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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.
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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.
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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

Meet Your Future

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-01 21:04:20
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    [post_content] => Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change.

Why in business should we expect any different?

The fact is, change is hardwired into human nature. Individuals and society as a whole enjoy change – like the changing seasons. And there are other changes – changes in taste, changes in lifestyle, changes in expectations and aspirations. Therefore, any effort to push away change and hold on to the present—to maintain the status quo indefinitely—is a waste of energy and resources, and ultimately leads to failure.

This is why companies that do not adapt to new trends and ideas will eventually see their markets dry up and wither away. This is the fate of organizations, large and small; from large multi-national corporations to mom-and-pop shops down the street.

[pullquote]We must embrace change as though our future depends upon it.[/pullquote]

And let’s be clear. When I say “change” what I mean is “future.” In business, change is opportunity. Therefore, we must embrace change as though our future depends upon it. Among forward-thinking and successful companies that I have examined, change in the marketplace is no more difficult, no more traumatic than changes in the season. And how does that happen? Because they have adopted change into their management process:
  1. They have built flexibility into the organization. They possess a culture and mindset that can easily adapt to marketplace demand.
  2. They actively look for ways to improve products and services. Since the shelf life of goods and ideas is so short, they always live in the future.
These are the lessons that the top executives at a particle board manufacturer learned one year. They received several complaints that desks and tables made from its boards were breaking under heavy loads. When the complaints grew in number and urgency, the vice-president of the company – who also led the production unit – took his managers along on a fact-finding mission. Their original goal was to gather as much data as possible from furniture builders and customers and to solve what they believed to be an easily solved manufacturing problem. Their first stop was a furniture builder and their largest customer. There they learned that people do not just write on their desks, they sit on them and place heavy objects on them. The president of a furniture company gave them a demonstration. The management team watched in horror as their client leaned on the edge of a newly completed conference table and the corner cracked and broke away. The team saw numerous other failures; more than they ever imagined; and returned to their offices charged with a sense of urgency. Their first realization was that they never fully understood how their boards were being used. Their product was not flexible – both literally and figuratively. This was no longer a small problem; it threatened their position in the marketplace. That’s when the fault discovery process became an innovation process. They analyzed the strength of the boards in different situations and began a detailed research on the manufacturing process itself. Their goal was not to fix what they had but to make their product stronger than ever before. They tested composites, glues, wood chip sizes, and pressurization techniques. After about a year of work, they optimized their entire manufacturing process. Not only did they improve board strength, they also decreased manufacturing cost. They ended up with a stronger product that was a higher quality and priced competitively. Dealing with the rapid-fire changes in the marketplace requires that businesses possess a built-in survival process that allows them to be innovative and operationally flexible. Changes happen. If you are not prepared, you will meet a future – but it may not be the one that you expected. [post_title] => Meet Your Future [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meet-future [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=175 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change. Why in business should we expect any different? The...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

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    [post_date] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
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    [post_content] => Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an insurance brokerage in Los Angeles, CA – we will call him “Cooper” – relayed this story to us recently.

Cooper was working late one night on a presentation for a new client. The printer in his office malfunctioned, so he routed a document he needed to the printer that the staffers shared. As he waited by the printer, he looked down at the trashcan and was startled by what he saw: heaping but neat stacks of printed email, dumped straight into the round file. At the time, his office had about 35 employees, so he imagined that it was an isolated incident. But he knew that he should take a closer look.

The next morning, he asked his administrative manager about the trash and what he heard surprised him even more. Two years earlier, he had set what he thought was a mundane office policy to require a paper record of all emails relating to client business.

Email was still a relatively new business tool. Cooper didn’t know that people tended to communicate with each other via the “Reply To” function. As a result, many emails grew into long strings of messages that included every comment made with the important details sprinkled all over. Outlook and other email managers help search for the important bits, but when you print, you get the whole enchilada including every joke, recipe, sports prediction, birthday greeting, salutation, and thanks.

Because of the policy, agents were forwarding customer emails to staffers. At the close of every day, the staffers printed everything, kept what they needed and tossed out the rest.

Cooper measured the stack of paper and found that it was almost even with a fresh package of paper, or about 500 sheets. The real shock came when the manager revealed that this stack was light. Not only did the process occur daily, many times the amount of waste was double, even triple what Cooper had seen.

Cooper and the manager estimated that the cost of wasted paper from printing emails was running up a $300 a month bill; $7,200 since the email policy was passed. When they added toner and staff time, the total cost soared to more than $14,000.

Talking with agents and staffers, he learned that everyone thought that the policy was wasteful and inefficient. And yet, no one took the initiative to anything about it.

Not long after this incident, a non-paper solution was adopted and Cooper was pleased that he could reduce cost and increase efficiency from one small change. Then he realized that this one example was a symptom of other perhaps more costly problems and worried where they might be. About a year later, “The Ice Cream Maker,” was published.

Cooper bought a copy and read it one afternoon. Inspired by the concept of using quality as the benchmark of behavior throughout his business, he bought a copy for everyone in his office. To this day, new employees receive a copy as part of their training.

Another underlying message in this story is the fact that many businesses pass office policy without attention to a quality process. Had Cooper focused on the outcome rather than the solution, he might have avoided this problem entirely. Luckily, the trash was the clue. In my experience, the cost of such mistakes can produce even greater expense.

Something to think about the next time you’re in a position to set what you think is a mundane office policy.
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Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an...