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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

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 )
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

The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition

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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition.

The goal will be to engage high school and college students in a nationwide competition that will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the impacts of quality on their lives. It will also serve to help today's students become tomorrow's scientists and engineers.

The competition will be open to high school and college students throughout the United States on an annual basis.  Students will be provided knowledge and skills based on Subir Chowdhury’s teachings in quality and process improvement.  Students will be asked to design a project that will clearly demonstrate their understanding of how quality will impact their lives and the lives of those around them.  Participants will compete at local, regional and national levels and will ultimately be rewarded for their innovative and creative thinking and application with cash awards for the top winners at the national competition level.
    [post_title] => The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition
    [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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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir...