Thought Leaders - Talk Business

Mike Whisman, Business Executive Experienced in Operational Improvements in Military and Manufacturing, Interviewed by Debbie Fliehman About the Quality Leadership Process

June 22, 2020 Debbie Fliehman Season 1 Episode 8
Thought Leaders - Talk Business
Mike Whisman, Business Executive Experienced in Operational Improvements in Military and Manufacturing, Interviewed by Debbie Fliehman About the Quality Leadership Process
Show Notes

Mike Whisman is a business executive with 40+ years of progressive experience in Fortune 500 manufacturing operations and quality leadership in the military, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries. Mike has held high levels of responsibilities in multi-functional, multi-plant, and multi-divisional arenas. He offers an extensive background in manufacturing, Total Quality Management, operational excellence, supplier performance improvement, and assessment using the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and Shingo Prize Criteria. He has helped companies improve performance to world-class levels. Following is a brief of the first question of the interview. For more details, listen to the podcast.

Debbie: You were a plant manager when you first got involved in the Criteria for Performance Excellence for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award which was produced by the Baldrige National Quality Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. What did you learn from the training that you applied to your plant's activities?

Mike: The training that I first received from Baxter was from the Crosby School and was a program we call the Quality Leadership Process (QLP). As a Plant Manager hired into the program to specifically lead my plant's implementation of the new program for Baxter, I realized upfront that they were serious about what was expected of me. They told me stories of the program launch from the previous year, where CEO Vern Loucks openly preached that anyone not getting on the bus and supporting the QLP would be shown the door! My predecessor was said to have fallen into that boat, so I knew it was part of my responsibilities to make it happen!

 I received the complete training from Corporate and it so naturally fit with my management style and previous learnings that I took the leadership of the Steering Committee and appointed each of my direct reports to lead subsections of the roll-out plan. I put it into their Performance Management Goals for the year and assured them that success would be rewarded as part of their mid-year and annual reviews. A development goal that I believe in is the training of successors. So I made it part of the goal to replace themselves on the steering committee by the end of one year.

What I learned in leading was the simplicity of understanding customer and business process requirements ahead of time, creating ways to measure each, and then using those measures to both guide and evaluate success, including individual success.

On the anniversary of my first year of leadership, the CEO, Vern Loucks, came personally to see the success. When I took over, we had been given a quality audit and received a needs improvement score. I was given a goal to get that up to satisfactory or look for another job. The auditor who gave me the annual inspection just prior to Mr. Louck's visit told me that she had never seen a plant turn around so quickly.

I knew that when Mr. Loucks came, he was not coming to replace me, as we had also won the small plant of the year's most improved award, so I arranged for all of my lead people to present to him in each area of the business. When Mr. Loucks came and visited, he asked the leads questions and complimented each of them. On the way back to his limo, he smiled and told me he was very impressed and he would see me again soon. As he was getting into the car, he looked back and told me that those leads were the most impressive team. Nothing could have pleased me more, as I was proud of them all! Building teams is the backbone of a great organization! The planned replacement of key individuals and leaders is the greatest challenge we will always face! 

Contact Mike Whizman at 847-271-5075 or
Contact Debbie Fliehman @ 847-902-4175 or