SITE_header_businessweek
SITE_slider_economic SITE_slider_future SITE_slider_greatest SITE_slider_LEO

Quality & You

What does Quality mean to You?

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 115
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-01-19 18:53:43
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-01-19 18:53:43
    [post_content] => When I ask people, “what does Quality mean to you?” I hear a wide range of answers. For some people, their answer is, “Quality means putting out the best product or service possible.”  Others may say, “Honesty and trust.” Many will tell you, “Quality means doing the right thing at the right time.” Still others will say, “Quality is a resistance to compromise.” However, more often than not, I still hear “ I have no idea, that’s why we have a quality department,” or “Hey let me ask my Vice President of Quality,” or even worse yet, “I’m not sure what quality means to me.”

[pullquote]I would like to see a day when we don’t hesitate about our response toward Quality.[/pullquote]

Ideally, I would like to see a day when we don’t hesitate about our response toward Quality; when everyone has a fearless reaction to Quality just like they do with everyday events.  Bottom line, everyone, needs make Quality a priority, and a part of everything they do.  When we all understand the impact of our actions, how even the smallest action may pay enormous dividends, then that leads to the path of true quality: preventing human error; possessing the kind of oversight and engrained thought that corrects misjudgments before they have a chance to trigger problems.

What a world this could be if we all were that much more attentive; that much more in tune, and truly understood and believed the dramatic impact that Quality can have on all of us!
    [post_title] => What does Quality mean to You?
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => what-does-quality-mean-to-you
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-04-17 13:24:59
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-17 13:24:59
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=115
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
    [format_content] => 
)
When I ask people, “what does Quality mean to you?” I hear a wide range of answers. For some people, their answer is, “Quality means putting out the best...

Quality & Economics

A Little Salmonella May Not Kill You, but it May Kill your Economy

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 382
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-05-09 03:27:22
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-09 03:27:22
    [post_content] => After salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient, a wide range of processed foods were recalled including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings, the result of poor quality control.  Food and Drug Administration officials noted that the ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, was used in thousands of food products. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no illnesses or deaths have been reported - so far.

Currently the recall only involves Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc.  The FDA collected and analyzed samples at the Las Vegas facility after one of the company's customers discovered the salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children and others with weakened immune systems. The FDA confirmed the presence of a strain of salmonella in the company's processing equipment.

[pullquote]While there are currently no deaths or even illnesses attributed to this recall, the economic impact can be felt in the millions of dollars Basic Food Flavors Inc. has to spend on the recall.[/pullquote]

According to the FDA, hundreds of thousands of food recalls per year, again reflecting the impact of poor quality control.  While there are currently no deaths or even illnesses attributed to this recall, the economic impact can be felt in the millions of dollars Basic Food Flavors Inc. has to spend on the recall.

An impact like this leads to less spending in other areas, such as product development or workforce expansion.  The company's reputation often takes a hit.  These all have a negative impact on the economy.

Add on the class action suits that generally result after a large recall like this and the impact becomes even greater.

More than 2.1 million drop-side cribs by Stork Craft Manufacturing were recalled, the biggest crib recall in U.S. history.  In a 2008 scare, milk from China laced with the industrial chemical melamine led to the deaths of six babies and sickened 300,000 others who had been fed baby formula made from the tainted dairy.  Lack of adequate quality programs led directly to these defects.

By paying attention to quality, fewer cases of food borne illnesses arise, and fewer injuries from defective consumer merchandise occur.  This means fewer dollars spent correcting problems, and more resources made available for product development.
    [post_title] => A Little Salmonella May Not Kill You, but it May Kill your Economy
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => a-little-salmonella
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-05-16 22:36:45
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-05-16 22:36:45
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=382
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
    [format_content] => 
)
After salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient, a wide range of processed foods were recalled including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings, the result of poor quality control. ...

Quality & Process

Optimize for Perfection

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 182
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-03-16 21:13:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-03-16 21:13:20
    [post_content] => An executive once emailed me a quote that reads: perfection is unknowable. I’m sure his source was Confucius or Zen teaching, but I also find this thought noted in Western cultures as well.

So, maybe perfection is unattainable all things, but perfection is what we seek in all aspects of our lives. And it is interesting how we rationalize the contradiction between what we realize is possible and what we expect from our efforts. But is the goal really perfection?

[pullquote]In an optimized organization, all processes move toward perfection.[/pullquote]

In an optimized organization, all processes move toward perfection. That's how we can expect the greatest result from the smallest action. When nothing misses our attention; when every nuance snaps into our view, then we begin to work for continuous improvement toward perfection.

There is nothing really revolutionary about the idea of continuous improvement. It has been espoused by philosophers, coaches and great leaders. I believe that this is the underlying philosophy for every slogan that asks us to look deep within ourselves to reach for greater goals than we might otherwise achieve. That's why the word “perfection” embellishes hundreds if not thousands of corporate mission statements. Those of us who aim for perfection come the rewards that are denied to those who – from lack of will or lack of awareness – give up the effort or never try.

That is why successful organizations seek to improve their quality process – to achieve the highest level of optimization possible. They know that if a company wants to turn out high-quality products or services, the kind that will truly delight existing customers and attract new ones, you need to keep raising the bar on quality.

From the perspective of your deliverables – the products and services that you offer to your customers – things work and fail for all sorts of reasons. When you optimize, you analyze every design and solution down to every detail. Not only are you aware of strengths, but have full knowledge of every weakness. And a plan for optimization is always at your fingertips.

I see Optimization as a three-part process.
  • First, you must accept perfection as your goal. Not just for the organization, but for yourself as well. When you raise the quality level of your products or processes, set the bar high and keep raising it. A better average is not the goal; you want perfection.
  • Second, worry about the details. Make your optimization process the means of knowing every detail about your product or service. Filter good news and bad news through your own protective paranoia and keep asking yourself: “Did we do everything possible? What may go wrong? Will our design and solutions really work?”
  • Third, prepare your team for the pursuit of perfection. Some may not have the passion that you have, but here’s where you must make them understand why ‘good enough’ has to be treated as merely a starting point, not the finish. Show them why the extra effort toward greater quality is a benefit to customers and employees alike.
I know that the optimization process may puzzle and seem counterintuitive to many Westerners. I also agree that if ‘good enough’ is profitable, then that’s a good place to be. But then the next question should be is ‘good enough’ sustainable? What happens if a competitor shows up with a similar product that is better? What then? We need only look back to the so-called Japanese industrial invasion of the late 1960s to understand the implication of sustained quality and optimization. Now, all three major American car manufacturers practice some form of optimization – both with their products but also within their organizations. Once the basic concept is understood, optimization makes complete sense. Perfection may not be knowable in all situations, but sustainable success is achieved only when we constantly work toward it. [post_title] => Optimize for Perfection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => optimize-for-perfection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 11:42:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 11:42:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=182 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
An executive once emailed me a quote that reads: perfection is unknowable. I’m sure his source was Confucius or Zen teaching, but I also find this thought noted in...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 1243
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
    [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.
    [post_title] => Valuable Trash
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => open
    [ping_status] => open
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => valuable-trash
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:18:10
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:18:10
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1243
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
    [format_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...