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Quality & You

Four Cornerstones for Change

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    [post_content] => Do you want to change your organization - to transform the rank and file members so that they WANT to achieve true Quality? Of course you do - who doesn't.

But even the most perfect retraining process will fail if you do not gain firm commitments from the people you are asking to implement the change. And that would be everyone in your organization. I have learned that when companies force a process on their workforce without first receiving their commitment to participate, the rank and file employee will become resentful and they’ll fight change – even when they know that change is for the better.

Now, I ask you to apply that reality to other situations – government, education, business, your family – without willing and full cooperation of everyone involved, implementing even a small change is difficult if not impossible. When we want to bring about change, we must ask for the utmost commitment from every active member – including ourselves. This is also true for my own change process, "Quality Is Everyone’s Business" (QIEB). I cannot ask a client company to implement a change in their quality process without first knowing that certain fundamentals are met.

In my book, The Power of LEO, I laid out these fundamentals - I called them the “Four Cornerstones.” These are the basic ground rules that can make the difference between a process that fails, or one that leads the organization toward a sustainable pathway of change.

First, I ask that people say to themselves and others, “Quality is MY responsibility.” This personalizes the pathway as a self-actualized mission. Quality is not someone else’s problem. Quality is the personal pursuit that is reflected in every aspect of “my” work. Thus it becomes their personal belief that they can make a difference.

[pullquote]What is important is the belief that the change is making a difference.[/pullquote]

Second, everyone must accept that Quality must involve ALL the people, ALL the time. In effect, you will deputize the rank and file members of your organization to recognize a problem and solve it. If trashcans are overflowing with trash, the janitor is empowered to request larger receptacles. People must act as they would if they saw a burning fire – filled with the belief that they have the solution to make a lasting impact.

Third, everyone must adopt an “I-can-do-it-Mindset.” There is a straight line between the leader’s policies and the behavior and attitudes of the employees that follow, and that line continues on into the quality quotient. For the Quality transformation to be sustainable, management needs to instill confidence among rank and file members of the organization; build up the belief that responsibility is the only answer.

Finally, we must also assume that ‘one-size’ does not fit all. It’s always tempting to look for a policy (framed by some handy slogans) that can be applied across the board to any and all situations. It would make life so much simpler. But haven’t we already learned that such solutions are counter-productive? In an earlier article, I demonstrated how individual response to quality can be very different from person to person. Moreover, there are so many special cases and exceptions that any set policy itself becomes irrelevant the moment it is enunciated on the organization. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to allow every individual to arrive at their own reason to believe in Quality?

I have seen situation where these Four Cornerstones act as a catalyst for acculturation. People tend to push each other along toward improvement. And as people improve, they are encouraged to do more. At the end of the day, it isn’t the process of change that’s important. What is important is the belief that the change is making a difference. That’s how I believe that Quality will become Everyone’s Business.
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Do you want to change your organization - to transform the rank and file members so that they WANT to achieve true Quality? Of course you do - who...

Quality & Economics

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

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    [post_date] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
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    [post_content] => I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar.

Solar panels that are expected to have a 25-year life span are failing. Coatings are disintegrating and other defects have caused fires. Worldwide, the reports are coming in. The $77 billion solar photovoltaic industry is facing a quality crisis.

This is a moment of truth for the solar photovoltaic industry, and yet, many manufacturers will chose to ignore the opportunity and instead repeat the same mistakes that the American automotive industry did in the 1970s.

Remember the Ford Pinto that could explode if was hit from behind? What about Chevrolet's Vega that was rusting before it left the factory floor? There were other spectacular flops like the Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Volare, Dodge Aspen, all Oldsmobiles, and GM diesel engines: all self-inflicted wounds that damaged once sterling brands for decades and drove sales into the laps of their international competitors.

Then, as now, assumptions are percolating among solar “PV” industry leaders about the “cause” of production problems they obviously do not understand. Is it really just cost-cutting in manufacturing materials that is causing 5.5% to 22% defect rate in solar modules?

I was struck by the comment from Dissigno CEO, Dave Williams: "Quality across the board is harder to put your finger on now as materials in modules are changing every day and manufacturers are reluctant to share that information.” This is the type of thinking that will cost the industry (and their customers) billions of dollars before they resolve this crisis. In fact, isn’t it time to set a firm finger on quality and hold it there until there until something positive happens?

American auto manufacturers learned three valuable lessons from their quality crisis:
  1. “Problem solvers” will solve nothing but they will drill through wads of cash with very little to show for it;
  2. Nearly all product quality failures begin at the design stage with inadequate specifications, standards, expectations; and
  3. No amount of correction at the production and service end will ever adequately “solve” anything; that’s like trying to put out the fire after the barn burns down.
The solar industry must do as the auto industry has done: they must go all the way back to the design stage, dump their assumptions, check all processes, and re-examine everything right down to the basics of how they envision how their customers will use their products. They must deal with the physics involved, even the markets. Late in the 1980s, the auto industry adopted the practice of "robust engineering" - using extreme conditions of operations the basis of design and engineering. Adding to the quality process, they also considered how people work together and how they discuss and formulate solutions. For the first time, designers, engineers, production managers and marketers got together and discussed not only what the product had to do, but how it might fail. When you design for the two most extreme operating conditions that your product will experience, you eliminate 95% of the potential cause for failure. If your product must operate in a particular temperature range, you must ask, "Can we add 10 degrees either way to our operating design?" In the same respect, consider also how the product will be manufactured and sold. In this case, designers did not take into consideration possible price competition. Haven't we learned that cost-cutting is a reality for commerce and therefore qualifies as a "condition of operation"? This crisis of quality is not, as the writers of the story suggests, China's problem. While true that Chinese manufacturing has supplied many panels, it is up to the world industry to set the standard. The companies that purchase the modules must set the quality process, be honest about the product design, and resist any compromise. I appreciate Suntech CTO, Stuart Wenham's commentary that "we need to start naming names." In my book, those names should include the engineering directors and executives who missed the big cues and forgot the important lessons of what it means to adopt and maintain a robust and sustainable quality process. [post_title] => A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => moment-truth-solar-panel-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1239 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar. Solar panels that are expected to...

Quality & Process

Enrich the Process

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-22 21:10:47
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    [post_content] => I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and more efficiently. My wife bought food that was also enriched, fortified with vitamins and minerals that added nutritional value.

As it turns out, many products are ‘enriched’ in some way to make them more appealing by giving them a little value-added performance boost. That’s also what we do all our lives. When we want to make something better, we add to something else that improves, develops, and enhances the original.

From my experience consulting on the day-to-day management of businesses, the enrich process encompasses two intents of the word; not only to help make products and services better, but to introduce greater quality into the processes that manages and produces them.

[pullquote]With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative.[/pullquote]

Of course, while the goal is to improve our processes, there are always practical limits. For instance, there is no enrichment to be gained if the improvement effort disrupts operations for weeks at a time. I’ve seen managers get carried away — interfering directly with front line processes, pulling too many people away from regular assignments for too long. There is also little to be gained by devoting time and energy to tweak a process that has minimal impact on quality.

With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative. Here are three guidelines for the execution of a more productive enrichment process.
  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the NOW? Is everybody on the same page? Are all team members are up to date on what is known about customers’ needs and wants? Make sure everyone understands the current state of the problem or the design challenge. Make sure that you have all the information that you need to begin your enrichment work.
  2. Are you really thinking outside the BOX? Resist the urge to reach for solutions that you’ve tried in the past; stretch your team a little with a ‘jamming session’ to brighten the intellectual and creative process. Remember that the innovation process works best when there is fearless engagement from all participants. That means instituting a blanket ‘no-blame, all-ideas-welcome’ policy.
  3. Are you settling for less than the BEST? Set your sights high and don’t give up until you have the solution or the design that will thrill your customers without breaking the bank. Be adventurous, but be realistic. Sometimes doing the BEST is the one thing you can do the easiest.
Don’t be surprised if the enrich process requires a new mindset at your organization. To get the most out of any new process, everybody must embrace ‘the change’ and the idea that what you have now, and what you have done up to this point, simply isn’t good enough. That’s not always so easy for everyone, and especially for organizations that have become accustomed to ‘old ways.’ Maybe you’ll have to bring everybody into a room to signal the start of the change. Maybe it’ll go something like this: “Today, we will move beyond the status quo and reach for continuous development and improvement. This will be our strategy. And our plan will be that everyone plays a major role in this process — including me!” That’s the attitude that carries change forward. That’s the game plan to enrich the most important thing of all – your organization. [post_title] => Enrich the Process [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => enriching-the-process [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=180 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and...

Quality & Me

Impact of Quality of Learning

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-10 02:01:25
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    [post_content] => Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to fill skilled jobs, society is often required to take care of the 'drop outs' one way or another.

The tragedy is that had these kids found something they liked about education, they might have stayed in school. They might have gone on to lead productive lives and avoided the blemish of a criminal record. But for many of them, education reminds them of past failure. Without guidance and mentorship, that's a very difficult (if not impossible) barrier to ask school-age kids to overcome on their own.

So I ask, who failed whom?

In 2007, I received a letter from the Orange County Corrections Department in Orlando, Florida that still amazes me. The letter described how Warren Kenner, a facilitator for a "youthful offender program," introduced my book, "The Ice Cream Maker" as part of the curriculum for an eight-week literature study class for about a dozen students.

If you have read this book, you know that it addresses concepts of deploying quality in a business operation. Mr Kenner saw another application of the concept; to offer it to his student as a model for injecting quality into their lives.

He wrote, "If you want to get ahead in life, then you've got to treat everyone with respect; not just the people you like. Most important, you've got to be thinking daily on how to improve yourself in service to others."

He also said that many of his students have been told all their short lives that they are losers; that they would never achieve anything in their lives. After a while, you begin to believe it. Most of them have such a low opinion of themselves that they lack the basic attributes of ambition and hope that you and I take for granted.

His goal is to keep the kids from internalizing the negative voices and reach out for excellence. "My whole thrust is to have them commit to themselves. The have to believe in themselves before they can help themselves or anybody else."

In Ice Cream Maker, one of the primary motivators for the fictitious business owner was recognizing the price of failure. For some of the students in this class, it was the first time that they had ever finished reading a book, yet remarkably, many came away from the experience recognizing the price of their own failure and fully comprehending that failure isn't final; that once you shed negative feelings about failure, you can begin working for total quality mindset in everything that you do.

Imagine what we might accomplish if more people understood this very simple concept. If these kids get it, why can't the rest of us?
    [post_title] => Impact of Quality of Learning
    [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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Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to...