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Quality & You

Empathy for Quality

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    [post_content] => There’s an old saying, “walk a mile in another man's shoes.” It means that before you criticize someone or pass judgment on them, you should take a look at the world from their point of view.

To have empathy for someone means you are putting yourself in a position to feel what that person is feeling. The world could use a great deal more empathy. It’s easy to see that we could decrease disputes and disagreements by being more empathetic, and we’d quickly clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions. Taking it one step further, empathy becomes strategic as new channels of data open to us.

To illustrate this point, meet Cooper, the owner of a large family-owned insurance brokerage in Los Angeles. It was during the time when everyone was still getting used to email. Due to the nature of their business, Cooper felt that the company needed to keep a paper record of every client email.

Cooper’s office manager disagreed. She predicted enormous paper waste, but he was adamant. So the rule went into effect without further discussion. After all, Cooper was the boss.

Two years later, Cooper was working late on a presentation for a new client. The printer in his office malfunctioned, so he routed a document he needed to a shared printer in the main office. As he waited for his presentation to be printed, he looked down at the trash can and was startled by what he saw: enormous but neat stacks of printed emails. What a waste of paper, he thought to himself.

The next morning, he asked his office manager about the trash and what he heard surprised him even more: the waste was the result of his own email policy two years ago.

Fortunately, Cooper realized he needed to listen to his office manager when she explained how much waste had occurred in terms of dollars and cents: $300 a month, $7,200 since the email policy was passed, and more than $14,000 in total costs when she added toner and staff time.

After talking with his sales agents and staffers, he learned that everyone thought that the policy was wasteful and inefficient. Initially, he was frustrated that no one took the initiative to explain it to him, but then he realized that they did not because he was so adamant.

When team members employ empathy as part of their day-to-day management, it becomes a powerful tool that opens new insight and understanding about problems and situations they may not have realized existed. Instead of one or two perspectives, you can open yourself to three or four perspectives all at one time.

Just about every position in a company can benefit from empathy. In fact, I cannot think of a single job description where an ounce of empathy would not help improve productivity, team cohesion, and, most of all, the quality of output.

In a world where everyone wants to improve quality, everyone must contribute, and everyone must have a voice. By being empathetic, we also gain commitment to make quality an integral part of life both at both work and home.
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There’s an old saying, “walk a mile in another man's shoes.” It means that before you criticize someone or pass judgment on them, you should take a look at...

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

Ideas into Action

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    [post_date] => 2015-04-28 01:07:59
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    [post_content] => It’s one thing to inspire people to come up with ideas to improve the level of quality in your organization. It’s yet another thing to encourage those same people to turn their ideas into action.

When you are nurturing the talent in your organization, this may be one of the management challenges you will face.

You could do what a friend of mine did. He got a poster of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture “The Thinker” and attached a sign to it: “This is an Idea”. He then picked up another poster, Antoine Bourdelle’s “Hercules, the Archer” and attached another sign: “This is Action.” Above both posters, he hung a bigger sign: “Which would you rather be?”

What a powerful contrast of images – a man sitting and thinking, and a warrior archer at the very moment of commitment. Everyone wants to be seen as the one who takes action, but do we want people shooting arrows everywhere without thinking?

When you start a quality revolution, remember that everyone works at their own pace. Some people will take longer to come up with the one idea that is remarkable; the one that changes everything. People will be as bold as you want them to be, and you can be enthusiastic and encouraging, but there will still be barriers. The questions you need to ask—and answer— are the following:
  • What will you do to help people overcome barriers?
  • What will you do to encourage them to be disciplined and dedicated to the organization’s mission?
  • How will you encourage them to integrate quality into everything they do?
The first thing you need to do is embrace positivity. Positivity means more than putting on a happy face—it means encouraging people by getting them excited about their prospects. Positivity means participating in discussions, offering suggestions, and – above all – showing that you are interested in outcomes. From a leadership perspective, positivity means motivating someone else, and giving them a reason to be enthusiastic about their ideas and to take decisive action. You can also show people what it means to embrace a challenge. Some managers I know love to use stories about athletes and coaches. Some others might tell stories about inventors like Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. Lately, I’ve begun to use my own life to show how passion has helped me overcome challenges. From my early years in Bangladesh, I had to struggle to overcome severe economic and social obstacles. My mentor during those early days was my maternal grandfather. One day, he offered me a ten taka note (about ten dollars) and a plain ballpoint pen. He told me to pick one, and he would give it to me. I picked the money. He gave me the money but then said, “Don't go for money. Always go for the pen. With the pen, you can create knowledge. If you have knowledge, then you can lead the world.” There’s more to raising enthusiasm about quality than just excitement. How would you like to be treated? What would motivate you? If you engage this work seriously; if you are honest with yourself and your honesty permeates your organization, your workforce talent will emerge and bloom—and amazing things will happen [post_title] => Ideas into Action [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ideas-action [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-11 01:09:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-11 01:09:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1419 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
It’s one thing to inspire people to come up with ideas to improve the level of quality in your organization. It’s yet another thing to encourage those same people...

Quality & Me

Maruti-Suzuki and the Quality Way

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-19 12:07:34
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    [post_content] => PIC_chowdhury-C4Q-1Quality is defined by the customer. It happens when we are willing to listen to each other, enrich our experiences, and optimize our opportunities to improve. Quality comes when we have a mindset for honesty, integrity, resistance to compromise, and ethical behavior. What we want is for quality to be an automatic response to everyday encounters. When this mindset becomes part of the organization's DNA - its very essence - then we can say that Quality is everyone's business.

Please complete the form below. You will be emailed seminar materials that will help you along the way to achieving a Quality Mindset. Cause for Quality is a collection of essays that Subir Chowdhury has written to help guide the way.

sc-app-pg1You may also want to check out Subir Chowdhury's iPad app. Click the image and you'll be taken to Apple's download site. The app is compatible only with iPad.

 


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Quality is defined by the customer. It happens when we are willing to listen to each other, enrich our experiences, and optimize our opportunities to improve. Quality comes when...