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Quality & You

Four Cornerstones for Change

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    [post_content] => Do you want to change your organization - to transform the rank and file members so that they WANT to achieve true Quality? Of course you do - who doesn't.

But even the most perfect retraining process will fail if you do not gain firm commitments from the people you are asking to implement the change. And that would be everyone in your organization. I have learned that when companies force a process on their workforce without first receiving their commitment to participate, the rank and file employee will become resentful and they’ll fight change – even when they know that change is for the better.

Now, I ask you to apply that reality to other situations – government, education, business, your family – without willing and full cooperation of everyone involved, implementing even a small change is difficult if not impossible. When we want to bring about change, we must ask for the utmost commitment from every active member – including ourselves. This is also true for my own change process, "Quality Is Everyone’s Business" (QIEB). I cannot ask a client company to implement a change in their quality process without first knowing that certain fundamentals are met.

In my book, The Power of LEO, I laid out these fundamentals - I called them the “Four Cornerstones.” These are the basic ground rules that can make the difference between a process that fails, or one that leads the organization toward a sustainable pathway of change.

First, I ask that people say to themselves and others, “Quality is MY responsibility.” This personalizes the pathway as a self-actualized mission. Quality is not someone else’s problem. Quality is the personal pursuit that is reflected in every aspect of “my” work. Thus it becomes their personal belief that they can make a difference.

[pullquote]What is important is the belief that the change is making a difference.[/pullquote]

Second, everyone must accept that Quality must involve ALL the people, ALL the time. In effect, you will deputize the rank and file members of your organization to recognize a problem and solve it. If trashcans are overflowing with trash, the janitor is empowered to request larger receptacles. People must act as they would if they saw a burning fire – filled with the belief that they have the solution to make a lasting impact.

Third, everyone must adopt an “I-can-do-it-Mindset.” There is a straight line between the leader’s policies and the behavior and attitudes of the employees that follow, and that line continues on into the quality quotient. For the Quality transformation to be sustainable, management needs to instill confidence among rank and file members of the organization; build up the belief that responsibility is the only answer.

Finally, we must also assume that ‘one-size’ does not fit all. It’s always tempting to look for a policy (framed by some handy slogans) that can be applied across the board to any and all situations. It would make life so much simpler. But haven’t we already learned that such solutions are counter-productive? In an earlier article, I demonstrated how individual response to quality can be very different from person to person. Moreover, there are so many special cases and exceptions that any set policy itself becomes irrelevant the moment it is enunciated on the organization. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to allow every individual to arrive at their own reason to believe in Quality?

I have seen situation where these Four Cornerstones act as a catalyst for acculturation. People tend to push each other along toward improvement. And as people improve, they are encouraged to do more. At the end of the day, it isn’t the process of change that’s important. What is important is the belief that the change is making a difference. That’s how I believe that Quality will become Everyone’s Business.
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Do you want to change your organization - to transform the rank and file members so that they WANT to achieve true Quality? Of course you do - who...

Quality & Economics

Cutting Corners

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    [post_content] => Over the last 50 plus years, Toyota has led the automotive industry in quality and cost. As a result, the company rose to become the world's largest automotive manufacturing corporation and Japan's largest corporation with revenues of $230 billion in 2009.

However, this once untarnished icon of Japan's status as an economic powerhouse, is now in decline and the impact on the company and the entire country is tangible.

As Dr. Masatomo Tanaka says, a professor at the Institute of Technologists, a university that specializes in training engineers, "If Toyota is not healthy, then Japan is not healthy." As goes Toyota, so goes Japan.

Toyota has long enjoyed near hallowed status in Japan as the greatest practitioner of "monozukuri," a centuries-old ideal of perfection in craftsmanship central to ancient pottery and sword-making.  The pride of craftsmanship, burned into Japanese culture as the apex of accomplishment, was turned loose on the factory floor and was once the secret to Japan's postwar "miracle."

Then something changed. Yes, the earthquake and tsunami last year was a serious blow to Japanese manufacturing, but the decline at Toyota was clear long before the natural disaster. About the time the company achieved its global dominance, rumors began to filter out that management was cutting corners on quality – fewer people on the factory floor, lower quality raw materials and suppliers, reductions in research and development.

[pullquote]Shaving a few dollars off the cost of each car has resulted in billions of dollars in recall costs, not to mention the billions of dollars in legal costs the company has incurred from lawsuits filed by customers and government regulators – and in a few cases, possible loss of life.[/pullquote]

The result has been devastating. Shaving a few dollars off the cost of each car has resulted in billions of dollars in recall costs, not to mention the billions of dollars in legal costs the company has incurred from lawsuits filed by customers and government regulators – and in a few cases, possible loss of life. The damage has also been broadly felt: dealerships have lost sales, negatively impacting local economies, and for a time Toyota’s global position fell. But Toyota’s once unblemished record of quality is now questioned in the media and among many customers.

To compound matters, as Toyota moved away from quality, some of its competitors have moved in. Some have embraced their earlier methods to the extent that their products are now surpassing Toyota. Korea's Hyundia-Kia is rapidly gaining on once dominant giant and Detroit's big three have partly adopted Toyota's engineering and manufacturing methodologies and improved their quality as well.

Toyota had the quality mindset before it become the largest corporation in Japan and the largest automotive company in the world.  The company’s actions proved that quality can be the principle driver of efficiency and profitability, but also market dominance. Now the company is learning a new lesson about what happens to giants when they cut corners too often.
    [post_title] => Cutting Corners
    [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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Over the last 50 plus years, Toyota has led the automotive industry in quality and cost. As a result, the company rose to become the world's largest automotive manufacturing...

Quality & Process

Meet Your Future

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-01 21:04:20
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    [post_content] => Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change.

Why in business should we expect any different?

The fact is, change is hardwired into human nature. Individuals and society as a whole enjoy change – like the changing seasons. And there are other changes – changes in taste, changes in lifestyle, changes in expectations and aspirations. Therefore, any effort to push away change and hold on to the present—to maintain the status quo indefinitely—is a waste of energy and resources, and ultimately leads to failure.

This is why companies that do not adapt to new trends and ideas will eventually see their markets dry up and wither away. This is the fate of organizations, large and small; from large multi-national corporations to mom-and-pop shops down the street.

[pullquote]We must embrace change as though our future depends upon it.[/pullquote]

And let’s be clear. When I say “change” what I mean is “future.” In business, change is opportunity. Therefore, we must embrace change as though our future depends upon it. Among forward-thinking and successful companies that I have examined, change in the marketplace is no more difficult, no more traumatic than changes in the season. And how does that happen? Because they have adopted change into their management process:
  1. They have built flexibility into the organization. They possess a culture and mindset that can easily adapt to marketplace demand.
  2. They actively look for ways to improve products and services. Since the shelf life of goods and ideas is so short, they always live in the future.
These are the lessons that the top executives at a particle board manufacturer learned one year. They received several complaints that desks and tables made from its boards were breaking under heavy loads. When the complaints grew in number and urgency, the vice-president of the company – who also led the production unit – took his managers along on a fact-finding mission. Their original goal was to gather as much data as possible from furniture builders and customers and to solve what they believed to be an easily solved manufacturing problem. Their first stop was a furniture builder and their largest customer. There they learned that people do not just write on their desks, they sit on them and place heavy objects on them. The president of a furniture company gave them a demonstration. The management team watched in horror as their client leaned on the edge of a newly completed conference table and the corner cracked and broke away. The team saw numerous other failures; more than they ever imagined; and returned to their offices charged with a sense of urgency. Their first realization was that they never fully understood how their boards were being used. Their product was not flexible – both literally and figuratively. This was no longer a small problem; it threatened their position in the marketplace. That’s when the fault discovery process became an innovation process. They analyzed the strength of the boards in different situations and began a detailed research on the manufacturing process itself. Their goal was not to fix what they had but to make their product stronger than ever before. They tested composites, glues, wood chip sizes, and pressurization techniques. After about a year of work, they optimized their entire manufacturing process. Not only did they improve board strength, they also decreased manufacturing cost. They ended up with a stronger product that was a higher quality and priced competitively. Dealing with the rapid-fire changes in the marketplace requires that businesses possess a built-in survival process that allows them to be innovative and operationally flexible. Changes happen. If you are not prepared, you will meet a future – but it may not be the one that you expected. [post_title] => Meet Your Future [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meet-future [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=175 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change. Why in business should we expect any different? The...

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...