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Quality & You

Is your quality suffering under the culture of “Good Enough”?

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    [post_content] => Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the right thing.

Our choices are influenced by many things including the people around us; the society in which we live and work, and our community. The pressures of everyday life influence our attitude toward quality; the workplace, careers, money. Maybe we rush through things here and rush through them there; maybe we cut corners, cheat a little and say to ourselves, "That's not perfect, but it's good enough." But, at the end of the day, who suffers? What do we lose when the culture of "good enough" is what drives our daily lives?

Today, throughout most of our society we must all acknowledge that we are living in 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, will we truly understand and appreciate the fact that “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. This status quo pervades our lexicon and more importantly causes us to believe that nothing else can be done; meanwhile the waste and wasted opportunities pile up around our feet.

I believe that if we all take the approach and make Quality a part of everything we do then we, as individuals and collectively as a society, will never believe that “good is good enough.” I have seen places where Quality, as I have described it, produces long lasting positive, effects. These are organizations where everyone is exposed to the Quality mindset.  These organizations have done the hard work of taking everyone down the path of acculturation together to understand how the quality mindset requires a “real” change in the way individuals think and behave. And I believe that 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 and understand - 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 understand and appreciate the fact that “good” can never be “good enough!”
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Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the...

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

Optimize for Perfection

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-16 21:13:20
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    [post_content] => An executive once emailed me a quote that reads: perfection is unknowable. I’m sure his source was Confucius or Zen teaching, but I also find this thought noted in Western cultures as well.

So, maybe perfection is unattainable all things, but perfection is what we seek in all aspects of our lives. And it is interesting how we rationalize the contradiction between what we realize is possible and what we expect from our efforts. But is the goal really perfection?

[pullquote]In an optimized organization, all processes move toward perfection.[/pullquote]

In an optimized organization, all processes move toward perfection. That's how we can expect the greatest result from the smallest action. When nothing misses our attention; when every nuance snaps into our view, then we begin to work for continuous improvement toward perfection.

There is nothing really revolutionary about the idea of continuous improvement. It has been espoused by philosophers, coaches and great leaders. I believe that this is the underlying philosophy for every slogan that asks us to look deep within ourselves to reach for greater goals than we might otherwise achieve. That's why the word “perfection” embellishes hundreds if not thousands of corporate mission statements. Those of us who aim for perfection come the rewards that are denied to those who – from lack of will or lack of awareness – give up the effort or never try.

That is why successful organizations seek to improve their quality process – to achieve the highest level of optimization possible. They know that if a company wants to turn out high-quality products or services, the kind that will truly delight existing customers and attract new ones, you need to keep raising the bar on quality.

From the perspective of your deliverables – the products and services that you offer to your customers – things work and fail for all sorts of reasons. When you optimize, you analyze every design and solution down to every detail. Not only are you aware of strengths, but have full knowledge of every weakness. And a plan for optimization is always at your fingertips.

I see Optimization as a three-part process.
  • First, you must accept perfection as your goal. Not just for the organization, but for yourself as well. When you raise the quality level of your products or processes, set the bar high and keep raising it. A better average is not the goal; you want perfection.
  • Second, worry about the details. Make your optimization process the means of knowing every detail about your product or service. Filter good news and bad news through your own protective paranoia and keep asking yourself: “Did we do everything possible? What may go wrong? Will our design and solutions really work?”
  • Third, prepare your team for the pursuit of perfection. Some may not have the passion that you have, but here’s where you must make them understand why ‘good enough’ has to be treated as merely a starting point, not the finish. Show them why the extra effort toward greater quality is a benefit to customers and employees alike.
I know that the optimization process may puzzle and seem counterintuitive to many Westerners. I also agree that if ‘good enough’ is profitable, then that’s a good place to be. But then the next question should be is ‘good enough’ sustainable? What happens if a competitor shows up with a similar product that is better? What then? We need only look back to the so-called Japanese industrial invasion of the late 1960s to understand the implication of sustained quality and optimization. Now, all three major American car manufacturers practice some form of optimization – both with their products but also within their organizations. Once the basic concept is understood, optimization makes complete sense. Perfection may not be knowable in all situations, but sustainable success is achieved only when we constantly work toward it. [post_title] => Optimize for Perfection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => optimize-for-perfection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 11:42:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 11:42:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=182 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
An executive once emailed me a quote that reads: perfection is unknowable. I’m sure his source was Confucius or Zen teaching, but I also find this thought noted in...

Quality & Me

Recognizing Quality Innovation: The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-05 23:05:03
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    [post_content] => In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor those in the mobility industry who demonstrate ability and talent to further innovation and broaden the impact of "quality" in mobility engineering, design and manufacture.

This award is offered in the spirit of my lifetime of work toward quality in the engineering professions.

 

LOGO_sae_international

Recipient Award Employer
James D. Power 2010 JD Power And Associates
Glen A. Barton 2011 Caterpillar Inc
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In 2010, the Society of Automotive Engineers along with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, established The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership. This award is designed to honor...