SITE_header_new-york-times
SITE_slider_economic SITE_slider_future SITE_slider_greatest SITE_slider_LEO

Quality & You

LEO Revisited: The benefits of “Listen, Enrich, Optimize”

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 140
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-04-25 19:58:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-04-25 19:58:40
    [post_content] => I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to "Quality is Everyone’s Business” (QIEB) philosophy.  We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.

Why must we as individuals “listen” better to our customers, suppliers, co-workers and our competition? All too often, we dedicated ourselves to collecting data associated with a problem without asking deeper questions like “why” and “how” that might give us better clarity about the processes behind the data. Watch and observe what works and what doesn’t.  Understand and empathize with all your stakeholders until you “get it.” How they express what they need; how they define their expectation of Quality; what it takes to make them delighted and enthused with you, your employees and your company – these are the realizations that will ultimately redefine the level of service you offer and provide.

[pullquote]We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.[/pullquote]

When I say “Enrich,” I mean to point out a process that guides us toward what we should do once we have full knowledge of the situation. In other words, if listening leads us to lessons of how we may improve, then enriching means putting those lessons to work thereby increase our potential to achieve a successful solution. Here we apply some logical organization to how we are going to use our data. What does the data tell us about how we currently do things? How can we implement the data and when? If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should, since it echoes many of the aspects of the Quality Mindset that we constantly refer back to in QIEB: Honesty, Integrity, and Resistance to Compromise.

Ultimately, once you and your entire organization have gotten the processes and procedures honed down and working to meet and exceed the needs, wants and desires of your customers, both internal and external, then you must keep raising the bar. That’s the point of “Optimize.” The goal is not just to put out a fire but also to prevent it from happening again. We can challenge known solutions and compare them against other solutions you have discovered; select the best ones and constantly subject them to every situation they may encounter. When you have corrected for any and all possible shortcomings, start the process over. Ultimately, we will never settle for just “good enough” again.

We can spend quite a bit of time on sharpening our LEO skills. By Listening, we don’t get complacent. By Enriching, we strive for perfection. And by Optimizing, we look at Quality as a universal, everyday goal, not an exception that rests with a few people. Ultimately, to be successful, quality must be “everyone’s” business.
    [post_title] => LEO Revisited: The benefits of “Listen, Enrich, Optimize” 
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => leo-revisited-the-benefits-of-listen-enrich-optimize
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-04-26 13:04:21
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-26 13:04:21
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=140
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to...

Quality & Economics

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 1239
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
    [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

Walking and Talking Quality

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 151
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-01-11 06:08:17
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-01-11 06:08:17
    [post_content] => I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?”

It’s not a trick question, but I’m surprised by how it causes so many managers to squirm. And it is fascinating how many of them get it wrong. Most of them will first answer that solving problems is best – and that is the obvious answer. But the honest ones will come back with a list of apologetics that begins with how busy they are jumping from one crisis to another and ending with a quiet aside (as though it is a terrible secret) that they’re lucky if they can get their regular jobs done. In effect, they tell me that they never avoid problems – they only solve them.

Meanwhile, we watch at a distance as the people who really “get it” shake off the intimidation and the pressure, and simply roll up their sleeves. I remember the hotel manager who drove two hours in her own car, on her own time, to return a credit card to a Japanese guest boarding a flight to Europe. I think of the hydraulics engineer who volunteered to parachute into a wilderness area to fix one his company’s new water pumps. I smile at the memory of the shipping clerk who shouldered past jokes and ridicule from fellow employees as he carefully packaged every order as crisply and neatly as possible.

These are the heroes of quality. They are not ‘firemen’ who not rush to douse fires. They are the fearless fire preventers who jump into the arena to answer the call to stop the fires from starting. Often, their efforts draw scant praise, if they are noticed at all. But how we need these “extra mile people” in all aspects of our operations.

[pullquote]When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen.[/pullquote]

I’ve seen some organizations proclaim their commitment to quality, and yet go on crafting flawed processes that produce flawed products and services that rely on heroic efforts for day-to-day rescue. Lacking a strategy to take corrective actions and address the causes of the fires, eventually a situation will arise that even heroic efforts shall fail.

What should happen is that the organization must walk the talk of quality – bring quality into the corporate culture from the top down. And it can starting with encouraging those basic human skills of communication, interaction, and implementation, or as defined in the LEO methodology: listen, enrich, and optimize.

Imagine what would happen if we made a sincere effort to improve communication with our customers, suppliers, co-workers and even our competitors? What would happen if we really listened to them? Maybe instead of keeping our noses to the spread sheets, perhaps we we’d start asking questions like “why” and “how” and listen to people who might give us better clarity about what is going on NOW.

With meaningful interaction, we enrich the organizational culture and encourage everybody to do more. We open ourselves up to lessons on how we may improve, where we may improve and when. We may even increase the opportunity of keeping problems from occurring in the first place.

Equipped with better communication and interaction, now we are better prepared to implement a renewed awareness throughout the organization. Not only are we putting out the fires; we are preventing them from happening. We are optimizing our relationships both inside and outside of the organization.

When it is delivered to every member of the organization – from top to bottom – LEO becomes the trigger-point for high level communication skills that I found among the best organizations. When the leaders of the organization walk the talk, they are the example for everybody to follow. That’s how leaders engage every member of the organization and gain commitment to an unprecedented level of quality. 

When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen. When this level of communication is achieved, then it doesn’t matter when a problem eventually crops up (because we know they will), because now there will always be enough fire preventers ready to take action.
    [post_title] => Walking and Talking Quality
    [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] => walking-talking-quality
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-04-15 09:59:24
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-15 09:59:24
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=151
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?” It’s not a...

Quality & Me

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

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 798
    [post_author] => 4
    [post_date] => 2013-02-20 17:40:23
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-02-20 17:40:23
    [post_content] => LOGO_sae_international

LOGO_sae-foundation-25th

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? 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => the-subir-chowdhury-society-of-automotive-engineers-student-quality-competition
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-03-21 13:51:23
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-03-21 13:51:23
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=798
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
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...