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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

The Quality Process Revolution

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    [post_content] => For years now, I have been observing organizations just to see what makes their operations rise above the rest and make them what I call “excellent organizations.” What I discovered is more common sense than it is groundbreaking.

My entire career has been focused on the development of management tools that companies and organizations use to produce substantial and sustainable change to their management and general quality processes throughout the organization. Sometimes, that effort involves highly technical and statistical models. Sometimes organizations deploy very detailed programs that require extensive training. In most instances where the effort to change is sustained, substantial change in terms of quality output and the resilience of the organization is evident. But sometimes it isn’t.

In cases where improvement was not sustained, I examined the process more closely. I compared the organizations that had long-term improvement with those that did not. In both cases, there was continual training and management was engaged and dedicated to the improvement goals.what makes their operations rise above the rest and make them what I call “excellent organizations.” Then I found an important point where the comparisons differed.

[pullquote]The underlying strength of “people power” is the fact that it relies on basic human skills.[/pullquote]

Organizations that produced sustainable improvement added another layer to their activity—something so vital that once you see it, it is impossible to ignore. In the organizations that revolutionized their quality processes, everyone in the organization was completely engaged.

From the executive suite to every last worker, every single person was involved. People were encouraged to participate in conversations, interact with each other about the particulars of the organizational mission and operation, and rewarded when they implemented changes that were productive. People throughout organization became energized and mobilized.

It was at this point that I realized that the reach of “process power” is limited. Without “people power” to back it up, the quality process can only go so far. After all, we are highly social creatures that love to communicate and interact with each other. And more important, we grow both individually and collectively when we implement what we learn from each other.

It was clear to me that among these excellent and successful organizations, there was a focused effort to encourage communication, interaction, and implementation – basic human skills that are intrinsic to each of us. It is within this framework that I developed LEO – Listen, Enrich, and Optimize – which has proven to be a flexible and transformative program that draws attention on the strengths of human interaction.

The underlying strength of “people power” is the fact that it relies on basic human skills. Encouraged and utilized systematically, these skills may also serve as the triggering mechanism that can cause every member in the organization to think deeply about the decisions they make and the actions they take.
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For years now, I have been observing organizations just to see what makes their operations rise above the rest and make them what I call “excellent organizations.” What I...

Quality & Me

Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley

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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...