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Quality & You

Make Quality a Lifestyle Choice

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    [post_content] => A few years ago, a colleague of mine was driving his car and hit a big pothole in the road. He stopped the car to make sure everything was okay. The car was fine, but at some point, he must have dropped his wallet, because when he got home he couldn’t find it. Sure, he had some money and credit cards in there, but he said that he also had some pictures of his family, and was devastated to think that he’d never get them back. A few weeks went by and out of the blue he got a phone call from a woman he didn’t know. She said she had found his wallet. When he went to pick it up, the woman said she just saw it on the side of the road and knew that someone would want it back. Everything was still in the wallet, just as he had left it.

A few months after this incident, he happened to read an article in the newspaper and it turned out that the woman who found his wallet ran a shelter for the homeless. So every year, on the anniversary of losing his wallet, he makes an anonymous donation to her shelter. It’s a simple thank you, and a reminder that there are people in this world who do the right thing.

It’s not the facts of the action that makes this a demonstration of Quality. It’s the “mindset” that this woman possessed that makes it an example of what is possible. This is what impresses everybody so much. Because, what did she do? She rose above the norm. And when people make these extraordinary efforts, they make the rest of us sit up and take notice.

[pullquote]Whatever your station in life, rich, poor; if you are the CEO or the janitor, it doesn’t matter because the same principles of Quality still apply.[/pullquote]

Now I will never forget what this woman did for my friend. It is burned into my consciousness. Wouldn’t you like to have employees who will go that extra mile with you, rise above the norm and make that kind of impact on your business?  Having a “quality mindset” - being honest, having integrity and resisting compromise at all costs I believe, is the basis for starting, fostering and ensuring long-term success both individually and collectively.

Whatever your station in life, rich, poor; if you are the CEO or the janitor, it doesn’t matter because the same principles of Quality still apply. We all have customers who tell us their needs, wants, and desires. We must strive to not only meet, but constantly exceed their expectations. My “Quality is Everyone’s Business” (QIEB) philosophy –allows everyone to understand why having that “quality mindset” becomes the guiding force that allows them to change up their “game” and perform at higher levels than before.

When we make Quality a lifestyle choice – we make it the ultimate choice. When our workforce upholds the Quality Mindset, they have chosen to dedicate themselves to Quality like the woman in this story, and that’s when they will begin to make high-level decisions that will never fail to make positive and lasting impressions.
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A few years ago, a colleague of mine was driving his car and hit a big pothole in the road. He stopped the car to make sure everything was...

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

Watch Your Flow, Keep Control

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-25 21:02:10
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    [post_content] => When I watch organizations, I am reminded of a swiftly flowing river.

Starting with raw materials at the river’s source and ending with finished products or services flowing from its mouth, overlaying processes flow into and onto one another. When everything is running smoothly, it is a wonderful thing to behold. But much like a river, no production runs perfectly straight and smooth. There are twists and turns where the flow must adjust and maneuver around obstacles that get in the way.

However, the flow and process is often broken by changes in policies or conditions in the delivery chain, employees that overlook important issues, and staffing arrangements that leave us waiting in endless lines. And that’s the reality. Companies of every size and from every industry contend with flawed process flow as energy and profitability slowly bleed away.

Managers at a large mid-western hospital were spending their days and weeks tearing out their hair, trying to figure out the source of unacceptably large number of no-shows and last-minute cancellations for medical tests.

[pullquote]At the end of the day, rather than waste your energy trying to straighten out the flow, focus your effort on flattening out the curves and minimizing interruptions as much as possible.[/pullquote]

The problem was long in running. In some cases, patients were not receiving tests they needed therefore causing disruptions in the hospital’s schedules and lost revenue. To compound matters, staff time had ratcheted up as administrators and practitioners scrambled to stem the day-to-day scheduling problems and reschedule the cancelling patients.

Management suspected that a major source of the problem was due to patients’ inability to obtain timely approval from their insurance carriers for the tests. We turned to our Listen methodology and asked staffers to call patients themselves. The subsequent interviews revealed that many patients had forgotten their appointments. Many others didn’t know which of the hospital’s many buildings they were supposed to go. Still others who remembered their appointments and managed to find the correct office, discovered at the appointment window that they had failed to follow pre-test preparations (e.g., fasting) and had to reschedule. Insurance, as it turned out, was of minimal consequence. It was clear to all that the patient-preparation process was either non-existent or completely ineffective.

At my suggestion, managers examined best practices at other hospitals. They cataloged some common sense ideas for managing patient preparation procedures and paid special attention on departments in their own organization that seemed to be dealing with the situation better than other departments.

In a matter of a week or so, they had drafted two ways that the hospital staff could rectify the situation. First, patients must receive full explanations in print regarding their test, including a map that showed exactly where they had to go. Then, all patients received a phone call reminder for their appointment, plus a reminder (when applicable) about pre-test preparations. After the new patient-preparation process was up and running, the hospital reported a 50% reduction in cancellations. The flow was fixed.

No company’s operations ever achieve total perfection. Among the companies that handle the twists and turns quite well, they move around the flow a seasoned sports team. Attentive members use strong communication between other members to assess changes quickly and make on-the-spot adjustments as situations require.

At the end of the day, rather than waste your energy trying to straighten out the flow, focus your effort on flattening out the curves and minimizing interruptions as much as possible. Work toward perfection, but don’t expect it to achieve it today.
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When I watch organizations, I am reminded of a swiftly flowing river. Starting with raw materials at the river’s source and ending with finished products or services flowing from its...

Quality & Me

Recognizing Quality Innovation: The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership

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    [post_content] => In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor those in the mobility industry who demonstrate ability and talent to further innovation and broaden the impact of "quality" in mobility engineering, design and manufacture.

This award is offered in the spirit of my lifetime of work toward quality in the engineering professions.

 

LOGO_sae_international

Recipient Award Employer
James D. Power 2010 JD Power And Associates
Glen A. Barton 2011 Caterpillar Inc
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In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor...