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Quality & You

Transform Your Organization through Quality

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    [post_content] => I use word “quality” as a proper noun; quality with a capital “Q”; because the effect of quality should not be limited to a policy or a set of rules. When Quality becomes everyone’s business, we see the outline for a truly transformational experience that shakes the very foundation of our beliefs and behaviors.

My belief is that the pursuit of quality applies to “all the people, all the time.” Quality is not just the organization’s mission – it is a personal responsibility that must be reflected in every aspect of work and life. Again, I say that Quality is a Lifestyle.

Quality happens at all levels of your organization and at all places where vital relationships grow and take hold. Therefore, Quality is active in the way we LISTEN to everyone who has a point to make; when we probe and challenge ourselves and others for ways to ENRICH the deliverables and outputs of the organization; and as we actively OPTIMIZE the experience so and we not only meet, but find way to constantly exceed expectations for whatever client, customer co-workers boss or subordinate we’re interacting with at any given time.

[pullquote]Quality injects a proactive mindset throughout the organization; a self-motivated and independently driven attitude that the potential for success lays in the hands of the individual, not someone else.[/pullquote]

In this way, Quality injects a proactive mindset throughout the organization; a self-motivated and independently driven attitude that the potential for success lays in the hands of the individual, not someone else.  If you treat a co-worker or your spouse like a child, don’t expect them to behave like an independently minded, responsibility seeking adult. However, if you empower people with confidence and support, and allow them to voice their ideas and behaviors, then you enhance their ability to uphold the belief that Quality is INDEED everybody’s business.
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I use word “quality” as a proper noun; quality with a capital “Q”; because the effect of quality should not be limited to a policy or a set of...

Quality & Economics

Whose political crisis is this, anyhow?

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-10 07:00:44
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    [post_content] => I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several years, each with seemingly greater levels of consequence and damage. Not surprisingly, this is all happening under the watchful eyes of two of the least productive congressional sessions in history.

Questions persist as to whether our representatives can actually manage the country’s business without wasting time, money, and even lives. From my perspective, it appears that our elected officials and policy makers prefer political theater to resolving problems.

Consider the so-called “sequester,” enacted as law at the start of 2013. It was another impasse; another political crisis. Congressional leaders and President Obama knew they had to do something, but ideology prevented them from doing something constructive.

The Sequester was a flawed policy that nearly everyone knew wouldn’t work. Many people who participated in the decision warned of consequential damages that could eventually increase the cost of operations and decrease the quality of services delivered. And some of those predictions have already been proven to be correct.

No business survives long making decisions in that way. From my perspective as a management consultant for more than twenty years, it is clear that our current government is focused on putting up barriers instead of tearing them down and creating opportunities.

When I train executives and managers, I teach the importance of listening. As a core competency of successful leadership, active listening brings organizational cohesion. It enriches social interaction and optimizes decision-making though mutual interests. When leaders want an organization to grow, they tear down barriers and look for opportunities. Why can’t we get our government to do the same?  We can, but only if we demand it.

Yet, rather than ask representatives to enact such a change, I challenge each of us, as citizens and voters, to begin the process. After all, it is our duty to elect leaders to represent our interests. “We the people” empower the national agenda—we set the political priorities by what we think and what we believe.

More important, how can we ask our government to adopt a new standard for management if we are distracted by political theater? How can we ask for a new quality standard, if we are not willing to practice it ourselves?

I propose a “cause for quality” in which we see past the differences and build consensus. We don’t need a new party platform or a petition to achieve this goal. But we do need a dose of reality. If we stay on the path we are currently on, if “we the people” fail to change course, my fear is that the crises will only continue and our losses will only grow worse.

Granted, there are significant differences between running a country and running a company. When businesses fail to embrace quality, customers complain, and sales drop. If there are no changes, poor quality will lead to even more lost sales and the business may ultimately fail. However, companies can reorganize, re-invent, re-invest, and recover.

What happens when quality fails in government? The effects are invasive and long-lasting. When government leaders fail quality, economies falter, institutions fail, and individual futures are destroyed. The country can rebuild – we’ve done it before – but no one can replace personal suffering. Just think of the long recession we had to endure. Do you want to endure another?

The root cause of the current failure in Congress and the White House is our own—we lack a true understanding of what is going on and are not engaged in any significant way.  To me, the threat of failure is clear and the answer obvious. We either build up and strengthen the very foundations of this great democracy, or leave things as they and allow the country to continue to erode. We must not tolerate another self-inflicted crisis.

To begin, we all need to stop playing the blame game. It’s not just your representative’s fault, the President’s fault, or the fault of anyone in government. It is our collective failure to recognize poor judgment. It is our fault for accepting poor quality decisions instead of demanding more from the process. The economic advancement of any nation depends on how its citizens practice quality. We are all shareholders in the United States of America.  As such, we have the responsibility to participate and work toward meaningful change.
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I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several...

Quality & Process

Combating Fires

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-19 21:00:30
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    [post_content] => No matter where they occur, a fire can be a devastating event. When they happen around where we live, we rush to the location with manpower and equipment to extinguish the flames.

When I use the word “fire,” I’m thinking of the context of day-to-day management when there is a sudden problem that causes a specific crisis of some kind. It could be a malfunction in production, a faulty product, and an interruption in the supply chain. You could have a fire with personnel issues, a problem with your building, or transportation.

Like real fires, the flash point may be obvious or hidden; there could be single cause or a chain of them. Most of the fires we deal with tend to be minor in scope – easily extinguished and quickly resolved. On occasion, you can have a very large and extremely complex fire that involves many aspects of your business. But just like any fire, bad assumptions can easily lead to a misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

When I think of the average, run-of-the-mill fire, I think of one that starts with a terse phone call or sharp email. In the case of Paul A., the vice president of production at a sheet aluminum plant, it was both.

The email came from one of his best clients who – for the third time in as many months – complained that the palleted rolls of sheet aluminum were not labeled properly. Forklift operators in the receiving department, the email complained, were taking too long to find shipping labels.

He had heard a similar complaint from other clients. His reaction had been to spend $50,000 on new, larger labels that you could read almost 20 feet away.

[pullquote]It seems to me that eventually, we may become weary of rushing to the scene of the problem and instead learn how to instill the high level awareness to prevent fires in the first place.[/pullquote]

“I can read the labels 20 feet away,” emailed Paul. “And my eyes aren’t even very good. I think the forklift operators just like to complain.”

Then the phone call came – from his best client: “Fix the problem, or we’ll go somewhere else.”

That’s the moment that Paul realized that he had a real fire on his hands.

Paul’s company produces very large rolls of the metal, some measuring six feet in diameter by 48 inches wide, stacked and trucked away on pallets. Each roll weighs a considerable amount and is chained to a flatbed trailer, usually without other products on board.

From his vantage point, the shipping labels were huge. He could easily see them from his office window. Out of desperation, he called me for some quick advice. My first response – which is my usual reaction to problems like these – collect all the information you can from the frontline people. And if you collect enough honest and direct information, the solution will present itself.

So, Paul issued a message through the chain of operations, and soon a frontline employee was dispatched to talk to the forklift operators herself. After a very short interview, she discovered that no one had trouble reading the old labels or the new ones. Their complaint was that the way the rolls were placed onto the pallets and into the trucks, the forklift operators had to dismount from their vehicles and climb up on the truck to find the label.

The labels, the operators told her, were always turned 90 degrees away from where they could easily see them. The simple solution: change the labeling process so that the labels could be seen from the forklift operator’s point of view.

Sometimes, a fire is prolonged by an attitude that we hold about our own processes – as it was in Paul’s case. In such cases, it could be a simple matter of opening our mind to new information. But wouldn’t it be great if we could put those fires out BEFORE they become a problem? The one problem with fires is that often management’s focus is on the firefighters, while pretty ignoring the fire preventers. It seems to me that eventually, we may become weary of rushing to the scene of the problem and instead learn how to instill the high level awareness to prevent fires in the first place.
    [post_title] => Combating Fires
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No matter where they occur, a fire can be a devastating event. When they happen around where we live, we rush to the location with manpower and equipment to...

Quality & Me

Frances Hesselbein Medal for Excellence in Leadership and Service

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-20 17:53:51
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    [post_content] => LOGO_Frances-HesselbeinWhile reading a book titled The Leader of the Future and co-authored by Frances Hesselbein and others, Subir Chowdhury was keenly interested in Ms Hesselbein’ s leadership style and ideas on how leadership and organizational development would be impacted in the new millennium.  This was back in 1997 and thus began a long relationship between Hesselbein and Chowdhury. Eventually, through intellectual exchanges with Hesselbein, Chowdhury was inspired to write Management 21C, a book that drew on thoughts of 26 of the world’s top thought leaders on management, including Hesselbein.

To honor his mentor and friend, in 2012 Chowdhury and The Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation provided a lifetime endowment for The Frances Hesselbein Medal for Excellence in Leadership and Service. The award is bestowed annually to a cadet who best exhibits excellence in mentorship and leadership by example at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

In May of 2012, The Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership (BS&L) at the United States Military Academy at West Point awarded its first Frances Hesselbein Medal for Excellence this past May to Cadet Chris Jarrett ’12. Going forward, BS&L will hand out this award annually to the cadet who best exhibits superiority in mentorship and leadership-by-example at the United States Military Academy at West Point as determined by peers and faculty.

[caption id="attachment_805" align="aligncenter" width="300"]ART_posts_Frances-Hesselbein-Medal1 From L-R - Cadet Chris Jarrett ’12 – Inaugural Winner of the Frances Hesselbein Medal for Excellence in Leadership and Service, COL Bernie Banks (Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership), Frances Hesselbein, and Subir Chowdhury.[/caption]
    [post_title] => Frances Hesselbein Medal for Excellence in Leadership and Service
    [post_excerpt] => Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 
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While reading a book titled The Leader of the Future and co-authored by Frances Hesselbein and others, Subir Chowdhury was keenly interested in Ms Hesselbein’ s leadership style and...