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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.
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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

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

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    [post_date] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
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    [post_content] => I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar.

Solar panels that are expected to have a 25-year life span are failing. Coatings are disintegrating and other defects have caused fires. Worldwide, the reports are coming in. The $77 billion solar photovoltaic industry is facing a quality crisis.

This is a moment of truth for the solar photovoltaic industry, and yet, many manufacturers will chose to ignore the opportunity and instead repeat the same mistakes that the American automotive industry did in the 1970s.

Remember the Ford Pinto that could explode if was hit from behind? What about Chevrolet's Vega that was rusting before it left the factory floor? There were other spectacular flops like the Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Volare, Dodge Aspen, all Oldsmobiles, and GM diesel engines: all self-inflicted wounds that damaged once sterling brands for decades and drove sales into the laps of their international competitors.

Then, as now, assumptions are percolating among solar “PV” industry leaders about the “cause” of production problems they obviously do not understand. Is it really just cost-cutting in manufacturing materials that is causing 5.5% to 22% defect rate in solar modules?

I was struck by the comment from Dissigno CEO, Dave Williams: "Quality across the board is harder to put your finger on now as materials in modules are changing every day and manufacturers are reluctant to share that information.” This is the type of thinking that will cost the industry (and their customers) billions of dollars before they resolve this crisis. In fact, isn’t it time to set a firm finger on quality and hold it there until there until something positive happens?

American auto manufacturers learned three valuable lessons from their quality crisis:
  1. “Problem solvers” will solve nothing but they will drill through wads of cash with very little to show for it;
  2. Nearly all product quality failures begin at the design stage with inadequate specifications, standards, expectations; and
  3. No amount of correction at the production and service end will ever adequately “solve” anything; that’s like trying to put out the fire after the barn burns down.
The solar industry must do as the auto industry has done: they must go all the way back to the design stage, dump their assumptions, check all processes, and re-examine everything right down to the basics of how they envision how their customers will use their products. They must deal with the physics involved, even the markets. Late in the 1980s, the auto industry adopted the practice of "robust engineering" - using extreme conditions of operations the basis of design and engineering. Adding to the quality process, they also considered how people work together and how they discuss and formulate solutions. For the first time, designers, engineers, production managers and marketers got together and discussed not only what the product had to do, but how it might fail. When you design for the two most extreme operating conditions that your product will experience, you eliminate 95% of the potential cause for failure. If your product must operate in a particular temperature range, you must ask, "Can we add 10 degrees either way to our operating design?" In the same respect, consider also how the product will be manufactured and sold. In this case, designers did not take into consideration possible price competition. Haven't we learned that cost-cutting is a reality for commerce and therefore qualifies as a "condition of operation"? This crisis of quality is not, as the writers of the story suggests, China's problem. While true that Chinese manufacturing has supplied many panels, it is up to the world industry to set the standard. The companies that purchase the modules must set the quality process, be honest about the product design, and resist any compromise. I appreciate Suntech CTO, Stuart Wenham's commentary that "we need to start naming names." In my book, those names should include the engineering directors and executives who missed the big cues and forgot the important lessons of what it means to adopt and maintain a robust and sustainable quality process. [post_title] => A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => moment-truth-solar-panel-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1239 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar. Solar panels that are expected to...

Quality & Process

Activate the Revolution

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    [post_date] => 2013-04-10 07:05:58
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    [post_content] => In some respects, the old way of managing the quality process is part of the problem. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the old approach to management has become problematic. When we manage quality, we are addressing problems as we become aware of them. But by then we are already behind; we're reacting and not 'proacting' - we're most definitely failing to prevent anything. You see, it is not enough to notice quality problems. The problems we discover today have roots in events that occurred days ago - weeks ago - maybe years ago. The real challenge is to catch issues before they become problems.

Think of all the problems we face today: rising healthcare insurance, inefficient disaster response, the financial meltdown, oil spills; each of them have one thing in common - failure of quality.

Are our health care practitioners incompetent or are we truly that sick to cause health insurance cost to rise so precipitously? Why can't we find a more efficient response to disasters? How did the financial meltdown occur and why did it cause so much damage? Why do oil spills seem to be getting worse and worse? Is our technology inferior? Are the people in charge truly corrupt and bereft of ability? In my view, in each circumstance I have researched, I find similar answers: failure of quality assessment, failure of quality design, failure to conduct quality implementation. Quality. Quality. Quality. At times, the systems we put into place to prevent failure become the source of additional failure.

[pullquote]I believe that in order to achieve quality, we must stop thinking about quality.[/pullquote]

We have become so ingrained to manage things that suddenly we find that nobody really cares about quality. They only care about getting the job done. A very good friend of mine is fond of saying that quality hangs in the balance between doing the job right and doing the right things. If we imagine that quality is a separate deliverable - like a component that you add to a car or a building – then we have an incorrect definition. Quality is not a tangible thing. Quality is intangible as the air between us: a dream, a concept, a behavior, a reaction. Therefore, quality is a human element.

Consider this equation: Quality equals People Power plus Process Power.

Q = PeP + PrP

People Power (PeP) is the workforce, of course, with direct and indirect elements. Direct elements are the members of your team who are directly responsible for producing deliverables be it a service, a product, or a combination of both. Indirect elements are the members of the team who support the producers and the deliverables – accounting, customer service, account management, even your receptionist who answers the phone. Quality is in the touchpoints that leads your customer to your your organization. Quality is also in the relationships between members of your company.

Process Power (PrP) is the means by which the deliverable is possible. It may entail research, planning, implementation, evaluation; production, delivery and support. For obvious reasons, we want the process to be as robust and as streamlined as possible. But for process power to work, we need people power to drive it.

That is why I believe that in order to achieve quality, we must stop thinking about quality.

For one thing, when we have perfected our quality process, we will have reached the point where quality management is no longer an issue. But that first important step toward a total quality process requires that our focus be on our people.
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In some respects, the old way of managing the quality process is part of the problem. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the old approach to management...

Quality & Me

What is your difference?

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    [post_date] => 2016-11-07 11:41:02
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    [post_content] => In the past two decades, I have helped countless organizations improve their processes to find greater success. But over the years, something began to haunt me. I noticed that some organizations using the exact same process or methodology realized enormous savings, while others stumbled. I kept wondering, what is the difference?

I have found my own answers to that: it is not process alone, it is also the 'mindset' of each of the employees at all levels and functions of an organization that makes a big difference. In my forthcoming book, The Difference: When Good Enough Isn't Enough I share the secrets of the 'caring mindset'. But I wanted to know what others had to say.  I have reached out to people who inspire me, and asked them this simple question:

“What's the one thing that made the biggest difference in your life and work?”

The answers I have received are astounding.
  • David Meerman Scott reflected on a key mistake that he and many others make.
  • James Altucher spoke of the types of people you need to avoid.
  • Chris Guillebeau boiled it down to one shift in his mindset that changed everything.
And there are so many others. People are reaching out to me to share their experiences as they move to make a difference: in their homes with their families, at their workplace, in their communities... and beyond. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing what people share with me under the #MyDifference hashtag on social media. I invite you to share what has made the difference in your life. Get everyone's attention and use the hashtag #MyDifference. You can also join me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to read more personal accounts of how others found a positive difference that changed their life for the better. What is your difference? [post_title] => What is your difference? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => what-difference [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-18 13:52:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-18 13:52:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1497 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
In the past two decades, I have helped countless organizations improve their processes to find greater success. But over the years, something began to haunt me. I noticed that...