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Quality & You

The Quality Habit

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    [post_content] => Did you know that people have been trying to define “quality” for more than a thousand years? I found one of the earliest attempts by the Greek philosopher Aristotle from his text the “Nicomachean Ethics.”

Here is where Aristotle calls out the virtues of excellence: “Formed in man by his doing the actions, we are what we repeatedly do… excellence in a complete life… [is what] makes a man blessed and happy.” 

The conclusion? Quality is not an act, but a habit.

The first step to acquiring any habit is through repetition. For quality, this means continuously pursuing everything that we believe is excellent. Moreover, it requires total dedication – from you and everyone around you.

Before we can take these first two steps, we must accept quality as personal responsibility. That’s the essence of people power – a process propelled by rational thinking passed down from ancient times—from Aristotle no less!

Attaining quality requires the dedication of the whole universe of stakeholders – people with whom you interact and frequently communicate; every supplier and distributor as well as every manager and frontline worker and, of course, your friends and family.

The quality habit belongs to anyone who decides to embark on the path to excellence. I believe that’s what Aristotle meant when he wrote “we are what we repeatedly do.” But what happens after that?

When people adopt the quality habit, other people notice. People who lead—whether it’s a team at work or the family at home—have a special duty to reinforce that message constantly. They must deliver the message in every meeting and encounter they have and by walking the talk, demonstrating their commitment to quality in their lives. If not, who do they follow? Without such a leader, who will answer the call for quality?

The best leaders of quality make sure that everyone has a chance to speak his or her mind. They sharpen the focus on quality by example. They are the cheerleaders, but they are also the collaborators. Leaders and followers alike must believe that, in the end, the pursuit of quality applies to all the people, all the time.

Quality also means having an “I-can-do-it” mentality. If you treat a co-worker or your spouse like a child, don’t expect them to behave like an independent-minded, responsibility-seeking adult. There’s a direct connection between empowering people with confidence and support, and their attitudes towards believing in and improving quality.

Quality is unique to everyone. There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” in quality. It’s always tempting to look for a policy or a procedure that can be applied across the board to situations to fix a quality problem. Sure, it would make life so much simpler. But let’s be real. When has that ever worked on a sustainable basis?

Whether it’s fixing an issue or making something as perfect as we can, the maintenance of quality requires adjustments in the process that evolves with specific needs for each situation. Even though hammers and screwdrivers are handy tools, you wouldn’t try to tighten a screw with a hammer or straighten a piece of metal with a screwdriver. The way you’ve always handled a situation in the past may not be appropriate or realistic because circumstances are different.

I don’t like using cliché terms because they tend to trivialize meaning, but in this case quality truly requires “out of the box” thinking; creative applications of old ideas, or new approaches that produce better solutions. Once you get a better understanding of how to deal with and understand what quality is, you’ll see how having a quality mindset helps you arrive at the best solution for any given situation.
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Did you know that people have been trying to define “quality” for more than a thousand years? I found one of the earliest attempts by the Greek philosopher Aristotle...

Quality & Economics

Subir Chowdhury Fellowship on Quality and Economics at Harvard University

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    [post_content] => Expanding the outreach of Subir Chowdhury's global call for quality throughout society - at all levels - a Fellowship on Quality and Economics has been established at Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The goal: to explore the impact of quality and economics in the United States.

Each year, the “Subir Chowdhury Fellow” will be entrusted with the task of examining the impact of “people and process” and quality on the economic advancement of the United States. This is a graduate Fellowship for doctoral students and will be awarded annually. Applications for the fellowship is open to for any scholar, regardless of ethnicity or national origin, who wishes to spend time at Harvard studying “Quality and Economics” in preparation for their doctoral thesis on this topic.

The first Subir Chowdhury Fellowship will be selected for the 2013-2014 academic year.

LOGO_Harvard-GSAS

Thanks and gratitude are extended to all those who helped make the Fellowship at Harvard possible, especially (pictured left below, with Subir Chowdhury) Dr. Margot Gill, Administrative Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and (pictured right below) Dr. Amaryta Sen, Nobel Laureate and Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and professor of economics and philosophy.

PHOTO_Chowdhury, Gill_Sens copy

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Expanding the outreach of Subir Chowdhury's global call for quality throughout society - at all levels - a Fellowship on Quality and Economics has been established at Harvard University...

Quality & Process

Combating Fires

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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.
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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

Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative

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    [post_content] => The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the world by promoting a personal understanding of, and commitment to, a "Quality mindset.”

The plan for GQA is simple - effect positive global change by getting people to make a personal commitment to a simple daily practice. The practice of GQA is centered on Subir Chowdhury’s “LEO” (Listen – Enrich – Optimize) process, which has transformative results—these same principles that when practiced, will generate vast improvement in people’s daily lives.  Subir believes that most of the world’s problems are caused by people who stopped caring about quality or don’t understand the significance of it. Supporters of GQA want to inspire global improvement by first practicing quality as an individual. In essence, Quality starts with us and must be everyone’s responsibility.

Daily GQA practice requires people to follow three simple steps:
  • Listen hard to others and to yourself to seek understanding
  • Enrich the lives around you by giving a little more of yourself every day
  • Optimize everything you do by setting your mind to excellence and refusing to “settle”
The essential teaching is simple. When you embrace quality in your own life, life all around you becomes better. Your actions empower others to embrace positive change. They see the benefits in their own lives. Quality becomes contagious. The initiative spreads. Quickly. Spontaneously. And as more and more people work to improve their corner of the world, the world is transformed. It becomes a better place… because its citizens won't accept less. The GQA initiative is working with schools, from elementary to higher education, businesses, leaders and employees, the employed and unemployed for a total transformation of quality improvements with the vision of inspiring the Initiative around the world raising Global Quality Awareness. According to Subir Chowdhury, “I believe that the ultimate goal of the GQA Initiative is to ensure that “Quality is Everyone’s Business” – ideally I am of the firm belief that to be a Quality person, and live a ‘Quality’ life, Quality must become a part of everything we do, what we leave behind every day of our life, until it becomes a lifestyle choice, not just an afterthought.” [post_title] => Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative [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] => global-quality-awareness [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=813 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the...