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Quality & You

LEO Revisited: The benefits of “Listen, Enrich, Optimize”

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    [post_content] => I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to "Quality is Everyone’s Business” (QIEB) philosophy.  We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.

Why must we as individuals “listen” better to our customers, suppliers, co-workers and our competition? All too often, we dedicated ourselves to collecting data associated with a problem without asking deeper questions like “why” and “how” that might give us better clarity about the processes behind the data. Watch and observe what works and what doesn’t.  Understand and empathize with all your stakeholders until you “get it.” How they express what they need; how they define their expectation of Quality; what it takes to make them delighted and enthused with you, your employees and your company – these are the realizations that will ultimately redefine the level of service you offer and provide.

[pullquote]We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.[/pullquote]

When I say “Enrich,” I mean to point out a process that guides us toward what we should do once we have full knowledge of the situation. In other words, if listening leads us to lessons of how we may improve, then enriching means putting those lessons to work thereby increase our potential to achieve a successful solution. Here we apply some logical organization to how we are going to use our data. What does the data tell us about how we currently do things? How can we implement the data and when? If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should, since it echoes many of the aspects of the Quality Mindset that we constantly refer back to in QIEB: Honesty, Integrity, and Resistance to Compromise.

Ultimately, once you and your entire organization have gotten the processes and procedures honed down and working to meet and exceed the needs, wants and desires of your customers, both internal and external, then you must keep raising the bar. That’s the point of “Optimize.” The goal is not just to put out a fire but also to prevent it from happening again. We can challenge known solutions and compare them against other solutions you have discovered; select the best ones and constantly subject them to every situation they may encounter. When you have corrected for any and all possible shortcomings, start the process over. Ultimately, we will never settle for just “good enough” again.

We can spend quite a bit of time on sharpening our LEO skills. By Listening, we don’t get complacent. By Enriching, we strive for perfection. And by Optimizing, we look at Quality as a universal, everyday goal, not an exception that rests with a few people. Ultimately, to be successful, quality must be “everyone’s” business.
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I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to...

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

Enrich the Process

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-22 21:10:47
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    [post_content] => I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and more efficiently. My wife bought food that was also enriched, fortified with vitamins and minerals that added nutritional value.

As it turns out, many products are ‘enriched’ in some way to make them more appealing by giving them a little value-added performance boost. That’s also what we do all our lives. When we want to make something better, we add to something else that improves, develops, and enhances the original.

From my experience consulting on the day-to-day management of businesses, the enrich process encompasses two intents of the word; not only to help make products and services better, but to introduce greater quality into the processes that manages and produces them.

[pullquote]With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative.[/pullquote]

Of course, while the goal is to improve our processes, there are always practical limits. For instance, there is no enrichment to be gained if the improvement effort disrupts operations for weeks at a time. I’ve seen managers get carried away — interfering directly with front line processes, pulling too many people away from regular assignments for too long. There is also little to be gained by devoting time and energy to tweak a process that has minimal impact on quality.

With realistic goals and reasonable costs firmly in view, you can engage the enrichment process with an attitude that there is always better, yet-to-be discovered alternative. Here are three guidelines for the execution of a more productive enrichment process.
  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the NOW? Is everybody on the same page? Are all team members are up to date on what is known about customers’ needs and wants? Make sure everyone understands the current state of the problem or the design challenge. Make sure that you have all the information that you need to begin your enrichment work.
  2. Are you really thinking outside the BOX? Resist the urge to reach for solutions that you’ve tried in the past; stretch your team a little with a ‘jamming session’ to brighten the intellectual and creative process. Remember that the innovation process works best when there is fearless engagement from all participants. That means instituting a blanket ‘no-blame, all-ideas-welcome’ policy.
  3. Are you settling for less than the BEST? Set your sights high and don’t give up until you have the solution or the design that will thrill your customers without breaking the bank. Be adventurous, but be realistic. Sometimes doing the BEST is the one thing you can do the easiest.
Don’t be surprised if the enrich process requires a new mindset at your organization. To get the most out of any new process, everybody must embrace ‘the change’ and the idea that what you have now, and what you have done up to this point, simply isn’t good enough. That’s not always so easy for everyone, and especially for organizations that have become accustomed to ‘old ways.’ Maybe you’ll have to bring everybody into a room to signal the start of the change. Maybe it’ll go something like this: “Today, we will move beyond the status quo and reach for continuous development and improvement. This will be our strategy. And our plan will be that everyone plays a major role in this process — including me!” That’s the attitude that carries change forward. That’s the game plan to enrich the most important thing of all – your organization. [post_title] => Enrich the Process [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => enriching-the-process [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-10-18 13:53:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=180 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
I was at a gas station and saw a sign that claimed that the fuel was “enriched” with a chemical additive that would make my car run cleaner and...

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
[post_title] => Recognizing Quality Innovation: The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => recognizing-quality-innovation-the-subir-chowdhury-medal-of-quality-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-03-21 13:52:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-03-21 13:52:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=703 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
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...