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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.
    [post_title] => Four Cornerstones for Change
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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 Tale of Two Countries

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    [post_date] => 2013-05-20 03:23:54
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    [post_content] => Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile measured 7.0 and 8.8 respectively on the moment magnitude scale. The difference implies that the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger than the Haiti earthquake.

While the devastation in both countries was extreme, structural damage and loss of life were far less in Chile than in Haiti.  The difference in devastation is largely attributed to the difference in building standards.

[pullquote]The impact of one nation's choice to pursue or not pursue quality impacts not only that nation but almost every other nation across the globe. [/pullquote]

Very few structures collapsed in Chile and the number of deaths was far less than in Haiti even though the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger.  In other words, in the case of Haiti, lack of quality can be directly attributable to the damage caused there, while a commitment to quality in Chile minimized what could have been an even greater loss of live than seen in Haiti.

In Haiti, the death toll exceeded 200,000 and the number of buildings destroyed or severely damaged exceeded 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial structures.  In contrast, the death toll in Chile was less than 2,000 and very few structures were totally destroyed.

While the differences in building standards can be rationalized by noting the differences in economic health with Haiti being one the poorest nations in the world, the cost of poor quality proved to be enormous in Haiti.

ART_posts_haiti1Perhaps one of the most critical applications of quality is how it can have an impact on nations and individuals.  The impact of one nation's choice to pursue or not pursue quality impacts not only that nation but almost every other nation across the globe.  These decisions impact how dollars are spent and what they are spent on.  While it's often a difficult decision, especially in third world countries, political leaders who choose to ignore quality risk paying a heavy price.

Natural disasters cannot always be predicted, but you can minimize damage to people and places by integrating quality measures into infrastructures and policies.  Whether it is a hurricane, flood, tornado, pollution, or fire, the impact of the economics of quality for nations and their environmental resources can be devastating.
    [post_title] => A Tale of Two Countries
    [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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Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile measured 7.0 and 8.8 respectively on the moment magnitude scale. The difference implies that the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger than the Haiti...

Quality & Process

Combating Fires

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-19 21:00:30
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    [post_content] => No matter where they occur, a fire can be a devastating event. When they happen around where we live, we rush to the location with manpower and equipment to extinguish the flames.

When I use the word “fire,” I’m thinking of the context of day-to-day management when there is a sudden problem that causes a specific crisis of some kind. It could be a malfunction in production, a faulty product, and an interruption in the supply chain. You could have a fire with personnel issues, a problem with your building, or transportation.

Like real fires, the flash point may be obvious or hidden; there could be single cause or a chain of them. Most of the fires we deal with tend to be minor in scope – easily extinguished and quickly resolved. On occasion, you can have a very large and extremely complex fire that involves many aspects of your business. But just like any fire, bad assumptions can easily lead to a misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

When I think of the average, run-of-the-mill fire, I think of one that starts with a terse phone call or sharp email. In the case of Paul A., the vice president of production at a sheet aluminum plant, it was both.

The email came from one of his best clients who – for the third time in as many months – complained that the palleted rolls of sheet aluminum were not labeled properly. Forklift operators in the receiving department, the email complained, were taking too long to find shipping labels.

He had heard a similar complaint from other clients. His reaction had been to spend $50,000 on new, larger labels that you could read almost 20 feet away.

[pullquote]It seems to me that eventually, we may become weary of rushing to the scene of the problem and instead learn how to instill the high level awareness to prevent fires in the first place.[/pullquote]

“I can read the labels 20 feet away,” emailed Paul. “And my eyes aren’t even very good. I think the forklift operators just like to complain.”

Then the phone call came – from his best client: “Fix the problem, or we’ll go somewhere else.”

That’s the moment that Paul realized that he had a real fire on his hands.

Paul’s company produces very large rolls of the metal, some measuring six feet in diameter by 48 inches wide, stacked and trucked away on pallets. Each roll weighs a considerable amount and is chained to a flatbed trailer, usually without other products on board.

From his vantage point, the shipping labels were huge. He could easily see them from his office window. Out of desperation, he called me for some quick advice. My first response – which is my usual reaction to problems like these – collect all the information you can from the frontline people. And if you collect enough honest and direct information, the solution will present itself.

So, Paul issued a message through the chain of operations, and soon a frontline employee was dispatched to talk to the forklift operators herself. After a very short interview, she discovered that no one had trouble reading the old labels or the new ones. Their complaint was that the way the rolls were placed onto the pallets and into the trucks, the forklift operators had to dismount from their vehicles and climb up on the truck to find the label.

The labels, the operators told her, were always turned 90 degrees away from where they could easily see them. The simple solution: change the labeling process so that the labels could be seen from the forklift operator’s point of view.

Sometimes, a fire is prolonged by an attitude that we hold about our own processes – as it was in Paul’s case. In such cases, it could be a simple matter of opening our mind to new information. But wouldn’t it be great if we could put those fires out BEFORE they become a problem? The one problem with fires is that often management’s focus is on the firefighters, while pretty ignoring the fire preventers. It seems to me that eventually, we may become weary of rushing to the scene of the problem and instead learn how to instill the high level awareness to prevent fires in the first place.
    [post_title] => Combating Fires
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No matter where they occur, a fire can be a devastating event. When they happen around where we live, we rush to the location with manpower and equipment to...

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...