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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

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

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

Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative

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    [post_content] => The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the world by promoting a personal understanding of, and commitment to, a "Quality mindset.”

The plan for GQA is simple - effect positive global change by getting people to make a personal commitment to a simple daily practice. The practice of GQA is centered on Subir Chowdhury’s “LEO” (Listen – Enrich – Optimize) process, which has transformative results—these same principles that when practiced, will generate vast improvement in people’s daily lives.  Subir believes that most of the world’s problems are caused by people who stopped caring about quality or don’t understand the significance of it. Supporters of GQA want to inspire global improvement by first practicing quality as an individual. In essence, Quality starts with us and must be everyone’s responsibility.

Daily GQA practice requires people to follow three simple steps:
  • Listen hard to others and to yourself to seek understanding
  • Enrich the lives around you by giving a little more of yourself every day
  • Optimize everything you do by setting your mind to excellence and refusing to “settle”
The essential teaching is simple. When you embrace quality in your own life, life all around you becomes better. Your actions empower others to embrace positive change. They see the benefits in their own lives. Quality becomes contagious. The initiative spreads. Quickly. Spontaneously. And as more and more people work to improve their corner of the world, the world is transformed. It becomes a better place… because its citizens won't accept less. The GQA initiative is working with schools, from elementary to higher education, businesses, leaders and employees, the employed and unemployed for a total transformation of quality improvements with the vision of inspiring the Initiative around the world raising Global Quality Awareness. According to Subir Chowdhury, “I believe that the ultimate goal of the GQA Initiative is to ensure that “Quality is Everyone’s Business” – ideally I am of the firm belief that to be a Quality person, and live a ‘Quality’ life, 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.” [post_title] => Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative [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] => global-quality-awareness [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=813 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the...