Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Fall 2009

Shingo Prize cofounder returns to USU

Norman Bodek

Norman Bodek

When Dean Douglas D. Anderson introduced Norman Bodek at a Dean’s Convocation, he talked baseball.

“To really understand who Norm Bodek is, you should imagine him as a savvy baseball scout,” he said. “If he were (a baseball scout), he’d be able to tell you about discovering Babe Ruth, about hanging out with Joe DiMaggio. He’d be able to get Willie Mays on the phone if you wanted to talk to him. He’d have Hank Aaron on his speed dial.”

Dean Anderson explained Bodek has known the greatest minds in operational excellence and, in many cases, published their books.

Bodek has known such people as Ritsuo Shingo, Shigeo Shingo, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Moses Juran, Phil Crosby, Kaoru Ishikawa, Joji Akao, Taiichi Ohno and many other manufacturing masters. Bodek has published about 400 books and training courses. He has written two books, coauthored another two books and has two more books in the works.

Bodek, along with Vern Buehler, founded the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, and Bodek is one of the few individuals ever to be awarded the Shingo Prize.

Bodek paid a one-day visit to USU in April 2009 and encouraged his hosts to work him hard. They did just that, booking him through the day and into the evening. He spoke at a Dean’s Convocation, an MBA graduation dinner and met with several other groups on campus.

Brock Miller, Bob Miller, and Norman Bodek

MBA student Brock Miller, left, and Bob Miller talk with Norman Bodek, after a Dean’s Convocation. (Photos by Steve Eaton)

It would not be easy to fall asleep during a Bodek presentation. When he spoke to the students, he was constantly moving and gesturing as he asked questions of them. He spoke with an energy and passion one might not expect of a 76-year-old who has been on his feet all day.

At the convocation he preached there is always resistance to change but that people should not be afraid to make mistakes, be creative and find ways to constantly improve whatever they were doing.

“If you are creative, that’s the spark that brings you the love of life,” he said.

He said that people learn from their mistakes; but in academic and business settings, they are often afraid to take risks.

“We have to get rid of this fear; and we have to recognize, in the school community and in business, that people learn from their mistakes,” he said. “So, what can we do? We can’t say come to work and don’t make mistakes, because that’s to say come to work and don’t learn.”

He said American corporations are always looking to make huge changes but often overlook the benefits of making small incremental improvements. He suggested students make a habit of looking for better ways to do things.

“If you are in a factory, if you are in a hospital, if you are in an office, there are a million opportunities for you to find ways to continuously improve,” he said.

If companies can develop the right culture where people are respected for their experience and their ideas for improving are implemented, great progress can be made, he said.

“If you’ve got 10,000 people coming up with one idea every day, you can’t lose,” he said. “That’s why the Japanese are so far ahead, and that’s why the Chinese are moving so fast.”