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Quality & You

Abolish your Quality Department

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    [post_content] => For decades now, we’ve made the Quality Department the epicenter of our quality policy. But has this attention been misplaced? My contention is that the reason we have failed to deliver resilient and sustainable quality from American businesses is that we are too focused on the metric of quality. We have turned a qualitative question into a quantitative one, and that simply will not work.

My latest endeavor, an extension of my philosophical backbone to make quality accessible to the masses, centers on the notion that Quality is Everyone’s Business or “QIEB” as I call it.  What I propose is that we expand our notion about Quality beyond the quantitative mindset of controls and processes. As I see it, Quality is about relationships – relationships that involve all people, all the time. Taking that idea one step further, that definition of Quality, especially in the business world, has far greater reach and impact than the controls and processes exercised by one department. If you really stop and think about it, the impact you seek can and should be felt everywhere. Why then should we limit ourselves?

I have come to see that there tends to be one function inside most organizations that really has both the ability and the need to reach every person on a regular basis: it’s Human Resources. Human Resources is the wheelhouse of the workforce; the one department function that holds the interest of every employee at every level of the organization.

[pullquote]I believe that it is of fundamental importance that there is a new Quality message – that Quality is Everyone’s business, not the responsibility of one department.[/pullquote]

Human Resources is often perceived as non-threatening, but also powerful and influential. It’s the one place where management goes to implement training, company-wide policies, distribute compensation and make regular communication with the workforce multiple times throughout the year. And ideally, as I seek to make Quality everyone’s business, who better to lead that effort than someone (some organization) that has the ability to touch everyone in the organization? That’s why I believe that HR is the ideal standard-bearer to carry out what is essentially an acculturation program for the members of the organization – changing the age-old notion that responsibility for Quality should reside solely within the quality department.

Whatever the source within the company, I believe that it is of fundamental importance that there is a new Quality message – that Quality is Everyone’s business, not the responsibility of one department. I believe the pursuit of “key” or “critical to success” factors to be the utmost responsibility of everyone in any organization, but especially Senior Leadership. Leaders in the organization must play that vital and essential role of ensuring that the rally around Quality is consistent, sustained, and properly understood by everyone, each time, ever time.
    [post_title] => Abolish your Quality Department
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For decades now, we’ve made the Quality Department the epicenter of our quality policy. But has this attention been misplaced? My contention is that the reason we have failed...

Quality & Economics

Cutting Corners

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    [post_content] => Over the last 50 plus years, Toyota has led the automotive industry in quality and cost. As a result, the company rose to become the world's largest automotive manufacturing corporation and Japan's largest corporation with revenues of $230 billion in 2009.

However, this once untarnished icon of Japan's status as an economic powerhouse, is now in decline and the impact on the company and the entire country is tangible.

As Dr. Masatomo Tanaka says, a professor at the Institute of Technologists, a university that specializes in training engineers, "If Toyota is not healthy, then Japan is not healthy." As goes Toyota, so goes Japan.

Toyota has long enjoyed near hallowed status in Japan as the greatest practitioner of "monozukuri," a centuries-old ideal of perfection in craftsmanship central to ancient pottery and sword-making.  The pride of craftsmanship, burned into Japanese culture as the apex of accomplishment, was turned loose on the factory floor and was once the secret to Japan's postwar "miracle."

Then something changed. Yes, the earthquake and tsunami last year was a serious blow to Japanese manufacturing, but the decline at Toyota was clear long before the natural disaster. About the time the company achieved its global dominance, rumors began to filter out that management was cutting corners on quality – fewer people on the factory floor, lower quality raw materials and suppliers, reductions in research and development.

[pullquote]Shaving a few dollars off the cost of each car has resulted in billions of dollars in recall costs, not to mention the billions of dollars in legal costs the company has incurred from lawsuits filed by customers and government regulators – and in a few cases, possible loss of life.[/pullquote]

The result has been devastating. Shaving a few dollars off the cost of each car has resulted in billions of dollars in recall costs, not to mention the billions of dollars in legal costs the company has incurred from lawsuits filed by customers and government regulators – and in a few cases, possible loss of life. The damage has also been broadly felt: dealerships have lost sales, negatively impacting local economies, and for a time Toyota’s global position fell. But Toyota’s once unblemished record of quality is now questioned in the media and among many customers.

To compound matters, as Toyota moved away from quality, some of its competitors have moved in. Some have embraced their earlier methods to the extent that their products are now surpassing Toyota. Korea's Hyundia-Kia is rapidly gaining on once dominant giant and Detroit's big three have partly adopted Toyota's engineering and manufacturing methodologies and improved their quality as well.

Toyota had the quality mindset before it become the largest corporation in Japan and the largest automotive company in the world.  The company’s actions proved that quality can be the principle driver of efficiency and profitability, but also market dominance. Now the company is learning a new lesson about what happens to giants when they cut corners too often.
    [post_title] => Cutting Corners
    [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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Over the last 50 plus years, Toyota has led the automotive industry in quality and cost. As a result, the company rose to become the world's largest automotive manufacturing...

Quality & Process

Enrich the Process

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-22 21:10:47
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    [post_content] => I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and more efficiently. My wife bought food that was also enriched, fortified with vitamins and minerals that added nutritional value.

As it turns out, many products are ‘enriched’ in some way to make them more appealing by giving them a little value-added performance boost. That’s also what we do all our lives. When we want to make something better, we add to something else that improves, develops, and enhances the original.

From my experience consulting on the day-to-day management of businesses, the enrich process encompasses two intents of the word; not only to help make products and services better, but to introduce greater quality into the processes that manages and produces them.

[pullquote]With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative.[/pullquote]

Of course, while the goal is to improve our processes, there are always practical limits. For instance, there is no enrichment to be gained if the improvement effort disrupts operations for weeks at a time. I’ve seen managers get carried away — interfering directly with front line processes, pulling too many people away from regular assignments for too long. There is also little to be gained by devoting time and energy to tweak a process that has minimal impact on quality.

With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative. Here are three guidelines for the execution of a more productive enrichment process.
  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the NOW? Is everybody on the same page? Are all team members are up to date on what is known about customers’ needs and wants? Make sure everyone understands the current state of the problem or the design challenge. Make sure that you have all the information that you need to begin your enrichment work.
  2. Are you really thinking outside the BOX? Resist the urge to reach for solutions that you’ve tried in the past; stretch your team a little with a ‘jamming session’ to brighten the intellectual and creative process. Remember that the innovation process works best when there is fearless engagement from all participants. That means instituting a blanket ‘no-blame, all-ideas-welcome’ policy.
  3. Are you settling for less than the BEST? Set your sights high and don’t give up until you have the solution or the design that will thrill your customers without breaking the bank. Be adventurous, but be realistic. Sometimes doing the BEST is the one thing you can do the easiest.
Don’t be surprised if the enrich process requires a new mindset at your organization. To get the most out of any new process, everybody must embrace ‘the change’ and the idea that what you have now, and what you have done up to this point, simply isn’t good enough. That’s not always so easy for everyone, and especially for organizations that have become accustomed to ‘old ways.’ Maybe you’ll have to bring everybody into a room to signal the start of the change. Maybe it’ll go something like this: “Today, we will move beyond the status quo and reach for continuous development and improvement. This will be our strategy. And our plan will be that everyone plays a major role in this process — including me!” That’s the attitude that carries change forward. That’s the game plan to enrich the most important thing of all – your organization. [post_title] => Enrich the Process [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => enriching-the-process [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=180 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and...

Quality & Me

The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-20 17:40:23
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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition.

The goal will be to engage high school and college students in a nationwide competition that will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the impacts of quality on their lives. It will also serve to help today's students become tomorrow's scientists and engineers.

The competition will be open to high school and college students throughout the United States on an annual basis.  Students will be provided knowledge and skills based on Subir Chowdhury’s teachings in quality and process improvement.  Students will be asked to design a project that will clearly demonstrate their understanding of how quality will impact their lives and the lives of those around them.  Participants will compete at local, regional and national levels and will ultimately be rewarded for their innovative and creative thinking and application with cash awards for the top winners at the national competition level.
    [post_title] => The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition
    [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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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir...