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Quality & You

Redefine the Nature of Quality

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    [post_content] => While it is true that I am advancing a new way to think about quality, I am also reaching beyond common output metrics of a product or service. I believe that we need a fresh approach that can have a profound effect on not only the way we work, but the way we perceive our everyday life.

Think about this. In business, the present concept of quality has been fixture for the past 75 years. But the irony is that while the industry has developed an abundance of quality management tools, most organizations unfortunately still struggle to make sustainable, long term gains that can truly differentiate themselves in today’s global marketplace. That is where my thought process has taken me – to understand why the present concept does not serve us better.

In my analysis, I have found that the focus on the “process of quality” is in fact incorrect. I have discovered that it is the process of managing quality that is primarily to blame. I will say that the intent to manage the process is limiting because it focuses far too much attention on the “outcome of quality,” not the “act of delivering quality.”

Why is this important? Because, Quality touches everything that you do on a daily basis; from discussions you hold with your peers, subordinates and leaders and the interactions you have with suppliers, vendors, and other providers. In fact, Quality touches every aspect of your life – in your business as well as your personal family life.

[pullquote]When has a quick fix ever solved anything?[/pullquote]

We can say that a problem belongs to someone else or we can look at ourselves in the mirror and accept the responsibility of solving the problem ourselves. If each one of us starts with the mindset that the problem belongs to me, then all problems will disappear. When I say that Quality is a part of everything you do, I mean to say that you become aware of both the problem and your ability to fix any problem or deal with any issue whether at work, our personal life, or in our community.

This perspective of Quality also refuses to accept compromise. It also recognizes that lasting solutions require that we do more than “fix” a problem. I ask that you think about this honestly – when has a quick fix ever solved anything? That’s where I believe we have failed ourselves. While we have made some fantastic strides to improve quality, we have sunken into the false security that a “find-and-fix” process is somehow enough. But obviously it isn’t.

This all-encompassing vision of Quality offers a new mindset, a transformational way to think about the actions and decisions that we make. It draws together commitment from people to improve their performance and make Quality a lifestyle choice, a cultural attitude, and a personal belief that refocuses all attention on the “act of delivering quality.”
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While it is true that I am advancing a new way to think about quality, I am also reaching beyond common output metrics of a product or service. I...

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

The Quality Process Revolution

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    [post_content] => For years now, I have been observing excellent organizations just to see what makes their operations rise above the rest. What I discovered is not so groundbreaking because, at the end of the day, it is as practical as it is common sense.

Before I make the full reveal, I must point out that my entire career has been focused on development of management tools that companies and organizations use to produce substantial and sustainable change to their management process and to the general quality of every aspect of the organization. Sometimes, that effort involves highly technical statistical models. Sometimes they deploy very detailed programs that require extensive training. In most instances where the effort to change is sustained, substantial change in terms of quality output and the resilience of the organization is evident.  But sometimes they don’t.

The cases where improvement was not sustained, I examined the process more closely. I compared the organizations that had long-term improvement and those that did not. In both cases, there was continual training. In both cases, management was engaged and dedicated to the improvement goals. Then I found an important point where the comparisons ended.

[kicker pos="right" size="30"]The underlying strength of “people power” is the fact that it relies on basic human skills.[/kicker]

Among organizations that did in fact revolutionize their quality process, was their only focus the process itself? No. Organizations that produced sustainable improvement added another layer to their activity – something so vital that once you see it, it is impossible to ignore. In the organizations that revolutionized their quality process, they also revolutionized their approach among all their people.

There was full engagement throughout these organizations on every aspect of their quality message. And everybody was involved – from the executive suite to every last worker. People were encouraged to participate in conversation, to interact with each other about the particulars of the organizational mission and operation, and rewarded when they implemented changes that were productive. The people of the organization were mobilized.

That is when I reached the conclusion that the reach of “process power” is limited.  Without the “people power” to back it up, the quality process can only go so far. After all, we are highly social creatures that love to communicate. We thrive on our interactions with each other. And more important, we grow when we implement what we gain from each other.

It was clear to me that among these excellent and successful organizations, there was a focused effort to encourage communication, interaction, and implementation – basic human skill that are intrinsic to every individual. It is within this framework that I developed LEO – Listen, Enrich, and Optimize – which has proven to be a flexible and transformative program that draws attention on the strengths of human interaction.

The underlying strength of “people power” is the fact that it relies on basic human skills. Encouraged and utilized systematically, these skills may also serve as the triggering mechanism that can cause every member in the organization to think deeply about the decisions they make and the actions they take.
    [post_title] => The Quality Process Revolution
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For years now, I have been observing excellent organizations just to see what makes their operations rise above the rest. What I discovered is not so groundbreaking because, at...

Quality & Me

Recognizing Quality Innovation: The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-05 23:05:03
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    [post_content] => In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor those in the mobility industry who demonstrate ability and talent to further innovation and broaden the impact of "quality" in mobility engineering, design and manufacture.

This award is offered in the spirit of my lifetime of work toward quality in the engineering professions.

 

LOGO_sae_international

Recipient Award Employer
James D. Power 2010 JD Power And Associates
Glen A. Barton 2011 Caterpillar Inc
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In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor...