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Quality & You

What does your mission statement say about quality?

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    [post_content] => Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a unifying philosophy wrapped around a strategic purpose, product, and plan. But how does one instill a unifying philosophy that reaches beyond the words contained in a quality vision or the mission statement?

This was my big question; my core intent: to help managers enhance existing efforts by making Quality a common key that belongs to “everyone” in your organization - to bring about a "cause for quality."

Put another way, Quality strengthens your mission statement. It helps fuse together what you currently have in common with an attitude that is shared throughout your entire workforce: from the C-Suite, down to the production worker. The goal is not to make a change, but to enhance what you currently have. The intent is not to replace your existing policies, but to integrate Quality into your organizational DNA.

In my analysis of current quality processes, I found that they are based on one solution for productivity; one concept for quality management. Of course, we want everybody to rally behind one vision of the future, but how do we make that vision truly transformational – something that your people will find personally motivating and personally exciting?

[pullquote]My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization![/pullquote]

If there is one thing that we have all learned, you can’t get people excited with a run-of-the-mill mission, vision or quality policy. I believe that by making Quality everyone’s business, you emphasize basic principles that affect people on a personal level. When you encourage individuals to reach out to others, they are – in turn – empowered to do the best work that they can achieve. When you empower them to look beyond personalities and solve problems; you strengthen their resolve to reach deep into their own powerful personal resources and unique talents which, in turn, provides a far better means of personal motivation. What we want is for individuals to sit up and say, “My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization!”

Subsequently, as Quality truly becomes everyone’s business, individual behavior will then serve to enhance the intent of your mission statement. People throughout the organization will change their attitudes and beliefs relative to your mission, vision, guiding beliefs, and yes, your quality policy. For instance, in the past, when a problem occurred, you might expect that many people will think “the problem belongs to someone else” or “it’s not my job.” Once they have undergone the principle transformation of understanding that Quality must be a part of everything they do, you can expect that their reaction will be fundamentally different. Instead of passing the buck to the guy in the next workstation, you can expect them to take personal responsibility and be the change agent that produces a lasting solution.

When the notion that Quality is Everyone’s Business is blended with your quality policy as well as with your mission statement, you are encouraging an ideal mindset where everyone now owns problems and creates solutions while supporting the organization’s common vision of the future.
    [post_title] => What does your mission statement say about quality?
    [post_excerpt] => In this bestselling book, Chowdhury introduced his next-generation management system — LEO. In The Power of LEO, he describes how continuous focus on quality improvement can revolutionize any process—from manufacturing operations to managerial decision making. The secret is to cease delegating the responsibility of quality to specific teams or departments and permanently lodge it within the core of an organization’s culture.
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Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a...

Quality & Economics

Whose political crisis is this, anyhow?

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-10 07:00:44
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    [post_content] => I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several years, each with seemingly greater levels of consequence and damage. Not surprisingly, this is all happening under the watchful eyes of two of the least productive congressional sessions in history.

Questions persist as to whether our representatives can actually manage the country’s business without wasting time, money, and even lives. From my perspective, it appears that our elected officials and policy makers prefer political theater to resolving problems.

Consider the so-called “sequester,” enacted as law at the start of 2013. It was another impasse; another political crisis. Congressional leaders and President Obama knew they had to do something, but ideology prevented them from doing something constructive.

The Sequester was a flawed policy that nearly everyone knew wouldn’t work. Many people who participated in the decision warned of consequential damages that could eventually increase the cost of operations and decrease the quality of services delivered. And some of those predictions have already been proven to be correct.

No business survives long making decisions in that way. From my perspective as a management consultant for more than twenty years, it is clear that our current government is focused on putting up barriers instead of tearing them down and creating opportunities.

When I train executives and managers, I teach the importance of listening. As a core competency of successful leadership, active listening brings organizational cohesion. It enriches social interaction and optimizes decision-making though mutual interests. When leaders want an organization to grow, they tear down barriers and look for opportunities. Why can’t we get our government to do the same?  We can, but only if we demand it.

Yet, rather than ask representatives to enact such a change, I challenge each of us, as citizens and voters, to begin the process. After all, it is our duty to elect leaders to represent our interests. “We the people” empower the national agenda—we set the political priorities by what we think and what we believe.

More important, how can we ask our government to adopt a new standard for management if we are distracted by political theater? How can we ask for a new quality standard, if we are not willing to practice it ourselves?

I propose a “cause for quality” in which we see past the differences and build consensus. We don’t need a new party platform or a petition to achieve this goal. But we do need a dose of reality. If we stay on the path we are currently on, if “we the people” fail to change course, my fear is that the crises will only continue and our losses will only grow worse.

Granted, there are significant differences between running a country and running a company. When businesses fail to embrace quality, customers complain, and sales drop. If there are no changes, poor quality will lead to even more lost sales and the business may ultimately fail. However, companies can reorganize, re-invent, re-invest, and recover.

What happens when quality fails in government? The effects are invasive and long-lasting. When government leaders fail quality, economies falter, institutions fail, and individual futures are destroyed. The country can rebuild – we’ve done it before – but no one can replace personal suffering. Just think of the long recession we had to endure. Do you want to endure another?

The root cause of the current failure in Congress and the White House is our own—we lack a true understanding of what is going on and are not engaged in any significant way.  To me, the threat of failure is clear and the answer obvious. We either build up and strengthen the very foundations of this great democracy, or leave things as they and allow the country to continue to erode. We must not tolerate another self-inflicted crisis.

To begin, we all need to stop playing the blame game. It’s not just your representative’s fault, the President’s fault, or the fault of anyone in government. It is our collective failure to recognize poor judgment. It is our fault for accepting poor quality decisions instead of demanding more from the process. The economic advancement of any nation depends on how its citizens practice quality. We are all shareholders in the United States of America.  As such, we have the responsibility to participate and work toward meaningful change.
    [post_title] => Whose political crisis is this, anyhow?
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I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several...

Quality & Process

Watch Your Flow, Keep Control

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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

The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition

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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition.

The goal will be to engage high school and college students in a nationwide competition that will allow them to demonstrate their understanding of the impacts of quality on their lives. It will also serve to help today's students become tomorrow's scientists and engineers.

The competition will be open to high school and college students throughout the United States on an annual basis.  Students will be provided knowledge and skills based on Subir Chowdhury’s teachings in quality and process improvement.  Students will be asked to design a project that will clearly demonstrate their understanding of how quality will impact their lives and the lives of those around them.  Participants will compete at local, regional and national levels and will ultimately be rewarded for their innovative and creative thinking and application with cash awards for the top winners at the national competition level.
    [post_title] => The Subir Chowdhury Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Student Quality Competition
    [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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Beginning in 2013, the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation will work with the SAE International and The SAE Foundation, the charitable arm of SAE International, to establish the Subir...