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Quality & You

Are you driven by the culture of “Good Enough”?

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    [post_content] => Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do right or do wrong; a choice to do or do nothing; a choice to bear down and do the right thing or do the minimum that's required to get the job done.

Our choices are influenced by many things around us: the people we know, the society in which we live and work, and our community. The pressures of everyday life influences our attitude toward quality where we have more choices: family, careers, money. Those pressures build on us and cause us to rush through things here and there. Then when we cut corners, cheat a little, fudge a margin or two, and we say to ourselves, "It's not perfect, but it's good enough."

Stop now and consider this question: At the end of the day, who suffers from "good enough"? What do we lose when we are driven by a culture that seeks the easy way out for all of its problems? Why is "good enough" the driving force our daily lives?

I believe that today, this moment in our history, we have reached a time when we must acknowledge that we are driven by a culture where “good enough” is at the core of our troubles. We have taken the low road to what we know is right. We have lost the moral high ground to what is expedient, easy, and makes us a fast buck. But, if I ask you to really consider what it will take to make us great again I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the notion of “good enough” really isn’t good enough!

[pullquote]When we all rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, then will we truly appreciate why “good” can never be “good enough!”[/pullquote]

As I was building my core philosophy for “quality is everyone’s business,” I discovered that the greatest challenge was getting individuals, groups, and organizations (and eventually society as a whole) to recognize that hanging onto the status quo creates enormous waste, but more important, is not sustainable.  The culture of “good enough” has become such a fixture in our mindset that we don’t even recognize the deep problems that it causes. It prevents us from optimizing opportunities for excellence because it causes us to believe that nothing else can be done.

Meanwhile, we wonder why we feel our quality of life is slipping down, why our expectations have fallen, and we feel less satisfied.

I believe that if we truly want Quality in everything around us, then we must make Quality a part of everything that we do; as individuals and collectively as a society. The test for Quality is quite simple: honesty to self, integrity in what we do, resistance to compromise (on quality), and ethical behavior on our outcomes. When we adopt this level of awareness, then we will never believe that good is ever "good enough.”

I have seen places where the level of Quality, as I have described it, produces long-lasting positive effects on the entire organization. When everyone in the organization commits to this kind of Quality, then they adopt a new mindset toward everything around them.  When these organizations have done the hard work of taking everyone down the path of Quality, they share a culture of elevated awareness. Acculturation toward this mindset - I call it the Quality Mindset - is natural and builds mutual understanding.  The quality mindset then produces real change in the way individuals think and behave. Soon, the individual is changed as well: their life is lifted, their outlook is lengthened, and their whole attitude toward personal responsibility is enlarged.

What I have found is that when the Culture of Quality takes over, people observe, understand, and they really listen. People not only listen to their customers, but to co-workers, associates, family, friends, and even neighbors. High achieving people explore and discover by looking for ways to do everything that they can to find the best solution; not the easiest solution, but the best solution possible. For these people, Quality means improving and perfecting everything that they do, every day.

At the end of the day, when people rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, will we truly appreciate why “good” can never be “good enough!”
    [post_title] => Are you driven by the culture of “Good Enough”?
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Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do right or do wrong; a choice to do or do nothing; a choice to bear down and do...

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

How to Fix a Broken Chain

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    [post_content] => I was visiting a friend of mine who at the time was the chief executive officer of a large consumer products company. Although we had spent many months prior to my visit discussing quality problems that the company was experiencing, he was reluctant to even talk about it now that we were sitting face to face in his office.

Finally, he exhaled sharply.

“Listen, Subir.” I could tell he was very frustrated. “We have spent a lot of money on our program deployment, but…” then he drifted off, waving his hand.

He looked over my shoulder to make sure his door was closed and then he leaned forward.  In all the years I had known him, I had never seen him so uneasy.

[pullquote]The 4Cs is a script that adds potency to upper management’s decision to deploy whatever management program or other process they choose.[/pullquote]

“It’s not working,” he hissed. “Every time that I think we have achieved some milestone, it slips away.” He shrugged helplessly.

I nodded. “Maybe you have a broken chain.”

“A broken what?”

I instantly understood his problem. No matter what program you deploy – Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Lean Management, Design for Six Sigma – if you don’t have a robust management chain, you are risking failure. Understand that all of the process programs I’ve mentioned are excellent tools that have been used all over the globe by hundreds of companies, large and small. Many of them have a long history of success. But the caveat is that they will only work if you also deploy what I call the 4Cs:
  1. Commitment. Every member of the management team must align with the program deployment. They must be active, knowledgeable participants in the planning stage, strong advocates. They must be dedicated to the program success and have intimate knowledge of the program goals.
  2. Consistency. Management must undertake very close monitoring of the program deployment; be engaged in every step of its progress to ensure that goals and procedures are fully honored. Moreover, they must also ensure that personnel and financial resources are available as needed for a successful implementation.
  3. Competency. Management must ensure that they have full understanding of the implementation process; that individual deployment leaders are fully trained and fully aligned with the goals of the program. Management must also establish an environment of full trust and patience during the deployment.
  4. Communication. Management must commit every means available for full and open communication including intranet, ‘town hall’ meetings, and personal workplace visits. Every member of the management team and all deployment leaders must encourage two-way communication (good or bad) with other members in the organization about the deployment progress.
These 4Cs are the management chain describes separate and overlapping processes. Together, they form a managerial imperative that must be ‘in play’ at the highest levels of the organization leadership. At some level, you can call them common sense measures, but in fact they are more important than that. The 4Cs is a script that adds potency to upper management’s decision to deploy whatever management program or other process they choose. They give guidance to all managers on their conduct; a check and balance for every detail in the deployment. Depending on how strongly the senior managers emphasize their use, the 4Cs become ethical anchors for self-measuring effective leadership and productivity. Back to my friend. In order to make sure that his management team understands the importance of success, he still uses the 4Cs as part of his agenda in his weekly management reviews. [post_title] => How to Fix a Broken Chain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-fix-a-broken-chain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-15 09:45:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-15 09:45:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=153 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
I was visiting a friend of mine who at the time was the chief executive officer of a large consumer products company. Although we had spent many months prior...

Quality & Me

Impact of Quality of Learning

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-10 02:01:25
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    [post_content] => Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to fill skilled jobs, society is often required to take care of the 'drop outs' one way or another.

The tragedy is that had these kids found something they liked about education, they might have stayed in school. They might have gone on to lead productive lives and avoided the blemish of a criminal record. But for many of them, education reminds them of past failure. Without guidance and mentorship, that's a very difficult (if not impossible) barrier to ask school-age kids to overcome on their own.

So I ask, who failed whom?

In 2007, I received a letter from the Orange County Corrections Department in Orlando, Florida that still amazes me. The letter described how Warren Kenner, a facilitator for a "youthful offender program," introduced my book, "The Ice Cream Maker" as part of the curriculum for an eight-week literature study class for about a dozen students.

If you have read this book, you know that it addresses concepts of deploying quality in a business operation. Mr Kenner saw another application of the concept; to offer it to his student as a model for injecting quality into their lives.

He wrote, "If you want to get ahead in life, then you've got to treat everyone with respect; not just the people you like. Most important, you've got to be thinking daily on how to improve yourself in service to others."

He also said that many of his students have been told all their short lives that they are losers; that they would never achieve anything in their lives. After a while, you begin to believe it. Most of them have such a low opinion of themselves that they lack the basic attributes of ambition and hope that you and I take for granted.

His goal is to keep the kids from internalizing the negative voices and reach out for excellence. "My whole thrust is to have them commit to themselves. The have to believe in themselves before they can help themselves or anybody else."

In Ice Cream Maker, one of the primary motivators for the fictitious business owner was recognizing the price of failure. For some of the students in this class, it was the first time that they had ever finished reading a book, yet remarkably, many came away from the experience recognizing the price of their own failure and fully comprehending that failure isn't final; that once you shed negative feelings about failure, you can begin working for total quality mindset in everything that you do.

Imagine what we might accomplish if more people understood this very simple concept. If these kids get it, why can't the rest of us?
    [post_title] => Impact of Quality of Learning
    [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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Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to...