Monday, March 10, 2008

The United States Air Force Shoots Down Boeing

by Tom Hinton

Last week I watched the Congressional hearings on why the U.S. Air Force awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America to build its next-generation of aerial refueling tankers. The contract is estimated at $40 billion, and the deal includes 179 planes to be delivered over the next 15 years.

The Air Forces opted to give the new kid on the block a chance over the more experienced Boeing Company which has been building air tankers for 75 years and recently unveiled its new, state-of-the-art KC-767 which has already been delivered to Italy and will soon be delivered to Japan. What do these countries know that our own United States Air Force doesn’t?

For the record, EADS is part of Airbus, the foreign-owned and heavily subsidized aerospace giant. It is also The Boeing Company’s toughest competitor for military and commercial airplanes. It should also be noted that the initial Air Force contract will create an estimated 20,000 jobs -- including several thousand jobs in Alabama and Kansas -- while costing Boeing and its suppliers approximately 20,000 jobs in the state of Washington and other locations where is has facilities and suppliers who would build the KC-767 air tanker.

The Boeing Company estimates that if the Air Force moves forward with the contract award to Northrop Grumman and EADS -- and Congress approves the bid award -- some 40,000 jobs (current and new positions) will be affected in the United States. The EADS tanker airframe is based on an Airbus A330 commercial jet assembled in France; and, most of the assembly work would be done in Europe according to Northrop Grumman sources.

As I watched the congressional hearings I shook my head in disbelief. The U.S. Air Force’s top acquisition officers, led by Assistant Secretary Sue Payton, Lt. General John Hudson, and Program Manager Terry Kasten and answered the panel’s questions honestly and directly. They staunchly defended the bidding process, the contract review process, and the awarding of the contract based on the proposal criteria. But, they also acknowledged that certain criteria such as jobs and the economic impact to American workers, were not part of the proposal and, therefore, were not evaluated or considered as part of their review. As Assistant Secretary Payton told Congress, “jobs and economics are not part of the proposal criteria or bidding process.”

While I understand the Air Force must follow specific criteria and acquisition laws, it begs the question, why in the world is the U.S. Department of Defense undermining the American economy? This is like giving a child a loaded gun and then advising them not to shoot you! It makes absolutely no sense to the average American who is worried about jobs, industrial capacity, and making ends meet. Now, America's own military is shipping jobs overseas. I could understand their rationale if Boeing was incompetent, but it is not. In fact, Boeing’s Airlift & Tanker program continue to be recognized as a best-in-class company by no one less than the president of the United States who recognized The Boeing Company on two occasions with the Malcolm Baldrige Award, our nation’s highest presidential honor for workplace excellence.

So, let’s examine the impact of this decision and how it all came about. The current air tanker tango began in 2003 when Arizona Senator John McCain complained bitterly about pork barrel politics because the Air Force was about to award The Boeing Company a new air tanker lease contract. Never mind that Boeing had been building and supplying the Air Force with air tankers for over 50 years. McCain said the deal was wrong.

According to the Everett Herald, Senator McCain "nearly single-handedly killed Boeing’s multi-billion dollar deal" to lease 100 Boeing air tankers to the U.S. Air Force. As the Everett Herald explained, “In 2001, McCain's laser-like probe of defense budgets unearthed a $30 billion earmark to pay for leasing 100 KC-767 jets from Boeing -- without first following a competitive bid process. McCain’s criticism stopped the program three years later and caused a round of investigations that led to Boeing paying fines for its contracting practices, and major changes in the Air Force’s procurement and contracting procedures.

Subsequent federal investigations resulted in two Boeing executives, Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears and Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force Acquisitions official and then-vice president of missile-defense systems at Boeing, being fired for illegal actions relating to Air Force contracts. Druyun was also convicted of federal violations for her illegal actions and was fined and sent to prison.

Boeing's board of directors acted quickly after concluding Sears improperly offered Druyun a job in the fall of 2002 because Druyun worked for the Air Force. At the time, Druyun was reviewing the proposal for the Air Force to lease 100 Boeing 767 airborne-refueling tankers. Needless to say, these Boeing officials made a serious mistake and paid the price for their stupidity and illegal actions.

Boeing hired a new CEO and hoped the firings would convince Congress and the Defense Department that the company was acting decisively to right its ship. Then, the Pentagon stripped Boeing of $1 billion worth of satellite launches after another investigation showed the company used trade secrets stolen from Lockheed Martin, its chief competitor, to help win the launches. Instead of getting better, hings got worse for Boeing.

In March, Boeing Satellite Systems acknowledged it made improper technology transfers to China in the wake of two failed satellite launches in 1995 and 1996.

Finally, in 2006, when Boeing’s new chairman W. James McNerney, Jr. appeared before Congress and apologized at a Senate hearing for the company’s illegal and unethical tactics, and promised higher ethical standards, Senator McCain responded with praise for Boeing for "truly reforming and starting fresh."

But, the damage was done and Senator McCain had sent a clear signal to the U.S. Air Force Acquisition office -- no more deals with Boeing. That set the stage for a new round of air tanker bids which last week the Air Force awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America. While the letter of the law was followed, it appears from circumstantial evidence that the U.S. Air Force had already made up its minds not to do business with Boeing’s Airlift & Tanker program.

In the midst of all these investigations and problems with a few bad apples at Boeing, Senator McCain and his colleagues forgot to ask one important question: “If not Boeing, who else will build the Air Force’s new air tanker?” But, McCain knew the answer was the Europeans and Airbus. He also knew his actions would cost some 20,000 Americans their livelihood. Certainly, McCain's tactics pushed the Air Force too far and caused them to avoid steer clear of doing business with Boeing. That's a serious mistake on the part of the Air Force and Senator McCain.

Rep. Norm Dicks, a powerful figure on the House Appropriations Committee, who represents the Everett, Washington area which his home to many of Boeing’s aerospace workers, predicted a "firestorm of criticism on Capitol Hill" over sending so many jobs overseas. Rep. Dicks added of McCain: "I hope the voters of this state [Washington] remember what John McCain has done to them and their jobs."

Some people suspect that this was “payback time” for The Boeing Company. But, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Sue Payton said in her testimony that previous contracting issues and illegalities with Boeing had no bearing on the 2008 air tanker award. She indicated that Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America won on the merits of their plane, a modified Airbus A330 that is bigger than the modified KC-767 that Boeing offered. Payton also noted that by law, the Air Force must consider European allies on equal footing with American manufacturers.

Assistant Secretary Payton is referring to laws such as The Buy American Act (41 U.S.C. § 10a–10d) which was passed in 1933, mandating preferences for the purchase of domestically produced goods in direct procurements by the United States government.

The section of The Buy American Act that the U.S. Air Force referenced in terms of the air tanker contract is an outdated provision which stipulates that foreign companies can be considered when “purchasing the material domestically would burden the government with an unreasonable cost (the price differential between the domestic product and an identical foreign-sourced product exceeds a certain percentage of the price offered by the foreign supplier), if the product is not available domestically in sufficient quantity or quality, or if doing so is in the public interest…”

Given the fact that The Boeing Company already has built a new air tanker, The Buy American Act is ridiculous and works to the detriment of America’s economy and declining manufacturing base. While the U.S. Air Force must adhere to the law, Congress should move immediately to strike The Buy American Act and ask the Air Force to re-bid the job so that Boeing has a fair chance -- assuming fairness is even possible given the McCain bias against Boeing now rooted in the U.S. Air Force.

It;s important to note that EADS, is a European entity that is heavily subsidized by foreign governments. The Boeing Company does not enjoy any government subsidies, so the playing field is not level. Already, the competition is unfair. The Boeing Company cannot compete fairly against such rules and antiquated laws that work against the competitive spirit of American businesses.

Another concern was raised by Congressman Dicks, who accused the Air Force of “bait and switch tactics” by telling Boeing that the Air Force wanted a medium-sized tanker, not a larger tanker which Airbus proposed. Then, the Air Force accepted a larger aircraft from Airbus, the modified A330. “Had Boeing known that the Air Force wanted a bigger jet, Boeing would have bid the 777," Rep. Dicks said at the Congressional hearing last week.

Interestingly, while Boeing was building the KC-767 tankers for Italy and Japan, it asked the Air Force if it wanted something bigger in its new air tanker -- like the Boeing-777. The Air Force told Boeing no, But then, the Air Force proceeded to select a tanker based on the airbus A330 specifications which is larger than Boeing’s 767 and almost as large as the 777. This is why Rep. Dicks accused the Air Force of “switch and bate” tactics -- accusing the Air Force of saying one thing to Boeing but doing another in dealing with Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America. It appears the Air Force was not dealing honestly with Boeing because of the pressures from Senator McCain.

In awarding the new air tanker to Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America, other questions have been raised by aviation experts as to whether the Airbus A330 is going to fit into Air Force infrastructure including airplane hangars that currently house KC-135's that use half the space. When the two planes are compared size-wise, the wingspan of the airbus is 42 feet wider than the 767. The airbus plane is also 34 feet longer and seven feet taller at the tail.

"You're going to need massive construction plans to rebuild hangars at airbases all over the world," complained Rep. Dicks.

Secretary of the Air Force Wynn defended the contract decision and told senators the planes were judged on nine key criteria and "across the spectrum, all evaluated, the Northrop Grumman airplane was clearly a better performer." In addition, he said the Boeing proposal was judged to be more risky and more expensive.

But, this statement also raises questions among Aviation experts who noted that the Boeing contract bid was considerably lower than the EADS bid, and the Boeing aircraft is already operational while the airbus KC-45A is still is the design phase.

Also, it has been noted that Boeing’s Airlift & Tanker program has won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Award for its quality and overall excellence.

The Air Force has complained that it is still flying Eisenhower-era air tankers built by Boeing and it needs to replace its aging fleet as soon as possible. If this is the case, experts ask, why delay the process when you already have a reliable, state-of-the-art air tanker being built by Boeing?

Finally, what about American jobs being shipped overseas to build a U.S. Air Force air tanker? Does this make any sense given the state of our economy and the need for skilled aerospace workers such as those employed by Boeing?

Responding to criticism of the contract award, Northrop Grumman officials said the KC-45A tanker will produce 2,000 new jobs in Mobile, Ala., and support 25,000 jobs at suppliers nationwide. The EADS/Northrop Grumman team plans to perform its final assembly work in Mobile, although the underlying plane would mostly be built in Europe, and it will use General Electric Co. engines built in North Carolina and Ohio.

While Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America are good companies, this decision has made many Americans angry, and rightfully so. It smacks of politics and unfair competition which is exactly what the U.S. Air Force should be avoiding.

Boeing’s past acquisition mistakes have been corrected and paid for, literally. Boeing has been under new, leadership since 2006, and Boeing’s Airlift & Tanker program is second to none in terms of quality, business practices, and overall management excellence. If the United States Air Force is prohibited from considering economic factors, certainly the United States Congress and White House need to get their heads out of the clouds and step-in to make sense of this decision before Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS North America fly away with American jobs and taxpayer dollars!

About the Author: Tom Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council. He can be reached at:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Southwest Sacrifices Airline Safety for Profits

by Tom Hinton

Over the years, I’ve admired Southwest Airlines for doing things right. It seemed that when other airlines were lowering their standards and compromising their commitment to service and quality, Southwest Airlines struck to its knitting and honored its words and promises to customers. In the process, Southwest created a successful and profitable airline. By offering low fares, frequent flights, a strong safety record, and motivated employees -- who had fun on the job and cared for their customers -- Southwest Airlines became one of America’s most admired companies and desirable places to work.

Now, Southwest is under fire by Congress, consumer groups, and the FAA for allowing more than 100 un-inspected planes to fly despite the fact that some planes had cracks in their fuselages. Four jets were found to have four-inch cracks requiring immediate repair. Six jets had signs of cracks starting to show.

Southwest admits that it allowed its planes to fly with cracks, but denies that it ever placed its crew or passengers in jeopardy. In a statement addressed to its customers, Southwest Airlines said, "We assure our customers that this was never a safety of flight issue." Aviation experts told NBC News that the early damage would not be catastrophic, but cracks could lead to serious problems.

Inspections of airplane fuselages became mandatory in 1988 after an Aloha Airlines Boeing-737 jet cracked open at 24,000 feet while enroute from Honolulu to Hilo killing a flight attendant and injuring seven of the 89 people aboard. Ironically, a passenger noticed a sever fuselage crack as she stepped aboard the Aloha Airlines jet in Honolulu, but never mentioned it to the flight crew.

To its credit, Southwest discovered the inspection oversight and notified the FAA. But, for reasons not explained, Southwest continued to fly the un-inspected planes on more than 1,400 flights. Federal law requires that planes be grounded until they are in compliance. Southwest cooperated with the FAA throughout the inspection process and told the media is was surprised when the FAA proposed a $10.2 million fine for violating federal regulations.

Is this just a series of misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, or is it -- as the head of a congressional committee suggests -- collusion between the FAA and the airlines it’s supposed to regulate?

Rep. James Oberstar, who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, believes the FAA and the airlines have become too cozy. Oberstar said the committee's investigation was begun after two whistleblowers approached congress after years of trying to correct the inspection problems.

Oberstar called for the FAA to "clean house from top to bottom.” According to Rep. Oberstar, “the relaxed relationship between the FAA and the airlines have led to the sort of lax enforcement that allowed Southwest Airlines to fly at least 117 aircraft past mandatory inspection deadlines.”

Oberstar also said he believes similar violations may have occurred involving other airlines, but that those persons who have such evidence are afraid to come forward. What does this disturbing situation say about the integrity of senior management at the airlines and the independence of regulatory agencies like the FAA? Should consumers be worried? The short answer is a resounding yes! The reason is a lack of trust and integrity on the part of airline executives and the FAA.

When government agencies such as the FAA, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are compromised to the point where leaders fail to lead objectively, and government inspectors fail to perform their duties and uphold the sacred public trust, it is time to “clean house” and change the culture of those organizations as Rep. Oberstar suggests.

What is happening here is more serious than just coziness and a few omissions by business leaders and government agencies. What is happening here is a blatant disregard for consumer safety and the welfare of our citizens. If warranted, the Department of Justice and federal prosecutors should be asked to investigate and bring criminal charges against those government officials and corporate leaders who knowingly abused the law and abdicated their sworn responsibility to the public by placing an unsuspecting public in danger. In China, they shoot officials who disgrace their office and disregard the public good! While such penalties are extreme, a harsh message needs to be sent to those men and women we have entrusted with the safety of our airlines, drugs, food supply, and products. That message is simply this: honor your oath by doing your job; and, uphold the laws you swore to obey and enforce. If you cannot do this, quit your job. If you fail to uphold the laws, you run the risk of federal prosecution and prison.

I believe this is where the Southwest Airlines incident crosses the line. When airline executives knowingly thwart the law and risky public safety, it is criminal intent. You cannot convince me that Southwest Airlines, which is managed by hundreds of intelligent and competent people, overlooked one of the basic safety issues of an airline -- compliance with FAA inspections. It is no longer a matter of sloppy documentation and lax oversight; it is criminal behavior on the part of Southwest Airline executives and FAA inspectors who looked the other way. Rep. Oberstar is correct in calling for a top-to-bottom investigation. In order to stop these types of blatant violations, it will require much more than a slap on the wrist. Southwest and the FAA must be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

About the Author: Tom Hinton is president of CRI Global, LLC, a training and consulting firm that helps its clients create a “Culture of Excellence” in the workplace. He is the author of four books and a popular speaker at corporate and association meetings. For information, email him at: or visit:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What Makes a Good Employee?

by Bill Kalmar

May I have the envelope, please!

Each year at this time a momentous event is announced in the pages of a prominent magazine. No, I’m not talking about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, although thoughts of that warm me up on frigid evenings in Michigan (sorry if that’s sexist). I’m referring to Fortune Magazine’s announcement of “The 100 Best Companies To Work For.”

For us quality and customer-service geeks it’s an opportunity to examine the inner workings of some of the best organizations in our nation. For the companies who applied for this recognition it’s a guessing game to see where they rank among some of their peers and who is labeled No. 1.

Ever since this list was first published I’ve been following and reviewing these companies like a broker follows blue chip stocks or a wine connoisseur absorbs Wine Spectator’s list of the top bubbly. We all want to work for an organization that espouses sound customer-service processes and provides employees with a safe, challenging, rewarding environment. Fortune Magazine lists those companies.

After the list is published each year, the featured companies are flooded with unsolicited applications. In fact, in the current edition of the list there’s a section entitled, “How To Get Hired By A ‘Best’ Company.” As the author points out, “Looking at the past decade, our top 25 each year have averaged job growth of 14 percent.” The author goes on to mention that it helps to know someone at the company, because thousands of people submit applications. Before it opened in 2006, the Doha Hotel in Qatar received 25,000 applications for 600 positions.

Before we get into the specifics of these companies, let’s first examine how they were chosen. There’s that special moment in the Oscar awards program where two or three sartorially correct accountants come out on the stage with a briefcase containing the envelopes naming the winners for the evening. Of course we learn how the balloting was done. So in imitation of the Oscars, here’s how “The 100 Best” were selected:

    “More than 105,000 employees from 446 companies responded to a 57-question survey. Two thirds of a company’s score is based on the survey, which is sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees from each company and asks about things such as attitudes toward management, job satisfaction and camaraderie. The remaining third of the score comes from an evaluation of each company’s responses to a culture audit which includes detailed questions about demographic makeup, pay and benefits programs, and open-ended questions about the company’s people-management philosophy, internal communications, opportunities, compensation practices, diversity programs, etc. About 1,500 companies participated in the survey. Any company that is at least seven years old with more than 1,000 U.S. employees is eligible.” (Courtesy of FORTUNE magazine)

I have used this listing in my presentations to illustrate the attributes of these organizations. In that regard, I first shared the following 12-point list with QualityInsider readers in “The Corporate Running of the Bulls.” Interspersed with that list are examples from the “100 Best” list:

What makes the “100 Best Companies To Work For” so great:

They make people feel that they’re part of a team or, in some cases, a family.

    • With an average salary of $90,083, the 1,376 employees of American Fidelity Assurance call this Oklahoma insurer their “second family.”
    • National Instruments yearly stages an employee-appreciation week with executives serving breakfast and culminating in a family outing day.
    • Nugget Markets throws a year-end bash, and in 2007 took all of its 1,322 employees whitewater rafting.
    • In 2007, as is the case every year, the Plante & Moran team gathers at its annual conference, an opportunity to bond. Partner Jeff Jenkins stated that the theme was to “amp it up,” which means that in workplace and with client relationships and in family-oriented activities, the staff was asked to ratchet it up another notch while living the “golden rule” (i.e., treat others as you would like to be treated) More energy results in better client service, a more enriching work environment and better results.
They encourage open communication, informing their people of new developments and encouraging them to offer suggestions and complaints.
    • The CEO at Adobe Systems answers employee e-mails within 24 hours and employee councils feed management with ideas.
    • After feedback from employees, SRA International switched insurers, added health savings accounts and adoption aid, and increased 401(k) matches.
    • Four times a year employees at Nike are invited to an all-employee meeting where feedback and suggestions are encouraged.
    • The head of Yahoo hosts monthly chat ’n’ chow lunches with employees and even answers employee questions online.
    • Perhaps the lowest turnover rate in the hotel industry (18 percent) is attributed to J. W. Marriott Jr.’s visits to 250 Marriot properties each year and meeting with employees.
    • Cisco Systems uses an employee feedback/suggestion system, “On My Mind.”
They promote from within, letting their own people bid for jobs before hiring outsiders.
    • Eighty-five percent of managers at supermarket Stew Leonard’s were hired in house. This supermarket has been featured in many of quality guru Tom Peters’ columns. Here’s a bonus: CEO Stew Leonard Jr. has a surefire way to determine the strength of the economy: “I look for the mashed-potato effect. If customers are buying our freshly-prepared mashed potatoes instead of whole potatoes, then the economy is doing well. Lately, bulk potato sales have been going up, so there’s a concern about where the economy is going.” The so-called experts can cackle about their charts and their prognostications, but for me, I’m focusing any investments I might make on the “mashed-potato” metric.
    • At S.C. Johnson & Son more than half of employees are over age 45, 28 percent have worked there more than 20 years, and 78 percent more than six years.
    • Twenty-three percent of Herman Miller’s workforce are “Water carriers,” employees who have 20 or more years with the company.

They stress quality, enabling people to feel pride in the products or services they provide.

    • Quick action by Mattel in recalling defective toys from China illustrated this company’s focus on quality and safe products.
    • Granite Construction has a zero-accident goal and employees are rewarded, not fired, for bringing attention to unsafe situations.

They allow their employees to share in the profits through profit sharing, stock ownership, or both.

    • Ten percent of employees’ pay is deposited into 401(k)s at Booz Allen Hamilton.
    • Workers at Stanley own at least 50 percent of the company.
    • How about a 43-percent stock price rise at EOG Resources, where all employees have stock options.
    • Intuit offers all new employees stock options.
    • Of the 3,558 employees of PCL Construction Enterprise, 2,200 employees own shares in the company, and many received dividend checks last year in excess of their annual salaries.

They reduce the distinctions of rank between top management and those in entry-level positions, and they bar executive dining rooms and exclusive perks for high-level people.

    • Everyone gets overtime pay at David Evans & Associates.
    • No one earns more than 10 times anyone else at TDIndustries.

They devote attention and resources to creating as pleasant a workplace as possible.

    • Because during tax season the workplace is home six days a week for employees of Plante & Moran, management has designed a building with staff in mind: Custom wood stain throughout the entire building, work stations designed by focus groups, each staff member has his or her own space with a nameplate, and in the front lobby a huge assortment of flowers is replaced weekly. Dan Essad, human resources senior manager stated it best when he was interviewed recently by reporter Carol Marshall for the Oakland Business Review: “We care for our clients, we care for our employees, our community, our families, and that caring is reflected in our space.”

They encourage their employees to be active in community service by providing money to organizations in which employees participate.

    • Every employee at Intuit receives four days off with pay each year to perform community service.
    • Umpqua Bank provides 40 hours of paid time yearly for employees to volunteer in the community.

They help employees to save with matching funds.

    • Aflac boasts a 401(k) matching fund.
    • Seven and a half percent of salary is offered as profit sharing at Arnold & Porter.
    • Genentech bumped up 410(k) match in 2007—100 percent up to 5 percent of pay.
    • Here’s quite a bonus from Boston Consulting Group—15 percent of pay deposited in a retirement plan.
    • Alcon Laboratories has the richest retirement program in U.S. business with employee contributions matched 2.2 to 1.
    • A 15 percent of pay contribution by Russell Investments is part of their automatic profit sharing.

They try not to lay off people without first making an effort to place them in other jobs, either with the company or elsewhere.

    • American Express had 6,000 internal job moves last year.
    • There’s a no-layoff philosophy at FedEx.

They care about the health of their employees, sometimes providing physical fitness centers and regular exercise and medical programs. (This was a perk provided by too many companies to mention. This is a sampling.)

    • Healthways has walking trails, bikes for rent, and easy-to-locate stairways to encourage exercise.
    • Certainly this was to be expected—Nike has a decathletes dinner every year.
    • Tennis and basketball courts are provided by AstraZenica.
    • eBay has hired a full-time staff of personal trainers and nutritionists.
    • A pool, cardio room, a racquetball court, putting greens, and horseshoe pits can be found at SAS Institute.
    • At Goldman Sachs, where the average salary of $137,000 keeps people financially healthy, you will also find rock climbing, a martial arts boot camp, massage therapy and Pilates. Even with the over-the-top salaries paid here, the company will even outfit you with workout duds.

They expand the skills of their people through training programs and reimbursement of tuition for outside courses.

    • Tuition reimbursement of up to $20,000 and bonuses for advanced degrees, which 65 percent of MITRE employees have, makes this a company that encourages learning.
    • Let’s not undercut what Station Casinos is doing—free dealers school for staffers wanting to advance and gain new skills.
    • Johnson Financial Group offers a graduate tuition reimbursement up to $10,000.

No. 1 is Google, which prides itself on having fun and minting millionaires. The stock just rose above $700 and 99 percent of employees have stock options.

There you have it. So update your resumes and start campaigning for that new job, unless you are fortunate enough to work at one of these extraordinary companies. I’m just pleased that all of you are still working and supporting my social security and Medicare.

P.S. Finally, for those of you who are anal-retentive like me, I did mention in last month’s column that I would report on two recent books, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (Patrick M. Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 2007) and one about General Electric—Jacked Up (Bill Lane, McGraw-Hill, 2007). I suspect that some of you have been searching for that. Rest assured that will be in next month’s column. I thought learning about the best companies better served me and you than harping on a miserable job. I hope you agree.

About the author
William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director. He has been a member of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Board of Overseers and a Baldrige examiner. He’s also been named quality professional of the year by the Detroit Chapter of ASQP. Now semiretired, he’s a freelance writer for the Detroit News; writes a monthly column for Mature Advisor newspaper; is a mystery shopper for several companies; is a frequent presenter and lecturer; does radio voice-overs; and competes in duathlons.

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the March issue of Quality Digest Magazine which can be accessed at: