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Quality & You

Make Quality a Lifestyle Choice

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-09 19:54:36
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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

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

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 the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?”

It’s not a trick question, but I’m surprised by how it causes so many managers to squirm. And it is fascinating how many of them get it wrong. Most of them will first answer that solving problems is best – and that is the obvious answer. But the honest ones will come back with a list of apologetics that begins with how busy they are jumping from one crisis to another and ending with a quiet aside (as though it is a terrible secret) that they’re lucky if they can get their regular jobs done. In effect, they tell me that they never avoid problems – they only solve them.

Meanwhile, we watch at a distance as the people who really “get it” shake off the intimidation and the pressure, and simply roll up their sleeves. I remember 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. I think of the hydraulics engineer who volunteered to parachute into a wilderness area to fix one his company’s new water pumps. I smile at the memory of the shipping clerk who shouldered past jokes and ridicule from fellow employees as he carefully packaged every order as crisply and neatly as possible.

These are the heroes of quality. They are not ‘firemen’ who not rush to douse fires. They are the fearless fire preventers who jump into the arena to answer the call to stop the fires from starting. Often, their efforts draw scant praise, if they are noticed at all. But how we need these “extra mile people” in all aspects of our operations.

[pullquote]When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen.[/pullquote]

I’ve seen some organizations proclaim their commitment to quality, and yet go on crafting flawed processes that produce flawed products and services that rely on heroic efforts for day-to-day rescue. Lacking a strategy to take corrective actions and address the causes of the fires, eventually a situation will arise that even heroic efforts shall fail.

What should happen is that the organization must walk the talk of quality – bring quality into the corporate culture from the top down. And it can starting with encouraging those basic human skills of communication, interaction, and implementation, or as defined in the LEO methodology: listen, enrich, and optimize.

Imagine what would happen if we made a sincere effort to improve communication with our customers, suppliers, co-workers and even our competitors? What would happen if we really listened to them? Maybe instead of keeping our noses to the spread sheets, perhaps we we’d start asking questions like “why” and “how” and listen to people who might give us better clarity about what is going on NOW.

With meaningful interaction, we enrich the organizational culture and encourage everybody to do more. We open ourselves up to lessons on how we may improve, where we may improve and when. We may even increase the opportunity of keeping problems from occurring in the first place.

Equipped with better communication and interaction, now we are better prepared to implement a renewed awareness throughout the organization. Not only are we putting out the fires; we are preventing them from happening. We are optimizing our relationships both inside and outside of the organization.

When it is delivered to every member of the organization – from top to bottom – LEO becomes the trigger-point for high level communication skills that I found among the best organizations. When the leaders of the organization walk the talk, they are the example for everybody to follow. That’s how leaders engage every member of the organization and gain commitment to an unprecedented level of quality. 

When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen. When this level of communication is achieved, then it doesn’t matter when a problem eventually crops up (because we know they will), because now there will always be enough fire preventers 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 the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?” It’s not a...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

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    [post_date] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
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    [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.
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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...