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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

Walking and Talking Quality

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-11 06:08:17
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    [post_content] => I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes more sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them as they occur?”

It’s not intended to be a trick question, but I’m surprised by how it causes so many executives and managers to squirm uncomfortably as they try to figure out how they should answer. Of course, we want to do all that we can to avoid problems. Who wants to be a fireman? Who wants to spend their day jumping from one crisis to another with barely enough time to do productive work? But I can easily understand their discomfort: that’s exactly what their day-to-day is like. In effect, they can’t avoid problems – they only solve them.

A shocking number of organizations make the mistake of believing they have achieved excellence when – in reality – their operations rely heavily on heroic efforts for day-to-day rescues. Eventually a situation will arise where even heroic efforts will fail.

Which is a great opportunity to bring up another kind of hero: people who really “get it” when it comes to the quality mindset. These are the truly excellent people who appreciate day-to-day quality in everything that they do. They are honest about their work, they possess an ethical attitude about what must be done, they meet challenges with steady resistance to compromise on quality, and are ready at a moment’s notice to spring into action.

[pullquote]When leaders walk the talk of Quality… the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems as well as long term ones. They may even prevent “unforeseen” problems from ever cropping up.[/pullquote]

The people who fit this description are like the hotel manager who drove two hours in her own car, on her own time, to return a credit card to a Japanese guest boarding a flight to Europe. There was also the hydraulics engineer who volunteered to parachute into a wilderness area to fix one his company’s new water pumps. I recall the shipping clerk who shouldered past jokes and ridicule from fellow employees as he carefully packaged every order as crisply and neatly as possible. Imagine what could be accomplished if everyone were like this?

These are the heroes of quality. They are not ‘firemen’ who rush to extinguish fires. They are the fearless fire preventers who jump into the arena to answer the call to stop the fires from starting in the first place. They shake off the intimidation of circumstances and situations, roll up their sleeves, and get to work. Often, their efforts draw scant praise, if they are noticed at all. Nevertheless, we need these “heroes” in all aspects of our organization to help us drive operational excellence. But even heroes need inspiration.

Many problems with quality can be addressed by implementing a robust quality management program, but that’s not enough. To change organizational processes and drive substantial and sustainable increase in quality, you must also tap into people power.

Organizations that have successfully ignited people power share one important characteristic. They have leaders who walk the talk of quality – at every moment, every encounter, and every level of the organization.

When every executive, manager and supervisor walks the talk of quality, they can set off an acculturation process that will sweep through the entire organization. This is how you seed a culture of quality; this is how you inspire heroes of quality. By walking the talk, you encourage communication, interaction, and implementation, as defined in detail by the LEO methodology: Listen, Enrich, and Optimize.

LEO calls on us to make a sincere effort to improve communication with our customers, suppliers, co-workers and even competitors. When we really listen, enrich and optimize, we pull our noses out of the spreadsheets and reports, and begin asking questions like “why” and “how” so that we gain better clarity about what is going on NOW.

“Walking the talk of quality” means opening up to meaningful interaction so that every encounter enriches the organizational culture. We open up to lessons on how we can improve, where we may improve and when. When we open up, we encourage everyone to do the same, which in turn increases the likelihood that the rank and file will do more to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Equipped with better communication and interaction, we are prepared to implement a renewed awareness throughout the organization. Not only are we putting out fires, we are preventing them from happening. We are optimizing our relationships from both the inside and outside of the organization. When every member of the organization – from top to bottom – adopts LEO, THEY become the trigger-point for high-level communication skills are found among the best organizations.

When leaders of the organization walk the talk of Quality, they become the example for everybody to follow. The organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate and long-term problems. They may even prevent many "unforeseen" problems from ever cropping up. When this level of communication is achieved, then it doesn’t matter how many problems you have or where they appear because now you will always have enough fire preventers who are ready to take action.
    [post_title] => Walking and Talking Quality
    [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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I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes more sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them as they occur?” It’s...

Quality & Me

Recognizing Quality Innovation: The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-05 23:05:03
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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...