers, talking to your team, talking to your boss. You have to be reading the wind is what they say. And understand and looking at the metrics and looking at things and you start to see things turn, you’re like, wait a minute. If I’m the only guy in this company full of smart people that I know that thinks this is a bad idea, it might actually be me. I might be the common denominator. And so when you do that, that’s when you’ve got to start to say, Oh, what have I done to back myself into this corner? If I fought against this? That’s when you’ve really got to start over communicating with people, telegraphing what’s going on with your projects and everything and talking with your peers to say, okay, do I need to be doing any sort of damage control? You know, was I the guy that was wrong?
I find a lot of times I, I run, you know, businesses or you know, hundreds of people communicating with each other. And I find one of the biggest challenges is that, and I’m a podcast host. I, I communicate, you know, for, for living here. I found that a lot of times if you do the right thing, if you make the right call but you don’t over communicate what going to do first, it could offend a lot of people. They’re like, Oh my God. Oh, absolutely. I was blindsided by the fact that you canceled the water subscription service that delivered the water to our building at three times the cost of the current company that we’d switched to. I cannot believe I was blindsided. You know, why was I told that we moved the lunch meeting back from, you know, 1130 to noon or that kind of thing. And so talk to me about the importance of over communicating within corporate America.
Oh my goodness. I can’t even tell you the number of times as a young leader, I screwed this up basically constantly because nobody trains you how to do this, right? They don’t tell you. I think when I got promoted to a manager the first time, I may have had like a two hour course and they were like, here you go, kid, take away, take it away. And there’s so many times I said the wrong thing because words really, really matter really matter how you say things is important. And I actually do talk about that a little bit in my book on how to frame these things. And so the way you talk inclusively about your team and talk about, Hey, we’re in this together and all these things that may sound a little eh, wishy washy man. I tell you what, it matters a lot to a lot of people.
And that’s the biggest thing is you should be, you know, I’m one of those guys that really do I, I’m candid all the time. Maybe too much. I mean cause I think that’s the right way we treat people like adults. And so you should be over communicating the heck out of stuff. Your team, your bosses, whoever should never be surprised about anything. And that includes canceling the lunch meeting, things like that. And so when you’re intentional about your communication, and that’s a big word, intentional about how you communicate and actually providing that, you know, people may be sick of it, but as you’ve pointed out, the alternative, the alternative is so many people get their feelings hurt and just this craziness because you thought it was no big deal. You know, it might be a big deal to someone. So you’ve got to make sure you’re very explicit in the actions you’re taking, why you’re doing them, and why it has to be done.
Now you come across as, as a very proactive guy, a guy who you know, is very intentional about how you design and organize your, your, your day. How do you organize the first four hours of your, your day and, and what time do you, do you typically wake up?
You know, I’m, I’m very much in the Gary Keller model of, you know, the one thing, right? You know, very much, you know, that book is, it was pretty impactful on me to understand, you know, what is the most important thing I need to do today? And so that’s what I try to do the day before, right? So you know, today we’re looking at, now when we’re recording this, I’m going to write down what I need to do tomorrow. That I think is the most impactful thing. I’m going to have that written down. So when I wake up at about 6:00 AM I look at that first and I understand, okay, all else fails. This is what has to be done. And then I usually have a couple sub-tasks, but I make sure I’m focused on that more than anything. And I think it’s so much of a progress over perfection type of mindset is you’re never going to complete your entire to do list ever. It’s just not going to. But if you make sure you have it prioritized correctly, you make sure you have that one thing identified. You can go to sleep knowing you had a good day.
Also, I find when you have your one thing written down on your list and then you have kind of like the second thing you want to get done. If the one thing is done, it allows you to really, you know, if somebody misses a meeting or can’t be there, you know what I mean? There’s those weird moments where your plane gets delayed or you have a 30 minute window of time. You can go look at your list and go, Oh yeah, that’s the one thing I need to knock out. And it allows you to not waste those little pockets of time, those gaps in your schedule, which I believe as a leader of something, you usually find yourself with a button, an hour or two a day where someone cancels, something weird happens, something moves around and all of a sudden you’ve got that little 30 minute burst of of stout downtime. And if you don’t know your one thing and you don’t have it with you, then you can’t work on it.
Absolutely, and I also think, and I take time for this every day to also realize probably the stuff I’m working on in the grand scheme of things isn’t really that important if I’m being honest. You know, a lot of this stuff we’re so stressed about, we’re so worried about in five years time, it’s not gonna matter. And I’ve seen this in the corporate world. You know, you think about it, what you’re working on, Oh, at this project, it’s so important. I’ve got to get these tasks done and you’re so stressed out and you’re pulling your hair out and the truth is in five years, no one is going to even remember what you were working on that day and the tasks you completed. What they will remember, however, is if they liked working with you, if they want to work with you again, did they enjoy you being around? Did you do a good job? Those, those are what actually people remember, not the actual ABC tasks that you’re doing
Now. Don, I want to go back to lean six, spleen six Sigma real quick because I don’t have a lot of guests that are willing to talk with me about this kind of nerdery, which I love by the way. I love, I love this. I have found that people a lot of times hate checklists. You know what I mean? It’s like, Oh, I hate checking. Yes. I mean, I hate scripts and I hate recipes and I hate blueprints. I want to build a building and see what happens. I want to make a recipe and see what happens. I want to follow a script sometimes. Talk to me about why people hate proven processes.
Absolutely. And I’ll admit, even though I’m a process guy, there’s plenty of times in my life that I hate processes and I want to do things my way. And it goes back to the whole autonomy thing. A lot of us think we’re smarter than everybody else, I think is a big part of it. They don’t like being told what to do. I don’t know a single person that likes being told what to do. Nobody. And I think that’s the biggest challenge when you look for these optimizations. You come in and, and when I was doing this, this work day to day, I would come into an organization, nobody would even know me. They, I’m just some outsider who shows up and starts telling these guys how to do their job better. And they may have done it for for 20 years. That’s pretty annoying, right? So it’s this annoying person coming in and giving them a checklist on how to do their job better.
And so that’s what really bothers people is I think that not only there’s the resistance to change, but the, you know what, I don’t need someone telling me how to do my job. I know what I’m doing, I’m competent, I feel good about it. So what you have to do, and this goes back to the communication angle, is you have to speak to them individually. The number one emotion people have the most important thing to have in the world. Self-Preservation. That’s it. Period. All comes down to it. That’s what they care about more than anything in the world. And so you have to speak to that on the individual level. You have to tie that process improvement to say, Hey, this is why we’re doing this and this is how it helps you personally. That’s what we have to focus on. I know when I was coming in automating a lot of the engineer’s work, there was a lot of pushback because these are smart guys. They don’t want people to automate it. But when you put it in a frame of, Hey, the reason I’m doing this is I want to take these easy tasks off of your plate so you can focus on the really hard stuff, the stuff that you’re going to be great at. And that’s what’s so important is to really focus in on the individual level and say, this is why this will make you personally better.
You know a tool Gawande, who is a professor at Harvard university wrote a book called checklist manifesto. And in that book he says, good checklists on the other hand are precise. They are efficient to the point and easy to use. Even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything. A checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps. The ones that even the most highly skilled professionals using them could Ms. Good checklists are above all practical. Talk to me about making a checklist or a process. It can leave the listeners with a, you know, sitting, they want to make a process for how to make a part or for, for how to make a wedding photography workflow. Do you recommend getting out a whiteboard and kind of sketching out the process from left to right? Do you recommend what, what, what, what do you recommend?
Absolutely. You know, so that’s how I do it. But the most important thing that lean six Sigma teaches you is to talk with the people that actually do the work. And that is missed so often, especially in large corporations where a VP or somebody else thinks they know what needs to happen. They think this is how you sketch the process. When I actually have meetings with those folks, they’re not even in the room. I try to get anyone that’s not an actual frontline employee, not even in the room. I don’t want managers in there. I don’t want any leader whatsoever because they tend to over-talk. You actually want the people that do the work that know the work every single day. That’s who sketches out the process, not you. It’s going to be the person that’s actually already doing it. Then you look at the cause, they’re the real experts.
You look at that in the room and say, okay, how can we guide this? I don’t know if you, you’ve been bowling recently, right? I know I go with my kids, but when you’re bowling, right, you can actually have them put bumpers up right on the side so you can’t get a gutter ball no matter what you do. They put those bumpers up on the side, right? Just to help guide the ball. That’s what a good process is. That’s it. So there’s still autonomy there, right? You can still bounce around. You can put on the left side on the right side. Doesn’t matter your is to make sure they hit
The pins every single time. And that’s what a process is, is it still have a little bit of flexibility and autonomy in there, but make sure you’re guiding everyone to the right principle. And you do that by talking to the people that actually do the work and listening to them and taking their input and get up on that whiteboard and do the process. One to two, to three. Now I, I don’t, I’m not sure I, Andrew, I’m not sure. Andrew, if you could clarify, here is this sound clip right here. Is this, is this audio of our, of our guests here bowling of our guests here. Other than that, the master black belt, does this audio of Donald meador better bullying or is this for the movie kingpin? Can you clarify? I think this is a video. This is audio of Donald meador. I’m already done. I’m sorry. I should have asked before. Miking you, this is Donald met allegedly, allegedly. This is Donald Metter. Bowling with as only a six Sigma black belt can do a lean six Sigma black. But let me queue it up here and just see, we’ll play about 30 seconds and we can see if it’s, if it is Donald meador or if it is from the movie King pen. Let’s see here.
Three consecutive strikes don’t win at all. Three consecutive strikes to window.
It sounds like Donald better. Here we go. Got the back brace. Good form. It looks good.
Was that, was that you Donald? Who was, it’s what I do and that’s what he does. Yeah, it’s definitely me cause I mean that’s how I roll. I’ll tell you this, that the process of, of the lean six Sigma is where you remove errors and waste while reducing variation, AKA gutter balls. So it has to be Donald meador. Congratulations on your great bullying performance. And I have a final question here for you. For the listeners out there that want to take some action where can they get ahold of your new book? Or do you want me to go to your website? What’s the best way for our listeners to devour more than just this half hour of content? Yeah, absolutely. So you can’t find my book on Amazon. It’s called surrounded by insanity, how to execute bad decisions, and you can find out more information about me and do some of the things I’m [email protected] the corporate, middle.com ladies and gentlemen, he is a bullying expert. He knows, you know the lean six Sigma black belt game. That’s Donald meador. Thank you, sir, for being on the show. Absolutely. A lot of fun. Hey, you take care and now without any further ed too.