Final Five

Kevin McManus is ISE magazine's "Performance" columnist, a 35-year member of IISE and chief excellence officer for Great Systems!

Why is process improvement such a passion for you?

Kevin McManus

I grew up with process improvement. The quality movement was just starting in the early 1980s when I entered the workplace. Process improvement has been a formal job expectation from the start. As my career progressed, I began teaching others about process improvement, practicing it more and helping teams use the tools. This only further reinforced my beliefs in its potential. As time went on and I served annually as a national Baldrige Examiner, I saw more and more of a connection between great work cultures, great work systems, and industrial and systems engineering. I learned that without consistent process improvement across all processes, we can't get to a place where people enjoy coming to work and working with each other.

What have you learned via Toastmasters?

More than anything else, Toastmasters provided me with a weekly practice field for speaking in public. Every meeting, one gets to practice impromptu speaking at a minimum. If you join a smaller club, you can speak and practice every other week or so.

More importantly, you are encouraged to practice speaking styles that are outside of your comfort zone, while talking about topics you rarely get deeply into at work. Finally, your "nonwords" and "Xeroxes" are counted at each meeting whenever you speak.

Such measurement and feedback can really affect the brain and behavior of industrial and systems engineers and help them become more fluid speakers.

Where else can ISE principles make a difference?

Years ago, George Smith passed the phrase "IE for life" on to me. It stuck, because that phrase defines both who I am and what I think the potential of industrial and systems engineering represents. Just as all work is a process, all life is a process.

Dealing with waste and rework takes away from time for having fun. Waste and rework create unnecessary stress in life. We should not be working to live and not enjoying the things we spend most of our waking hours "working" on.

What systems trap workers in poor performance paradigms?

Systems shape culture. In his 14 principles of management, W. Edwards Deming identified several such systems that are sadly still prevalent in today's workplace. In short, any system that deprives a person of pride in workmanship can aid in creating and reinforcing poor performance paradigms. Systems that produce unrealistic performance goals, fail to align fair compensation with such goals, tolerate poor performance from team members and fail to avoid blind spots from a planning and leader development perspective head the list of performance constraining processes.

How can we attract the younger generation to ISE?

We have to use social media, and in particular dynamic, fun video, to create a heightened awareness of the profession and what it has to offer. We have to stress and demonstrate the evolving and expanding tech connection between human factors, ergonomics and process improvement in a highly visible way that heightens interest and desire. We have to find ways to make it cool to be industrial and systems engineers as viewed from the perspective of an 18-23 year old.

And I do think this is possible.

– Interview by Michael Hughes