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Quality & You

Is your quality suffering under the culture of “Good Enough”?

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    [post_date] => 2013-04-15 19:56:29
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    [post_content] => Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the right thing.

Our choices are influenced by many things including the people around us; the society in which we live and work, and our community. The pressures of everyday life influence our attitude toward quality; the workplace, careers, money. Maybe we rush through things here and rush through them there; maybe we cut corners, cheat a little and say to ourselves, "That's not perfect, but it's good enough." But, at the end of the day, who suffers? What do we lose when the culture of "good enough" is what drives our daily lives?

Today, throughout most of our society we must all acknowledge that we are living in a culture where “good enough” is at the core of our troubles. We have taken the low road to what we know is right. We have lost the moral high ground to what is expedient, easy, and makes us a fast buck. But, if I ask you to really consider what it will take to make us great again I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the notion of “good enough” really isn’t good enough!

[pullquote]When we all rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, will we truly understand and appreciate the fact that “good” can never be “good enough!”[/pullquote]

As I was building my core philosophy for “quality is everyone’s business,” I discovered that the greatest challenge was getting individuals, groups, and organizations (and eventually society as a whole) to recognize that hanging onto the status quo creates enormous waste, but more important, is not sustainable.  The culture of “good enough” has become such a fixture in our mindset that we don’t even recognize the deep problems that it causes. This status quo pervades our lexicon and more importantly causes us to believe that nothing else can be done; meanwhile the waste and wasted opportunities pile up around our feet.

I believe that if we all take the approach and make Quality a part of everything we do then we, as individuals and collectively as a society, will never believe that “good is good enough.” I have seen places where Quality, as I have described it, produces long lasting positive, effects. These are organizations where everyone is exposed to the Quality mindset.  These organizations have done the hard work of taking everyone down the path of acculturation together to understand how the quality mindset requires a “real” change in the way individuals think and behave. And I believe that the individual is changed as well - their life is lifted, their outlook is lengthened, and their whole attitude toward personal responsibility is enlarged.

What I have found is that when the Culture of Quality takes over, people observe and understand - they really listen. People not only listen to their customers, but to co-workers, associates, family, friends, and even neighbors. High achieving people explore and discover by looking for ways to do everything that they can to find the best solution; not the easiest solution, but the best solution possible. For these people, Quality means improving and perfecting everything that they do, every day.

At the end of the day, when people rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, will we truly understand and appreciate the fact that “good” can never be “good enough!”
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Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the...

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

How to Fix a Broken Chain

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    [post_date] => 2013-04-05 20:46:30
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-04-05 20:46:30
    [post_content] => I was visiting a friend of mine who at the time was the chief executive officer of a large consumer products company. Although we had spent many months prior to my visit discussing quality problems that the company was experiencing, he was reluctant to even talk about it now that we were sitting face to face in his office.

Finally, he exhaled sharply.

“Listen, Subir.” I could tell he was very frustrated. “We have spent a lot of money on our program deployment, but…” then he drifted off, waving his hand.

He looked over my shoulder to make sure his door was closed and then he leaned forward.  In all the years I had known him, I had never seen him so uneasy.

[pullquote]The 4Cs is a script that adds potency to upper management’s decision to deploy whatever management program or other process they choose.[/pullquote]

“It’s not working,” he hissed. “Every time that I think we have achieved some milestone, it slips away.” He shrugged helplessly.

I nodded. “Maybe you have a broken chain.”

“A broken what?”

I instantly understood his problem. No matter what program you deploy – Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Lean Management, Design for Six Sigma – if you don’t have a robust management chain, you are risking failure. Understand that all of the process programs I’ve mentioned are excellent tools that have been used all over the globe by hundreds of companies, large and small. Many of them have a long history of success. But the caveat is that they will only work if you also deploy what I call the 4Cs:
  1. Commitment. Every member of the management team must align with the program deployment. They must be active, knowledgeable participants in the planning stage, strong advocates. They must be dedicated to the program success and have intimate knowledge of the program goals.
  2. Consistency. Management must undertake very close monitoring of the program deployment; be engaged in every step of its progress to ensure that goals and procedures are fully honored. Moreover, they must also ensure that personnel and financial resources are available as needed for a successful implementation.
  3. Competency. Management must ensure that they have full understanding of the implementation process; that individual deployment leaders are fully trained and fully aligned with the goals of the program. Management must also establish an environment of full trust and patience during the deployment.
  4. Communication. Management must commit every means available for full and open communication including intranet, ‘town hall’ meetings, and personal workplace visits. Every member of the management team and all deployment leaders must encourage two-way communication (good or bad) with other members in the organization about the deployment progress.
These 4Cs are the management chain describes separate and overlapping processes. Together, they form a managerial imperative that must be ‘in play’ at the highest levels of the organization leadership. At some level, you can call them common sense measures, but in fact they are more important than that. The 4Cs is a script that adds potency to upper management’s decision to deploy whatever management program or other process they choose. They give guidance to all managers on their conduct; a check and balance for every detail in the deployment. Depending on how strongly the senior managers emphasize their use, the 4Cs become ethical anchors for self-measuring effective leadership and productivity. Back to my friend. In order to make sure that his management team understands the importance of success, he still uses the 4Cs as part of his agenda in his weekly management reviews. [post_title] => How to Fix a Broken Chain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-fix-a-broken-chain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-15 09:45:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-15 09:45:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=153 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
I was visiting a friend of mine who at the time was the chief executive officer of a large consumer products company. Although we had spent many months prior...

Quality & Me

Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-07 17:59:56
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    [post_content] => The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the world by promoting a personal understanding of, and commitment to, a "Quality mindset.”

The plan for GQA is simple - effect positive global change by getting people to make a personal commitment to a simple daily practice. The practice of GQA is centered on Subir Chowdhury’s “LEO” (Listen – Enrich – Optimize) process, which has transformative results—these same principles that when practiced, will generate vast improvement in people’s daily lives.  Subir believes that most of the world’s problems are caused by people who stopped caring about quality or don’t understand the significance of it. Supporters of GQA want to inspire global improvement by first practicing quality as an individual. In essence, Quality starts with us and must be everyone’s responsibility.

Daily GQA practice requires people to follow three simple steps:
  • Listen hard to others and to yourself to seek understanding
  • Enrich the lives around you by giving a little more of yourself every day
  • Optimize everything you do by setting your mind to excellence and refusing to “settle”
The essential teaching is simple. When you embrace quality in your own life, life all around you becomes better. Your actions empower others to embrace positive change. They see the benefits in their own lives. Quality becomes contagious. The initiative spreads. Quickly. Spontaneously. And as more and more people work to improve their corner of the world, the world is transformed. It becomes a better place… because its citizens won't accept less. The GQA initiative is working with schools, from elementary to higher education, businesses, leaders and employees, the employed and unemployed for a total transformation of quality improvements with the vision of inspiring the Initiative around the world raising Global Quality Awareness. According to Subir Chowdhury, “I believe that the ultimate goal of the GQA Initiative is to ensure that “Quality is Everyone’s Business” – ideally I am of the firm belief that to be a Quality person, and live a ‘Quality’ life, Quality must become a part of everything we do, what we leave behind every day of our life, until it becomes a lifestyle choice, not just an afterthought.” [post_title] => Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative [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? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => global-quality-awareness [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=813 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the...