SITE_header_thinkers50
SITE_slider_economic SITE_slider_future SITE_slider_greatest SITE_slider_LEO

Quality & You

Redefine the Nature of Quality

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 126
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-03-03 19:49:52
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-03-03 19:49:52
    [post_content] => While it is true that I am advancing a new way to think about quality, I am also reaching beyond common output metrics of a product or service. I believe that we need a fresh approach that can have a profound effect on not only the way we work, but the way we perceive our everyday life.

Think about this. In business, the present concept of quality has been fixture for the past 75 years. But the irony is that while the industry has developed an abundance of quality management tools, most organizations unfortunately still struggle to make sustainable, long term gains that can truly differentiate themselves in today’s global marketplace. That is where my thought process has taken me – to understand why the present concept does not serve us better.

In my analysis, I have found that the focus on the “process of quality” is in fact incorrect. I have discovered that it is the process of managing quality that is primarily to blame. I will say that the intent to manage the process is limiting because it focuses far too much attention on the “outcome of quality,” not the “act of delivering quality.”

Why is this important? Because, Quality touches everything that you do on a daily basis; from discussions you hold with your peers, subordinates and leaders and the interactions you have with suppliers, vendors, and other providers. In fact, Quality touches every aspect of your life – in your business as well as your personal family life.

[pullquote]When has a quick fix ever solved anything?[/pullquote]

We can say that a problem belongs to someone else or we can look at ourselves in the mirror and accept the responsibility of solving the problem ourselves. If each one of us starts with the mindset that the problem belongs to me, then all problems will disappear. When I say that Quality is a part of everything you do, I mean to say that you become aware of both the problem and your ability to fix any problem or deal with any issue whether at work, our personal life, or in our community.

This perspective of Quality also refuses to accept compromise. It also recognizes that lasting solutions require that we do more than “fix” a problem. I ask that you think about this honestly – when has a quick fix ever solved anything? That’s where I believe we have failed ourselves. While we have made some fantastic strides to improve quality, we have sunken into the false security that a “find-and-fix” process is somehow enough. But obviously it isn’t.

This all-encompassing vision of Quality offers a new mindset, a transformational way to think about the actions and decisions that we make. It draws together commitment from people to improve their performance and make Quality a lifestyle choice, a cultural attitude, and a personal belief that refocuses all attention on the “act of delivering quality.”
    [post_title] => Redefine the Nature of Quality
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => redefining-the-nature-of-quality
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-10-18 13:51:55
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-18 13:51:55
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=126
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
While it is true that I am advancing a new way to think about quality, I am also reaching beyond common output metrics of a product or service. I...

Quality & Economics

Cutting Corners

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 386
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-05-15 03:32:12
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-15 03:32:12
    [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? 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => closed
    [ping_status] => closed
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => cutting-corners
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-08-31 19:02:17
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-08-31 19:02:17
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=386
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
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

The Wisdom of Listening

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 178
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-02-25 21:09:46
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-02-25 21:09:46
    [post_content] => Even big and successful companies sometimes forget the importance of listening.

Let’s face it. Problems come and go, but it’s how we deal with the problems that make us stand out to our customer base.

Microsoft spent years combating the perception that it couldn’t deal with or didn’t care about stability problems in its Windows operating system.

Adobe let the prices of its high-level production software rise to incredible heights to the point now where many of their ‘loyal’ users are merely biding their time for a cheaper alternative.

Toyota has been beset with persistent rumors about their quality. First, it was acceleration problems and floor mats, and the headline grabbing recalls continue.

[pullquote]No matter who it is – be it your customers, constituents, stakeholders, investors, membership – or even your family members – careful, intelligent listening is the first crucial step to success and for overcoming problems and achieving a Quality operation.[/pullquote]

For the record, each of the companies I have mentioned has made constructive efforts to reach out to their customers and show that they are – in fact – LISTENING. But listening, as it pertains to your management process, not a rigid, step-by-step technique for finding out what customers want or need. In fact, there is no strict methodology that can be deployed to meet the infinite variations of individual experience.

Each organization is unique in terms of its products and processes, just as each interaction will be perceived differently. However, the failure to truly listen to customers is at the heart of why many organizations fail. No matter who it is – be it your customers, constituents, stakeholders, investors, membership – or even your family members – careful, intelligent listening is the first crucial step to success and for overcoming problems and achieving a Quality operation.

I have three specific rules that will help ensure that your listening skills are applied effectively and that your listening pattern is in fact ‘careful and intelligent’.
  1. Get out from behind your desk. Go to where the action is. Go to the customers. Go to the factory. Go to the sales floor. Go to where the problems are. Go to where the facts are.
  2. Stop talking. It’s hard to listen when you’re the one doing all the talking. Watch what goes on. Watch what your employees are doing. Watch what your customers are doing. Listen to what they say – listen to the types of words they use. Even if you’re confident that you’ve got it, watch and listen more.
  3. Show empathy; look at the world through their eyes. Be in the moment where your employees and customers are speaking. Remember that it’s not about your expectations; it’s all about theirs. Learn from the people with whom you should be listening.
There are many powerful management tools can be deployed to increase the effectiveness of your listening process – this can help you on a personal level. However, the data collection process itself usually involves two phases – quantitative as well as qualitative research. For instance, you may need to deploy marketing surveys and other research to build a complete picture about your situation. Wherever possible, show the affected audience – your customers for instance – that you are actively engaged by including them in the data collection process. As with all things, it is always important to keep matters as simple as possible. The more complex the process, the more effort a company must put into learning to use it properly. Put into another way: the more complex the process, the more likely that more things may go wrong. But you’ll never go wrong just by sitting down and listening. [post_title] => The Wisdom of Listening [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wisdom-listening [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 12:35:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 12:35:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=178 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
Even big and successful companies sometimes forget the importance of listening. Let’s face it. Problems come and go, but it’s how we deal with the problems that make us stand...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 1243
    [post_author] => 5
    [post_date] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
    [post_date_gmt] => 2013-08-15 07:07:42
    [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.
    [post_title] => Valuable Trash
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => open
    [ping_status] => open
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => valuable-trash
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:18:10
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:18:10
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1243
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)
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...