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Quality & You

What does your mission statement say about quality?

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    [post_content] => Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a unifying philosophy wrapped around a strategic purpose, product, and plan. But how does one instill a unifying philosophy that reaches beyond the words contained in a quality vision or the mission statement?

This was my big question; my core intent: to help managers enhance existing efforts by making Quality a common key that belongs to “everyone” in your organization - to bring about a "cause for quality."

Put another way, Quality strengthens your mission statement. It helps fuse together what you currently have in common with an attitude that is shared throughout your entire workforce: from the C-Suite, down to the production worker. The goal is not to make a change, but to enhance what you currently have. The intent is not to replace your existing policies, but to integrate Quality into your organizational DNA.

In my analysis of current quality processes, I found that they are based on one solution for productivity; one concept for quality management. Of course, we want everybody to rally behind one vision of the future, but how do we make that vision truly transformational – something that your people will find personally motivating and personally exciting?

[pullquote]My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization![/pullquote]

If there is one thing that we have all learned, you can’t get people excited with a run-of-the-mill mission, vision or quality policy. I believe that by making Quality everyone’s business, you emphasize basic principles that affect people on a personal level. When you encourage individuals to reach out to others, they are – in turn – empowered to do the best work that they can achieve. When you empower them to look beyond personalities and solve problems; you strengthen their resolve to reach deep into their own powerful personal resources and unique talents which, in turn, provides a far better means of personal motivation. What we want is for individuals to sit up and say, “My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization!”

Subsequently, as Quality truly becomes everyone’s business, individual behavior will then serve to enhance the intent of your mission statement. People throughout the organization will change their attitudes and beliefs relative to your mission, vision, guiding beliefs, and yes, your quality policy. For instance, in the past, when a problem occurred, you might expect that many people will think “the problem belongs to someone else” or “it’s not my job.” Once they have undergone the principle transformation of understanding that Quality must be a part of everything they do, you can expect that their reaction will be fundamentally different. Instead of passing the buck to the guy in the next workstation, you can expect them to take personal responsibility and be the change agent that produces a lasting solution.

When the notion that Quality is Everyone’s Business is blended with your quality policy as well as with your mission statement, you are encouraging an ideal mindset where everyone now owns problems and creates solutions while supporting the organization’s common vision of the future.
    [post_title] => What does your mission statement say about quality?
    [post_excerpt] => In this bestselling book, Chowdhury introduced his next-generation management system — LEO. In The Power of LEO, he describes how continuous focus on quality improvement can revolutionize any process—from manufacturing operations to managerial decision making. The secret is to cease delegating the responsibility of quality to specific teams or departments and permanently lodge it within the core of an organization’s culture.
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Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a...

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 )
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

Fire, Flow, Future

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-12 20:53:26
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    [post_content] => From the very beginning of my work, I kept a journal of challenges and crisis that were reported to me by my clients. I recorded problems, noted characteristics, and key patterns in each of them. My goal was to record how the different situations were related and how problems were eventually resolved.

Why did the product fail?  What is causing delays. Why are customers turning way?

Initially, the journal resembled a catalog dissimilar events, but after about 20 years of work, I amassed enough information that clear patterns began to emerge. To my surprise, the patterns showed up quite readily as event-driven triggers – three of them to be precise.

It didn’t matter where the company was located, what sector they served, how large or small the organization was, nor how old.  It also didn’t matter what kind of problem it was – revenue generation, human relations, manufacturing, research and development. The same patterns were evident among government agencies, small private businesses, or major multi-national corporations.

[pullquote]Fire, flow and future events are interrelated – think of them as points in a triangle.[/pullquote]

That’s how my three triggers came to be Fire, Flow, and Future.

FIRE

Fire describes a sudden problem that usually causes a specific crisis of some kind – like a malfunction or faulty product. Fires require either a near term and long-term resolution; sometimes both. The cause of a Fire may be obvious or it may be hidden or multiple causes. Most fires tend to be minor in scope, but sometimes they can be very large and extremely complex. But just like any fire, bad assumptions can easily lead to a misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

FLOW

Flow refers to a disruption in the operations side of the organization that could be limited to a small portion of the overall process. There are two kinds of flow – administrative and delivery (production of product or delivery of service). Flow events are often characterized by an unexpected result somewhere else in the process. They could be a reaction to unexpected external or internal changes. It is likely the problem existed long before you became aware of it.

FUTURE

Future identifies the timely development (or redevelopment) of new products or services; a vital activity that influences the company’s marketability and profitability over time. It requires built-in flexibility within the organization; the requisite motivation to invest time, money and intellectual capital to constantly move products and services to meet customer demand.  As it turns out, future is also the motive and opportunity to build greater quality into the innovation process – so in that regard it is usually self-starting or self-generating. No organization is without an occasional fire or two. No company exists that hasn’t experienced an interruptions in flow, or faced an imperfect future. And while total perfection is always a goal rather than reality, we must be vigilant about these events and react swiftly and decisively as though perfection were within our grasp. Fire, flow and future events are interrelated – think of them as points in a triangle. For instance, you could see a fire that is actually symptomatic of a problem within the flow, or one that reveals a badly needed cycle of redevelopment for your future. You may even discover a fire (or a multiple smoldering ones) that you didn’t know about as you to peel back a problem in the flow. I advise all my clients to keep a ready journal as I have – one for each type of event – and watch for unique patterns in circumstances and triggers. A resource like that that will be invaluable, especially for detecting long-term and deep-seated problems. Above all, keep your mind open to the evidence, and your power of reason will help you deduce the correct solution. [post_title] => Fire, Flow, Future [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fire-flow-future [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-15 10:09:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-15 10:09:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=162 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
From the very beginning of my work, I kept a journal of challenges and crisis that were reported to me by my clients. I recorded problems, noted characteristics, and...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

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    [post_date] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
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    [post_content] => Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an insurance brokerage in Los Angeles, CA – we will call him “Cooper” – relayed this story to us recently.

Cooper was working late one night on a presentation for a new client. The printer in his office malfunctioned, so he routed a document he needed to the printer that the staffers shared. As he waited by the printer, he looked down at the trashcan and was startled by what he saw: heaping but neat stacks of printed email, dumped straight into the round file. At the time, his office had about 35 employees, so he imagined that it was an isolated incident. But he knew that he should take a closer look.

The next morning, he asked his administrative manager about the trash and what he heard surprised him even more. Two years earlier, he had set what he thought was a mundane office policy to require a paper record of all emails relating to client business.

Email was still a relatively new business tool. Cooper didn’t know that people tended to communicate with each other via the “Reply To” function. As a result, many emails grew into long strings of messages that included every comment made with the important details sprinkled all over. Outlook and other email managers help search for the important bits, but when you print, you get the whole enchilada including every joke, recipe, sports prediction, birthday greeting, salutation, and thanks.

Because of the policy, agents were forwarding customer emails to staffers. At the close of every day, the staffers printed everything, kept what they needed and tossed out the rest.

Cooper measured the stack of paper and found that it was almost even with a fresh package of paper, or about 500 sheets. The real shock came when the manager revealed that this stack was light. Not only did the process occur daily, many times the amount of waste was double, even triple what Cooper had seen.

Cooper and the manager estimated that the cost of wasted paper from printing emails was running up a $300 a month bill; $7,200 since the email policy was passed. When they added toner and staff time, the total cost soared to more than $14,000.

Talking with agents and staffers, he learned that everyone thought that the policy was wasteful and inefficient. And yet, no one took the initiative to anything about it.

Not long after this incident, a non-paper solution was adopted and Cooper was pleased that he could reduce cost and increase efficiency from one small change. Then he realized that this one example was a symptom of other perhaps more costly problems and worried where they might be. About a year later, “The Ice Cream Maker,” was published.

Cooper bought a copy and read it one afternoon. Inspired by the concept of using quality as the benchmark of behavior throughout his business, he bought a copy for everyone in his office. To this day, new employees receive a copy as part of their training.

Another underlying message in this story is the fact that many businesses pass office policy without attention to a quality process. Had Cooper focused on the outcome rather than the solution, he might have avoided this problem entirely. Luckily, the trash was the clue. In my experience, the cost of such mistakes can produce even greater expense.

Something to think about the next time you’re in a position to set what you think is a mundane office policy.
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Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an...