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Quality & You

Quality is Everyone’s Business

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    [post_content] => The word "Quality" should mean more than a management tool that measures output of a company - and it can, if only we tap into the power of people to do the best that they can do – all of the time. Rather than see quality as a management process, I see it as a lifestyle choice - an underlying motive to work toward personal excellence.

For you to understand my approach to Quality, consider these four observations that I have made of companies and organizations that successfully sustain a high level of quality from the products and services that they deliver.

First, I am sure that everybody can appreciate how the execution of a “quality policy” should become a mindset; our attention to detail, our reaction to situations, our requirement of the ‘quality’ response. But consider that for the quality mindset to be sustainable, it cannot be delegated to “other people” or department to enforce. If we want the “mindset” itself to grow and become the underlying motive in all aspects of operations, then it must become embroidered into the very culture of the organization; right down to every individual involved.

[pullquote]When quality becomes everyone’s responsibility, the choices they make will ultimately lead to long-term growth and prosperity for the organization.[/pullquote]

This leads us to my second observation - how Quality touches everything that everybody does on a daily basis. Yes, products and services are indeed Quality issues, but it must also touch every conversation and interaction that we have with peers, subordinates, and leaders; every interaction that we have with co-workers, friends and family. Therefore, I am of the firm belief that to be a Quality organization and deliver a high level of Quality products and services, Quality must become a part of everything we do, what we leave behind every day of our life, until it becomes a lifestyle choice, not just an afterthought.

My third observation is that when Quality is sustainable, when it produces tangible successes, it becomes a fulltime, committed responsibility from everybody in the organization. At this level, Quality is not just lip service; it is how we live on a daily basis. I challenge you to look around your organization today.  Can you honestly say that all of your employees, co-workers, and suppliers directly or indirectly have an effect on the sphere of Quality? If the answer is yes, then Quality is a major factor driving the success of your organization.  If the answer is no, then you must get the Quality message to entire universe of stakeholders who – in small and large ways – determine the level of Quality that comes from your organization. When quality becomes everyone’s responsibility, the choices they make will ultimately lead to long-term growth and prosperity for the organization.

My fourth observation is that people in a position of responsibility have a unique relationship to Quality. Whether they lead a team or a business or they are the head of a family, these people have a special duty to reinforce the message of Quality. They must constantly reinforce the importance of quality by carrying the message into every meeting and every encounter. They must also “walk the talk” by demonstrating through their own actions their commitment to Quality in all aspects of their lives – be it in the office, at home, or a casual encounter on the street.
    [post_title] => Quality is Everyone’s Business
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The word "Quality" should mean more than a management tool that measures output of a company - and it can, if only we tap into the power of people...

Quality & Economics

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

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    [post_date] => 2013-05-09 03:27:22
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    [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
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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

Watch Your Flow, Keep Control

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-25 21:02:10
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    [post_content] => When I watch organizations, I am reminded of a swiftly flowing river.

Starting with raw materials at the river’s source and ending with finished products or services flowing from its mouth, overlaying processes flow into and onto one another. When everything is running smoothly, it is a wonderful thing to behold. But much like a river, no production runs perfectly straight and smooth. There are twists and turns where the flow must adjust and maneuver around obstacles that get in the way.

However, the flow and process is often broken by changes in policies or conditions in the delivery chain, employees that overlook important issues, and staffing arrangements that leave us waiting in endless lines. And that’s the reality. Companies of every size and from every industry contend with flawed process flow as energy and profitability slowly bleed away.

Managers at a large mid-western hospital were spending their days and weeks tearing out their hair, trying to figure out the source of unacceptably large number of no-shows and last-minute cancellations for medical tests.

[pullquote]At the end of the day, rather than waste your energy trying to straighten out the flow, focus your effort on flattening out the curves and minimizing interruptions as much as possible.[/pullquote]

The problem was long in running. In some cases, patients were not receiving tests they needed therefore causing disruptions in the hospital’s schedules and lost revenue. To compound matters, staff time had ratcheted up as administrators and practitioners scrambled to stem the day-to-day scheduling problems and reschedule the cancelling patients.

Management suspected that a major source of the problem was due to patients’ inability to obtain timely approval from their insurance carriers for the tests. We turned to our Listen methodology and asked staffers to call patients themselves. The subsequent interviews revealed that many patients had forgotten their appointments. Many others didn’t know which of the hospital’s many buildings they were supposed to go. Still others who remembered their appointments and managed to find the correct office, discovered at the appointment window that they had failed to follow pre-test preparations (e.g., fasting) and had to reschedule. Insurance, as it turned out, was of minimal consequence. It was clear to all that the patient-preparation process was either non-existent or completely ineffective.

At my suggestion, managers examined best practices at other hospitals. They cataloged some common sense ideas for managing patient preparation procedures and paid special attention on departments in their own organization that seemed to be dealing with the situation better than other departments.

In a matter of a week or so, they had drafted two ways that the hospital staff could rectify the situation. First, patients must receive full explanations in print regarding their test, including a map that showed exactly where they had to go. Then, all patients received a phone call reminder for their appointment, plus a reminder (when applicable) about pre-test preparations. After the new patient-preparation process was up and running, the hospital reported a 50% reduction in cancellations. The flow was fixed.

No company’s operations ever achieve total perfection. Among the companies that handle the twists and turns quite well, they move around the flow a seasoned sports team. Attentive members use strong communication between other members to assess changes quickly and make on-the-spot adjustments as situations require.

At the end of the day, rather than waste your energy trying to straighten out the flow, focus your effort on flattening out the curves and minimizing interruptions as much as possible. Work toward perfection, but don’t expect it to achieve it today.
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When I watch organizations, I am reminded of a swiftly flowing river. Starting with raw materials at the river’s source and ending with finished products or services flowing from its...

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...