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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

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

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 )
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

Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley

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    [post_date] => 2015-04-22 22:39:28
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    [post_content] => The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at the University of California, Berkeley has an ambitious mission ahead. At the top of their list are innovative projects that aim to improve garment-industry safety, apps to solve social problems, and gathering data on antibiotic-resistant bacteria found on fruits and vegetables. And that's only a month after it opened on March 30.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC University — one of the universities with which the center will partner — gave a guest lecture to celebrate the center’s launch after the ceremony.

A first of its kind effort in the United States, the center will merge research, scholarship, art and culture, and building ties between institutions in Bangladesh and the U.S. under the leadership of Sanchita Saxena, who also leads the Institute for South Asia Studies at Berkeley.

[caption id="attachment_1333" align="alignnone" width="470"](L-R) Sanchita Saxena, Director of the Chowdhury Center, UC Berkeley; Subir Chowdhury, (Donor); Chancellor Nicholas Dirks of UC Berkeley; Sir Fazle Abed, Founder of BRAC; Malini Chowdhury (Donor); Lady Abed (L-R) Sanchita Saxena, Director of the Chowdhury Center, UC Berkeley; Subir Chowdhury, (Donor); Chancellor Nicholas Dirks of UC Berkeley; Sir Fazle Abed, Founder of BRAC; Malini Chowdhury (Donor); Lady Abed[/caption]

Helped along with a $1 million seed fund from the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, the center will support research to improve lives in Bangladesh and showcase the country’s culture, history, talent and resilience in the face of intense trials, and emphasize:
  • Exchange and scholarship programs to take UC Berkeley student and faculty researchers to Bangladesh to study, work and exchange ideas.
  • Academic partnerships like one in the works with Bangladesh-based BRAC University, which is funded by the largest international, non-governmental development organization.
  • The study of Bangla culture, history and language.
  • Support for graduate students through two annual graduate fellowships focused on the quality of life in Bangladesh and pursuing Bangladesh studies, and for undergraduates through one annual scholarship studying South and Southeast Asian Studies.
  • Development of a Bangladesh component that can be incorporated in other courses in areas ranging from public health to engineering or metropolitan studies.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, an internationally renowned anthropologist and scholar of Indian ethno-history, was present for the unveiling of the new Center.

“The  Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies underscores UC Berkeley’s commitment to provide our faculty and students with expanded options for engagement with global issues,” Dirks said. “We have a great deal of expertise to share, and much to learn from others as we confront challenges that know no national border.”

India-West, the largest and most prestigious among weekly Indian newspapers on the U.S. west coast, published an article celebrating the Center as a seminal event that puts Bangladeshi study on the map at the university.  Sanchita B. Saxena, executive director of the Center for South Asia Studies at Berkeley and director of the new center, was quoted:

“The study of Bangladesh has been, for the most part, quite marginalized at most academic institutions. Centers focused on South Asia are almost always heavily dominated by faculty, students and research focused on India. So the other countries in South Asia (including Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) are often neglected.

“The Chowdhury Center really tries to solve this problem by highlighting what is currently happening in the field of Bangladesh studies — everything from arsenic removal in the drinking water to understanding microfinance to literature and culture.

“Our goal of showcasing innovative research and training the next generation of scholars in Bangladesh has been realized through this gift which includes the establishment of the Chowdhury Center, but also three critical funding opportunities for students: two graduate fellowships (one to study the quality of life improvements and the other on any aspect of Bangladesh studies) and an undergraduate scholarship.”

The launch of the center this year is the closes a two-decade circle for Chowdhury and Raka Ray, chair of the Department of Sociology and professor of South and Southeast Asia studies at UC Berkeley. In 1993, Ray asked Chowdhury for help to establish a Bangla language program. “I had no money then,” Chowdhury said. But he promised himself that if he ever did, he would “help her cause.” The center is screening applications from scholars who want to advance their studies in Bangladesh. Caitlin Cook, one of the center’s two inaugural fellows, helped gather data on antibiotic-resistant produce-borne bacteria. “I got a real appreciation for the talent of Bangladeshi researchers and the quality of the work they’re doing there,” said Cook, who is currently completing a master’s degree in public health at UC Berkeley. "This fellowship has really put me on the right track to work in global health.” Berkeley’s Bangladesh studies center is also developing an exchange program for faculty and students at UC Berkeley and BRAC University, in Dhaka, as well as a summer study-abroad program at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Chowdhury’s hometown. In October, the center will co-host UC Berkeley’s second Bangladesh Development Initiative conference. Direct links: First Bangladesh Studies Center in US, at UC BerkeleyThe Daily Star, Weekend Bulletin, April 17, 2015 U.C.Berkeley Launches 1st Bangladesh Studies Center in U.S. India West, Richard Springer, April 9, 2015 First Center for Bangladesh Studies Now Open at UC Berkeley NBC News, Jennifer Chowdhury April 3, 2015 Dr. Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director of the Chowdhury Center, interview for TBN24 Prime Time News April  1, 2015 বার্কলেতে বাংলাদেশ গবেষণা কেন্দ্রের আনুষ্ঠানিক যাত্রা শুরু আজ (The establishment of a research institute for the study of Bangladesh in Berkeley) Prothom Alo, Hasan Ferdous, March 31, 2015 UC Berkeley celebrates launch of Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies Daily Californian, Elaina Provencio, March 31, 2015 Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs, Dept. of State, Twitter feed, March 30, 2015 UC Berkeley first university to house a center for Bangladesh studies UC Berkeley News Center, Thomas Levy, March 25, 2015 (Cover Story) Making it Happen Md Shahnawaz Khan Chandan, The Daily Star, May 9, 2014 Subir Chowdhury Puts Bangladesh Studies on U.C.’s Map Richard Springer, Staff Reporter, India West, Apr 23, 2014 Bangladesh takes center stage with Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center, By Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley Media Relations April 21, 2014 Radio Interview of ISAS Executive Director, Sanchita Saxena, Preeti Mangala Shekar for KPFA 94.1 FM's APEX Express, February 27, 2014 - 7:00pm A Bangladeshi’s million dollar gift to Berkeley, Sohara Mehroze Shachi for Dhaka Tribune, February 23, 2014

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The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at the University of California, Berkeley has an ambitious mission ahead. At the top of their list are innovative projects...